Saturday Song for Walter

Hello, Friends. There’s a lot I want to catch up on as I’ve been promoting the release of my first chapbook so much lately.  But I want to pause and talk about a couple of artists we’ve lost in the past week, including poet John Ashbery (more on him in the next post) and today’s Saturday Song Featured artist, Walter Becker, half of the band known as Steely Dan.

I honestly can’t say I’ve followed Becker and the band’s co-founder Donald Fagen in recent years, but they’d still been playing up until Becker’s recent illness. But then, you don’t follow the sun, right? It’s just always there. It comes up again every day, even if it’s cloudy for a while. That’s how it is with Steely Dan; their songs are just always there, like the blue in blue jeans.

What I remember is just how intricate their music has been to the soundtrack of my childhood. Seemingly easy, but smart jazz-rock in the background or on any car radio tuned to a classic rock station. The songs that are part of me most include the earnestness of “Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number,” the one-word hook of “Peg,” the fun, but arguably inappropriate “Cousin Dupree” and “Hey, 19. ” But probably my two favorites are in the videos below.

Here’s a link to Walter Becker’s obituary in the Rolling Stone, and be sure to follow on to Fagen’s tribute to his music partner of more than 45 years.

“They got a name for the winners in the world.
I wanna name when I lose.”

While listening tonight to Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues,” I realized we were a full minute and a half in before the chorus, and more than two minutes in before the hook. Is the bulk of modern pop just not that intelligent anymore, or have our attention spans really shrunk so much that we can’t enjoy a long, poetic build up like this on our top forty charts today? Or is my nostalgia just skewing my perception? Here’s “Deacon Blues” from their album of 40 years ago, Aja (pronounced Asia),

And now, my favorite. I recently watched a clip of Donnie and Marie Osmond totally butchering this song on their old variety show, dancing a two-step, smiling ear-to-ear as if there was no twisted-mouth, sarcastic humor in the words, totally missing the mood of the music.

“You’ve been telling me you were a genius since you were 17.
In all the time I’ve known you I still don’t know what you mean.
The weekends at the college didn’t turn out like you planned.
The things that pass for knowledge, I can’t understand.”

And maybe the fact that I am coming up on a big birthday this weekend is why I am feeling so nostalgic for this song.  From their 1972 album Can’t Buy a Thrill, Steely Dan’s “Are you Reelin’ in the Years.”

Thank you, Walter, for contributing to my world with your songs and your wicked humor, You’ll be missed.

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Micah Bauman, Summer 2016

Taking a short break from self-promotion this evening to share this reading by a young poet with my last name. I’m glad he tells the story behind it too. It wasn’t the first time I was proud of him for getting in trouble at school.

The Monkey Prodigy

The following poem was first published in Word Fountain


My House
Micah Bauman

my house
is slowly leaving me
piece by piece
it departs

soon
I’ll have nowhere
to live
to sleep
my house is slowly leaving me

the wall left
It desired some time alone
the ceiling left
It reached an all-time low
the floor left
It couldn’t handle the pressure anymore
the door left
In search of greater opportunities
the roof left

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God, Dad, and Cars

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker this morning. Unfortunately, my boss asked for his promotional postcard for my upcoming chapbook to be sent to the main library. So the impression was that I was being pushy since we received “multiple” postcards (I think really only the two unless she’s referring to the other branches as well).

Ah, sometimes the negativity bugs that crawl around work places–they just show up, no matter how good your intentions. The first question asked was why the library wasn’t getting donated, signed copies. I quipped (half-jokingly) that I didn’t write the book to just give it away. But I eventually assured her that copies were being bought and donated to all the branches and I would happily sign them. I just wanted my coworkers to know about it and share my joy.

Then she said that she didn’t “get today’s poetry.” I confess I was annoyed for a half second, expecting the old “but it doesn’t rhyme!” complaint. But then I thought, well, it’s really a fair, albeit broad statement. I mean, I’m not crazy about some poetry today either.

She and I don’t work together often, only once or twice a week when I am down at the main branch. And it occurred to me, what a great opportunity this was to talk about poetry! So I asked what she liked and she quoted the opening lines from “The Children’s Hour.” In response, I shared a recitation from memory, “Ask Me” by William Stafford, which she was surprised to discover she very much liked. “It’s beautiful, and it flows!”

I told her it was a favorite of mine, that the poet had died a few years back, and that he was one of my heroes. While my writing is not as brilliant as his, he was certainly an influence. I like to play with sound and line endings, to find a rhythm in the language that might not be expected, and often isn’t traditional.  Then I pulled up the following poem, originally published in The Blue Hour Magazine. I told her this is a small sample of what’s in this chapbook, though there are some other more surreal pieces as well.

She looked over my shoulder at the screen as I read it aloud to her. She seemed to brighten even more and said she liked it. I’m hoping this was a step toward making a convert.

God, Dad, and Cars

I’m 8 years old, perched
on a headlight under the raised hood
of our white four-door Chevy,

which has somehow stranded us
at Uncle Bob’s farm.
But this isn’t like the time before,

in Canada, when we broke down
along a country road, far from home.
Across the back seat Crystal and I

had played cards with mom while you
paced, and raged how God must hate
you. I wondered, why you thought

He’d bother a little family like ours,
only on vacation. Wouldn’t He
have more important things to do?

No one home at the farm,
but you know where the tools are—
your hands gloved in grease.

You are in control, under sweat
and sun. I hold something in place
while you work. Afterwards,

when the engine cranks,
you thank me, slap me on the back.
“Thank God you were here,” your smile

wide and rare as the words you say:
“I couldn’t have done it without you.
I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Originally published in The Blue Hour Magazine, August 2013

Please consider pre-ordering the chapbook, Moons, Roads, and Rivers, from Finishing line Press. Just click here. 

Saturday Song with Sting

Sussex England, 2010 by Robert Montgomery

I am trying to be a busy, or at least a productive, writer today. Clearing off my desk, sorting through my notes, preparing my files. I have been getting announcements out about the coming publication of my debut chapbook and I have a list of book reviews and other projects to plot and produce.

So in the spirit of clearing off my desk and clearing out my mind, here’s a Saturday Song feature for today. Someone once told me that the way to let an earworm out of your head is to sing it to someone else. It gets it out of your system and passes the bug on to someone else to carry. I am, however, being very kind to you by passing along a gorgeous, deep and beautiful earworm today, not just some catchy ditty (not that there is anything wrong with those).

The above image by Scottish text artist Robert Montgomery was posted to Facebook this morning by fellow poet and dear friend Philip Clark. You can read more about it at Poets & Writers. It set me thinking about a song by Sting and songwriter Gordon Sumner. The lyrics focus, not so much on the beloved, as on the feelings of the one speaking in the words.  And this, I suspect, is why they are so effective. It helped me cope and move on, allowing me to agree to what I felt and what had happened so that I could live more honestly from there.

I’ll leave the rest of this between you and Sting to sort out. Happy Saturday! Weekend updates on the way soon!

Alan Harris, SpringSummer 2017

Honored to have been given permission to read Alan’s poem from our current issue of Word Fountain. This piece gets to me every time.

Word Fountain

Dead Man’s Hat
Alan Harris

I found this hat in the desert
the head it belonged to was nowhere in sight
I shook out the sand
and believe any bugs that had called it home
were thoroughly baked in the sun
along with the previous owner

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