His near stammering. With disconcerting promptness one word hid behind another. -- Maurice Blanchot, Le Dernier Homme Contact me: red3ad (at) yahoo (dot) com


Inflammatory Writ 

Breaking my usual steam-punk rule of writing all blog posts in fountain pen first, I've written this sitting in front of the machine. And promptly lost the first version...
"Oh where is your inflammatory writ?" sings Joanna Newsom on her The Milk-Eyed Mender cd, something I bought yesterday on a rare whim based solely on a report that she opened for (smog) and started her set singing a capella. Her voice is a little alarming -- kind of like an eleven-year old with a cold singing Bjork songs, or sea chanteys. (Ah, a "music review" -- where cliches and unlikely similes go to die). Unlike Bjork, she doesn't have three vocal tricks she endlessly repeats, causing wax-impacted multitudes to sing the praises of her "technique." As far as old-time and traditional songs go, I'm all for coal mines and poverty, but seafaring lore's a close second, and there are quite a few maritime references, from the opening lines on:

We sailed away on a winter's day
with fate as malleable as clay;
but ships are fallible, I say,
and the nautical, like all things, fades.

Ms. Newsom also plays harp, harpsicord, and electric piano. Nothing quite prepared me for her voice; I blinked several times during my first listen and thought "trade in for credit" more than once. Another cliche of the music review genre is the flouting of the author's own cleverness, so I won't admit that the phrase "interestingly terrible" occurred to me on my second or third listen... but it's starting to grow on me. It's a bit twee, but quite unlike Belle and Sebastian, say, in that it doesn't make you want to kill them with a hammer. And once you get past the first stanza's clunker of a last line, the lyrics to "En Gallop" made me want to write this post:

This place is damp and ghostly
I am already gone.
And the halls were lined
with the disembodied and dustly wings,
which fell from flesh gasplessly.

And I go where the trees go,
and I walk from a higher education
(for now, for hire).

And it beats me, but I do not know.

Palaces and stormclouds
the rough, straggly sage, and the smoke
and the way it will all come together
(in quietness, in time).

And you laws of property
you free economy
you unending afterthoughts,
you could've told me before --

Never get so attached to a poem
you forget truth that lacks lyricism;
never draw so close to the heat
that you forget that you must eat.

That last stanza's a killer. I'm interested to see if this grows on me further; some of my favorite records took a while to warm to. Or if, after another repeat of the song "Peach, Plum, Pear," one of my neighbors will kill me with a hammer.
On the whole, it's the book, movie or record that I initially feel uncertain about that eventually exerts the strongest hold. Maybe there's some future post lurking about books I like because they're nothing like the books I like. Maybe. I almost bought a book of poems by Anna Akhmatova today. But I prefer Tsvetaeva.

"And it beats me, but I do not know."

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