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.

   

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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.

   

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November 15, 2006

From Pining Poem to Haunting Anthem: "Dark Eyes" by Yevhen Hrebinka

   

Duration 2:12

Chet Atkins (1924-2001)

   

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originally a poem in Ukrainian
   

by Yevhen Hrebinka (1812-48)
   

composer unknown
   

Dark Eyes (The Gypsy Anthem)
   

Eyes of ecstacy, always haunting me,
Always taunting me, with your mystery,
Tell me tenderly, you belong to me
For eternity–dark eyes talk to me!

Eyes so dark and dear, eyes of loveth here,
Beauty full and true, I’m in love with you.
Give me eyes of love, like the stars above.
You stole my heart. May we ever part!

Gypsy melody that has haunted me,
Won’t you set me free of all memory:
Of the time that’s waste, of the path we traced
Of the pain we taste–so endlessly!
   

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К. П. Гребенка

Очи черные, очи страстные !
Очи жгучие и прекрасные !
Как люблю я вас! Как боюсь я вас !
Знать, увидел вас я в недобрый час !

Ох, недаром вы глубины темней !
Вижу траур в вас по душе моей,
Вижу пламя в вас я победное:
Сожжено на нем сердце бедное.

Но не грустен я, не печален я,
Утешительна мне судьба моя:
Все, что лучшего в жизни бог дал нам,
В жертву отдал я огневым глазам !
   

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Duration 2:02

Dmitri Hvorostovsky (b. 1962)

   

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