“Anytime you wish, you can dance this poem like you did in Barcelona.”-Al Young, American Poet

I don’t know about you, but the above line just caught my eye and I felt the lyricism…did you?  Al Young, California’s Poet Laureate from 2005-2008 was born in the deep south, Mississippi on May 31st in 1939 and is 74 years young today! Read his bio when you click onto his name, he surely has accomplished a lot, poet, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, editor.  I am familiar with him through his poetry which is inspired by the blues and jazz. Take a listen here:

AND…can’t forget that today is also the birthday of Walt Whitman, born in 1819. Here’s one of my fave Whitman poems:

I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

“My poetry, I think, has become the way of my giving out what music is within me”-Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen, a favorite poet of mine whom I introduced many students to, was born today in 1903, wow, 110 years ago! His poetry still rings true. My first poem that I learned was “Incident,” and because of sensitivity, I am going to just put “N” for a word that he, Countee Cullen, an African American poet used in 1934. Countee Cullen was part of the fascinating period in our history called The Harlem Renaissance on which I’ve read just about every book published. Great writers, artists, poets, dancers, mlusicians, thinkers, such as: Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, W.E.B. Du Bois, Jean Toomer, James Weldon Johnson and more. If you’ve never read these writers, you should. “The Harlem Renaissance was the name given to the cultural, social, and artistic explosion that took place in Harlem between the end of World War I and the middle of the 1930s. During this period Harlem was a cultural center, drawing black writers, artists, musicians, photographers, poets, and scholars. Many had come from the South, fleeing its oppressive caste system in order to find a place where they could freely express their talents.” (pbs.org)

Incident by Countee Cullen:

Once riding in old Baltimore,

Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,

I saw a Baltimorean

Keep looking straight at me.

 

Now I was eight and very small,

And he was no whit bigger,

And so I smiled, but he poked out

His tongue, and called me, ‘N_____.’

 

I saw the whole of Baltimore

From May until December;

Of all the things that happened there

That’s all that I remember.

Saturday’s Child by Countee Cullen

Some are teethed on a silver spoon,

With the stars strung for a rattle;

I cut my teeth as the black racoon—

For implements of battle.

Some are swaddled in silk and down,

And heralded by a star;

They swathed my limbs in a sackcloth gown

On a night that was black as tar.

For some, godfather and goddame

The opulent fairies be;

Dame Poverty gave me my name,

And Pain godfathered me.

For I was born on Saturday—

“Bad time for planting a seed,”

Was all my father had to say,

And, “One mouth more to feed.”

Death cut the strings that gave me life,

And handed me to Sorrow,

The only kind of middle wife

My folks could beg or borrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Been working and working But I still got so terribly far to go.”-Oscar Brown, Jr.

8 years ago today, we lost an important, but not widely recognized voice that spoke out for equal rights and justice, Oscar Brown, Jr. He did it through poetry, music, plays, activism and the way he led his life. I remember seeing him on TV in the early/mid 60s and I loved his music and what he had to say.Oscar Brown, Jr. was the original rapper, the original Def Jam-style poet. He inspired people through his performance poetry.

You can read about his background on the site his daughter, Maggie, devotes to him: Oscar Brown, Jr. Legacy Project.

Here’s the late great Nina Simone singing “Work Song” in 1966 on the Merv Griffin show, priceless!

“Those Who Wish to Sing Always Find a Song.”-Celtic Proverb

Today 2 wonderful singers were born and they’re still alive and kicking! Gladys Knight (born 1944). continues to grace stages all around the world. Two of my favorite renditions of Ms Knight’s are: Midnight Train to Georgia and The Way We Were.

Recently I saw John Fogerty (born 1945, Creedence Clearwater Revival) on TV singing a song from his new album, Wrote a Song for Everyone where he has a couple of interesting artists accompanying him, such as Jennifer Hudson, country singer Brad Paisley, rock and roller Bob Seger, the Foo Fighters, Kid Rock and more. If you like Creedence Clearwater Revival songs, you’ll probably enjoy this album.

Hope some of these tunes stick in your head today and in your heart!

 

 

 

“I Dreamed the World Had All Agreed To Put An End to War.”-Ed McCurdy

“My future starts when I wake up in the morning and see the light…Then I’m grateful.”-Miles Davis, American Musician

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” –Confucius

Miles Davis was born today in 1926. He was a great, timeless trumpeter who left a lasting legacy on the world of Music. “Miles Davis is the most revered jazz trumpeter of all time, not to mention one of the most important musicians of the 20th century. He was the first jazz musician of the post-hippie era to incorporate rock rhythms, and his immeasurable influence on others, in both jazz and rock, encouraged a wealth of subsequent experiments. From the bebop licks he initially played with saxophonist Charlie Parker to the wah-wah screeds he concocted to keep up with Jimi Hendrix, Davis was as restless as a performer could get.” (Rollingstone.com)

In our home, Miles Davis lps and cds abound. Our kids were raised listening to all of the Jazz greats (and folkies, too, I might add…and classical).

