Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Michael Lee Johnson Returns This Summer

In the summer, I am able to post more frequently, so tonight I'm publishing Michael Lee Johnson's poems.  You may know him from his poetry groups on Facebook where he mentors and nurtures an amazing array of authors.  Enjoy Michael's poems this evening!

Everything Red for the Queen
By  Michael Lee Johnson
(Ekphrastic Poetry, Photo Above)

Everything is red
in the kingdom of the queen.
Matador hat with barnacles,
witch white hair to the shoulders,
tickling the breast.
In her eyes are the blood shot
of many vampires;
in her heart the daggers
of many soldiers.
Five inky fingers
cross her throat
like an ill-fitted necklace.
Her dress is like heart charms,
scales of fish dripping
blood toward her toes.
Withy, twists around her throat.
Anglers of the court toss hooks
toward her cherry red lips,
capture the moment
of the haze of purple
surrounding her head.
Everything is red
in the kingdom of the queen.
Death changes colors from red to blue.

Here is a video of Michael reading this poem:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7orIlsgrog

Mount Pleasant Cemetery (V2)
(Toronto, Ontario Canada)
By Michael Lee Johnson

Gravediggers uprooting caskets
with sharp, steel shovels-
each slicing step downward
through nerve-rooted earth
cooper pennies jingle in change
pouches dangling by their sides.

They chat casually of Jesus,
His painless resurrection
from the sealed tomb,
money-changers being chased
away from God’s holy temple.

To listen to Michael read this poem, go to this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnXokqLc6a8

The March of the Emperor Penguins
By Michael Lee Johnson

Emperor Penguins never set feet on land,
straight up their feet on ice, tuxedo's with short feathers
overlapped, waterproofed, inner down layers insulated with air.
Heads bobble fat fannies waddle, the march to the homeland begins.
70 miles the clan walks and slides away from the sea and back to the sea.
70 miles into the darkest, driest and coldest continent, Antarctica cradles up the South Pole.
High step, searching for partners for one year, away from predators, the mating party begins.
Mutual sex they turn check format a goal, breed their young, months of illness, hurt, struggles, isolation, separation face in the winter the great white ghost of death.
Starvation is a 2-way trip the male is the mother 120 days, mother goes for food-
at one point tough they all must go back to the ocean and sea.
Emperor Penguins they dance and huddle.
Back they go to the ice, to the flow, and sea 50/50, millions of years ago.

Here is Michael's video of this poem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnNd62tMck8

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a Canadian and USA citizen. Today he is a poet, editor, publisher, freelance writer, amateur photographer, small business owner in Itasca, Illinois.  He has been published in more than 935 small press magazines in 29 countries, and he edits 10 poetry sites.  Author's website http://poetryman.mysite.com/.  Michael is the author of The Lost American:  From Exile to Freedom (136 page book) ISBN: 978-0-595-46091-5, several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises and Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems.  He also has over 118 poetry videos on YouTube as of 2015:  https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos.   Michael Lee Johnson, Itasca, IL, nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015 & Best of the Net 2016.  Visit his Facebook Poetry Group and join https://www.facebook.com/groups/807679459328998/.   He is also the editor/publisher of anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1530456762.  A second poetry anthology, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses, Editor Michael Lee Johnson, is available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0718SX483/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

I'd like to post some music with a Canadian collection.  I've posted Herbie Hancock's Joni Letters before, but here is Tina Turner singing "Edith and the Kingpin":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaRx52OD8IY

Joni Mitchell herself sings on these two videos:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBvHNgxwAvo

Herbie Hancock also performed with Leonard Cohen on "The Jungle Line":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NRS89lHuag


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Stories of Music, Vol. 2

Every so often I publish reviews and essays.  Tonight I would like to post Bill Cushing's essay on Stories of Music, Volume 2, a project that is very near and dear to his heart.

REVIEW: STORIES OF MUSIC, vol. 2 edited by Holly Tripp
Price: $29 (plus shipping)
ISBN: 978-0-9969327-4-5

