Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Already?

Once again I completed a poem-a-day challenge in November, “sponsored” once again by Robert Brewer of the Poetic Asides blog. November was his second annual “chapbook challenge”, with the object being to write enough poems to compile a chapbook. Themes are always a plus, but not required. Last year I tried writing on a theme (music), but this year it was a struggle just writing a poem a day, let alone on a theme, in fact I ran about two or three days behind for most of the month. But I did average 30 poems in 30 days, some of which actually turned out to be not bad. I’ll post one of them below.

My poetry group, Quick and Dirty Poets, is still reading for our annual journal, Up and Under: The QND Review, so if you are interested in submitting, go to

Thanks to my friend Kelly Fineman for giving me props for my new book on her blog, which you can find here. I’m impressed by anyone who can keep a daily blog, and hers is one of the best I’ve read.

Music: It’s the holiday season, and time for all the tired old musical chestnuts to be trucked out and played ad nauseam. Don’t’ get me wrong: I love Christmas music, and I have a CD collection to prove it, but I understand how people get tired of the 113th version of “White Christmas” or “Winter Wonderland”. That’s why I’m always on the lookout for seasonal tunes that may a little off the beaten path. This season I’ve been enjoying Holiday Spirit by Straight No Chaser, an a cappella men’s group that apparently has been a Youtube hit with their amusing version of “Twelve Days of Christmas”. They do a very pleasant doo-wop/jazz presentation, and Holiday Spirit is actually their album from last year – they have another out this year.

On the other hand, I was shocked by how bad Bob Dylan’s new Christmas album is. I love the man – he has written some of the greatest songs in pop music history, and I still listen to much of his earlier work. But let’s face it: he’s in his late 60’s, and his voice is shot. This can be forgiven when he’s singing his own great compositions, but when he croaks his way through an octave on some hoary old holiday tunes – well, I’d rather be waterboarded.

Here’s my latest best-of list. I’ve done best albums of the year and the decade, so now I present my votes for best songs of 2009:

1. Percussion Gun – White Rabbits
2. The Rake’s Song – The Decemberists
3. Sugarfoot – Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
4. Summertime Clothes – Animal Collective
5. Sleepyhead – Passion Pit
6. The Great Defector – Bell X1
7. Lisztomania – Phoenix
8. Pulling on a Line – Great Lake Swimmers
9. Slow Burning Crimes – East Hundred
10. I Live in a Lot of Places – Woodpigeon
11. They Done Wrong, We Done Wrong – White Rabbits
12. I and Love and You – Avett Brothers
13. People Got a Lot of Nerve – Neko Case
14. Two Weeks – Grizzly Bear
15. Little Bribes – Death Cab for Cutie
16. Detroit ’67 – Sam Roberts
17. Eden Was a Garden – Roman Candle
18. Bastard of Midnight – The Damnwells
19. My Girls – Animal Collective
20. Low Rising – The Swell Season
21. Belated Promise Ring - Iron & Wine
22. Who Will Comfort Me – Melody Gardot
23. Kingdom of the Animals Iron & Wine
24. Bluish – Animal Collective
25. The Reeling – Passion Pit
26. 1901 – Phoenix
27. Actor Out of Work – St. Vincent
28. Wicked Blood – Sea Wolf
29. Fitz and the Dizzyspells – Andrew Bird
30. The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid – The Decemberists
31. Shot in the Back of the Head - Moby
32. The Changeling – A.C. Newman
33. My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille – Beirut
34. Blood Bank – Bon Iver
35. Can’t Go Back Now – The Weepies
36. Cocaine and Ashes – Son Volt
37. Bluebird – Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses
38. I’m Broke - Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
39. Why Modern Radio is A-OK – Roman Candle
40. All of My Days and All of My Days Off – A.C. Newman

Poetry: As promised, here's one from my November poem-a-day project:


…you sweet thing, you’re driving me mad… J.J. Cale

If we had built a mythology around you,
we may have said you were a musician
with long fingers, all the better to play
the harp or the lute. Perhaps you
wore flowers in your long brown hair,
and you bathed in a sweet perfume,
one that all men would find irresistible.
But for some transgression,
perhaps rejecting a young god’s advances,
you were transformed to a majestic tree.
Your long leafy fingers, dark green,
keep their color all winter, and in spring,
you put magnificent blossoms in your hair,
petal-bowls of white velvet,
with an intoxicating fragrance
we cannot resist, even if it lasts only a day.