Saturday, April 21, 2018

Returning with Bryn Fortey

By © Jorge Royan /, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Song Is...  returns with two poems by the jazz poet Bryn Fortey.  


Tucked away within my record collection
MIRAGE by Romano Mussolini
Billed as by his TRIO
Though six musicians took part
This was apparently his debut CD
Put out in 1974
I know very little about Il Duce’s youngest son
Straight after WW2 he’d called himself Still
When playing Italian jazz clubs
And waited some time before using his real name
How I acquired the record remains a mystery
Too much has happened in my life to remember
I definitely would not have bought it new
But maybe it was a Charity Shop purchase
Maybe it was something borrowed
But never returned
I myself lost records that way
I mainly write short stories now
And often like a musical background
MIRAGE is a favourite in that capacity
Romano himself plays an entertaining electric piano
And the unknown Italians with him
Are surprisingly good
It seems he was a private man
Who kept any political views to himself 
And would not openly discuss his father
Until writing two books quite late in his life
If Romano Mussolini hoped his music would speak for him
Then he succeeded with me

Bryn Fortey



It’s a game many play:
Picking the three pieces of music
To be played at your funeral
And if you’re anything like me
It’s an almost impossible task

The older I become
The fewer my potential mourners
Family, some neighbours, not many friends
They are mostly already dead themselves
Or too old and infirm, or too far away

Track 1, to stir the aching bones
Of those who do attend, will be:
Weather Bird by Louis Armstrong
A trumpet/piano duet with Earl Hines
Recorded in Chicago, December 5, 1928
This is Armstrong at the peak of his
Hot Fives and Sevens years
And if it doesn’t get you tapping your feet
Then you should be in the box alongside me

A female vocalist, I think, for Track 2
The incomparable Ella, Lady Day, quirky Nina?
But maybe I’ll let my libido push me past the limits
Of pure vocal perfection, and go for
After The Rain by Shirley Bassey
Written by Richard Hawley for her The Performance CD
After a career highlighted by big voiced ballads
This was quiet, laid back, reflective
And the 70+ Dame from Tiger Bay nailed it
My younger self fancied Miss Bassey like crazy
My older self is no less admiring 

I came to the music of Leonard Cohen late
But when I did he blew my socks off
Becoming such a favourite he gets the Track 3 spot with
Alexandra Leaving off his Ten New Songs CD
There are so many of his songs I could have chosen
But I think this one has such a beautiful melody

But maybe I will do it the David Bowie way
Body straight to the crematorium 
Without the trappings of a service, so no music either
I had better make up my mind soon though, I guess

Bryn Fortey  


Below is a picture of a funeral procession in the Philippines.

By moyerphotos - originally posted to Flickr as Philippines Funeral Procession, CC BY 2.0,

Let's listen to some of the music Bryn mentioned in his poems.

I'll start with the title cut from Romano Mussolini's Mirage:

This is his "Omaggio a Oscar Peterson":

Here comes Louis Armstrong's "Weather Bird."  It certainly does get my toes tapping.

Shirley Bassey performs "After the Rain":

I'll finish with Leonard Cohen's "Alexandra Leaving."  He is singing with Sharon Robinson.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

South, West, North, and East with the DC Poetry Spot

art by Jurgen Appelo

Now that midterms are over and that I've made the transition to a new computer, I'd like to post some poems from a workshop I led back in September 2017.  As the picture above implies, I asked my fellow poets to note which direction they were facing and write poems inspired by that.  This workshop had been inspired by a Forrest Yoga workshop I had attended in January 2017.  There one of our activities was to call or chant in the Four Directions.  It was a wonderfully illuminating workshop.

Let's start with Miss Kiane's poems.  (Miss Kiane oversees the DC Poetry Spot.)

Facing South

Like the migrant bird, I turn my expectations South
Gathering as many scattered memories from this fleeting season as possible
Like bare legs, impromptu picnics, face devouring sunglasses and vitamin D overdoses.

The winter is coming, and I must protect my soul
From its cold talons.

My wings are in spirit only. 
I cannot fly South.
So, I burn summer memories to keep me warm
Until the South returns to me.

---- copyright 2017 by Dinahsta Kiane Thomas



East coast, a modern day land of milk and honey
Small narrow streets
Driven on by gaudy, gas guzzlers
But they are shiny so….
Tiny apartments house BIG dreams.
Huge price tags are met with the working poor salaries.
Fast-paced trajectories turn pupils into dollar signs
And “once in a lifetime opportunities” are purchased
With the things that really matter.

