Sep 2, 2010

Ukuleles, Sweetness, Stephen Dunn, Frances Darwin Cornford, e.e. cummings.

Here is one by Stephen Dunn that might fit the theme or mood of the videos below.

Sweetness by Stephen Dunn : Poetry Magazine [poem/magazine] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

I had no idea what was possible on the uke. Don't tell Gothpunkuncle, but I thought of it as a toy guitar. I confess.

If you look at the James Hill video, there is, as usual, a column of promising ukulele clips down the right side of the page at YouTube.

The clip is about 5 minutes. If you're short on time, you might scoot forward to about the 1:30 mark for the remarkable stuff.

YouTube - James Hill - One Note Samba

But for sheer delight, for complete bunny-hood, I still have to crown the happy little strummer from last March 30:

YouTube - I'm Yours(ukulele)

After that, Stephen Dunn, or even a lighter, feel-good poem might seem too heavy, but I'll offer one in case you missed "The Guitarist Tunes Up" from last Valentine's Day. It's written by the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, so I presume there's a survival motif if we look really hard:

The Guitarist Tunes Up by Frances Darwin Cornford

Upon hearing ukuleles and seeing Ukulele Boy's animation and face in the video, I also think of these lines from e.e. cummings' poems 53 and 54, posted here last May 13:

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

you shall above all things be glad and young
For if you're young,whatever life you wear

it will become you;and if you are glad
whatever's living will yourself become.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance



Pasadena Adjacent said...

So strange you should bring up ukuleles. I recently found a photo of my father playing the Uke (it's in my first post of artist Eugene Savage) and became intrigued by the instrument. I've been downloading u-tube tutorials and looking into purchasing one. I'm going to ask Mixed Meters guy David Ocher for pointers.

Dunn's poem was powerful... especially the first line.

Jean Spitzer said...

I got hijacked by the James Hill video; segued from that to him playing Miserlou, and then to him playing ukulele with a chopstick!

have to come back later to explore the rest

Banjo52 said...

PA, I'm also partial to this:

"one more maniac
with a perfect reason . . . "

Jean, in "your" J.H. chopstick video, did you see his mouth moving as he played the first minute or so? As if he were chewing the song . . . . We are weird organisms. Old news, new example?

Anonymous said...

This, oh this:

you shall above all things be glad and young
For if you're young,whatever life you wear
it will become you;and if you are glad
whatever's living will yourself become.

Someday, let's talk about the word glad. It's one of my favorites. It has such a slap on the back, yo buddy sort of a feel. It's a wide grin without guile.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Banjo, I'm slow getting to all the links. Not the best internet speed on the road, I guess.
Anyway... reading an old New Yorker I brought along made me think of you. A profile on Brad Paisley. I had no idea who he was (actually, when I saw his photo, I thought it was Kenny Chesney? like I know who Kenny Chesney is). The article touches on the genre of country music... and bluegrass. I'm a big Alison Krause fan, and I wondered if you had comments??? and on the makeup of a good bluegrass song? Is it the instruments that make the song, or what in a song makes it "sing"?

As you mentioned a few days ago, it is good to get away from our 'plugged in' world. I like sitting in the quiet (even just in the wind, on the back of the truck hatch). Readin' in the wind is good.

Barbaro said...

That Dunn piece is very nice: I esp. like the rhyme between "tones" and "loan" about three stanzas from the end, and the unexpected rightness of the banking metaphor.

The Darwin piece is a little gem. I'm not a guitar fan, but I'll admit to a certain jealousy over their getting to tune their own.

I also like the cummings snippets. Will it offend your New Critical sensibilities if I suggest that his tendency toward sentimentality seems more powerful in light of his traumatic life?

The kid on the toy guitar is a bit too cutesy for me (if not exploitative). Sorry, I'm a cold man sometimes. The shaggy-haired guy on the ukelele, on the other hand, is outstanding. We forget sometimes that instruments are toys.

PJ said...

I like this poem very much. I think some feelings are meant (thankfully) to be experienced only once in a great while. In fact, I think that when we're exposed to any one feeling too much, it loses it's intention (for lack of a better word).

