Wednesday, July 21, 2004

last night moving the car into the driveway for the night I heard on the radio "Here & Now" by the '90s outfit Letters To Cleo, and have had that song stuck in my head since.  it is a catchy tune, but what I like about it is how lead vocalist, Kay Hanley, phrases, how she uses her voice, however limited in a style that sound awfully untrained, but pretty, and how the seeming artlessness of her singing is actually part of her art, the stuttering, the notes cut short, the high pitches and low notes.  how Hanley uses her voice as an instrument to achieve maximum velocity.

such singing gives great pleasure, to me at least, and reminds me how Exene Cervenka, of the great punk band X, used her voice.  Cervenka has a brilliant instrument in her voice, listen to "Nausea" from their debut Los Angeles, for its sweetness and anger.  she is a younger sister to Patti Smith, in what seems untrained is part of its beauty.  and when Cervenka sings harmony with John Doe, especially in a song such as "Unheard Music," I swear my life, at that moment, has achieved an ecstatic state. 

such voices, stuttering, screaming, loud, (un)controlled, sweet, sexy, human, angry and loving makes me want to live at the first intensity.  such music makes me glad I am alive.  surely there is a poetry that does this as well?

and today I read U.K. poet Martin Stannard's review of first gen. NYC poets and realized here is a kindred spirit.  he may not have caught up with the pure joy to be had in Schuyler's work, but here is a poet whose got it.   for Schuyler reminds me a bit of Cervenka's singing: brilliant, loving, angry, stuttering and pitch-perfect.  if I ever had to label myself as a writer I would use something like, um, 20th-gen.-NYC-school-second-cousin-twice-removed-to-CA.  but, hey, I ain't into labels. 

but Schuyler's poetry, and his prose work (a book I read and reread in times of stress, The Diary of James Schuyler, ed. by Nathan Kernan (Black Sparrow Press, 1997), makes me want to drink up, eat a big meal, and have great sex.  it's all there, warmth, humanity, experimentation, love and friendship.  Schuyler lived life large and his is a poetry that recreates life, and I mean life, not simply his, but LIFE, all in caps.

here is a poem that I love

Wigging in, wigging out:
when I stop to think
the wires in my head
cross: kaboom.  How
many trips
by ambulance (five,
count them five),
claustered, pill addiction,
in and out of mental
the suicidalness (once
I almost made it)
but -- I go on?
Tell you all of it?
I can't.  When I think
of that, that at
only fifty-one I,
Jim the Jerk, am
still alive and breathing
deeply, that I think
is a miracle.

Collected Poems (FSG, 1993)

don't know if this is one of Schuyler's anthology pieces, don't care really, what I love is its simplicity and courage to be awe-struck.  that courage is what drives the poem, and saves it from being an example of the school of confession ala Sharon Olds.  it makes me glad to be alive in my own life.  what more could a reader want?  I've heard Boston poet William Corbett is editing Schuyler's letters, can't wait to read them.



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