The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Christmas Star Protocol

The following little SF piece was originally posted in 2012 when there was rampant speculation about Mayan Calendars and the End of Times. 


The Dreamship moved along the outer band of the Mobius curve of the universe at one hundred times the speed of light. Reaching the point at which the outside became the inside, the ship slipped into time.



The Pilot was of necessity asleep and would remain so until the end of the mission when he brought the Dreamship back out of the universe and into eternity. His mission was simple: transport the Judges to the developing world in question and bring them out again. The Judges' mission was the difficult one; amongst themselves they frequently called these missions "End Times" missions.

As always, there were three of them. In current binary terms, they were 101, 111, and 000. In ancient nomenclature, they were two men and a woman. We'll call them Sam, John, and Ruby.

Most often their missions took them to the fourth planet from the local sun, but in this instance, it was the third planet out, a waterworld class planet which meant that at least 65% of the surface was covered with water.

The beings on this planet had reached a stage of development where it was necessary that the Judges make a determination regarding the beings' future existence. If the Judges judged wrong and allowed these beings or those on any "developmental" world who were following the wrong path to continue to live, the entire harmony of the universe would be destroyed and chaos and eventually total destruction would ensue.

The Boss would not be happy because that would mean starting the whole "universe" experiment over again from scratch, beginning at the point of the initial creative explosion. And that took an enormous amount of planning and engineering.

Only about one in ten worlds met the Judges' strict criteria for survival. The other nine were eliminated, swiftly and efficiently. The Dreamship was outfitted with a simple sonic device designed by the Boss which allowed the Judges to eliminate the world instantly if that was their decision.

A highly sophisticated and hidden monitoring system was in place and had been recording data since the beings on the planet had evolved to a certain level. That level included a strong and positive value system and organization into a cohesive society which permitted the maximum amount of individual freedom. There were several thousand other points of measure that the Judges considered too.

When the invisible Dreamship achieved an orbit around the world in question, the Judges moved to the observation room to examine the records available. It was clear that many of the societies on the planet were moving in the wrong direction, but there were a few which seemed promising. The Hebrews had introduced basic morality and worshiped a single deity. The Greeks, as they were referred to, had developed a democracy, and the Romans, though lacking in some areas, were bringing organization and order.


On the first vote, John and Ruby were split. Ruby voted for elimination. John voted for continuation. Sam wavered. It was a most unusual situation. After a spirited discussion, Sam convinced them that the necessary evidence was sufficient to allow the use of the rare and infrequently used "Star" stimulation to push the world's beings along the right path. "The Boss created the Star Protocol," he said, "for just this kind of situation." Besides the helpful stimulant, the Star Protocol provided a time extension which allowed the world in question a fixed but generous amount of time to reach a level of satisfactory development.

Because they had been split in their vote (which rarely happened), John and Ruby saw the logic of utilizing this extreme measure. They were fully aware that they would have to fully explain and justify their decision to the Boss but felt confident in their reasoning.

All three immediately  touched their screens to implement the Star Protocol.

An artificial "star" was instantly created outside the orbit of the planet's moon; the star would move along a pre ordained path for three years and would be visible to all beings on the planet. On a specified date, a special human would be born with selectively coded DNA from the Boss himself. This individual would be a divine but human teacher who would bring a new morality. The three judges hoped the beings on the planet would embrace the morality and use it to build a viable society that would endure. 

At the end of the designated time the "star" would disappear and the special individual would reach maturity. The Judges were hopeful that the appearance of such a star and a divine teacher could possibly stimulate development along a positive path.

The Judges telepathically interacted with the Pilot; the invisible Dreamship quickly left orbit around the waterworld and almost instantaneously reached the outer band of the Mobius curve. It slipped seamlessly back into eternity.

Once they were outside time, John and Ruby maintained their objectivity about the world in question. But Sam was pulling for the little planet and its people. He liked their grit. And they made really good beer.

The Judges would return 2200 solar years later to make the final decision about the planet's survival.



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Outlaws and Desperadoes

Over the last few decades, many country singers have been classified as "outlaws." Some say that this "outlaw country" music developed from an opposition to the "Nashville Sound" of the late '50s, '60s, and early '70s which had been shaped by producers like Chet Atkins. Atkins and his contemporaries favored "'smooth strings and choruses,' 'sophisticated background vocals,' and 'smooth tempos.'"

Some writers believe Waylon Jennings started the revolt while others argue that it was wild man David Alan Coe whose singing and behavior led to the now coveted outlaw label. Certainly Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams, Jr. were part of the "revolution" as well.

The photo to the right ("Kris Willie Waylon" by Bozotexino, Licensed under Public Domain via Commons) shows young Kristofferson, Nelson in shades, and clean shaven Jennings at Willie's 1972 4th of July picnic.

