Precious Poetry – 7th Edition: W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

Illustration by Ben Towle

Illustration by Ben Towle

‘Their Lonely Betters’

As I listened from a beach-chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds.

A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew,
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
To say which pairs, if any, should get mated.

Not one of them was capable of lying,
There was not one which knew that it was dying
Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.

Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters;
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep:
Words are for those with promises to keep.

* * * * *

‘The More Loving One’

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us, we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

* * * * *

Auden

W.H. Auden – Selected Poems [download e-book in PDF]

Previously on the Precious Poetry series of this blog:

#01 – Emily Dickinson
#02 – Joseph Brodsky
#03 – John Donne
#04 – Robert Frost
#05 – Sylvia Plath
#06 – Lawrence Ferlinghetti


W. H. Auden – Tell Me The Truth About Love (documentary, 58 min)

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Malkmus and the Jicks – Live in Toronto (Lee’s Palace)

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STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS
Live at Lee’s Palace (Toronto)
February 22, 2014

Review by Eduardo Carli de Moraes

It was a chilling night of this long Canadian winter, and Toronto’s streets were all covered with slippery layers of ice and mountains of snow. Radiohead’s words occured to me – “You watch your feet for cracks in the pavement”, sings Thom Yorke in OK Computer’s “Subterranean Homesick Alien” – as I went to my encounter with Mr. Malkmus trying not to kiss the floor. The harshness of the weather outside wasn’t exactly inviting an adventure outdoors, but after shielding myself behind some heavy coats, I headed for the concert with some Pavement’s pet sounds, playing loud on the earphones, as a warm-up. And there I went, trembling with the chilling winds as well as with an youthful excitement I usually nickname “the teenage kicks” (after the Undertones punk hit). After all, I was about to witness, in my first ever experience at Lee’s Palace (the Torontonian CBGB’s?), a living legend of North American indie-rock – who happens to be, also, a very sharp stand-up comedian.

I deem Mr Malkmus to be one of those artists who are homo ludens incarnate (Johan Huizinga would’ve liked him, I guess). The lead singer for alternative rock legendary band Pavement, who has been fronting The Jicks and has already recorded 6 studio albums with his new group, certainly was in high spirits in this particular evening. His troupe of Jicks seemed equally at ease. At one point, Mr. Malkmus thanked Canada, the brother-country at the North, for some of its greatest contributions to mankind: Neil Young, Sloan and Moosehead Beer. At another point, bass-player Joanna Bolme went to the mic to share with the audience her loneliness: she felt the house was packed with guys and called out for the girls in the house to make a little noise; Malkmus consoled his bandmate’s made-up blues: “Well, we’re all girls in indie rock…”. On stage, Malkmus and The Jicks seemed simultaneously excited and cool – they seemed quite happy to be there, playing and joking, and went through their set doing it like the Sonics recommended: “Maintaining My Cool”.

The band sounded great: some loud guitars reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr. and Built to Spill attacked us from the speakers throughout the show, but The Jicks also explored some gentler tunes that evoke comparisons to the Velvet Underground, Half Japanese, or even Elvis Costello. Malkmus’ singing, filled with wordplays and verbal games, are a trademark since the Pavement’s days and still sound quite charming, despite the fact that its meanings are, to me, very frequently felt as pure nonsense. Like a Dadaist poet who listened to much Lou Reed – or some extravagant stuff similar to that. He also sometimes sounds like a white boy trying to rap (the sort of stuff Beck Hansen used to do really well back in Odelay era). To sum things you: this was a great live musical experience for me, an admirer of Pavement’s music (but somewhat negligent follower of Malkmus’ The Jicks).   The concert has revived in he the conviction that Pavement was truly one of the greatest American indie-rock bands of the 90s – especially due to the benchmarks Slanted & Enchanted, Crooked Rain and Wowee Zowee (but Brighten The Corners and Terror Twilight are also very interesting and listenable records; more than that: they’re quite lovely and lovable).

I hope I’ll get a chance to see many more concerts as good as this one was during my time in Toronto, and I certainly have already fallen somewhat in love with that neighbourhood, at Bloor Street, one of my favorite places in town: it’s filled my great bookstores with truly accesible prices (like BMV, City Books, and many others), it has hempshops filled with goods for potheads (from clothes made of hemp fibre to vaporizers, grinders and other devices), and it has stunning street musicians that scream out their lungs in front of Dollaramas while reviving Nuggets psychedelic gems. As a souvenir of this chilly Canadian night where I found so much human warmth in these musicians, I leave you with a video filmed there at Lee’s Palace, as I witnessed for the first time, in flesh-and-bone, doing their thing on a stage in front of a howling and cheering audience… Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks:

You might also like:

