Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

April 1, 2007

Gill Dennis on Johnny Cash & voice in poetry

   


   

I thought this was very good:

Poetry Northwest: Unchained (by Gill Dennis): In which a screenwriter listens to Johnny Cash and considers the origins of a sound and in so doing sheds light on the subject of voice in poetry

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning:

In a second, he was on his feet, pacing. Agitated. “You want to know about my daddy? I’ll tell you about my daddy. When my daddy was on his deathbed and said he’d made his peace with God he was still a racist. Do you think that’s possible, to have made your peace with God and still be a racist? Well, he was. You want to know about my daddy? I’ll tell you about him. His brother was a county sheriff in Louisiana, who didn’t want black people in his cells. When a warrant would come in for a black man, my uncle would deputize my daddy and they’d go out to the man’s house, knock on the door, and ask, ‘Is Leroy in?’ And when Leroy appeared, they’d take him around back and shoot him. That’s who my daddy was.” John studied me. He looked down at the tape recorder. “Is that thing on?”

“Yes.”

“Turn it off.”

   

. . . .

   

And here’s an excerpt from the heart of the article:

The casualness of his voice gives it a striking intimacy. It is close to you. The voice encloses you. It sometimes sounds as if it is inside you. Once in Hendersonville, Tennessee, going out to John’s farm in his truck, I asked him what he’d sing in the fields picking cotton with his family. He thought a moment and then sang “My Grandfather’s Clock,” the whole thing from beginning to end with great care about a clock that “kept its time with a soft and muffled chime . . . / And it stopped . . . short, never to go again, when the old man died.” He sang quietly in that deep voice. It was as if he was speaking to you, you alone in the car with him, finding his way into the song to get it to you, as if there was no one else in the world but the two of you. It was riveting. What you wanted was everyone you love to be there. You thought, I wish I could make a few phone calls here.

   

_____

   

My Grandfather’s Clock by Johnny Cash


   

My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor.
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.

It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born
And was always his treasure and pride,
But it stopped short, never to go again, when the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering,
His life seconds numbering,
It stopped short, never to go again, when the old man died.

My grandfather said that of those he could hire,
Not a servant so faithful he found.
For it wasted no time and had but one desire,
At the close of each week to be wound.

And it kept in its place, not a frown upon its face,
And its hands never hung by its side,
But it stopped short, never to go again, when the old man died.

It rang an alarm in the dead of the night,
An alarm that for years had been dumb.
And we knew that his spirit was pluming for flight,
That his hour for departure had come.

Still the clock kept the time with a soft and muffled chime,
As we solidly stood by his side,
But it stopped short, never to go again, when the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering,
His life seconds numbering,
It stopped short, never to go again, when the old man died.

   

_____

   

   

_____

5 Comments »

  1. Nice blog!

    Comment by Livette — April 17, 2007 @ 3:06 am

  2. Hi Livette,

    Thanks.

    Hey–a Mel Gibson blog!

    C.M.

    Comment by Clattery MacHinery — April 19, 2007 @ 3:25 am

  3. Marion Jones

    I Googled for something completely different, but found your page…and have to say thanks. nice read.

    Trackback by Marion Jones — July 7, 2007 @ 11:06 am

  4. Greek God Pluto

    I don’t agree with you in 100%, but you covered some good points regarding this topic

    Trackback by Greek God Pluto — July 9, 2007 @ 2:42 am

  5. I like the first quote about his father being racist. Being from the south, I see it and hear it everyday… from people you actually like, people you admire, people you work with and for, and people who you thought of as beautiful… its hard because it makes me cringe when i hear such ignorance. and that paragraph really hit close to home.

    thank you for that.

    Comment by Dara — July 15, 2008 @ 4:20 pm


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