But there's an earlier use of the term "outlaw" in music. Historically, many ballads have been written about outlaws, enough to call the outlaw ballad a sub genre. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature mentions outlaw ballads written and sung at the end of the Middle Ages (the 14th and 15th centuries) about Robin Hood and suggests that the outlaw tradition is even older.

Country music writers and performers have kept that tradition alive in modern times. There are many examples of outlaw ballads in country music. This link leads to two John Dillinger ballads, the first sung by Joe Smith (the Colorado Cowboy), the second written by Tom T. Hall and performed by Billy Grammer.

There were songs written about other outlaws too, famous in their own time, but not as well known now. Back in the Bronze Age, when I taught a second year college Intro to Poetry Survey, I used the outlaw Otto Wood as an example.

1926 cover from UNC Libraries
Otto Wood, a notorious Depression era desperado, was
born in Wilkes County, N.C. in 1894. He began his life of crime at an early age, stealing a bicycle from a boy in North Wilkesboro, N.C. He was quickly caught and spent time in the Wilkes County Jail. He was subsequently sentenced to serve on a chain gang, but the foreman sent him home to his mother due to his age...He suffered from a foot ailment (a birth defect) and lost his left hand when he was a teenager...Repeated scrapes with the law, mostly involving thefts and bootlegging, led to numerous incarcerations in jails in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. He is credited with a total of 10 jail breaks throughout his criminal career. In 1923, Wood was charged with the murder of A.W. Kaplan, a Greensboro, N.C. pawnbroker. He was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to serve 30 years in N.C. Central Prison in Raleigh. After that conviction, Wood made four escapes from the state prison. During his time in that prison, Wood wrote an autobiography.
 A year after his death, the Carolina Buddies recorded the song Otto Wood on Columbia RecordsFollowing his last escape, Wood was spotted by police officers in Salisbury, N.C., on Dec. 31, 1930. They approached Wood, killing him in the ensuing shootout.
Walter "Kid" Smith of the Carolina Buddies wrote they lyric.

They put him in the pen, but it done no good
'Cause it wouldn't hold a man they call Otto Wood
It wasn't very long till he slipped outside
Drawed a gun on the guard, said, "Take me for a ride"
Otto, why didn't you run?
Otto's done dead and gone
Otto Wood, why didn't you run
When the sheriff pulled out that 44 gun?

The version of the old outlaw ballad I used in class was from Doc Watson's album, "The Best of Doc Watson, 1964-1968." But the following is the original recording of the song by the Carolina Buddies.







Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day 2015: WWII Hero Audie Murphy Remembered

This is a revised version of an earlier Memorial day post.

Many people today, especially the elite, think overt patriotism of any kind is out of fashion and only for the uneducated. They think displays of patriotism and support for the military are mawkish and inappropriate because America in their view is not really a special country.

Some even question whether using the word "hero" is appropriate when applied to soldiers who serve in the military branches of the United States and sometimes die in service because using the word "hero" is somehow supportive of or justifies war.

This is America, so they have a right to think that and to say that. I just hope they don't totally forget that those who serve guarantee them that right. On this Veterans Day I’d like to remember and honor one of our greatest military heroes, Audie Murphy.

What do you do if you're a poor farm boy in North Texas in the late 30's and your dad deserts the family? If you're an honorable and responsible young man with a sense of duty like Audie Murphy, you quit school and go to work, plowing and picking cotton for a dollar a day. To help put food on the table, he became very accurate with a hunting rifle (he killed squirrels and rabbits and other small game).

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Murphy, then 16, tried to enlist in the military but was rejected for being under the age of 18. A year later, when he was 17, his sister adjusted his birth date so he appeared to be 18. When he entered the Army, he was 5 foot 5 inches tall and weighed 110 pounds. Because of his size he was turned down by the Marines, the paratroopers, and the Navy. The Army accepted him.

Not only did he have a slight build and a baby face, he seemed to be weak physically. He passed out during a closer order drill and generally gave the impression that he might not be able to deal with the rigors of combat. His company commander tried  to get him transferred into cook and baker school. But he insisted on a combat assignment. Finally his superiors relented and he was sent to North Africa to receive training with the 3rd Army for the invasion of Italy. As the invasion progressed and Allied Forces moved into France, Murphy proved that he was right and they were wrong. He became America's most decorated soldier in WWII. 