Jean, I was taken by the chopsticks video as well. My mom played the ukelele for a while and we had a lot of laughs singing songs from the 30's and 40's. James Hill has certainly taken it to a new level.

gothpunkuncle said...

Washburn makes a perfectly fine, affordable uke, PA. If we're staying on this kick for awhile, take a look for Cliff Edwards on youtube. Even if you don't think you know this cat, you certainly do.

Jean Spitzer said...

He does chew this song (also dances, but he seems to do that in all these performances).

Banjo52 said...

My responses got long again, so I'll read them with fresh brain in the morning and put 'em either here or as a separate Saturday post. Many thanks, all for good thoughts and queries. I will say quickly, AH, that I agree, there's something special about "glad" and "gladness."

Banjo52 said...

Changed my mind. Here's my rambling.

AH, absolutely. All grin, no guile. Yet it’s a tricky word too, can sound archly literary or something. Ditto “gladness.” But maybe that’s only because people don’t think it or feel it enough to say it. It loses to the more predictable “happy” or “wowser” or “holy shit” and others (sorry—dumb fun). In its way, “glad” might be one of the more precise words for feeling a certain kind of good.

Brenda, internet on the road is not for sissies, I know.

I love Alison Krause’s voice, but she slurs her words so much I miss a lot of the lyrics, like Emmy Lou Harris, another great voice who slurs. Dadgummit.

“. . . the makeup of a good bluegrass song? Is it the instruments that make the song, or what in a song makes it ‘sing’"? I’m not sure, probably gotta be a combination of things. I’ve actually been thinking about this kind of thing a little because I’m a little disappointed in the FOUR!!! Mac Wiseman CDs I just got. His voice is almost always pleasing and liquid (especially for bluegrass), but there’s a sameness to the tunes, the instruments, and yes, to his liquid voice. There are still some real winners, and I was introduced to one of his main banjo players, Billy Edwards, who died in 2005. But what he does with the banjo strikes me as absolutely perfect—just the right amount of accent and variety, down low or high up the neck.

Once, I believe it was in 1987, I answered a question concisely.

But I MUST add that if I read on the back of a truck hatch, in the wind, my mother would have spoken 23 times how cold it was, or how cold it looked, or was some odd hippie and what if someone she knew saw me engaged in such a bizarre behavior. So, BULLY FOR YOU AND YOUR MA.

What a statement, though, that we—or just I—have to force ourselves into unusual circumstances to behave the way we think we want to. That’s to Jeff M as well as you. And yet what I enjoy about the ‘burbs, I enjoy a lot.

Paula, I take it you mean “gladness” and/or Collins’ “sweetness.” That sounds right. Could we eat sweets all day every day? But there’s something I don’t trust there. Something in me wants to say, “Laughing, Billy Edwards, corndogs, hanky-panky, gold finches, green grass all day, every day . . . is bad? Let me try it and I’ll get back to you.” But of course the 24/7 of gladness or sweetness will never happen, so . . . . AND how many of the greatly joyous things are as “intensely” great the second and 43rd time around?

Jean, good eye on the chewing; I’m glad I wasn’t hallucinating. I’ll check out the dancing.

PJ said...

I think he was talking about being present to his friends and caring for them when they needed it most but then letting go of that moment of deep love to help them move forward. How often do we feel that? If we felt it too much it would become common place and possibly not very useful.

Giving it some more thought I looked up one review at TPF and it said this:

Stephen Dobyns in the New York Times Book Review described this as a collection of poems in which "clarity is a virtue and strongly felt emotion is a reason for being," and Alfred Corn, in Poetry, commended Dunn for being "a poet primarily personal and, in a valuable sense, realistic," a writer who "has the rare gift of seeming trustworthy."

Banjo52 said...

Paula, many thanks for that. Those are two responsible critics, and I think they articulate why Dunn has so many fans. "Seeming trustworthy"--I'll be chewing on that indefinitely. How many writers of any kind do seem trustworthy?

Your new . . . commitment? . . . to The Poetry Foundation is just great to see.

Jean Spitzer said...

I came back and read the e. e. cummings' poems (and I'm glad I did).

Lovers' Lane