If one is known by the company he keeps, I have been honored to hang out with some first-rate company once more in the second volume of Holly Tripp’s Stories of Music anthology. Unexpectedly but unavoidably delayed until after the new year, she sacrificed timing for quality and has once more produced a book that merits both attentive and leisurely exploration. Like last time, contributors are from all points of the compass.
Of course many are from the United States, but some of the other countries represented here include Bangladesh, China, England, France, Germany, India, the Philippines, and Russia. This time out, Tripp divides the book into thematic categories, including Origins, Exploration, and Transcendence. In this way, she is able to group contributors’ work thematically.
After snagging several national and state awards for volume 1, one had to wonder how Tripp could match that opening act. One notion that struck me while delving into the work is that this time the volume offers work within three media—reading, hearing, and watching. In “Heaven,” Bar Scott relates in an essay how she was inspired to write her poem of that name, a work that began as a musical exercise of improvisation and then evolved into lyrics that incorporate traditional images and phrases in new and original ways.
Still, she doesn’t stop there. By going online, we get to hear her perform the piece to her musical accompaniment while watching the talents of dancer and choreographer Lydia Rakov on a video segment that is beautifully produced and assembled by Jeremy Bronson.
Of course, while we all may love music in our own way, not all of us have musical expertise in its practice. Two standouts noting the insecurities of navigating the musical sphere are seen in Lucy Gabriel’s poem recalling her confusion while encountering sheet music and seeing little else but “Crushed Beetles and Spider’s Crawl;” meanwhile Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios’s “Piano at Five” revisits the personal terror of “peering into the dark interior” of a teacher’s enclave with her sheet music “clutched to my gingham flat-chested dress.” She concludes that it all “ends without endings” as she realizes the sounds she produces are “never quite keeping harmony.”
The photographs, again, are interesting to observe as well as beautiful to delve into, showing many parts of the globe while presenting the unifying power of music.
The section marked “Against All Odds” honors just that and contains two standout pieces. The first is an essay by Richard Bauman honoring Paul Wittgenstein, a promising pianist who lost his right arm to a World War I battlefield injury but went on to inspire a slew of new pieces accommodating that loss, culminating in Maurice Ravel’s now famous Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.
Another, more contemporary reckoning of that theme comes from Philip See’s autobiographical “Lost and Found.” A musician diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2002, he drew inspiration from his own father, a victim of cerebral palsy who overcame the contractures to play piano. Now See works with others, using neuroplasticity to elicit the curative powers of musical performance. He sums up his views in one of the greatest quotes on the power of music ever given, surmising how “music transcends physical limits—whether one plays instruments or listens to them, the brain responds.”
Perhaps if there is a volume 3 in the future, Holly will consider that statement as its cornerstone.

You might also be interested in Volume 1, which is also intriguing for lovers of words and music.  This volume truly takes one all over the world from Lithuania to Uruguay and beyond!   https://www.amazon.com/Stories-Music-Vol-Holly-Tripp/dp/0996932704/ref=pd_sbs_14_1?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0996932704&pd_rd_r=2RQNJA1KPWVPNW5VEC1F&pd_rd_w=mFpyw&pd_rd_wg=JLcUc&psc=1&refRID=2RQNJA1KPWVPNW5VEC1F

Bill also provided to a link to the video of "Heaven" featuring Bar Scott's words and Lydia Rakov's movement:

He also sent me a link to his reading of "Music Isn't About Standing Still and Being Safe," a prizewinning poem included in Vol. 1:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odMJPXePsn4&feature=youtu.be

I'm going to add a link to both parts of Wittgenstein's performance of Maurice Ravel's Concerto for the Left Hand:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qERkDYhLlMM

Danilo Perez is not among the musicians celebrated in Words and Music...that I remember or know, but my husband and I went to see him perform at the Blue Note.  So I will finish with some selections from Perez's recent album Children of Light, selections we heard at the club.

The first is the title cut:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZA-Xt_MXPig

Next is "Overjoyed," a version of a song by Stevie Wonder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZRzHwR7qg8

This song is "Looking for the Light":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFw83cOEFUQ

I'll finish with "Light Echo/Dolores": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNvZ2jFFSeY


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ali Znaidi Returns

Let's take a break from the 1940s and turn to today.  A while back the Tunisian poet Ali Znaidi sent me some poems, and I'd like to post them this evening.

Capitalist Beauty
I wonder why beauty is only edited by Capitalist media.
Are they the only beholders of this concept?
Why do they only see females as cheap skinny dolls?
Why do they vilify such words as ‘overweight’,
‘extra pounds’, & the like?
Why do women have to abide by fashion rules
& corporeal standardized forms to qualify as feminine?
Why do they have to be dolls in bric-a-brac shops?
Why do they have to be only glittering objects?—A handful
of tamed dolls displayed on the shelves of Capitalist supermarkets.
And those who differ?—I mean those without a pixelated body
of bones: Nothing awaits them but secluded lanes
and termite-infested attics.
They have no right to explore the highway.
They have no right to be on the road.
Even the margins vomit them out.
First published in #NastyWomenEverywhere 

Sappho or the Woman of Eternal Light
Ask her what is the word for ‘light’?
Ask her what is the token of light?
Ask her about her ruby lips?
Ask her about her pouts?
—Or those circular waves
against the corporate crows.
—Those fiery waves burning
any plumage enriched with signs of death.
Alone in her celestial light,
waiting for the moon,
Sappho was stitching something
sheltered by the wings of the dove…
—A luminous thing aimed at darkness
.…Sappho was stitching something on her lips,
a healing version of a tune
recycled into rhythms and  
continuous cadences
against the creepy macabre ghosts,
against the agents of darkness.

