Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Adams County Makes the News - Adams County Leader #34

The Adams County Leader        Published Weekly On Friday
Wm. Lemon Editor and Manager
Member State Editorial Association 
Member National Editorial Association
Official Paper of Adams County Price $2.00 Strictly in Advance

July 26, 1929

Never before in the history of the world has the progress of Medical Science been so rapid.  One important discovery after another has been made which will have a far-reaching effect upon the health and well being of mankind.  As a result of this worldwide medical research, Science has discovered that good health is largely governed and maintained by three vital organs and fluids of the body.  These are: the liver, the blood, and the endocrine glands.  What is more important, we have learned that these basic elements can be stimulated and invigorated by certain basic elements.  One of America’s leading bio-chemists succeeded in combining these basic elements in one formula—which may well be considered one of the greatest health-giving remedies of the age.  It is called Sargon.  The formula for Sargon Soft Mass Pills are the property of the Sargon Laboratories and can be obtained by no other firm or individual in the world.  This new scientific treatment has been acclaimed by druggists throughout America as a triumph in the field of medicine.

February 22, 1929

After a casual observation of women’s activities in Council, it is noted that there about six organizations wholly under control of women of the town and all six are “going strong”—Witness, Worthwhile Club, Women’s Auxiliary, P.T.A., Royal Neighbors, Rebekahs, and Ladies' Aid.  Each of the organizations just named are officered by energetic enthusiastic women who make things go.  They are not turning the world over—don’t expect to, but they are keeping the women’s part of Council affairs “on the map.”

And we’re just wondering about the men.  They do manage to keep three lodge organizations going—the Woodmen, Odd Fellows, and Legion.  But they haven’t the pep or whatchamacallit to keep any sort of community improvement organization going.  They have a Chamber of Commerce organization, but it is lifeless and seems to be on the way to “innocuous desuetude.”  We are just wondering, what’s the matter?

March 22, 1929

San Diego, Calif. March 12, 1929
Editor Adams County Leader, Council, Idaho
Dear Sir:
Being a pilgrim in a foreign land, I welcome the arrival of the Leader; of course it don’t take me long to read it, but the keenest enjoyment necessarily can’t last long.  I see where you said things could be worse, that they might take to holding beauty contests for men, or words to that effect.

Why not hold a beauty contest for men?  Take Council, for instance.  Of course, you would have to bar Jim Winkler or else there would be no contest.  After barring Jim, you would have a line-up left that would be worth going miles to see.  Among those eligible would be Dale Donnelly, Carl Swanstrom, Professor Figley, William Lemon, Bob Young, Stanfield, Bill Winkler, Bert Hagar, Bill Camp, Dad Perkins, and if I knew it would be on the square, I might come up and enter myself.  The proceeds from the zoo to go to the Pinochle widows or some such worthy cause.  I think the idea a good one and no doubt it would be well supported.  Don’t think that this plan is advanced as a subtle way of proving the correctness of Darwin’s theory—it is merely a coincidence, that’s all.  Make it an annual affair and you would attract big game hunters from all over the world.  The money from the moving picture rights would put in a new water system for the city and put a streetlight in front of every City Dad’s house. 

Anyway, you may tell all the people of Council and environs that I would like to see them and that they have my best wishes, and it may be that I can come up and snag a few trout and spin a few yarns this fall.

Yours Respt.,
D. P. Higgs, M.D. 

LOCAL ITEMS 1928 - 1929
The Worthwhile Club voted to assist the Chamber of Commerce to put on the banquet for the basketball teams.  Roll call was responded to by Irish jokes.  A number of Irish songs were sung and several of the members put on funny stunts.  After much fun and laughter during the previous part of the program, it was hard to settle down to listen to a paper on
Capital Punishment.  Next meeting will be held with Mrs. Johnson.

The special train carrying Odd Fellows and Rebekahs to the big doings at New Meadows Saturday night will pass through Council at 5 p. m. according to information given by Claude Ham, noble grand.

Fred Schultz is doing renovating work in the post office room, much to the joy of the post office forces.

You May Have Tuberculosis—Let Your Doctor Decide.  Watch for these danger signs: Too easily tired; loss of weight; indigestion; cough that hangs on.

The mask dance given by the American Legion Friday was well attended by both maskers and spectators.  The maskers were many and varied, and some of them caused much fun and curiosity.  When the masks were removed after the grand march, many were the surprises.

Only two girls in Idaho so far as the Leader knows have managed to resist the vogue to have their hair cut.  Council has the distinction of one and Boise the other.  Miss Gertrude Oylear, now with her mother at Krigbaum’s Camp, and daughter of the well known state Federal law enforcement officer is one of the two, while Miss Pearl Parker, post office clerk at Council, is the other.  Of course there may be others, but this editor doesn’t know them.

Next Tuesday evening will be a red-letter time for husbands of these beautiful ladies of the Worthwhile Club.  Said husbands may have wondered many times during the past year what it is all about—this club business—but now they are going to be shown.  It is the first annual banquet in honor of the husbands of club members.

“Windmills of Holland” An Operetta in Two Acts Presented by the Music Department of the Council High school at the People’s Theatre.  Charlotte Lemon, Accompanist.

Church Notes:  The C. E. Party Monday night was the first of several planned.  Starting modestly, this was an invitation affair, although a welcome was accorded a few who came without invitations.  Games were followed by refreshments, and the committee is to be commended for trying to make the event agreeable to all in an orderly way.  Two or three seem to have taken advantage of the fact that no chaperone was present.  This will not be repeated as dates will be arranged so that the committee may have the benefit of the presence of some who are older. 

compiled by Eberle Umbach

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"354 Miles Northwest of Bukowski’s Grave"

[In which our intrepid poet L.E. Leone channels Bukowski with startling results]
354 Miles Northwest of Bukowski’s Grave

Standing up on buses is
my new favorite way
to travel. Sometimes I hold
on to something, sometimes
not. I close my eyes, feel
the city bumping beneath
my feet. Gentlemen offer me
their seats. “No thank you, thank
you though!” At the dollar
store called The Dollar Store, corner
of Fillmore and Geary, everything
is a buck fifty. I made
this poem in my head, busboarding
to a doctor’s appointment on
the 22. Scribbled it down
on the back of my co-pay receipt, waiting
for the doctor to see
me. I did not sit down. The title, “354
Miles Northwest of Bukowski’s
Grave,” I got from the dollar
store. For a buck-fifty. Took a wild
guess at the distance
between Bukowski’s grave
and me. Didn’t even know until
later, back home, where
he was buried. Then, my ass
problem seen to, lanced, ‘wick’ed
and oozing into a folded gauze pad held
between cheeks by my tightest,
sexiest panties, I looked it up:
357 miles. Missed
by three.

L.E. Leone
© 2011


Monday, June 27, 2011

10 Essential Delta Blues – Future Blues

Happy Monday, dear readers!  Yours truly has a bit of the Monday Morning Blues himself today.  Maybe a great blues song will help chase them away!

If you’re a casual blues fan, chances are the name “Willie Brown” may not mean a lot to you.  Perhaps you’ve heard the name in the lyrics to Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues” (famously covered by Cream, tho the Cream version is essentially a different song).  In Johnson’s first recorded take of “Cross Road Blues,” he sang, “You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown.”

