Wednesday, June 25, 2008

my other blog

I have another blog about art and the written word.
you can visit it at or click the link.


I was watching "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" last night and was reminded once again how much I like the song "My Death." Bowie has done a few Brel covers and he does them really well. They suit his voice and the words are really mournful and poignant. I was disappointed though at the sound quality of the special edition DVD, if anything it is worse than that of the version I taped of the TV in the 1980s.
jaques Brel's lyrics seem more like poetry to me than song lyrics.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


We watched a really good film last night called "Once". I wasn't sure I was going to like it but I can't recommend it highly enough. The film is made great by the naturalistic acting of the two main characters and also by the brilliant soundtrack featuring the two leads. The music reminded me a lot of damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan at their best. It is so refreshing to watch a film where the story isn't tied up neatly for you. In the great tradition of European films "Once" is more about what doesn't happen and what isn't said than what is and that is what makes it so beautiful.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Visual Poetry

I got a great gadget today that makes embossed letters on plastic tape and I started playing around with the idea of using it to make visual poetry. This is my first attempt so it isn't all that great but I can already see that there is great potential in the idea. This one isn't really a proper poem - just something that I came up with on the spur of the moment that was in keeping with the wall on which it is displayed.

The problem for me with this piece is that the text seems too removed from the wall that it is displayed on I really wanted it to look more as if it belonged there. However that is very hard to acheive and maybe I am approaching it the wrong way. Maybe I should make the alienation of the text from the medium it is placed in more an integral part of the piece.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lyrics versus Poetry

After reading "The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison" I found myself wondering about the differences between lyrics and poetry. Lyrics are more akin to classical or lyric poetry than to modern poetry in that they usually rhyme and have a clear structure of verses of equal legnth. They also tend to have less pretensions of goodness or worthiness than poetry (unless you're Bob Dylan or Billy Bragg of course). The words can be meaningless or about the most mundane things and it doesn't matter, no one really minds - what matters is how the lyrics scan, the pentameter, the rhyme and how they fit with the music. Just listen to the lyrics of Spandau Ballet, Black Sabbath or "My Sharona" by The Knack for examples of songs that work well but contain pretty meaningless lyrics.

It must be because of the way that the lyrics fit with music that we find songs easy to remember. I am a big poetry fan but know very few poems all the way through. However I can think of loads of songs that I know all the lyrics to and some of them I haven't heard for years. I might find it hard to remember people's names, important apoointments or my shopping list but I can sing you the whole of "Spirit of Radio" by Rush without a moments hesitation! And they're not easy lyrics, if I tried to memorise them like a poem I think I would struggle.

Words by Neil Peart, Music by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Inspired by 'The Spirit of Radio' in Toronto,

Begin the day
With a friendly voice
A companion, unobtrusive
Plays that song that's so elusive
And the magic music makes your morning mood

Off on your way
Hit the open road
There is magic at your fingers
For the Spirit ever lingers
Undemanding contact
In your happy solitude

Invisible airwaves Crackle with life
Bright antennae bristle With the energy
Emotional feedback On a timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price --- Almost free...

All this machinery
Making modern music
Can still be open-hearted
Not so coldly charted
It's really just a question
Of your honesty

One likes to believe
In the freedom of music
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity

"For the words of the profits
Are written on the studio wall,
Concert hall --- Echoes with the sounds... Of salesmen."

Todays reading:
Jim Morrison - Wilderness, The Lost Writings
Frank O'Hara - Selected Poems
Simon Critchley - Things Merely Are

Album of the day: Station to Station - David Bowie

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lost in Translation

I am wondering as I am reading translations of poetry by Jacques PrĂ©vert and Georg Trakl how much of the original essence of a poem is lost in translation. In a sense the translator is writing the poetry him/herself just using a set of words gleened fronm the original work. For example when a friend who could read German translated one of Georg Trakl’s poems aloud he translated it word by word and it was very different to the translation in the book. In fact in these translations words have been changed for poetic effect. It makes me wonder if as a reader I would want a direct translation from the German or am I happy to read the artistic interpretation of the author’s work by another poet (in this case Robin Skelton). If I read ten different translations of the same poem done by different translators how different would they be from one another? Would I find myself reading ten completely different poems or would the essence of each poem be essentially the same? For me as a reader I think I might like to see a direct word for word translation as well, just to satisfy my artistic curiosity.