The above painting of Sappho is by the English painter John William Godward.  He ended up committing suicide in 1922, and his note is said to have the following statement:  "the world is not big enough for myself and a Picasso."

A Historiography of Fire
Because of what red means,
the language of fire is but
the cadence of rhythms
secreted on the coral of her lips.
The embers on her lips become
other than the expected plenitude
of presence; sparks encouraging
association with the invented
oral architecture.
Behind the arches
is a historiography of fire;
an invented tune clinging to the rose;
an evidence of presence
and an undiscovered form
of a generative grammar;
aesthetic patterns
fading into articulated
shades of red.

Ali Znaidi (b. 1977) lives in Redeyef, Tunisia. His work has appeared in various magazines and journals worldwide. He is the author of several chapbooks, including Experimental Ruminations (Fowlpox Press, 2012), Moon’s Cloth Embroidered with Poems(Origami Poems Project, 2012), Bye, Donna Summer! (Fowlpox Press, 2014), Taste of the Edge (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2014), and Mathemaku x5 (Spacecraft Press, 2015). He has also authored a book of fiction, Green Cemetery (Moment Publications, 2014), which is, in fact, the first Tunisian flash fiction collection originally written and published in the English language. Some of his poems have been translated into German, Greek, Turkish, and Italian.
Talking about his poems and his use of the English language, Annie Avery, editor of Heard Magazine said,
“Tunisian poet Ali Znaidi’s poems rise up like flowers from the challenges he has faced as a writer. Now in full bloom, his work has been published numerous times with a new chapbook forthcoming. His craft is skillful and inventive and I sense a philosopher peeking out from behind his words. He writes in English as if it was his mother tongue, but the mystical voice of his ancestral gift cannot be hidden.”
For more, visit aliznaidi.blogspot.com.

I had thought about finishing off with music by Danilo Perez, a pianist whom my husband and I saw recently, but I think that a selection of music by female jazz musicians might be better.

I don't know if I've posted much by Anat Cohen, but here is a lively piece that features her on clarinet:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLBvw50QQ7M

I'll add "Murmurando," which she plays with Trio Brasiliero:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hq0PCpcqsbc

On "Blues for Warren," saxophonist Tia Fuller is directing the Berklee Rainbow Band:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vngk2whOmHg  Fuller plays as well.

 Here she performs "Descend to Barbados" with her trio:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAs8BPshM2Y

I'll finish with Cindy Blackman Santana's "Pro Tem":


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Bryn Fortey Enters the 1940's Contest

Recently the New Yorker published an appreciation of progressive rock, and this summer/fall one of the contests will honor musicians born in the 1940s, so tonight is a good evening to post Bryn Fortey's tribute to Bill Bruford.  Bruford was not only a drummer for Yes, King Crimson, and other bands but also a jazz musician, leading the band Earthworks and playing with Al Di Meola, Michiel Borstrap, Kazumi Watanabe, and others.

(Born: May 17, 1949)

For Bill Bruford
A drummer whose musical interests
Would fill a book
It began and ended with jazz

The BBC2 programme JAZZ625
Was his introduction
Playing brushes on LP covers
While he listened and watched
And the jazz group EARTHWORKS
Was his last major enterprise
Prior to his retirement from performing

In between came the pomp and excesses
In various line-ups and reunions
Also touring with GENESIS
And more side projects
Than you could throw a cocked hat at

An early interest in electronic drumming
Was put on hold while he waited
For the technology to catch up
With what he wanted from them  
But he had reverted to acoustic by the end

In retirement he has continued
To run his records labels
And studied music at university

Musically restless
Bill Bruford was always willing to go
Wherever his inventive nature took him

Bryn Fortey

Bryn also draws our attention to the Ganelan Trio, a group of Russian jazz musicians.


Born out of the unique circumstances
Of pre-Gorbachev Russia
Three classically trained musicians
Who combined in a part-free/part-composed music
Under the influence of such as
Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane

Pianist Vyacheslav Ganelin (born 1944)
Saxophonist Vladimir Chekasin and
Percussionist Vladimir Tarasov (both 1947)

Between them they composed and taught
Directed a conservatory orchestra
Played in a symphony orchestra
And blended all their Russian roots and training
With the jazz they heard on
Voice of America radio broadcasts
And expensively imported records

The Trio played European festivals
And toured both America and Britain
Making people aware of Russian interpretations
Of improvisational free-music.