Although Willie Brown is a common name (& there was another Willie Brown from Mississippi who recorded blues), the odds are high that the “Willie Brown” in Johnson’s song is also the Willie Brown of “Future Blues.”  The odds are in favor of this because this Willie Brown traveled in the same circles as Robert Johnson—he was a duet partner with both Charlie Patton & Son House.  In fact, Brown accompanied Patton on what are arguably some of his best sides.

When Stefan Grossman asked Son House in a 1960s interview who was the better guitar player, Patton or Brown, House was unequivocal, describing Brown as “twice better than Charley,” & noting that while Patton was a better singer, even Patton recognized Brown as the more skilled guitarist, saying “on those beats & things, Willie could beat him & he knowed it.”

“Those beats & things.”  Yes, those beats—that is what makes “Future Blues” such a spectacular piece of music.  The syncopated bass line, complete with Brown “snapping” the strings with a force, volume & crispness that would do the funkiest electric bass player proud, make this a great guitar showpiece.  For non-string players out there, “snapping” or “slapping” is done by plucking a string up with sufficient force that it will “slap” back down on the fretboard.  It’s a staple technique amongst funk bassists, & was also a common technique amongst early acoustic blues players—but no one did it better than Brown.

But in addition to the great tone Brown got with the snaps, the bass line itself is played on “offbeats.”  In other words, rather than being played on “1-2-3-4,” as a bass line commonly occurs,” the bass line is played on the “&s” between the notes! 

Stefan Grossman claimed (in his Oak Anthology of Blues Guitar: Delta Blues) that “Future Blues” is the Delta blues.  Quite a claim, but there’s some justification for it.  “Future Blues” was imitated in a number of songs, some of them also classics from the Delta region.  Son House recorded “Jinx Blues,” which is very close to “Future Blues,” & Patton seemed to have been particularly fascinated with the song, as his songs “Moon Going Down,” “Bird’s Nest Bound,” “High Water Everywhere,” “Screamin’ & Hollerin’ the Blues” & others all rely on elements derived from “Future Blues” (of course, it’s also worth noting that Brown was accompanying Patton on the existing recordings of some of these songs.)

“Future Blues” is not an easy song to play; I’ve never been able to come up with a version of it I find satisfactory (but I’m still trying!)  There’s a great tension, I think, between the underlying relaxed tempo & the “attack” on the bass line—as a result, even putting aside the complicated syncopation, there’s a tendency to try to play it too fast.  For those who are interested, “Future Blues” is played in open G tuning (as are the related Patton & House songs)—this is important because of the fact that the notes on the 6th & 4th strings are both D, but an octave apart—& that facilitates the characteristic bass line.  Otherwise, it’s more regular than some of Patton’s songs, which have an odd number of measures—it is easily recognized as a 12-bar blues (with a slight variation.)

Hope you enjoy this, one of the greatest of the country blues songs!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"My Dance"

[The next in my series of translations from Blaise Cendrars’ Deux-Neuf poèmes élastiques (19 Elastic Poems)]

My Dance

Plato doesn’t grant citizenship to the poet
Wandering Jew
Metaphysical Don Juan
Friends, kindred
You have no more customs and no habits yet
You have to escape the magazines’ tyranny
Impoverished life
Misplaced pride
Woman, the dance Nietzsche wished us to learn to dance
But irony?
Continual coming and going
Special vagrancy
All men, all lands
That’s how you’re no longer a burden
You no longer sense yourself

I’m a gentleman who crosses always the same Europes
    in fabulous express trains and looks disheartened
    out the window
The landscape doesn’t interest me
But the landscape’s dance
The landscape’s dance
I’m all-turning


Blaise Cendrars
Translation Jack Hayes © 1990-present

Friday, June 24, 2011

“Danville Girl”

Happy Banjo Friday, all!  Hope you’re in the mood for some great old-time banjo playing, because that’s what we're featuring today.

Since I’ve been showcasing some of my favorite banjo tunes, & also have been focusing recently on old-time players who picked “up” on the strings rather than striking down on them (as in frailing), I’m really excited to feature perhaps my favorite old-time banjo player, Dock Boggs.  Hearing Dock Boggs on the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music was a major motivation for me wanting to learn the banjo back in the late 90s.

If you know “old-timey” music much at all, you probably know Dock Boggs’ music.  If you’ve never heard him before—well, prepare yourself to be amazed, if not transported!  You can read an excellent biography of Dock Boggs at this link, but in brief: Boggs began learning the banjo around 1910, which would have been around the time he was twelve; he was also at that time already working the coal mines around Norton, Virginia.  His interest in music grew as his playing proficiency increased, & by the mid to late 1920s he was serious enough about his music to try & get a recording contract—& in fact, he was signed on by the Brunswick label, & he recorded eight songs for Brunswick in 1927.  He also formed a band called Dock Boggs & His Cumberland Mountain Entertainers.  & in 1929, he recorded an additional four songs for the Lonesome Ace Recording Company.  But various issues conspired against a music career for Dock Boggs.  There was apparently domestic strife, as his wife Sara was very devout, & considered Dock’s music & musical lifestyle sinful; the Stock Market Crash & the Depression hit the recording industry hard, & there were far fewer opportunities for either Appalachian or African American musicians to record than in the 1920s; & he also ran afoul of the law over bootlegging charges.  Boggs eventually pawned his banjo & went back to a miner’s life.

Of course, the fact that Harry Smith included two of Boggs’ recordings on the Anthology (these were “Sugar Baby” & “Country Blues”—chilling & unforgettable performances) piqued the interest of folk revivalists, & Boggs was one of the many “re-discovered” musicians who had a second career in the 1960s, when he also recorded for Folkways.  Sadly, the most recent edition of Boggs’ 1920s recordings, which was issue3d by the Revenant Label is out of print (I thank my lucky stars I have one), & going for $30 & up used online.

“Danville Girl” is one of Boggs’ 1920s recordings, & if you know a version of “Danville Girl” either by Bluegrass musicians or folksingers, be advised that this is a whole other kettle of fish!  Boggs played a lot of songs in D using variations on the so-called “Graveyard Tuning” (which will seem appropriate once you hear him!)  Boggs’ variations, however, sound even more strange than “Graveyard,” which is an open D chord tuning as follows (from 5th string to 1st): F#DF#AD.  The fact that the F# is a drone string makes “Graveyard” sound more modal than some open tunings—but the tuning Boggs uses on “Danville Girl” (& some of his other songs) is F#DGAD.  Substituting the G for F# on the 3rd string produces all sorts of possibilities for very juicy discords & makes this a haunting tuning—Boggs also used this F#DGAD tuning for his famous version of the old murder ballad “Pretty Polly.” 

By the way, if you’re interested in learning about lots of old-time banjo tunings, you should really check out the page at this link (also, as with the Boggs’ bio, on the Zepp Country Music site); you’ll find over 120 tunings!  In the meantime, hope you enjoy “Danville Girl.”

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Writers Talk with JoAnne McKay

Greetings!  Thursday is upon us, & I’m so happy to say that we have a new installment of Writers Talk today, posting simultaneously (thu the magic of Blogger) both here & on the Writers Talk blog.