Pavement’s “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” (1994), one of the greatest alternative rock albums of the 90s, with 12 bonus tracks (FULL ALBUM / free stream)…

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PAVEMENT

“Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” (1994)

Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine:

It may be a bit reductive to call Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain the Reckoning to Slanted & Enchanted‘s Murmur — not to mention easy, considering that Pavement recorded a song-long tribute to R.E.M.‘s second album during the Crooked Rain sessions — but there’s a certain truth in that statement all the same. Slanted & Enchanted is an enigmatic masterpiece, retaining its mystique after countless spins, but Crooked Rain strips away the hiss and fog of S&E, removing some of Pavement’s mystery yet retaining their fractured sound and spirit. It’s filled with loose ends and ragged transitions, but compared to the fuzzy, dense SlantedCrooked Rain is direct and immediately engaging — it puts the band’s casual melodicism, sprawling squalls of feedback, disheveled country-rock, and Stephen Malkmus‘ deft wordplay in sharp relief.

It’s the sound of a band discovering its own voice as a band, which is only appropriate because up until Crooked Rain, Pavement was more of a recording project between Malkmus and Scott Kannbergthan than a full-fledged rock & roll group. During the supporting tour for Slanted, Malkmus and Kannberg recruited bassist Mark Ibold and percussionist Bob Nastanovich, and original drummer Gary Young was replaced by Steve West early into the recording for this album, and the new blood gives the band a different feel, even if the aesthetic hasn’t changed much. The full band gives the music a richer, warmer vibe that’s as apparent on the rampaging, noise-ravaged “Unfair” as it is on the breezy, sun-kissed country-rock of “Range Life” or its weary, late-night counterpart, “Heaven Is a Truck.”

Pavement may still be messy, but it’s a meaningful, musical messiness from the performance to the production: listen to how “Silence Kit” begins by falling into place with its layers of fuzz guitars, wah wahs, cowbells, thumping bass, and drum fills, how what initially seems random gives way into a lush Californian pop song. That’s Crooked Rain a nutshell — what initially seems chaotic has purpose, leading listeners into the bittersweet heart and impish humor at the core of the album. Many bands attempted to replicate the sound or the vibe of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, but they never came close to the quicksilver shifts in music and emotion that give this album such lasting appeal. Here, Pavement follow the heartbroken ballad “Stop Breathin'” with the wry, hooky alt-rock hit “Cut Your Hair” without missing a beat. They throw out a jazzy Dave Brubeck tribute in “5-4=Unity” as easily as they mimic the Fall and mock the Happy Mondays on “Hit the Plane Down.” By drawing on so many different influences, Pavement discovered its own distinctive voice as a band on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, creating a vibrant, dynamic, emotionally resonant album that stands as a touchstone of underground rock in the ’90s and one of the great albums of its decade.

Shared above it’s CD-01 from “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: LA’s Desert Origins”, and it contains the following material:

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
1. “Silence Kit” — 3:00
2. “Elevate Me Later” — 2:51
3. “Stop Breathin'” — 4:27
4. “Cut Your Hair” — 3:06
5. “Newark Wilder” — 3:53
6. “Unfair” — 2:33
7. “Gold Soundz” — 2:39
8. “5 – 4 = Unity” — 2:09
9. “Range Life” — 4:54
10. “Heaven Is a Truck” — 2:30
11. “Hit the Plane Down” — 3:36
12. “Fillmore Jive” — 6:38

“Cut Your Hair” single
13. “Camera” — 3:45 (R.E.M. Cover)
14. “Stare” — 2:51

“Range Life” single
15. “Raft” — 3:34
16. “Coolin’ by Sound” — 2:50

“Gold Soundz” single
17. “Kneeling Bus” — 1:33
18. “Strings of Nashville” — 3:46
19. “Exit Theory” — 1:00

Gold Soundz Austral-N.Z. French Micronesia 94 Tour EP
20. “5 – 4 Vocal” — 2:08

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain bonus 7″
21. “Jam Kids” — 4:54
22. “Haunt You Down” — 4:51

No Alternative compilation
23. “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence” — 3:51

Hey Drag City! compilation
24. “Nail Clinic” — 2:25

* * * * *

Nietzsche’s Zarathustra by George Brandes (1842-1927): “A book that is bright in its joy of life, dark in its riddles, a book for spiritual mountain-climbers and dare-devils…”

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“Among Nietzsche’s works there is a strange book which bears the title Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It consists of 4 parts, written during the years 1883-85, each part in about 10 days, and conceived chapter by chapter on long walks – “with a feeling of inspiration, as though each sentence had been shouted in my ear”, as Nietzsche wrote in a private letter. (…) Zarathustra is a book of edification for free spirits. Nietzsche himself gave this book the highest place among his writings. The book contains all his fundamental ideas in the form of poetic recital. Its merit is a style that from the first word to the last is full-toned, sonorous and powerful… always expressive of self-joy, nay, self-intoxication, but rich in subtleties as in audacities.

