Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Over The River, Through The Woods

First you have to be able to see the squat stone pillars at the gate, the long winding drive through the snow-covered trees bent low, the campus opening up before you slowly, houses emerging from the woods, then, suddenly, the tennis courts. You have to be able to understand the way the lights of the campus on the hill glisten through the windowpane air as you drive across the bridge, over the Connecticut, to a fast jazz sax on the radio playing, say, A Night In Tunisia. You have to feel the dark as a tangible thing broken only by lights in the distance and your own cone of headlamp glow and the twin red eyes of Virginia's red Saab's taillights.

I turn thirty tomorrow -- technically today, as it's after midnight. The weight of years grows heavy, and lends a desperate cast to the radio show tonight. We played songs with bounce and groove to stave off melancholy. Interestingly, two of the songs we played this evening were written and performed by people who went to my own prep school, Commonwealth. Evan Dando of Lemonheads fame went there, too, but I don't have any Lemonheads CDs in my collection. I'll give a $10 amazon.com gift certificate to anyone who can guess which two performers or bands fall into this category off of tonight's Tributary playlist:

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man (our theme song)
They Might Be Giants -- No!
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
Julianna Hatfield -- Hang Down From Heaven
Nirvana -- Polly
Matchbox 20 -- If You're Gone
Phish -- Farmhouse
Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks -- My Cello
Cassandra Wilson -- Drunk As Cooter Brown
The Biscuit Boys -- Coming Into LA
Nickel Creek -- The Fox Went Out
John Gorka -- People My Age
Patty Griffin -- You Never Get What You Want
The Story -- The Perfect Crime
Robbie Fulks -- Never Could
Ani Difranco -- The Poet Game
Iris Dement -- The Train Carrying Jimmy Rogers Home
Keller Williams -- Kidney In A Cooler
Moxy Fruvous -- My Baby Loves A Bunch Of Authors
Billy Bragg and Wilco -- My Flying Saucer
Los Lobos -- That Train Don't Stop Here Anymore
a DJ Harry remix of String Cheese Incident -- Search
Acoustic Syndicate -- Rainbow Rollercoaster
Nikki Boyer -- Brain Damage
Barenaked Ladies -- Great Provider
Suzanne Vega -- Stay Awake
Keller Williams -- Anyhow Anyway

I read selected poems from Poet Laureate Billy Collins' most recent collection Nine Horses on the hour and the half hour; I wasn't sure about his work when my parents gave me the collection for Channukah, but like the new shiny grey hairs starting to pepper my beard, they grow on you.

My father started giving me books of poetry several years ago, after I started showing him my own work, long after I exhausted the poetic professorial resources of Bard College (at that time, avant-garde John Ashbery, American Buddhist Robert Kelly, and experimentalists Joan Retallack and Charles Stein) and Darcie and I dropped out together. For a while, he carried one of my poems in his briefcase; for a while after that, things went sour and I wrote poems I would never show him. He never struck me as the poetry type, but he's made some excellent selections of the years. Several years ago he gave me a Phillip Levine collection and two smuggled cuban cigars for, I think, my birthday. It's hard to picture him in his bathrobe at 3 a.m. reading poems, but somehow easier to see when the poets are Levine and Collins and Pinsky, an unfortunately dying breed of middle-aged white men, the inheritors of a tradition of Anglo-Saxon silences.

From Collins' Consolation:

I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:19 AM |

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