& a wonderful interview to get Writers Talk started back up, indeed—today’s guest is poet JoAnne McKay.  Some of you may know Ms McKay from her blog Titus the Dog; she also has published two collections of her poetry.  Both of these books are available directly from her blog.

JoAnne McKay was born in Romford, Essex in England, the fourth child of five & the only girl. Her father owned a slaughterhouse & wholesale butchers in Romford, which unusually began halal slaughtering in the 1960s to cater for the increasing Muslim population of south east London. She went to Bristol University, & then joined the Avon & Somerset Constabulary & latterly the South West Regional Crime Squad. Her police career took her on operations throughout the UK, & in Scotland she met a policeman she fell in love with. Fortunately, he fell in love back, & upon marriage JoAnne moved to a very small village in South West Scotland. She has two grown-up stepchildren & twin boys who are still at primary school.

JoAnne’s poetry & prose has been published in numerous literary magazines, both print and online. She has published two poetry pamphlets, The Fat Plant & Venti & has appeared at The London Poetry Festival, The Wigtown Book Festival & at Glasgow’s Aye Write literary festival. She is currently studying for an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow.

JoAnne McKay’s poetry evinces an eye for detail & precise image as evidenced in her two poems that accompany the interview (one from each collection—see the post below); these poems also show her versatility—contrast the more free verse narrative of  “Diamond People” with the beautifully realized Italian sonnet, “The Magdalene Fleur-de-Lis,” & with the wonderfully reflective “Moment.”

& now—Joanne McKay!

When did you first realize your identity as a writer?

Aha! That old trick of starting with the hardest question first. I genuinely can’t answer this one. Tediously, my identity consists of so many more necessary things – wife, mother, daughter, sister, work colleague etc – I don’t identify myself as a writer. Possibly it’s yet to happen.  I  believe I have a coherent voice. It is more cerebral than emotional, meaning I spew my guts quite happily but do think hard about how I’m doing it.

Describe the creative process involved in any one piece you’ve written—this could be book, a story, a poem, an essay, etc.

I have a poem, ‘Moment’ which is about how I felt on seeing a lump of rock. The rock in question was an Olduvai Core, arguably the oldest artefact left by the first hominins, our ancestors in the homo genus. I had dreamed of seeing a Core for years, and back in the 1990s I wandered into the Royal Academy on Piccadilly in London to view a major art exhibition – Africa: the Art of a Continent. In the first room I saw a lit, glass cabinet and I could tell from a distance of 40 feet that there was an Olduvai Core on display. It was my Holy Grail, when I least expected it. For about 10 seconds I genuinely couldn’t breathe.

I wanted to capture the feeling of those seconds - my wonder, and the reason for it – in a poem. As I tend to the long narrative I deliberately set out to write a sonnet to keep myself brief and as focused as I had been when the incident happened. I always write to the Petrarchan form – abbaabba then the sestet cdecde – as I can’t be doing with the rhyming couplet at the end. It often sounds too pat to my ears.

And I struggled, and struggled, and realized I couldn’t do it. Nothing I was trying within the strict form was conjuring what I wanted. So I abandoned the sonnet idea, and wrote a short poem that ended with not one, but two of the rhyming couplets I so disdain!. It’s a poem I’m still very pleased with, and that’s something I rarely say. I suppose the important point is that it would not have come into being had I not worked and worked at it as a sonnet. Doing that crystallized the points which were most important. I’m usually an over-punctuator too, and this poem ended up without any.  Sometimes what works is not what you least expect or aim for.
Anyway, here it is;


for a heartbeat there is no heartbeat
between the hominid and me
she holds it steady hand like mine
I hold it steadfast in my gaze
and will not look away till I can bear the weight
for this is it this rock
the birth of homo habilis who bears me
these two million years past imagine
what happens in her mind that makes her reason
if I hit this with that then other will result
and I can use it glass-cased before me
is the Olduvai Core of Prehistory
and I can’t use language in order to grasp
this the moment of the start of our past

Olduvai Core: Africa: The Art of a Continent, Royal Academy, December 1995

Could you describe your relationship to the publishing process? (this can be publishing in any form, from traditional book publishing to blogging, etc)

I only went ‘public’ with my writing three years ago, but now I enjoy being read and therefore I have to get work in view somehow. My blog is a favourite method, primarily because of the delicious immediacy. I do submit to magazines but have not yet got this to the art it should be – I have favourites, whose processes I understand, though I really could do with branching out more. But it’s such a faff remembering what you’ve sent where; I admire the writers who pursue this with more diligence than I do at present. I’ve also been anthologized, which is nice.  I self-published my first two pamphlets and it really could not have been a more joyous ride.

The Fat Plant I did online, through Lulu, and I was very pleased with the result, reviews and sales. Venti was handmade, at home, on my own printer, and an enormous labour (really) of love. It’s had good reviews, and last month was runner-up in this year’s Callum Macdonald Memorial Award, administered by the National Library of Scotland, which was an honour and a surprise. And incredibly fattening – there was a huge dinner afterwards for the judges and shortlisted poets and publishers.

I’m not yet ready, or even in a position really, to begin the long slog of approaching publishers with a view to a collection. Primarily because my writing is not yet of sufficient quality. I’d like to feel I’m very good before I start down that road. A few years maybe.

How has being a writer affected your relationships?

In no way whatsoever that I can think of. This probably relates to my inability to answer the first question; I am JoAnne McKay, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, colleague all day.  The writer only comes out long after midnight when everyone else is at work or in bed.

How would you describe the community of writers you belong to—if any?  This may be a “real” or “virtual” (in more than one sense) community.

In one word, interesting. I am a member of Crichton Writers, which is closely affiliated to the University of Glasgow Crichton campus in Dumfries, and thus local to me. The group is made up of poets and prose writers of very different levels of experience, and meets monthly. I can usually get to one meeting in three. It’s a group that achieves things but it is also delightfully relaxed and encouraging, and I’ve made genuine friends amongst its members.
You can find us here.

The online community (and it does feels like a community to me) is also important – I’ve found poets I like and admire through my blog, and even better, I can communicate with them. It’s loose, fluctuating, incredibly informative and often very funny. I cannot think of a downside to it.

Finally, I live four doors away from a very fine Scottish poet, Hugh McMillan. He generously agrees to edit my work, and his wife Jane is my proof-reader.  Brilliant community for me; I’m not sure what they get out of it!

What are your future goals in terms of writing?

It is the same goal as when I started. To write things I still like six months after they’re written.

All the nice stuff, like readings (which I adore) and getting published mean very little if you can’t achieve that. It happens to me only very occasionally at the moment.

Bonus Question: If your writing were a musical instrument, what would it be?

Whilst I’d love to say Jimmy Page’s twelve-string guitar, I’m afraid it’s probably more of a kettle drum. I am overfond of going for the big bang.

Two Poems by JoAnne McKay

From The Fat Plant

Diamond People

There was a shooting once in Bristol
on a brilliant shining august day.
Unsurprisingly, I can remember
the name of the killer: Crackhead Trevor.
The man who died?
His name? His name I have forgot,
but not his roles: jewellery shop manager,
victim, nor the golden hair still gleaming
on the remaining side of his head –
it was a shotgun job, you see.

