Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Hass Beating/Poets & Songwriters/from David Madgalene/

Flash: To the Barricades, Fellow Poets and Artists

As I write this on Sunday morning November 20th 2011, following the beating of former United States Poet Laureate Robert Hass and his wife by police at Occupy Cal (UC Berkeley), I am hopeful that neither was badly hurt. If Mr. and Mrs. Hass have come through this travesty relatively unhurt, then I submit that this may turn out to be a big step toward progress in the movement toward economic and social justice in this country.

Seemingly forever in the United States, we have lamented the lack of status afforded poets and artists in the political field. While in Czechoslovakia, Russia, in fact throughout Europe and Latin America, artists have been revered and frequently have changed politics and nations for the better, here we have been second or third class citizens in terms of effecting major difference.

Now we have the example of Robert Hass and a more visible doorway into the fray. Think about it and act!

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(watercolor by Ed Coletti)

From the Very Quirky David Madgalene, the Walt Whitman of His Generation

I Can't Wait Until December 21, 2012 Because...

Every morning will be Tuesday Morning.

Atlantis will rise again and so will Lemuria and Mu.

Every man will have his own personal Britney Spears robot.

Not only that, but every other sexual fantasy you’ve ever had in your life will come true and all at once! That’s right, baby! No more sex as a spectator sport! No more porn! We’ll be doing it all ourselves! Apple will release a new program called iOrgy starring Me!

Not only that, they will remove the asterisk from Barry Bonds’ name!

The police, the CIA and the FBI will all arrest themselves!

Al Queda and all the suicide bombers are going to become Sufis and the only thing we’ll have to worry about is that when they’re whirling around they might bump into us or step on our toes!

You can eat all the high fructose corn syrup and transfat you want and not get obese or diabetes!

You can drink antifreeze and live! You can cut your wrists with a razor and it’ll be like a temporary tattoo!

Sarah Palin—whoops! I mean Newt Gingrich—whoops! I mean Obama—whoops! I mean Jeb Bush—whoops! I mean Snoop Dog will be our next President (Say what you will Obama has been a failure as our First Hip-Hop President. Obama? he aint hardly busted out any good rhymes) and President Dog is going to move our nation’s capitol to South Central LA!

We’ll unlock the mysteries of the Great Pyramids and we can all build one ourselves in our own back yard in South Central!

We’ll find Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster!

The dolphins are going to crawl ashore and take over!

You’ll never have to brush your teeth or go to the dentist again (Except to flirt with the hygienist)!

You’ll never have to work again! Even in China! They’re going to say “Take this job and shove it! I want to party!”

The dinosaurs are going to be our friends!

The Beatles will reunite! And Julian Lennon will be part of the Beatles, too!

Jesus will come back again and you and all your friends will be raptured and live forever in paradise and all your enemies and the people you don’t like will go and burn in hell! It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or not!

Poo-poo won’t stink!

Carlos Castaneda will be on the up-and-up!

Columbus will have never discovered America!

You can jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and laugh and swim away!

George Lucas will keep making Star Wars movies and we’ll keep Gene Roddenberry’s brain alive in a vat so he can ride herd on those clowns and make sure they don’t screw up Star Trek anymore!

Aleistar Crowley is going to take over, the Illuminati are going to come clean and the Rosicrucians are going to hold a bake sale—and not only that their brownies are better than Starbucks’!

You can throw away your cellphone and your iPad and the Internet and everything else, baby!

You won’t even have to talk again unless you want to!

Because we’ll all have a chip in our heads and start communicating mind-to mind!

We won’t need cars because we’ll be teleporting!

We won’t need airplanes because we’ll be levitating!

All you have to do is Google it and it won’t give you Search Results! It will take you there! Google hell! All you’ll have to do is think it aloud three times and you are there—

And, man, no more toting all that luggage around! You know what I mean? No more giving the gift that keeps on giving! Yes! We will find the cure for herpes!

All the atomic bombs and nukes in the world are going to go off at once and they won’t even faze us no more than a fart of a baby chipmunk!

Any Hummers left out on the road are going to shrivel up and die!

O. J. Simpson will find the murderers!

And no more sidekicks! Only equals! It’ll be Tonto and the Lone Ranger! Kato and the Green Hornet! Robin and Batman! Number One Son and Charlie Chan!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer won’t slay jack! Vampires rule!

And Linda Blair’s gonna tell the priest “Exorcise this!”