Bryn Fortey 

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44250772

At one point, Bill Bruford was with a group called Gong:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBympzI4bxI

Here he is with Earthworks, playing "Triplicity": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLSoSsbiaDk

This is his "Up North," also with Earthworks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkrlMFHX7NU

"Melanchoe" is with Kazumi Watanabe and Jeff Berlin:

Here is a live recording of the Ganelin Trio from 1976:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKN4kEsBnVM

This live performance of "Priority" is from 2005: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrIpgjv-PAo


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Catfish McDaris Starts off the 1940s Contest

By John Phelan - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10536217

A while back Catfish McDaris sent me a Dylan poem that was previously published in the late Camel Saloon (do you remember that venue?).  I trust that you will enjoy it, and I hope that it will inspire you to write something for the 1940s contest--or one of the other contests this summer/fall.

Bob Dylan Is Dead Or Rage Into The Night Mr. Jones
by Catfish McDaris

I grew up in N.M. in
a small town noted
for musicians &
snooker hustlers

My best amigo was
a Dylan fanatic, he
studied his words, 
guitar, & harmonica

Forget The Beatles,
Jimi, or The Doors
it was Minnesota
Zimmie 24/7

Wanting to put moves 
on his beautiful
concrete blonde sister
after long pursuit we
consummated our infatuation

Their father came calling
& said I'd infested his
baby with fleas & ruined her

Deciding it might be time
to seek my fortune elsewhere
I took my hot sauce recipe
for Louisiana champagne east

Outside of Tucumcari I picked
up this dude that hummed 
Ballad of a Thin Man for 3
states, when I got to Highway 61

He stepped in front of
a west bound semi full
of pigs, there wasn't 
much left of him 

I'm not sure if he was
Jewish or if going that 
way was kosher, but at
least I hope he's knocking

on heaven's door.

Let's see if I can find some covers of Dylan.  

Let's start with "Ballad of a Thin Man" covered by Elliott Smith back in 1998:

In 1987, Dylan toured with the Dead, and then in 1988, the Dead covered some of his songs.  Here is their version of "Ballad of a Thin Man":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAZ4-Ed_52g

They also did "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwsjQbf0czc

Here is their "Queen Jane Approximately":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xA-_51DCKM

 I'll finish with the Scottish band Anton and the Colts' version of "Highway 61":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5wsO2enbX4


For more information about the current contests, see the entry below:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Summer/Fall Contests for 2017 at The Song Is....

I've enjoyed exploring the music of jazz musicians born in the 1930s with you, but now it's time to move on to the summer/fall contests.

All poems and flash fiction submitted between now and September 30 will be eligible for Thelma's Prize.  Poems and flash fiction from poets based in the Washington, DC area (including Baltimore and Frederick) are eligible for the local prize.  Submitted artwork is eligible for Callie's Prize.  We may even have some entries that are exclusively visual!  However, given the craziness of the semester, I may not be posting as frequently from mid-August on.

We will have three contests this time.

The first contest is for poetry and prose inspired by musicians born in the 1940s.  In fact, Catfish McDaris is starting the contest with a piece that references Dylan.  So you may send me poems about Dylan, the Beatles, Gene Clark, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Temptations, the Supremes, Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, and any of your favorite 60s or 70s musician born in the 1940s.  (I just realized that Marvin Gaye was born in 1939, but if you want to send me a tribute to him, that is fine.)  You may also send me pieces inspired by jazz musicians like Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Larry Young (who was actually born in 1940), Astrud Gilberto, Bennie Maupin, Gary Bartz, Michael Brecker, TS Monk, Phyllis Hyman, and Pharoah Sanders, just to name a few.

If this music is too newfangled for you, you may also send in poetry and prose inspired by jazz musicians who were *active* in the 1940s.  Send me your poems about Thelonious Monk, Mary Lou Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Anita O'Day, and so on!

Finally, to maintain the environmental theme I began in the last set of contests, I am looking for poems on floods or droughts or water.  Think about how your part of the world is affected by climate change and/or water.

Please send your poems to thesongis@gmail.com .  I would like up to five poems or five flash fiction at once.  I encourage you to try the contests.  You need not write about the life of the musician, but you may just listen to his or her music--and write!  However, if you quote from lyrics, be sure to put them in quotes and cite them.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Let's finish with some music.  I'll start with TS Monk's 1992 version of "Round Midnight."  Not sure who the pianist is.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuwSUeqqLJg

Here is his version of "Crepuscle with Nellie" from the album Monk on Monk:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goWElOUMujU

Michael Brecker's Don't Try This at Home was one of the first jazz CDs I ever bought:

My husband's guilty pleasure is Return to Forever:

Here is a video of Gary Bartz from 2015:

I'll move to pop with some Laura Nyro.