And there were others too that blinding day
whose names… whose names I have forgot.
The woodentop, recently excised
from collator’s office where he had sat
amongst paper shadows and bad men’s names
for far too many informing years,
he had the brains to grab the witness
and drive her straightway to St. Pauls
to tour the area to see if he,
the suspect (name unknown then) could be found.

And that witness was a youngish woman
with a daughter dressed in sparkling blue
who she gave away to a passer-by
older woman, but stranger still
trusting child’s life to an unknown other
to seek the killer of an unknown man.

She found him, by the way, and I was there.

And we chased Trevor in our escort
and knocked him down and he got up
and we jumped out and ran and got him
and as I held him, found I was holding still
the cigarette lit as we left the scene
tiny comet trail sparks on bloody jeans.

Once he was safe at the station and swabbed
I returned to shining Park Street,
where the sunlight bouncing off the stone
made the whole rising street heavenly.
When another woman walked up to me
and handed over an eternity ring
worth fifty-seven thousand pounds, 
and she looked so sad that a man had died,
so she did her bit, for this could be
important, unsoiled, evidence.

Trevor had been emptying his pockets as he ran
and in the following hazy days
many others, nameless now
handed us precious, shining jewels
whose glints made hard certain that we’d found
the route Trevor ran down to get to ground.
All these people, these good, good people
and the only name I can now recall
is that
of Crackhead Trevor.

JoAnne McKay
© 2009-present

From Venti

The Magdalene Fleur-de-Lis

Call me Iris. Call me Lily. Your flower.
I’ll keep the boys’ chins up in wartime,
French letters and kisses a lover’s mime
that only costs them three francs for an hour.
It’s memory of me that lends them power,
yellow flag on an azure bed through time
of all the symbol whores I reign sublime;
meanings bloom with every passing shower.
Bas-relief in Babylon, carried by kings,
my spear-head as sceptre shines divine right,
the splayed sepal structure inside me cries
to the Three-In-One whose salvation sings
from within to those who can hear the light:
I split as prism before your rainbowed eyes.

JoAnne McKay
© 2009-present

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Ask Alice"

[Barbie Angell gives us her unique take on Wonderland in words & pictures.  Please feel free to "feed your head!"]

Ask Alice

The Hatter is mad
and sadder than that
the dormouse is asleep in the tea

And the glass holds the past
Will the memory last?
Will Alice come looking for me?

The words in my mind say I’m too undefined
No stories will capture my name.

While the White Rabbit screams
I’m alone in my dreams
Never to live what I’ve gained.

The Cheshire Cat
must know right where I’m at
‘cause his grin’s always over my head

But I’m on the run
since croquet is no fun
when the Red Queen assures me I’m dead

The White Knights slips by
with a smile in his eye
and says I must live to be free

And the Unicorn asks
if we’ve met in the past
he finds his belief within me.

Barbie Dockstader Angell
© 2009-present

Monday, June 20, 2011

Any Woman’s Blues #11 - Geeshie Wiley

It appears Monday has caught up with us once again!  & if you need some music to get the week started, you’re in the right place—some very fine old-time blues right here on the Monday Morning Blues.

Today’s featured artist in the Any Woman’s Blues series is Geeshie Wiley, who recorded with last month’s featured artist Elvie Thomas.  Wiley & Thomas recorded a total of six songs  at two separate sessions in Paramount’s Grafton, Wisconsin recording studio (where such better known Delta artists as Charlie Patton, Willie Brown & Son House also recorded around the same time).    

Wiley's signature song is “Last Kind Words,” a masterful if lyrically bleak song about a soldier in World War I.  Wiley’s singing & the guitar work on this song have both received high praise.  As far as I can determine the song is played as tho the guitar were in standard tuning & the song were being played in E, but the guitar is in fact tuned down a semitone (or possibly a bit more) so the song’s actual key is E flat (or a rather flat E/rather sharp D.)   In any case, you can read more about the guitar playing on “Last Kind Words” here on the Acoustic Guitar Forum

Not much is known about Geeshie Wiley’s biography, tho there’s a bit more information about her than about her partner Elvie Thomas.  Interestingly, the name Geeshie (or Geechie) is often associated with the Gullah, who historically have lived in South Carolina & Georgia.  Here’s a dime store description of their culture from Wikipedia:

The Gullah are known for preserving more of their African linguistic and cultural heritage than any other African-American community in the United States. They speak an English-based creole language containing many African loanwords and significant influences from African languages in grammar and sentence structure. The Gullah language is related to Jamaican Creole, Barbadian Dialect, Bahamian Dialect, and the Krio language of Sierra Leone in West Africa. Gullah storytelling, cuisine, music, folk beliefs, crafts, farming and fishing traditions, all exhibit strong influences from West and Central African cultures.

Ishman Bracey, a Delta bluesman of some note, claimed to have known Wiley & said she was from Natchez, Mississippi.  Bracey also claimed that she was linked romantically with Charlie McCoy, the great mandolin & guitar player who partner with Bracey & Tommy Johnson.  Bracey said Wiley “could play on the guitar as good as on that record,” that she also played ukulele, & that she had performed in medicine shows.  The great Memphis-based blues guitarist Robert Wilkins also had some recollection of Wiley.

Sadly, we have only six songs by which to judge Geeshie Wiley’s & Elvie Thomas’ talents, tho it seems clear from those songs that those talents were considerable.  Why so few songs?  It’s impossible to say for sure, but 1930 & 1931 were the beginnings of the Great US Depression, & the recording industry was very hard hit by this.  The so-called “race records” boom of the 1920s went bust in the Depression, as labels that relied on these recordings either went under or turned to types of music that would produce more reliable income.  It’s also true that—with the notable exception of Blind Lemon Jefferson—so-called “country blues” artists simply didn’t sell as many records back in the day as either the classic women blues singers like Bessie Smith, Ida Cox et al, or more urban & “smooth” musicians like Lonnie Johnson & Leroy Carr.  Elijah Wald discusses this in his excellent book, Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson & the Invention of the Blues;Wald produces playlists from various Delta jukeboxes in 1941—with fascinating & surprising results.

By the way: a bit off topic, but please consider swinging by the Ms. Magazine blog today & checking out my good friend (& occasional Robert Frost's Bano contributor) Audrey Bilger's follow-up interview with Twitter sensation Feminist Hulk (@feministhulk.)  Audrey interviewed this big, green, purple-shorts-wearing, Judith Butler-reading phenomenon last year, & the interview was the second most popular feature on the Ms blog in 2010.  This time around, we're all hoping Audrey & Feminist Hulk are #1! 

In the meantime, hope you enjoy Geeshie Wiley’s great music!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pirate Goat's Adventures Day One & Two

Welcome back! We continue today with Pirate Goat’s log which records the island adventure shared by Mouse Fairies, animals, Pioneer Woman, and Sir Hickory this past summer. But first I thought I’d introduce Piggles, since she came up in Goat’s log last time (Where To Begin.) Piggles arrived at Big Bed Land many years ago during a very hard time in Monster E’s life, and luckily was already very old and very wise (although you might not guess it if you saw her dancing parts of the Nutcracker Ballet, as she loves to do at times.) In fact she is known as the Keeper of Faith and Reason and all animals recognize her loving rightness as easily as monsters recognize natural laws like gravity. They might try to evade her on occasion (Goat knows that if Goat gets too enthusiastic about having enemies walk the plank after a pitched battle at sea, Goat will eventually have to go and talk with Piggles) but none of the animals actually minds talking with Piggles; she always calms them down. I introduce her now because she is a quiet but very important part of life in Big Bed Land! And now, on with Goat’s Log!

