I Was Going to Be a Cowgirl

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Love and Music

 

Let me tell you about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees and the moon up above and a thing called loveto borrow words from an old pop song—because the images that recur obsessively in my writing are birds, bees, flowers, trees, moon, stars, love. The West, travel, oceans and rivers, turmoil, loss of faith, hope. All of these things fall into six general categories: Love, family history, self-definition, the arts (especially music), ideas and nature. More than any other subject I feel called to write about love. Filial, maternal, romantic, erotic; love for the earth and its creatures; lovingkindness.

As a child I most loved the sounds of poetry and the relationship of song lyrics to melodies. My dad recited “The Jabberwocky” sometimes at bedtime or sang “Alla en el Rancho Grande.” Over and over I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. My sister taught me to sing “Greensleeves” and “The Ashgrove.” My brother played 45’s of “Hound Dog” and “Sixteen Tons.”   When I got a little older it was all about the radio—funk, soul and rock and roll. Words and music both. It’s not possible to separate my love of poetry from my love of song.

Any sound image in a poem sets off reverberations in the ear of the reader or listener—a bird, teakettle, siren, helicopter. Every image in a poem is an invitation to engage, to interact and even co-create with the poem and the poet. Music serves a social bonding function, heightening the interactivity between poet and reader and the associational resonance of the poem for both.

It is difficult to measure our debt as poets to song. Muse, after all, is the root word for music. We have our musical touchstones. Walter Pater wrote: All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music. The muses of poetry and song are, after all, kin; sisters. My book would not be here but for love and music.

 

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