Friday Flashback, Jon on the Blue Guitar

Jon with the Blue Guitar
Jon with the Blue Guitar

Last weekend I asked my son Jonathan to bring his guitar with him when he and his younger brother came to stay the weekend. There is something that I cannot quite explain, a feeling of peace and security when the people I love are in the house with me, doing what makes them themselves. The boys might be playing a game, maybe Magic, the Gathering. Or Josiah may be studying, or deep into reading, Micah writing at his laptop or in the pages of one of his many journals, Brian at the keyboard playing Lorena McKennitt. And Jon might be listening to music, or strumming on his blue guitar.

This house remains full of all of this artistic and compassionate presence even on quiet weeks like this one when it is just me and Milton the cat. The halls echo with chords and notes, laughter and questions, or just the quiet serenity in the memory of a home full of people who have been reading, writing, playing and creating. Precious reminders that the world remains beautiful (I may have just stolen that from a Richard Blanco poem).

So this flashback contains some still pictures of Jon in his many states of beard-ishness, strumming at the blue guitar. The reading, part of last year’s National Poetry Month series, is cut down to less than five and a half minutes, so if you want the full poem you’ll have to do some searching. Previous links online seem to have vanished, and many places only publish “excerpts” from the original 33 cantos.

For commentary on poet and fellow Pennsylvanian, Wallace Stevens and what he was up to in this poem, please check out the video description on the video’s YouTube page. It’s a fascinating, long piece, a discussion, or perhaps an argument, between the voices of the people, the poet, the narrator, and the “Man with the Blue Guitar.”

But for me, I just like to listen to Jon strum those chords. I think that deep blue instrument was one of the best purchases ever made by this family. “Things as they are changed upon the blue guitar.” It certainly makes them brighter, and even in the shadows, more beautiful, or perhaps it brings out a beauty already there, but overlooked until heard like this.

Thank you, Jon. Play on.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. David! This is brilliant! Thanks so much for re-running this Stevens reading; I really needed to hear this again. I love the selections you’ve chosen to read from this long poem; your skipping from section VI to section XII is masterful–these are parallel high points about the functions of art.

    As I re-encounter this poem through your superb reading, it occurs to me that in this particular piece, Stevens is channeling both Whitman (in his expansiveness) and William Blake (in his tightly formal couplets and repeating rhymes).

    AND, your lovely prose poem in the first two paragraphs of this post! Thanks for the glimpse into your family’s beautiful creativity.


    1. You really do know how to make my night, Jennifer, don’t you? Thank you so much. After I hit publish and walked out the door, my night turned into one monumental chore, a series of them actually, and so to come home and find these messages from you and the gang here. Well, yes, I needed that.

      I am glad you liked where the breaks were. I cannot recall if all of that choosing was my own, or not, it being 18 months ago, but I think the divisions were at least partly my decision. Poetry Magazine did not publish all the cantos, but they did not make that jump from VI to XII. You can hear the clipped beginning of XII in my recording so I must have literally cut some of the audio out as well, further pairing it down.

      It makes me smile to think that you and I think alike on this choice. The dialogue between realism and modernism is among so many other things, part of the intrigue of this piece for me. But there is a certain, I don’t know, spiritualism going on for me too, especially in the words of the guitar player, and your comments about Whitman and Blake are excellent points which I hadn’t considered before.

      Thank you again, for your kind comments, Jennifer.


  2. A blue guitar, a marvelous poem that I didn’t know. Might need to paint the fiddle blue this weekend and see what it has to tell me. 🙂


    1. Oh, if you do, you will need to post a picture. . . this could be a new poem, the girl with the fiddle of blue. . . I’m so lucky to have been the one to introduce you to this one! I’m happy you enjoyed it.


  3. I know the feeling. You described it perfectly.


    1. I am so glad you know this feeling. I wish everyone could. Thank you, Linda!


  4. slpmartin says:

    Wonderful feelings radiated in the post and reading.


    1. Thank you for sharing in it, my friend!


  5. David, you are a handsome man…..with a handsome voice to read and to listen to. Sweet pics. The love for your son/sons comes through. Somehow I am comforted in your reading of the Stevens piece, in spite of this sprained heart and a sprained ankle. Went down yesterday in a 4th grade game of basketball. ha ha…..wearing my “blue” basketball shoes (Not BYU). I still bleed red (Utes). These shoes saved me in part. Their tight, sure support from certain swelling and addtional pain. Of course, these things came later, but your blog and posts give me hope. They lie cool, and lightly on that which is heavy. Bring relief like a blessed ice pack turning warmer and warmer toward healing. Thank you, David. 🙂 ~~~&~~~ Mermaid


    1. What a sweet lady you are, and such kind compliments. Thank you. I hope you are soon on the mend. If listening to poems helps, then poem on! Oh, the handsome man in the video is my son Jonathan. A kind soul and a good young man.


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