Favorite Poem

This is like having a favorite movie. I have one, but then another, and then this one, and oh yeah, that one, and the list goes on and on.

But given that it’s Poetry Thursday, I was thinking about my favorite poems. Truthfully, it’s been a while since I’ve read or written any poetry, so I was having a hard time actually remembering specific poems.

And then it hit me, sort of. I couldn’t remember the name of the poem, or the poet… But I knew to look up "A Shropshire Lad." Thank God for Google. That’s the name of the collection, and so I was able to be immediately reminded that the name of the poet is A.E. Housman — of course! How could I forget?

But wait, what was the name of the poem…? I scanned the index of first lines. I was at a loss, This is no good, I thought to myself, but towards the end, almost giving up, I saw it, and it all came back: "Terence, this is stupid stuff."

How could I forget the anthem of my youth! "Terence, this is stupid stuff!"

Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.

Oh this is such an amazing poem. You can shout this one out amongst drunk friends, or you can whisper it to your reflection in the window as you stare out into the moonlit night.

Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour.

This is a poem that I heard told, and I know if YOU read it, you’ll be re-reading it until you’re old.

Poetry Thursday

We were standing underneath that tree
You said, Hey
And then you just kept going
I didn’t say a word
I heard this screaming coming four days ago

What are you going to have to lose
To see me in this shade
This was a pretty picture four years ago
A smile closed my eyes
I heard the sunshine

This whole place is echoes
I even ran up that hill before
Looking up at the four birds
That I thought you were watching
I heard every word you never spoke

–Jeffrey Yamaguchi

(Poetry Thursday is a site that encourages you to post and share an original or favorite poem every Thursday on your website. Here’s the site’s FAQ.)

Tree Photos

I started taking these Tree Photos in January 2005. April and May are amazing months to observe – it’s when the green leaves start appearing on the branches. That moment when I run up that path and I see that what was just days before only branches is now a luminous sea of green – it’s a beautiful site, a wonder to observe and experience.

“That Just Don’t Get It, Man.” — Johnny Cash

A few months back I was on a plane. I’m sort of a nervous flyer. Sometimes I don’t think about it, and sometimes when experiencing turbulence my palms get sweaty and I start looking around to make sure no one else is panicking. A couple of drinks help, couple or three of those tiny bottles of Jack Daniels on ice. And the in-flight movie helps as well, takes my mind off of things. Of course, usually the movie sucks, things like Must Love Dogs, or In Her Shoes. I watch anyway, complain about it, but deep down I’m thankful for the distraction. But on this particular flight, and damn, I love going places but I hate the getting there part when it involves endless churn at airports and in airplanes, it happened to be terribly turbulent and I was having one of those nervous moments where trying to reason with myself just made it worse. So I had, well, let’s just say I had more than one of those little bottles of Jack Daniels. And then the movie comes on, and I’m ready for some horrible film to start rolling, I’m already rolling my eyes into the back of my head. But wait a second, hold on, what movie is this? I wasn’t sure but I was being teased into thinking it might just be… What? I just sensed that this might be a movie I actually wanted to see… And sure enough, before I felt 100% sure, the title Walk The Line appeared on the tiny little screen. Of fuck, what a treat. I ordered another drink and settled into my seat. And while the movie was playing, I felt a stirring, a rattle and roll, but didn’t notice the turbulence once. A great fucking film.

Of course these biopic films, the storylines have to be so neat, they have to fit a complicated life story — a life that has impacted many — into those two hour boxes and ring that universal note to sound right in the gazillion screen multiplexes. You take them with a grain of salt. But Walk The Line made me want to know more about Johnny Cash, and I was especially curious about the concert at the prison.

So I recently bought Johnny Cash At San Quentin. I poured myself a drink and put on the album around midnight the other night. I then went over and sat down at the computer. Figured I’d get some work done. But man, I didn’t touch the keyboard once. I just listened and moved around the apartment and said to my wife "You gotta hear this, you gotta hear this" several times (she loves that, especially after midnight) and poured a couple more drinks and damn, I want to know even more now. I just love it when you discover an artist’s work, or you make a further discovery, and all you want to do is keep on discovering, keep listening and reading and learning more.

The really amazing thing about this album is the banter between Johnny Cash and the men in the audience — prisoners at San Quentin.

At one point, Johnny Cash says this:

"I’ll tell you what, the show is being recorded, and televised for England, and ummm, they said, they told me, they said uh, they said, you gotta do this song, and you gotta do that song, you know, you gotta stand like this or act like this. That just don’t get it, man, you know. I’m here to do what YOU want me to and what I want to do. Alright? Okay? Alright. So what do you want to hear? Alright. Alright. I’ll Walk The Line."

Then he and the band bang into the song. That DOES just get it.

I’m glad Johnny Cash got it, so glad I get to listen to it, and hope I can truly get it like that someday as well.

Everyday Creativity

I’m all about and for everyday creativity, and as I was recently adding some links to cool project sites in the right column, I realized that there are quite a few projects out there covering almost everyday of the week:

Self-Portrait Tuesday (look for the launch of Self-Portrait Challenge on May 1)

Poetry Thursday

Thursday Challenge

Studio Friday

Illustration Friday

Photo Friday

Sunday Scribblings

I am sure there are other kinds of project sites for Monday, Wednesday and Saturday (if you know of them, please pass along). What I love about these online projects associated with a particular day of the week is the way they remind and prompt and inspire all of us to regularly tap into and explore our own creativity, and to share with others. And how cool is it to see everyone else’s work: Even if you can’t participate, you can still get something out of these sites — inspiration to fuel whatever it is that you are working on.

Allan Kaprow, 1927-2006

I was just perusing Silliman’s Blog (an excellent site about poetry), and was saddened to see that Allan Kaprow had passed away on April 7. He’s famous for creating "Happenings" back in the early 60s — bizarre, non-scripted performance art that involved audience participation. I’m not a true student of the art, but I distintctly recall stumbling upon Kaprow’s work at the library at UCSD, in the art book stacks, and being blown away. I was most likely just doing my best to avoid studying for an economics midterm or final. But these were impressionable times, and being exposed to Kaprow’s work, not having any point of reference except that it was a book in the art section of the library, I think it was part of the breakthrough in which I started to see "art" not as a beautiful painting, but as an idea, whatever that idea might be. I don’t stand around these days going, "But what IS art?", but I admit that back in the good old days of college, there were quite a few pretentious 3 AM psuedo revelations, and I probably said that kind of thing all the time, especially if there was a beautiful art chick hanging out at the party. (Of course she thought I was an idiot, and of course she had a boyfriend). So a lot of it was just talk, you know, but Kaprow’s work really resonated. It wasn’t just talk. I saw something in his work, there was something about it that really spoke to me. And when I said, But what IS art? about his work, I really meant it, I truly wanted to know, I was really searching and digging in and thinking about it. So thank you Allan Kaprow, for your artistic contributions, and for the way your work made me think and see and view and question and search for the idea of art.