poetry month, part 1

Did you know April is National Poetry Month? Well, it is. I am no great reader of poetry, I have to confess. When it comes to reading, good, clean prose is more my style. As a collaborative pianist, however, I have worked with a lot of singers and learned a lot of vocal repertoire, which means I have encountered quite a lot of poetry in that context. And while I am not so interested in plain old poems, I am fascinated by text setting: poetry set to music. In fact, I wrote my dissertation on that very topic (various settings of E.E. Cummings, and by the way, YES you should capitalize his initials).

So, in honor of National Poetry Month, I will share a few of my favorites with you. Granted, this is partly because slow progress on that Millefiori cardigan and a secret birthday project means I don't have much actual knitting to show you at the moment. But it's also because all the fun I'm having dyeing yarn in bright spring colors for whatever reason has brought to mind some of the texts I've encountered in my musical life, and I think it's kind of interesting (or maybe a little weird?) to tie it together.

This last batch of yarn I dyed came out a completely different color than I'd imagined. I was going for a smoky rose and ended up with bright lilac purple. That's completely fine. I like the color it turned out, and so, apparently, does Anya!

Lilacs are definitely a spring flower. They bloom sometime in May here in Wisconsin, and when they do, you can smell their wonderful smell from blocks away. We don't have any in our yard, but they thrive around the neighborhood, and I love them.

Lilacs always make me think of that Walt Whitman poem, When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd. It's a very sad, poem, actually. It's all about death and was written as a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, whom Whitman grieved. It's also very long, which is why I'm not reprinting it here, just giving you the link. There's a setting of this poem by George Crumb in his cycle Apparition for soprano and piano, which I performed with a wonderful singer friend and fellow post-doctoral musician named Julia. Crumb is known for extended techniques, which means using musical instruments in non-traditional ways. For Apparition, I did a lot inside the piano, like strumming, plucking strings, dampening with my fingertips, and finding (and marking!) harmonics. Crumb is very tall and can reach inside of a grand piano while sitting; I am not so tall, so I had to do a lot of sitting and standing. It felt very choreographed. When done well, it's quite an effective piece.

What about you? Does knitting bring any poems to your mind? Or is it just me?


Anonymous said…
So. It is E. E., not e. e. Okay.

It is Harry S Truman. No period after the "S". Why? Because it is not an abbreviation for anything. Just the letter S in his name. Who says? Harry himself did. So I read in a publication a long time ago. Their editorial policy was not to include the period.


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