Goat Day 1

It turns out the monsters here are OK. Some of them disappeared earlier today. Now I think I know why. This island is haunted by ladybugs, mostly invisible. A worthy foe.
Goat Day 2

The monsters here climb trees, this is useful. We swarmed up the rigging of a tall one. I explained to everyone that this highest place was called the Crows Nest. I saw to my satisfaction that a good supply of limes has been laid in against the Scurvy. Later we saw 4 moons and Jupiter. I might go there sometime. An explorer called Gallylayo (POCKETNOTE from BINK: actually spelled “Galileo”) was the first one to go to these moons—perhaps he is a distant cousin of mine. But before I do anything else I must make a strategy about the ladybugs.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ekonting – Real Banjo Roots Music!

Happy Banjo Friday!  & a real treat today, I believe.

When I decided to expand Banjo Friday to a regular weekly feature, I decided I’d like to study not just great banjo songs, but also the historical, social & cultural aspects of an instrument that seems both quintessentially American & fundamentally African.  Today I’d like to write a bit about an instrument that’s considered one of the banjos closest relatives & that may well be a prototype for the original instrument brought over by slaves to the Americas.  This is the ekonting or akonting, an instrument found in the West African Jola culture.

There are some striking similarities between the banjo & the ekonting.  Perhaps the most notable one is that both instruments have a short drone string (the 5th string on a banjo, the 3rd string on the ekonting).  In addition, the playing styles are very similar if we’re talking about the old style of banjo playing called frailing or clawhammer.  When frailing a banjo, the player strikes melody notes with the index of either his/her index finger or middle finger, while the thumb concentrates on the drone string.  The thumb also “drops” from time to time to the other strings in frailing (a reason why it is also sometimes called “drop thumbing,” but that’s misleading since the thumb dropping onto those strings happens in other playing styles as well, both old-time & more modern). 

Now if you watch master ekonting player Sana Ndiaye in the video below, you’ll notice that this is precisely how he plays.  He uses the index fingernail for most of the melody, while the thumb usually plays the drone, but occasionally “drops” onto the second string.  Some ekonting players (as is the case with the banjo) use the middle fingernail instead.
Of course, the banjo has undergone many transformations.  Except in historical replicas, the gourd head has been completely replaced by skin or plastic & by wooden or metal tone rings &, in some cases, resonators.  Still, it’s well-established that early banjos in both the United States & the Caribbean were constructed with gourd heads.  The late 18th century watercolor entitled “The Old Plantation” shows just such an instrument (image above).  It’s also fairly well established that the older instruments didn’t have five strings (tho it’s also accepted that one of the strings they did have was a short drone string.)  It’s often postulated that the lowest sounding string (which would be a D on today’s banjos in standard tuning, but was usually a B on 18th century instruments) was added during the period that Euro-Americans started co-opting the instrument for blackface mistrel shows.

There’s an interesting discussion of the banjo’s “creolization” on the MySpace ekonting blogShlomo Pestcoe & Greg C. Adams state the following:

the early gourd banjo, while fundamentally West African in its design, was not an exact replica of any known African instrument. Rather, it embodied a synthesis of structural features from several West African traditions with a few innovations most likely inspired by Spanish and Portuguese plucked lutes encountered in the Caribbean, such as the vihuela de mano, guitar, tiple, and cavaquinho.

The song I chose is Sana Ndiaye is a bit long, but very beautiful & the sound is high quality.  There are some other ekonting videos on YouTube, including ones by the Jatta family (with whom Béla Fleck played during the latter’s Throw Down Your Heart filming)—for instance, here, here & here.  Hope you enjoy this remarkable music!

The image of the ekonting leading off the post is by Shlomo Pestcoe & is licensed under both the  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License & the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adams County Makes the News - Adams County Leader #33

The Adams County Leader        Published Weekly On Friday
Wm. Lemon Editor and Manager
Member State Editorial Association 
Member National Editorial Association
Official Paper of Adams County Price $2.00 Strictly in Advance

December 14, 1928

Attorney L. L. Burtenshaw had an interesting case at Cascade last week when court convened over there.  He was defending a case of Dr. Jones, who was being sued for damages for having killed a so-called tame fox that belonged to Mrs. Mille Kealer.  She had brought suit for $500 damages against the doctor who shot the fox because it was making raids on his chicken pens, he being a neighbor of the plaintiff.  The case went to the jury Tuesday, as reported in the Cascade News, and the verdict was for Mrs. Kealer for $250 and costs, which made it a rather expensive fox for the doctor, and he didn’t get the hide either. 

And this leads the Leader editor to ponder as follows: last summer we read of a farmer who shot a lad that was trespassing in the farmer’s watermelon patch, somewhere over in Oregon—in the Nyssa neighborhood, as we recall.  In the trial that followed, the farmer was exonerated.  In other words, it seems all right to shoot a boy that steals your watermelons, but you must not shoot a fox that steals your chickens.  Of course, we understand there may be different circumstances connected with the two cases but we do not know what they are.

December 14, 1928


Our holiday greeting cards, 18 assorted, with tissue-lined envelopes, are last minute life-savers for those who waited—only 75 cents.  Leader Office.


“That’s the guy I’m laying for,” said the hen as F. L. Scholl came home Sunday evening.

The invention this county most needs,” says Ernest Winkler, “is a four wheel brake for quick tempers.”

“It’s the little things of life that bother us,” asserts Norman Johnson, “you can sit on a mountain in comfort, but not on a tack.”

June 7, 1929

No matter how important the task in hand, we want every one of our readers to drop everything and listen.  A dispatch to the daily press from Washington City says the Department of Commerce has turned its attention to the standardizing of men’s pajamas.  We’ve got standardized bed slats, bird cages, fence posts, and tombstones, and now our happiness is to be complete—we’re going to have standardized nighties for men!  From now on there should be less complaint about crime problems and prohibition problems.  We may have sharp pains in our stomach from eating food that costs us more than we like to pay for it; we may have pains in the head from smoking too many 15 cent cigars; we may worry because carbon gets into our 8-cylinder car worse than it did in the old two-lunger—but let’s forget all that and start living in a new paradise.  Isn’t our government going to make it possible for us to sleep in standardized nighties?

June 7, 1929

A U. S. Senator has offered a bill providing for broadcasting the proceedings of the Senate, and it strikes us as being just about the most unnecessary measure ever to be introduced.  If any senator thinks the owners of radio sets would like to listen to his speeches, he does not know the people.  When even the senators themselves do not listen to each other half the time, what excuse have they for thinking the general public would do so?  The newspapers give the public all that is worthwhile of the speeches made in congress, and we don’t believe one in a hundred read that much any too closely.

