I survived a rather busy holiday season - lots of family and other company passing through the house. Nothing really earth shaking to report except that my wife is retiring the end of this month. She's paid her dues and moved up the administrative ladder, and now it's time to say goodbye to it all and enjoy life. I must admit I'm a little envious, but with any luck I'll be gone by next year myself.
In the poetry world, the biggest news is that I attended the 20th Annual Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway this past weekend at the Seaview Resort, a historic luxury hotel near the Jersey shore. Part of the fun was having my adult son, a formidable poet in his own right, to join me. He had a swell time and was somewhat embarrassed by all the praise lavished upon him for his writing. I thoroughly enjoyed my workshops with Dorianne Laux, Michael Broek, and Karen Z. Duffy, and my tutorial with Emari DiGiorgio. And of course seeing so many of my poet friends and acquaintances is always a pleasure. But the best part is that, thanks to Peter Murphy's devilishly inventive prompts and the constructive critique of my fellow poets, I came home with six new poems.
Music: I've been getting back into jazz lately, thanks to two box sets I gave myself for Christmas, so to speak. One is the Dave Brubeck set that includes all his "time" albums from 1961-1966: Of course there's the immortal Time Out (featuring "Take Five"), but there's also Time Further Out, Countdown: Time Out in Space, Time Changes,and Time In. I also got a collection of jazz music from Creed Taylor's CTI Records, and infulential label in the late 1960's and early- to mid-1970's. You might say they were the start of the "smooth jazz" movement (for better or worse, depending on your opinion of that subgenre). Their stable of musicians included familiar names like Freddie Hubbard, Paul Desmond and Chet Baker, but also some young upstarts like George Benson, Grover Washington Jr. and Bob James, as well as Latin American artists like Astrud Gilberto, Airto and Deodato. The "box" is a facsimile of the old gatefold album cover, featuring a sampler of some of the artistic and vibrantly colorful covers that were a CTI standard.
As far as new music goes, I only have one favorite so far this year: Elements of Light by Pantha du Prince and the Bell Laboratory. My wife tipped me off to this German electronica artist after hearing samples of the album on NPR. (That's unusual in itself because I've been traditionally the music maven of the household.) I listened to the NPR stream and was immediately hooked. Imagine a five-movement, classically-constructed piece that starts with handbell choir, then gradually morphs into a section with carillon and chimes, then suddenly picks up a bass-heavy dance beat and electronic effects, and just propels you along with it. It's organic and acoustic, electronic and funky, all at the same time, with echoes of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. Great driving music too, by the way.
Poem: Here's one I wrote at the Winter Getaway:
The world seem to measure success
By how far we climb up the ladder,
How much stuff we acquire,
How our names are known to the world.
A few people know my name, but
My face will never be on a national magazine.
I have a lot of stuff, but it may not be
The right stuff – there’s a lot of junk mixed in.
And as for that ladder… well, I’m tired.
Can’t I just sit on this rung for a while?