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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February 10, 2007

Sources say writer and journalist Fessehaye “Joshua” Yohannes has died in detention

Fessehaye “Joshua” Yohannes

Complete story:

Reporters Without Borders: Sources say writer and journalist Fessehaye “Joshua” Yohannes has died in detention

Excerpts:

“Credible Eritrean sources in Asmara and abroad have told Reporters Without Borders that poet and playwright Fessehaye “Joshua” Yohannes, who was a journalist with the now-banned weekly Setit, died in detention on 11 January.”

[He had been Eritrea’s most prominent journalist.]

“Fessehaye was paralysed in one hand and had been walking with difficulty for years. He reportedly succumbed to the extremely harsh conditions in which he had been held since his arrest in September 2001. After being held at an Asmara police station and an underground prison and after spells in the Halibet and Sembel hospitals in Asmara, he was reportedly taken to a prison camp at Eiraeiro, in the Northern Red Sea desert province.”

Eiraeiro on map

“Fessehaye surrendered to the police during the week of 18-23 September 2001, after around 10 other journalists and many members of the political opposition had been arbitrarily arrested and the privately-owned press had been “suspended” by the authorities. Ten detained journalists were transferred to undisclosed locations in April 2002, after going on hunger strike to demand the right to appear in court.

“Their hands permanently manacled, the detainees at Eiraeiro are just given just bread, lentils, spinach or potatoes to eat. Their hair and beards are shaved once a month. All they have for beds are just two sheets. They sleep on the ground. Any contact with other prisoners or with guards is absolutely forbidden.”
 
 

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from Alenalki.net: remembering Joshua:


 
 

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