Behind his style lies a mood as of calm mountain air, so light, so ethereally pure, that no infection, no bacteria can live in it – no noise, no stench, no dust assails it, nor does any path lead up. Clear sky above, open sea at the mountain’s foot, and over all a heaven of light, an abyss of light, an azure bell, a vaulted silence above roaring waters and mighty mountain-chains. On the heights Zarathustra is alone with himself, drawing in the pure air in full, deep breaths, alone with the rising sun, alone with the heat of noon, which does not impair the freshness, alone with the voices of the gleaming stars at night. A good, deep book it is. A book that is bright in its joy of life, dark in its riddles, a book for spiritual mountain-climbers and dare-devils…

“Upon the mountains one should live”, says Zarathustra. And with blessed nostrils he breathes again the freedom of the mountains. His nose is now released from the smell of all that is human. There sits Zarathustra with old broken tables of law around him and new half-written tables, awaiting his hour; Zarathustra teaches that exiles shall you be from your fatherlands and forefatherlands. Not the land of your fathers shall you love, but your children’s land. This love is the new nobility – love of that new land, the undiscovered, far-off country in the remotest sea. To your children shall you make amends for the misfortune of being your fathers’ children. Thus shall you redeem all the past.

No doctrine revolts Zarathustra more than that of the vanity and senselessness of life. This is in his eyes ancient babbling, old wives’ babbling. And the pessimists who sum up life with a balance of aversion, and assert the badness of existence, are the objects of his positive loathing. He prefers pain to annihilation. The same extravagant love of life is expressed in the Hymn to Life, written by his friend, Lou von Salomé, which Nietzsche set for chorus and orchestra:

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“Hymn To Life” by Lou Andreas-Salomé

Surely, a friend loves a friend the way
That I love you, enigmatic life —
Whether I rejoiced or wept with you,
Whether you gave me joy or pain.

I love you with all your harms;
And if you must destroy me,
I wrest myself from your arms,
As a friend tears himself away from a friend’s breast.

I embrace you with all my strength!
Let all your flames ignite me,
Let me in the ardor of the struggle
Probe your enigma ever deeper.

To live and think millennia!
Enclose me now in both your arms:
If you have no more joy to give me —
Well then—there still remains your pain.

Lou Salomé

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In the video above, hear Nietzsche’s “Hymn To Life” for chorus and orchestra. Lyrics by Lou Salomé.

REFERENCE:

BRANDES, Georges (1842-1927). Nietzsche. Haskell House Publishers, New York, 1972.

Jeff Buckley (1966-1997) LIVE! Two videos of full concerts, one in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1995, the other “Live in Chicago” DVD [watch on-line / download]

jeffbuckley

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Remember Jeff’s studio recs (audio only – full albums):

Other live ones:

Documentaries:

“An exceedingly dangerous woman”: a film about Emma Goldman (1869-1940) – [Download some of her books]

814qSQ-PQQL._SL1500_Emma Goldman – An exceedingly dangerous woman

You might also enjoy:

living-my-life

Penguin Classic’s edition of Emma Goldman’s “Living My Life” – Buy at Amazon

Anarchy!: An Anthology of Emma Goldman's Mother Earth

Anarchy!: An Anthology of Emma Goldman’s Mother Earth – Download e-book

“In Anarchy! An Anthology of Emma Goldman’s Mother Earth, Peter Glassgold brings to the page political activist and anarchist Emma Goldman’s most radical contribution, Mother Earth, a monthly journal about social science and literature. Glassgold has compiled Mother Earth’s most provocative articles, with thematic categories ranging from “The Woman Question” to “The Social War” and features a diverse selection of writers, such as Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Voltairine de Cleyre, Peter Kropotkin, Leo Tolstoy, Errico Malatesta, Francisco Ferrer, Maxim Gorky, Margaret Sanger, Max Baginski, and Hippolyte Havel.

Mother Earth was published from 1906 to 1918, when birth control, the labor movement, sexual freedom, and the arts where common subjects. The supporters of the journal helped form what was the “”radical left” in the United States at the turn of the century. Goldman was imprisoned and ultimately deported to her native Russia. This new edition includes the transcripts from the trial and the summations of both Alexander Berkman and Goldman.

With a new preface by the editor, this book offers historical grounding to many of our contemporary political movements, from libertarianism to the Occupy! actions. Anarchy! provides unprecedented access to Goldman’s beliefs, offering insight to the political activism that existed at the time.”

vision

“Vision on Fire: On The Spanish Revolution” – Download e-book at Library Genesis

“Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down and Out)” sung by Bessie Smith, Janis Joplin, Eric Clapton, and Carla Bruni…