Poetry News

Poetry Crush Unveils Music Issue

By Harriet Staff

Hop on over to Poetry Crush for the first in, we hope, many installments, of poets sharing their musical, wait for it... crushes.

Here's the intro:

If there is going to be a war between man & machine in the future & if man wins, there are sure to be strict regulations on computers & robotics leaving us only with papyrus & stone tablet. In such a society, what lyrics would stand on their own? This is one of many upcoming Poetry Crush Music Issues, which will focus on lyricism in music. Thanks so much to my wonderful contributors!

And here's Joanna Penn Cooper's contribution, on Will Oldham:

Will Oldham: My Best Unbeaten Brother

A key moment in the development of my musical tastes was when my friend Dennis introduced me to Will Oldham. Oldham—a.k.a. Palace Music, a.k.a. Palace Brothers, a.k.a. Bonnie “Prince” Billy—is from Kentucky and has a huge mustache, and in the words of another friend, he is “weirdly charismatic.” It’s true: Weird charisma. According to my mother, who was once subjected to his music while riding in my car, “He just sounds like if your friend got drunk and started singing off key.” Also true.

Consider the lyrics of “I Send My Love to You.” The beginning of the song is a lovely, slightly goofy and heartsick take on the idea of sending one’s love.

I send my love to you.
I send my hands to you.
I send my clothes to you.
I send my nose to you.
I send my trees to you.
I send my pleas to you.
Won’t you send some back to me?

Send your ways to me.
Send your call to me.
Send you days to me.
Send it all to me.
And when I’m high and square,
When I would have you there,
You will be . . .

These opening lyrics get at something essential about the hope and desire and silly vulnerability of love itself. They also start to get at the darkness underneath the desire, the narcissism of it all, the way love is, after all, largely a story we are telling ourselves about our own feelings, feelings that can become demands we make of another person. But the song’s opening, despite this subtle tug of darkness, remains light and good-humored.

Then we reach these lines:

The moon is falling.
My wounds are calling.
My head is bleeding.
And I’m a duck.
The lake is cracking.
It hears me quacking.
Fuck the land, and two if by me.

Violence and calamity and confusion creep in here, but even in the midst of that, there’s a delight in absurdity. And I’m a duck. And then follows delight in transmutations of thought and sound and figure of speech: The lake is cracking./ It hears me quacking./ Fuck the land, and two if by me. I remember that last line confusing me and giving me the feeling of having forgotten something, until Dennis remarked that it was a play on “One if by land, and two if by sea,” at which point it made both more sense and less sense. Which is delightful.

Oldham is the kind of artist who can help you understand what you’re feeling, even if his lyrics don’t match the exact details of your experience. He allows for those kinds of slippages. These are lyrics that have helped me understand, for example, the feeling of having roots in the Southeast and Midwest, and driving back and forth between cities in the Northeast and Southeast and Midwest, listening to the same songs with different people and wondering what all this journeying is about.

Many, many more after the jump.

Originally Published: May 17th, 2012