April 26, 1929

Our national pocketbook being mightier than our national conscience, Ralph Hayes, a New York banker, speaking to a group of bankers, made a plea for peace purely on a dollars-and-cents basis.  “With nearly $10,000,000,000 worth of foreign trade each year,” he said, “and with more than $25,000,000,000 of U.S. money invested abroad, every shot our artillery fired would hit a debtor and every bomb our airplanes dropped would kill a customer.  Call that cold-blooded calculation if you want to; the conquest of war is not to be achieved in terms of sweetness and light.”

If cold, materialistic bankers and industrialists can rid us of war, then let’s get rid of it that way.  Most great reforms in history have come through men stopping to count the cost in dollars and cents.  If we can stop war by deciding that it is too expensive, then let’s get together and reach that decision without further delay.

June 7, 1929

How about that Calyx spray.  If you haven’t it on, you had better hurry.  We have been making record catches of Coddling Moths the last few days.  Owing to cool weather, they were slow starting to hatch out, but since the warm weather they have been making up for lost time.

It appears from our record of moths in the “hootch” pots that the peak of the moth brood was on May 21, which would make the peak of the hatch about May 30th to 31st.  Our record for one trap on the 21st was 224, and the average for 16 traps was 83 moths.

compiled by Eberle Umbach

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


[Oh my, I do love L.E. Leone’s latest poem!  Hope you do too!]



We rode our bikes on a country road. Mine
had a sissy bar, of which I was proud.

When a car came from behind, we'd pretend

to lose control, my California cousin and me

swerving into the ditch, flying and tumbling
because we could. No one got hurt.

We got poison ivy. Who knows what
the drivers thought. None honked or stopped.

We laughed as we flew, the joke on them. Now

my cousin is gone. Now I live in California, have a long
distance lover. Our love, exactly like this.

L.E. Leone
© 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

10 Essential Delta Blues Songs – Baby Please Don’t Go

Hey folks, it’s Monday Morning Blues time!  & this week we’re back to the 10 Essential Delta Blues Songs series!

A couple of “notes” before we move on to a great song: first, a reminder: the list is not intended as “the 10 essential Delta Blues songs,” but simply one of many such lists that could be created.  Second: the list was advertised as being in alphabetical order—but if you’ve been following along, you can see today’s song kind of bollixes that up.  I could plead the fact that Big Joe Williams released the song both as “Baby Please Don’t Go” & “Please Don’t Go,” & that I’m simply splitting the difference; but the fact is that for awhile I was thinking of doing a different Big Joe Williams song.

Because I couldn’t conceive of doing this sort of list without including Big Joe Williams, who is an absolutely fascinating figure & a great, if highly idiosyncratic musician.  Williams played a modified Harmony guitar (for those who don’t know, Harmony—“the people’s guitar”—is not high end; they were sold by Sears & Roebuck!); the guitar was modified from six strings to nine, with the added three strings being unison strings on the 1st, 2nd & 4th strings; his guitar was usually tuned to an open G chord.  Although this description of his playing by his biographer Barry Lee Pearson dates from a time after either of today’s recordings, I think it gives some insight into Big Joe Williams’ approach to music:

When I saw him playing at Mike Bloomfield's "blues night" at the Fickle Pickle, Williams was playing an electric nine-string guitar through a small ramshackle amp with a pie plate nailed to it and a beer can dangling against that. When he played, everything rattled but Big Joe himself. The total effect of this incredible apparatus produced the most buzzing, sizzling, African-sounding music I have ever heard.
from the Allmusic site (see link above)    

“Baby Please Don’t Go” is a great song, one that’s been covered from everybody from Lightnin’ Hopkins to AC/DC.  But for my money, nobody has done it much better than Big Joe himself.  Interestingly, Williams recorded two very different versions within the course of six years.  The first, from 1935, shows a side of Delta music that may seem unfamiliar—Big Joe Williams backed by a one-string fiddle & a washboard!  What a sound!  The second, from 1941, has a more recognizable “deep blues” sound, as it contains masterful call & response between Big Joe Williams & Sonny Boy Williamson on harp (that’s harmonica, folks!)  What would a list of blues songs be without at least one appearance by Sonny Boy Williamson!

Of course I should mention this is Sonny Boy Williamson I, AKA John Lee Williamson—yes, you may not know it, but there were two great blues harp players who performed under the name of Sonny Boy Williamson—Sonny Boy Williamson II was a man named Rice Miller.  Sonny Boy Williamson II is the man who—after touring in Great Britain in the 60s—reportedly said to Robbie Robertson about the Yardbirds: “They want to play the blues so bad, & they play it so bad.”  Sonny Boy Williamson I—a brilliant musician who played not only with Big Joe Williams, but also with Sleepy John Estes & Yank Rachell, was killed during a mugging in Chicago in 1947. 

 Harsh realities—but a great song.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011


[The next in my series of translations from Blaise Cendrars’ Deux-Neuf poèmes élastiques (19 Elastic Poems)]


He’s sleeping
He’s awake
All of the sudden, he’s painting
He takes a church and he paints with a church
He takes a cow and he paints with a cow
With a sardine
With heads, hands, knives
He paints with a bull’s pizzle
He paints with all the filthy passions of a small Jewish village
With all the exacerbated sexuality of the Russian countryside
For France
Without sensuality
He paints with his thighs
He has eyes in his ass
And all of a sudden your portrait
It’s you reader
It’s me
It’s him
It’s his fiancee
It’s the corner grocer
The cowherd
The midwife
There are buckets of blood
The newborns are washed in them
Skies of madness
Mouths of modernity
The Tower as corkscrew
Christ that’s him
He spent his childhood on the Cross
He commits suicide every day
All of the sudden, he paints no more
He was awake
He’s sleeping now
He throttles himself with his tie
Chagall is astonished to live still

Blaise Cendrars
translation Jack Hayes
© 1990-present

Friday, June 10, 2011

“I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground”

Happy Friday!  Hope you’re up for some banjo music, because that’s what we have for you today.

In fact, I want to let you know that from now on, Fridays here at Robert Frost’s Banjo will all be Banjo FridaysPlatypuss in Boots will be moving to Saturday, where it will alternate with my translations of Cendrars' Dix-Neuf poèmes élastiques (Nineteen Elastic Poems).  To accommodate the switch, the next poem in that sequence will post tomorrow.

Today’s featured banjo song is one of my all time favorites, & one I’ve performed from time to time on both guitar & banjo—it’s Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground.”  I first experienced this song (not to mention my first exposure to Clarence Ashely, Buell Kazee & Dock Boggs!) on Harry Smith’s seminal Anthology of American Folk Music, where it’s found on volume three (“Songs”) along with tunes by Ashley, Kazee & Boggs (as well as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Cannon’s Jug Stompers, the Carter Family & lots more.)  In his essay on the Anthology entitled “Old Weird America,” critic Greil Marcus described the “Songs’ volume of the set as follows:

“a charnel house that bears a disturbing resemblance to everyday life: to wishes and fears, difficulties and satisfactions that are, you know, as plain as day, but also, in the voices of those who are now singing, the work of demons—demons like your neighbors, your family, your lovers, yourself.”

