Faulkner, Light in August, 105.
Salinger. “Franny,” Franny and Zooey. 30.
Instant flashback to my early childhood in France
In the dream, I am with the Fugitive
Poets. We’re gathered for a photograph.
Behind us, the skyline of Atlanta
hidden by the photographer’s backdrop —
a lush pasture, green, full of soft-eyed cows
lowing, a chant that sounds like no, no. Yes,
I say to the glass of bourbon I’m offered.
We’re lining up now — Robert Penn Warren,
his voice just audible above the drone
of bulldozers, telling us where to stand.
Say “race,” the photographer croons. I’m in
blackface again when the flash freezes us.
My father’s white, I tell them, and rural.
You don’t hate the South? they ask. You don’t hate it?
Natasha Tetheway, “Pastoral” from “Native Guard: Poems” by Natasha Trethewey. This week Tretheway was named our 19th poet laureate. She grew up in Mississippi, studied English at the University of Georgia (Park Hall!) and currently teaches creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta where she resides.
painting via tmills:
81. Inside every one of us, an amusement park, and in that amusement park, a house of horrors.
All day I’ve listened to the industry
of a single woodpecker, worrying the catalpa tree
just outside my window. Hard at his task,
his body is a hinge, a door knocker
to the cluttered house of memory in which
I can almost see my mother’s face.
She is there, again, beyond the tree,
its slender pods and heart-shaped leaves,
hanging wet sheets on the line — each one
a thin white screen between us. So insistent
is this woodpecker, I’m sure he must be
looking for something else — not simply
the beetles and grubs inside, but some other gift
the tree might hold. All day he’s been at work,
tireless, making the green hearts flutter.
"Limen” from “Domestic Work: Poems” by Natasha Trethewey.
There’s also a surprisingly impressive, if not transfixing, quality to those eccentric gesticulative dances of his. If FJM weren’t such a strong singer of equally well-written songs, I think his expressions would stop at being laughable, leaving his self-seriousness silly. But with his talent behind them, FJM’s strange expressions add a sense of the advantage a singer-songwriter can gain with an effective stage presence—that forgotten, yet intriguing skill which is more than a singer’s knack for joking between numbers and a tool limited to the repertoire of pop-performers. The right stage presence is—as FJM reminds us—quite valuable during the actual performance. FJM proves that with such an on-stage acumen comes the artist’s ability to align himself with all of it: the music he makes, words he sings out of his rhythms, and those euphoric, damning emotions he feels the whole time. He demonstrates his song’s cathartic control, while many of his contemporaries’ similar attempts lean too heavily on perhaps the wrong substance and an eagerness to over-hold their notes and shut eyes. Rarely does either dramatic define their singer-songwriter’s point live, or at least not as completely as Father John Mistry does here, inviting the listener-viewer into his song’s realm: the specific and poignant relationship between lyric and music and emotion that is as its maker imagined.