We’ll find out that Harry Potter was really named Larry Potter !

And remember how I said that we’re going to keep Gene Roddenberry’s brain alive in a vat? Well, it gets better than that! Star Trek is real, I mean Star Trek is going to be for real! And I'm going to be the Captain of the Enterprise! And Captain James T. Kirk will be my bitch!

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My Favorite David Alpaugh Essay

Scene4 Magazine: What Poets Can Learn from Songwriters | David Alpaugh October 2011

by David Alpaugh at

Scene4 Magazine-inSight

October 2011

In Finishing The Hat, Stephen Sondheim zeroes in on the essential difference between the art of the lyricist and that of the poet: "Poetry doesn't need music," he writes, "lyrics do." Poetry is the art of "concision," written to stand on its own; lyrics, the art of "expansion," written to accommodate music.

And yet, the line between song and poem is not as firm as Sondheim suggests. William Blake called his greatest books of poetry Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Walt Whitman called the opening poem of Leaves of Grass "Song of Myself." In both cases, their work straddles the line between the genres. Blake's

    Piping down the valleys wild,
    Piping songs of pleasant glee,
    On a cloud I saw a child,
    And he laughing said to me

practically begs to be set to music, and has been by more than one composer. Whitman's great elegy, beginning

    In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house
    near the white-wash'd palings,
    Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing…

is one of the loveliest "songs" in the Kurt Weill / Langston Hughes musical, Street Scene.

Perhaps the most significant divergence between these sister arts today is the way in which poets and songwriters imagine their audiences. Whereas poetry is aimed almost exclusively at a limited number of fellow poets, hundreds of millions of men and women listen to songs on ipods and smart phones and millions more sing them in showers, kitchens, and karaoke bars. And almost none of these song lovers have ever written a song in their life.

Regrettably, too many poets are proud of their tribal isolation. Songwriting, they believe, is a commercial enterprise, aimed at the masses; poetry is the high art of the super-educated (formal poetry); super-sensitive (confessional poetry); or super-intellectual (language poetry). Poetry has always been and is at its best, they argue, when it is "caviar to the general."

Poets who reject such snobbery and want to achieve wider readership might consider the qualities that attract so many intelligent men and women to their sister art. Here are three that strike me as crucial:

1. Songwriters wholeheartedly embrace the obligation to entertain. They know that even the most serious, melancholy song must delight the listener; that the core emotion, even when the subject is loss or grief, is never depression, always joy.

Unfortunately, the word "entertainment" makes most poets shudder. They think there is something cheap about delighting readers and listeners. Because wit, humor, and satire are undeniably "entertaining" the prejudice against them is widespread. I have heard Billy Collins badmouthed by "serious" poets who have difficulty selling more than a few dozen copies of their own books!

Yet no less a poet than T.S. Eliot defined poetry as "a superior amusement"; and William Shakespeare, who delighted audiences that included both noblemen and groundlings, is our greatest poet and dramatist (as well as a brilliant songwriter) not despite being entertaining but because of it. Poets, like songwriters, should embrace the fact that they are entertainers. The only question is whether or not they are successful ones. We must (to re-phrase Auden) "love the reader or die."

2. Song lyrics usually minimize the specific individual in favor of a more generic, user-friendly, singable voice. Is there a single person on earth who cannot "remember April"?; who doesn't want to be danced "to the end of love"?; who wouldn't like to tell the powers that be that "the answer is blowing in the wind"? Emotion in songs is actually heightened by generalization. Pete Seeger's "When will they ever learn?" would be far less powerful were it "When will George Bush (or Anthony Wiener or Muammar Gaddafi) ever learn?"

Poetry used to be written from one human being to another. Too many contemporary poems are written in the voice of the poetry specialist speaking to his or her colleagues. Many poems are overburdened by trivial autobiographical details that discourage outsiders from reading them in the study, let alone reciting them in the shower. A poem should be as easy to "sing" as a song; but when I hear that narcissistic, self-absorbed, "poetic" voice, muttering to itself, I find myself shouting, "Hell, no, I won't go!"

3. Last, but first in importance, the primary mission of the poem should be the same as the primary mission of the song. Is it to educate? to describe the human condition? to make you laugh or cry? to make things happen? to change your life—or the world?

Songwriters know that it is none of the above. Though a song may accomplish all of those laudable deeds it can do so only after first achieving its primary goal: to make the listener want to hear the song again and again!

Click here for entire essay

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