Lunsford’s three & a half minute piece of uncanniness is certainly as fine a piece of lyrical folk surrealism as you will find.  The mole that will “root that mountain down” apparently out of some existential despair, the railroad men who will “drink up your blood like wine” (this latter image of course purloined by Bob Dylan in his “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”), the lizard who listens to his “darling sing”—these all seem to take us to some sort of Americana dreamscape. 

& we are taken there, of course, by the power of Lunsford’s voice (John Fahey described Lunsford’s singing as sounding like “he was always about to crack up”) & by the force of his banjo playing.  Like Roscoe Holcomb in our previous Banjo Friday selection, Lunsford played “two finger style,” using only the thumb & index finger.  One difference in Lunsford’s style, however, which as I understand was common in his native North Carolina, is that the index finger also brushed up on the strings as well as plucking single notes (up meaning the finger moved up from the direction of the floor rather than down towards it.)  Both Art Rosenbaum & Pete Seeger in their writings have noted that this form of two-finger playing was a common old-time style, & possibly as prevalent as the better known frailing styles.  Rosenbaum gives a transcription of “Mole in the Ground” in his Old-Time Mountain Banjo (Oak Publications).  According to that transcription, Lunsford playing the song in the double C tuning, which from the 5th string to the 1st string is as follows: gCGCD.  I’ve also seen arrangements of this in the open C tuning, which is gCGCE.  I always worry about taking that 1st string up to E myself! (a moot point in this case, however, since I actually sing “Mole in the Ground” in A using the standard G tuning capoed up 2 frets.)

This is a truly remarkable piece of music, “born,” as Lunsford said, “out of the hilarity of mountain banjo picking”—enjoy!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

For Eberle

A photo of Eberle & I in our old (hippie) farmhouse, with friends, almost 10 years ago.

A lot happens over time—Eberle & I have been involved since 1997.  We’ve had so many good times over the years—fun with music, with working the land & building things, fun with cats & llamas & of course, one particular parrot, & guinea hens & chickens (& the occasional stray dog) who’ve shared our land, as well as the many stuffed animals who share our home (& many more have come to live here since this shot was taken!); fun with trips & fun with staying at home & watching our various beloved films & TV shows (with special emphasis on Ray Harryhausen movies, 30s Screwball comedies, silent films, all the Star Trek franchises, Poirot, Miss Marple, Perry Mason, Foyle’s War, Julia Child & the original Japanese Iron Chef).

& we’ve had trials too: difficult family situations, chronic illness, the challenges of living in an isolated area, differences about religion (Eberle’s a devout Catholic, & I’m agnostic), & money problems.  Right now, the latter is a significant strain.

But thru it all, there’s no one I’d rather be with than her, & no matter how low things may seem to get, or how trying specific circumstances may be at a given time, I believe we’ll manage & come thru these dark patches into a new day.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"Nuno's Poem"

[This poem had me at "the record store" (if not before!)  I also love the illustration.  Hope you like it too!]

Nuno’s  Poem

She chased Happiness down the stairs
and then out the back door.
She lost him in the street
down by the record store.

She caught him two weeks later
and he quickly got away.
So she followed him discreetly
to find out where he stayed.

She tried to trick and trap him
to keep him by her side.
But every time she turned around,
Happiness would hide.

I don’t know why she sought him out,
why she didn’t wait for him,
but on and on went her pursuit
though she could never win.

They found her in the courtyard,
in the center of the town,
her world a mess, like all the rest,
‘cause someone let her down.

She sat alone and cried there.
She knew this was the end....
Then Happiness approached her
and asked to be her friend.

Barbie Dockstader Angell
© 2009-present

Monday, June 6, 2011

Candy Man (revisited!)

Happy Monday, folks!  If it’s Monday, this must be the Monday Morning Blues.

Last week, I wrote about Mississippi John Hurt’s song “Candy Man Blues” as part of the 10 Essential Delta Blues Songs series.  As regular reader Roy pointed out, there is another well-known “Candy Man” song in the tradition (& we’re not talking Sammie Davis, Jr or James Taylor here!), one that was either composed by or is at very least closely associated with the great ragtime/gospel guitarist & singer Reverend Gary Davis.  There was some question about connections between the songs, so I decided I’d do a bit of “dime store” ‘net research.

One thing is clear: Mississippi John Hurt’s “Candy Man Blues” is a copyrighted song—not even close to public domain, as it was copyrighted during Hurt’s “second career” in the 1960s.  The provenance of Reverend Gary Davis’ song is more ambiguous: some sources say it is “by” him, but give no copyright information (tho of course there are copyrights on various published arrangements & actual recordings), while other sources (the Sing Out songbook, for example) list the song as “traditional.”

I’m more familiar with the Davis’ tune myself simply because I’ve performed & even recorded that one, while I’ve only played around with Hurt’s song.  It’s also my impression (& I don’t have any “stats” on this) that there are more cover versions of the Davis’ song.  Musically, there are notable differences: Hurt’s song uses only two chords, with a variation on the tonic chord that "suspends" it at certain moments—for those not familiar with guitar chord lingo, that means substituting the “Fa” note of the scale for the “Mi” note of the scale when playing a major chord (in this case, substituting the note D for the note C#).  Hurt played the song in A, & in addition to A & A suspended (which change happens quickly), there is also an E chord, typically a “dominant seven,” which means that the note D is included in the chord.  There is a characteristic “break”—an instrumental passage—in which Hurt plays the same two chords “up the neck.”

Davis’ song is a three-chord song, & like the typical three chord song, it contains the tonic chord (the chord that harmonizes the Do note of the scale, also called the I), as well as the IV & V chords (which harmonize the Fa & Sol notes of the scale).  Davis played the song in C.  One characteristic of Reverend Gary Davis’ “Candy Man” is that the 6th note of the respective scales (the “La” note) is played frequently against both the tonic chord & the V chord.  A lot of the song’s particular sound comes from this.

The underlying subject matter is the same in both songs: a “Candy Man” is a gigolo, & both songs are clearly about such a person.  Hurt’s song is fairly graphic, & discusses the Candy Man’s physical endowment in some detail; Davis’ song (depending on which set of lyrics is being used) can get positively surreal. 

Of course, the whole point of this ultimately is what great songs they both are!  You can hear Hurt’s version of his song here on last week’s post, & I’ve also posted three (count ‘em!) versions of the Davis tune here.  The first is a short instrumental version by Davis himself (I’ve read that he didn’t like to sing his more “profane” songs later in life, tho other sources say that was only true when his wife was present); the second is a wonderful cover version by a great guitarist & singer in his own right (who was at one time a student of Reverend Gary Davis), the late Dave Van Ronk.  Finally, there’s the sublime Taj Mahal version from his Giant Step/De Ole Folks at Home double album.  Taj Mahal plays it on the banjo, which I love (I’ve also started performing the song on the banjo), & interestingly, while he stays reasonably close to the Davis’ melody, he does insert one verse based on Hurt’s lyrics.