I'll finish with Gene Clark's "In a Misty Morning":

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

New Poems by Gabriel Eziorobo

To complete the fall/winter/spring contest, I would like to post the poems that Gabriel Eziorobo sent me a while back.  This has been a hectic school year!


I'm an honest-man
living a life of regret
i've tasted the bad-fruit
from the good-fruit.

I'm an honest-man
living a life of frustration
i've built a house
under my nostril
leading me to the grave.

I'm an honest-man
living a life of loneliness
foolishness has taught me to be lonely
blowing me the bleeze of loneliness,
i've nothing left with me
but myself
as a lonely married-man.


There are times,when we all need to
turn away from the things of this world;
though sinful behaviours can be pleasing,
we must live boldly with faith unfurled!

How can we contemplate or desire living
without God's great love and salvation?
Can we even afford to wastefully spend
our precious time with sad frustration,

knowing that we may find ourselves in
hell's eternity with no possible escape?
We're fortunate,to be on this side of
salvation,knowing how love was shaped,

in the crucifixion of Christ at calvary.
We have the ability to build our lives,
while overcoming all,unexpected sorrows
let drop the weapons...guns and knives

of destruction;the weakness of our flesh
is calling and pleading with our spirits
to return to its fallen state; but we'll
only see death's sadness and its limits.


holding us like babies
teaching us the kindergaten alphabet,
four years will be over
everything will be fine
building on an empty land,
hypocrites will emerge
on the high hill of calamity,
blabbing every four-years of grace
watering the solid land with honey,
all will be fine
false hope is everything
i wish,i wish
that is the lay-man
dreaming to walk.


Like the sun
is hotter than,
everything on earth
so the situation is
tougher than before,
day after day,sun or no sun
we struggle all-day
to reap a good-fruit,
on the day of harvest
mourning and lamenting
spread round the farm
like a virus,
everyday become a fairytale
for everyone to live,
faith was lost ,
because the heads
keep promising
without fulfilling them,
how long!
Have we been waiting
for change to come?
But all was fruitless
we claim to be the giant
without nothing to show for,
is this how we want to lose our title?
After the victory of 1960,
hope is there,change is here
sweet and tasty
to celebrate with us
the situation at hand,
we can't run away from it
either can a bird fly without landing.


What would i say to him?
How would i describe him?
I heard someone say,
he is on spell,
how long will he be on spell?
Has he not gone to the church,for deliverance?
I have told them
if a man is weak
how can he,fight his enemies?
If a man is flexible,
how can he,defeat the wind blowing?
I have told them,
this is not,
his wife's fault
either her children's fault,
why is everything different here?
Where are the people now?
Are they not,gossipers of the day?
Where are the people now?
Are they not problems of the day?
I have told them,
if a man,is on spell
will he be asking,of his sons and daughters?
If a man is on spell
will he abandon
his children for so long,
i have told them
this has nothing to with spell,
if a man,can't see the poison in him
how can he recuse himself from it?
I have told them
i am not a native of illusion.


Tell the gods
not to disturb
the men of honours,
the land has been polluted
by the gods and goddesses
our fore-fathers served,
sooner or later,
the gods and goddesses will be nowhere
to safe your soul,
where are the gods,
When the daughters of Mayowa are dying?
Are they not the gods,our fore-fathers
say we should rely on?
Where are the gods?
When the wife of Kufi
was barren for so many years
without having a child,of her own?
Are they not the gods
our fore-fathers say we should call on?
But where are the gods,to safe the land,
from their enemies?
Where are the gods?
When my left-hand was caged,
are they not the one,
that make the law in the land?
Is it a crime to make use of the left-hand?
Why are people living,a sinful life?
Have they forgot,
what the Lord says?
We should not condemn anything,
They are living a life of the world,
life that will lead them to their den,
and tell the gods
not to disturb
the men of honours.


I'll finish the fall/winter/spring contest with some more music by Larry Young, one of the many jazz musicians born in the 1930s.

Here is a live version of his "Fuel for the Fire":

Another of his songs is "I Ching":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1MjCyEZtUY

Larry Young and Lee Morgan play together on "Visions":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htz5Q5nzxyE

Alice Coltrane has been receiving more acclaim lately:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUMuDWDVd20

I'll finish with Dorothy Ashby's "Soul Harping":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtUYuTiWuSs