Saturday, April 18, 2009

Charles Simic on Blues Poetry

Recently looking at some writing by Charles Simic on the poetry of the blues.

Simic is a very lyrical, imagistic and accomplished poet, who also writes criticism. His steady stream of work has always impressed me, especially the reimaging work on the life of artist Joseph Cornell that he produced in 1992 [“Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell [NYR Book].

The pieces recently read were selections from Simic’s “The Unemployed Fortune-Teller: Essays And Memoirs” [U of Mich Press, 1994]. As Blues Poetry has at times been focused on my blog, I thought I’d riff a bit on it.

The blues belongs to a specific time, place and people but it in turn transcends those limits, writes Simic. He continues: “The secret of its transcendence lies in its minor key and its poetry of solitude.” And yes, it was that odd key that first captured my imagination, I’d agree. It conjured up a world that could address one’s most elemental feeling – loneliness, let’s say. “Lyric poetry has no closer relation anywhere than the blues,” Simic writes in the essay “No Cure for the Blues.”

He then recalls listening to a blues record in a fleabag Greenwhich Village hotel on a cheap portable record player in the ‘50s, and how a neighborhood heard the plaint and asked to sit down and join him and listen. The music has made blues evangelists of some of us, because, yes, we have seen its effect on others.

Radio too, was a stairway to the music of the blues. It was a view into an “unknown America.” We each fill in the blanks for ourselves, the ones that, filled, draw a new picture of this part of the world.

“.. it was the radio that brought me surprises and delight…playing with the dial, I’d come across an unknown voice, a cornet, and a piano that would make me turn up the volume in my excitement.”

Then, always knowing, the song would end; “.. the blues, in the end, is about a sadness older than the world,” he writes, and I think of Matthew Arnold.

Simic book
The Unemployed Fortune-Teller: Essays And Memoirs -

Blues poetry pages

On John Sinclair - moontravellerherald 1
On Alan Wilson - moontravellerherald 1
BLUES POETRY MANIFESTO - moontravellerherald 1
Buy the Sunnyland Blues -Ad

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