“Ev’rybody Will Help You, Some People Are Very Kind.”-Bob Dylan

Yesterday was Bob Dylan’s 72nd birthday. Here are some of my favorite songs, starting with Nico’s cover of “I’ll Keep It With Mine:

As with so many of My Generation, I think of Dylan as the premiere Poet of My Generation recognizing that he couldn’t care less about that title. His songs inspired us and propelled us to voice our opinions and take action.

 

The “Other” Oliver Cromwell…New Jersey’s Own

Cromwell HouseOliver Cromwell’s Landmark Home in NJ

I learned something new this morning. A freeman of New Jersey, Oliver Cromwell served with George Washington during the American Revolution. How apt that I discovered a new fact and a new person on the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend! Memorial Day itself is to honor men and women who died while serving our country. Cromwell lived to be a 100. “Cromwell was present at the battle of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Monmouth and Yorktown and at the memorable crossing of the Delaware on December 25, 1776.”(bgill on fold3.com)  Oliver Cromwell was given a Badge of Merit designed by Washington. When he was first discharged, he couldn’t even get a pension, but many people came to his aid. His $96 annual pension helped him survive to 100 years of age. “Cromwell’s story first appeared in a newspaper interview conducted when he was 100 years old by a reporter of the Burlington Gazette (Burlington, New Jersey) in 1905, which was reprinted by the Trenton Evening Times. As the newspaper article noted: ‘though feeble, his lips trembling at every word, when he spoke of [General George] Washington his eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.”(Tom Kemp, 9/20/2012 on genealogybank.com) The “Other” Oliver Cromwell was born today, 5/24 in 1752. Let us remember him, a soldier who served his country for 6 years.

interview with African American Revolutionary War veteran Oliver Cromwell, Trenton Evening Times newspaper article 11 April 1905

Trenton Evening Times, April 11th, 1905, Page 5

 

 

 

 

 

“Our Lady of the Sorrows, Our Lady of Vulnerability”-Gregory Orr on Poet, Jane Kenyon

Poet, Jane Kenyon, died a young woman from leukemia in 1995 at the age of 47. She was a poet who was married to a poet, Donald Hall whom she met when she was his 19 year old student at the University of Michigan. Jane Kenyon suffered from depression and many of her poems address that illness, such as Having It Out with Melancholy: “And from that day on everything under the sun and moon made me sad — even the yellow wooden beads that slid and spun along a spindle on my crib.”  Kenyon wrote many poems about where she lived with Donald Hall in New Hampshire, Eagle Pond Farm which was, “… Built in 1803, Eagle Pond Farm was always “a poetry place,” Mr. Hall said. His grandfather raised sheep, cattle and pigs there, and harvested maple syrup. During the summers the young Donald would help him. He grew up loving the place, he said, “loving the landscape, loving the way people talked.”(NY Times, 8/19/07)

Jane Kenyon also translated the poetry of Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova. To learn more about Jane Kenyon, Bill Moyers made a documentary about her and her husband, Donald Hall, titled, A Life Together.

Jane Kenyon’s birthday is today.   

Otherwise by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed

on two strong legs.

It might have been

otherwise. I ate

cereal, sweet

milk, ripe, flawless

peach. It might

have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill

to the birch wood.

All morning I did

the work I love.

 

At noon I lay down

with my mate. It might

have been otherwise.

We ate dinner together

at a table with silver

candlesticks. It might

have been otherwise.

I slept in a bed

in a room with paintings

on the walls, and

planned another day

just like this day.

But one day, I know,

it will be otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a Personal Note…

“Sunrise, Sunset, Is This the Little Girl I Carried?”-Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof)

To My Daughter at 30

The number is meaningless; I cannot feel it nor can I imagine 30 years have passed.

What I gave you, what you gave me…it’s all there inside of us.

Words are feeble, yet they’re good to hear.

I love you and you love me, there is no doubt.

My daughter is all grown, well educated, in the process…we are all in the process

Always becoming.

My daughter always wanted to become: a model, an actress, a marine biologist, a lawyer, a lifetime student, an event planner, a retiree…at 30 she is a lawyer… later on, who knows?

Sandy Denny sang, “Who knows where the time goes?” I’m not interested in the answer. I just know 30 years of time sped by…no slow motion…glad I had front row tickets.

My daughter…just be you; not an image and not what anyone thinks you should be. Just be you. You are amazing. You are loved. You are cherished. You are You, just be you.

Here’s Judy Collins singing Sandy’s song:

Here’s the late, great Robert Goulet singing “Sunrise, Sunset.” My dad had all of his albums!