Saturday, June 4, 2011


[The next in my series of translations from Blaise Cendrars’ Deux-Neuf poèmes élastiques (19 Elastic Poems)]


The windows of my poetry are wide open on the boulevards and in their display cases
Gemstones of light
Listen to the limousines’ violins and the Linotypes xylophones
The scrub painter rubs his hands on the sky’s towel
Everything’s stained with color
And the hats of the women who pass by are comets in the evenings conflagration

There’s no more unity
All the clocks now point to midnight after having been set back ten minutes
There’s no more time.
There’s no more money.
In the Assembly
They’re watering down the raw materials’ marvelous elements

At the bar
The blue collar workmen are drinking red wine
Every Saturday gamehen
They’re playing
They’re betting
From time to time a gangster passes by in a car
Or a child plays with l’Arc de Triomphe…
I advise Mr Big to put his protegees up at the Eiffel Tower.

Change of ownership
The Holy Spirit on sale in the smallest shops
I read with rapture swarms of calico
Of poppies
It’s only the pumice-stones of the Sorbonne which have never bloomed
The Samaritan sign plows through the Seine
And over by Saint-Séverin
I hear
The streetcars’ relentless bells

It’s raining electric light bulbs
Mountrouge East Station Metro North South water-buses world
All’s halo
Rue de Buci they’re hawking L’Intransigeant and Paris-Sport
The sky’s airdrome is now, ablaze, a Cimabue painting
When in the foreground
Men are
And are smoking, factory chimneys

Blaise Cendrars
translation Jack Hayes
© 1990-present

Friday, June 3, 2011

Where To Begin?

Even a professional hostess like Pinky gets nervous sometimes—she just feels she should hide her nervousness and make everyone else feel comfortable, that’s what makes hostesses different. But it’s a little silly for her to try this with me because I can always tell by a wrinkle just to the left of her trunk when she’s nervous. A Platypuss is, at heart, an observer. She has been asking me questions like: How will you ever tell the whole history of Big Bed Land, ancient and recent? How will you explain the Underwater Ones and the Bubble Dogs and Racoonio’s pet fish that lives in the television? How will anyone ever be able to keep us all straight if they didn’t grow up here? Should I make nametags for everybody?

Well, I tell her, I think Piggles would love for you to make a nametag especially if it had glitter and flowers on it, and Lefty would like a whole collection of different ones, especially with outlandish names never heard before in Big Bed Land (names like Laffidepot, or Gornsnook, Lefty adds here)—but otherwise, probably not. Pinky’s face got a little pinker at the suggestion of glitter and she scampers off like the graceful pink elephant hostess that she is.

By the time she gets done spelling Laffidepot, I will have started us off with Goat’s tale of adventure and we’ll be on our way. I should perhaps mention, since Goat does not, that this whole adventure takes place on an island in Canada in the St. Lawrence Seaway. Even Monster E. doesn’t really know exactly where that is but maybe you do, so I mention it. Bink finds it very interesting that the plane ticket Monster E. used to get there reads “Eberlems.” He thinks it curious that monsters flying have different names than their usual ones, but perhaps that is useful in some way. He has looked through the Monster Dictionary (which is often strangely inadequate) and finds no explanation of this mystery. Here is the first section of Goat’s Log.

Most of the trip was boring. So I fell asleep in my sleeping cave, deep on Pirate Island. My wolverine slept beside me. They are robbers, feared and detested, and they make good pets. I woke up suddenly on a boat. My ears were blowing backwards in a pirate wind and I knew the real journey had begun. It was a monster boat, which no animal of Big Bed Land ever drove before. I drove it very fast (Piggles says that animals don't enslave ancient trees to run boats like monsters do - OK - but just this once it was great, it was loud and stinky and fast.) I knew I was going to have adventures. At landfall, there was a lot of hugging also kissing so I left.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Adams County Makes the News - Adams County Leader #32

The Adams County Leader        Published Weekly On Friday
Wm. Lemon Editor and Manager
Member State Editorial Association 
Member National Editorial Association
Official Paper of Adams County Price $2.00 Strictly in Advance

March 9, 1928

During the past week, a youth of the community was hailed before Justice Watt by the village marshal, George Childers, the complaint being that he rode a horse up and down the street at an unlawful pace, all to the violation of town law and the peace and order of the community.  Without entering into the discussion of guilt or innocence of the boy, though we take it for granted he was guilty as the fine was paid, we do assume to take the side of enforcement of law and the maintenance of peace, order, and discipline.

There is a tendency on the part of youth, and every reasonable man knows it, to override authority and laugh at attempts of enforcement.  In other words, a very large majority of boys appears to think that as they never did have to obey or respect authority, when they come face to face with laws of the commonwealth, that too can be ignored and ridiculed.  If more law enforcement officials would do their sworn duty rigidly, there would be less disrespect of law and order, and the citizenry of the country would be better for it.

Since we have observed the attempts of town law enforcement in Council, we have noted that each time the officer made an attempt there was remonstrance raised by some that he was “picking” on the accused and that he was venting his personal prejudice on this particular one.  If an officer is known to observe violations of some and to ignore them, and then pick up another for the same thing or a similar violation—that is reprehensible; but no such condition has been shown to be true against Marshal Childers.  Some have been heard to make statements to the effect that he “passes up” some violations and then jumps on others.  But such accusations have not been substantiated.  We doubt that any of them can be proven.  At least the marshal defies anyone to prove such charges.

There is such a thing as authority, even in a small community, and the sooner it is made evident and respect for it established, the better it will be for all concerned.

March 9, 1928

George Childers submitted his resignation to the village fathers Monday night and will prepare at once to move to the ranch on Cow Creek, west of Goodrich.  He thinks the ranch offers better possibilities for a living than does the small town.  “At least,” he says, “we can be independent.”  The council elected Will Pouste for watermaster and marshal, who enters on his duties at once.

March 9, 1928

Editor Adams County Leader
Dear Sir:
I want to add a few words to what has already been said in regard to the P. & I. N. railroad which operates between Weiser and New Meadows and which for the past three years has not been making expenses.  I was among the first settlers in Meadows Valley, before there was any railroad, and have not forgotten the inconveniences of living without a railroad.  If this railroad should be discontinued and we should have to depend on trucks, our lumber could not be moved and every sawmill in this section would have to go out of business.  I feel it would set our country back forty years with inconceivable disaster.

George W. Clark

March 16, 1928

Some have said that the Leader editor has no business to “butt” into this P.I.N. and truck discussion so vigorously because he hasn’t been here long enough—he’s too green in the affairs of this community to have any say about our local affairs.  And by this it may be assumed that the editor may editorialize all he likes about something way off in Chicago or Boise, but when it comes to local affairs, he should keep out of discussions.

But the editor relies somewhat for his guidance in this particular proposition on the theory that according to the laws of existence, growth, etc., green things at least have the characteristic of being able to grow, while ripe things quickly come to the point of decay—even rottenness.

July 27, 1928

On account of extreme dry weather the springs that feed the village water supply are running so low that the reservoir has been drained to the extent that water users in the east end have been short of water for house use.  Water must be conserved by all, and it is anticipated that next week, three days can be set apart when water can be used for irrigation purposes during specified evening hours (5 to 10 o’clock) designated by the village council and supervised by the marshal.  This program will be tried out but if found impossible, water for irrigation will have to be discontinued for a longer period, as fire protection must be maintained.  Every water user MUST conserve water for all purposes.

Village Council, by George W. Prout, Chairman

compiled by Eberle Umbach