Why Lemony?
(the “About Me” page)

December 24, 2004

poetry is good for you

I've been listening to a new (to us) Joanna Newsom CD called 'The Milk-Eyed Mender' and it's been a great experience for me to ponder. The first time I heard her music was on a little music video that Billy downloaded on the computer. She plays the harp beautifully in it and sings her song in this weird high, sort of nasally, child-like voice. She sort of sounds like Bjork. But really, I was irritated by it and thought it was just weird, even if the video did have this cool chalk cartoon on a chalkboard. But as I heard it over and over (since the kids always wanted to see it), it started to stick in my head and pretty soon we were all singing parts of it together. The words were inscrutable, meaning-wise, but that just made the kids laugh. Her songs are all her poems, the best kind of songs in my opinion, and they don't make much sense when you first hear them. They don't progress in a really logical way, being poems and all. And they're not about sex or violence, they're weird and quirky and biological and very safe for kids. So Billy bought the CD and I've spent a good deal of time taking in all the songs on it. On a lone car trip up to Chicago last weekend to hang out with my oldest friends, Angeline and Badieh, I listened to the whole thing twice and really enjoyed it. It's been a great experience for me to listen to poetry set to beautiful harp music because...where to start?

First off, her singing voice is so child-like and common that it reminds me of me (salespeople on the phone still ask me 'is your Daddy home?' when they call for Billy) which makes her poetry not so distant and darkly mysterious, like most poetic music, but very accessible and meant for you, even though it's almost impossible to understand what she's talking about.

Second, illogical writing, like poetry, gives me a big old break from having to think linearly and figure things out along those lines. It's much more associations and sense perceptions and using my imagination to play with the images and words she uses for me to make meanings, that may be unique to me, not meant by her all, but who cares. That's how I appreciate art. Then I learn new things about how I see things and how things could be seen.

And thirdly, there's the whole artistic flow of sounds of words and melody and the great phrasing and tones she uses to sing her poems, whether shrill or crazy gentle that adds even more of that kind of associative meaning to everything. It's great to witness an artist at work and to be a part of all that beauty. Let's see if I can pull out a few good lines to share. I haven't read the liner notes yet, but I think I can remember a few. Each of the sections is from a different song.

'Svetlana sucks lemons across from me
and I am progressing abominably
and I cannot find my own way to the sea
but the salty air seems to find it's own way to me'

'and you can ask the counselor
and you can ask the king
and they say the same thing
and it's a funny thing.
Should we go outside? Should we go outside?
Should we break some bread? Are you interested?'

'And the danger danger drawing near them was a white coat,
and the danger danger drawing near them it was a broad boat
and the water water running clear beneath the white throat
and the idle chatter of the talking of the tadpoles who know the outside'

'And Jamie had eyes as black and shiny as boots
and they march at you two by two ray loo ray loo
and you know when she looks at you that she's nowhere near through.
It's the kindest heart beating this side of the blue'

'I kill my dinner with karate
kick em in the face, taste the body.
Shallow work is the work that I do'

(OK, that's a little violent, but it doesn't really strike me that way in the song because she sings it SO gently. Weird.)

'And a thimble full of milky moon
can touch hearts larger than a thimble.
Oh my love,
oh it was a funny little thing,
to be
the one
to have seen.'

Posted by Bahiyyih at December 24, 2004 08:59 AM

This is gorgeous! I serve notice now, I must hear it, so I'll be invading some afternoon.

Posted by: Amy Eades at January 1, 2005 02:13 PM

Excellent. Please do.

Posted by: Bahiyyih at January 1, 2005 05:48 PM