---- copyright 2017 by Dinahsta Kiane Thomas

Dinahsta Thomas also known as Miss Kiane is a social worker by profession and poet by passion.  Through her business Kiane Ink Healing in the Pen, LLC, she uses poetry / creative expression as a spring board to host community events, offer self-improvement workshops and engage in charitable efforts.  She oversees the DC Poetry Spot meetup and travels the States performing poetry.  In her own words “Poetry is my friend….my catharsis….my gift to the world.”  For more information, visit her website at

Photograph by Ted Eytan
Kamilah Carlisle faced north:

The strangest lullaby I ever heard
Was the commotion going on outside my window
Those summer nights in New York city
Were as sweet as a child’s dreams
The house I visited never utilized the AC
And it was glorious
The air was so fond of me
Thick with pure bliss
As I wait to fall asleep
The screeching sounds of Harlem
Lulled me to peace
Either those train tracks were simply rusted
Or they played a symphony just for me

-- copyright 2017 by Kamilah Carlisle

Her bio follows: "I am Kamilah Carlisle, a 24 year old Computer Science major hailing from Largo, MD. I have always been interested in writing since a young age. It has been an outlet for my vivid imagination and the rich way in which I perceive the world around me. "

CC BY-SA 2.5,
Although Suriya was not at this particular workshop, I invited her to join this gathering of poets.

A Yes Poem
By Suriya

Mais oui...Por supuesto, si
Aye ... No doubt...Absolutely

With words of affirmation I fling wide the door welcoming opportunity

Inviting Her in & offering a plate
a glass, a steaming mug, a cushioned seat

Yes I say

When universe poses the question

I concur wholeheartedly that now is the moment
and this is the season

We accept the challenge to do more than thought possible
to mesh purpose with persistence
and find pleasure in the process

We sing sugar-free symphonies
buoyed by belief in the 
pure power of positivity

Her bio follows: Writing is this poet's happy place. This piece came out of a collaborative workshop in the Writers on the Green Line series, facilitated by Naomi Ayala.   (Writers on the Green Line is another DC poetry group.  Its leader is Elizabeth Bruce whose flash fiction you've read here.)

Photograph by ctj71081

Steve K. faced in a totally different direction from the usual north, east, south, and west:


Gaia tilts at solar windmills

Cancer and Capricorn
square dance for a season
spicing life with a solstice poultice

revolutions charge at dawn
hope riding the crescent
reflected radiation

we Spring into Summer
before our Fall into Winter
lessons learned through liquidity

stasis is still - a dirt blanket
where blooms wither
and grass   is kept   to carpet

Bio: Steve would like to thank all the individuals who give him inspiration.

Photograph by AmberAvalona

Gabrielle Grunau's poem reminds me of summer's end.

Missing Hat

The smile was sunshine
from under the pillows
on the sattee of green
wide cat grin over a band 
of blue pale with age.
It smiles from plump cushions
up to me and to its owner
The hat found!


From, under the cushions 
of that sattee, it 
survived a seating
and sleeping. 
to become again
free. Hatted. Protecting.
Pale blue with age
from the sun. 

from the sun.

I'll conclude with my poems from the workshop.  Of course, my first poem was written while I was facing north.

Facing North Again

In September, I am facing north again,
the direction of compasses
pointing towards Canada,
towards the map’s empty spaces
of flatlands and permafrost.

Once I imagined being
beyond where the compass points,
where dirt roads up to the ocean
and the summer sun
take the place of the needle.

Before long I’d learned my limits,
leaving north for scientists.
In my room without a map,
the wall an empty space,
I faced south towards
the city’s haze-blue towers
that I could barely see.

---- Marianne Szlyk

Facing South Again

Further south it is early spring.
The snow falls in the mountains,
blocking the one road through. 
Plum blossoms are far away.
One woman writes a haiku.

I see only the hurricane,
the hang trees,
the heartache
I’ve been taught to see
when I look in this direction.

-- Marianne Szlyk
previously published in Ramingo's Porch

If you are in the DC area, I hope that you will consider attending the DC Poetry Spot.  Its Meetup page is here:

Recently my husband and I saw Jane Bunnett and Maqueque in concert.  A Canadian artist who reworks Cuban music, she would be a fantastic musician to listen to tonight.

"La Flamenca Maria" kept running through my head for days after the concert:

Here they perform "Changui del Guaso" live:

This video is from a performance at Nightown in Cleveland:

More Maqueque live!