Wikipedia reports that in August of 1944 in France
Murphy's best friend, Lattie Tipton (referred to as "Brandon" in Murphy's book To Hell and Back), was killed by a German soldier in a machine gun nest who was feigning surrender. Murphy went into a rage, and single-handedly wiped out the German machine gun crew which had just killed his friend. He then used the German machine gun and grenades to destroy several other nearby enemy positions. For this act, Murphy received the Distinguished Service Cross (second only to the Medal of Honor).
Over the last few months of 1944, he received two Silver Stars for his bravery in action and a promotion to Second Lieutenant and Company Commander. In January of 1945, in two feet of snow and 14 degree temperature he took his unit (at an effective strength of 19 out of 128) into battle at Holtzwhir France.  Realizing they were hopeless outmanned by the advancing German tanks and infantry, Murphy sent his men to the rear and proceeded to use the phone to direct artillery fire. 


But that was just the beginning.  What he did in the battle of Holtzwhir was the kind of deed that legends spring from. For his brave and heroic actions that day, he received the nation's highest military honor: The Medal of Honor. To read a very detailed account of Murphy's determined stand that day, read this article:

 Mr. Phillip Washburn, author of the article, says,
"Using his map and phone, Murphy directed and corrected the barrage as he emptied his carbine at the ever-closing infantry. As the tanks and riflemen closed in, along with the artillery Murphy himself self directed, he refused to budge. Then he made the decision that forever changed his life. He climbed onto the 31-tons of burning tank destroyer and employed its 50-cal. machine gun on the infantry, all the while continuing to direct artillery almost on top of his own position. At one point, when the officer on the other end of the phone asked how close was the enemy, Murphy replied, "Hold the phone and I'll let you talk to one of the bastards."

After the war Murphy became a Hollywood star and appeared in over 40 movies. The 1955 movie based on his autobiography and starring a reluctant Murphy himself, To Hell and Back, was the top grossing picture for MGM until "Jaws" came along. He also starred in "The Red Badge of Courage," "No Name on the Bullet," "Destry," "Drums Across the River," "The Cimmaron Kid," "The Duel at Silver Creek," "The Quiet American," etc. He wrote more than 17 country and western songs and was inducted into the Country Music Association of Texas Hall of Fame. His songs were recorded by artists such as Eddy Arnold,  Dean Martin, Teresa Brewer, Roy Clark, Charlie Pride, and Jerry Wallace.

Though all of his honors, commendations, and his successful career in the movies were enough to make most men vain, Audie Murphy retained his humility. 

The following is a picture of the Audie Murphy and Hunt County Veteran's Memorial in Greeneville, Texas. 

On one of our frequent trips to North Texas to visit our son and his family, we stopped off at the Memorial to pay our respects to one of America's greatest military heroes and to the other fallen soldiers named there.

Murphy was killed in a plane crash in 1971.

He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery and his gravesite is the second most visited site in the cemetery (JFK's is first).


Following is a list of Audie Murphy's Military Medals:

Medal of Honor 
Distinguished Service Cross 
Silver Star (with oak leaf cluster) 
Legion of Merit 
Bronze Star (with oak leaf cluster and Valor device) 
Purple Heart (with two oak leaf clusters) 
U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal 
U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal 
Presidential Unit Citation (with First Oak Leaf Cluster) 
American Campaign Medal 
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with One Silver Star, Four Bronze Service Stars (representing nine campaigns) and one Bronze Arrowhead (representing assault landing at Sicily and Southern France)), 
World War II Victory Medal 
Army of Occupation Medal (with Germany Clasp) 
Armed Forces Reserve Medal 

French Fourragère in Colors of the Croix de guerre
French Legion of Honor - Grade of Chevalier
French Croix de guerre (with Silver Star),
French Croix de guerre (with Palm)
Medal of Liberated France
Belgian Croix de guerre (with 1940 Palm)
Additionally, Murphy was awarded:
the Combat Infantry Badge,
Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar,
Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar



Monday, October 26, 2015

Shark Mouth: The P40 Warhawk

When I was in my adolescence I developed a little skill at drawing things (things not people). I understood perspective and loved to draw automobiles and airplanes of the time.

One plane I must have drawn a thousand times was the Curtis Wright P-40 Warhawk. Except for the problems my hand tremor presents nowdays, I think I could easily draw it today from memory.

I don't have to rely on my memory however. The internet is full of wonderful pix and videos of this great WWII airplane.


From its shark mouth nose logo (at least on Commander Chennault's squadrons), to its turtledeck, to its neatly curved tail, the P-40 was an eminently sketchable plane.

What about that shark mouth? Where did it come from? Comments on a web forum (The Wings of the Web) indicate that it originated on P-40s being used by the RAF in North Africa who copied if from German flyers who used something similar on their Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin engined fighter bombers.

The shark mouth has been used on more modern aircraft as well, including the F-105Ds and F Thunderchiefs, and the A7D Corsair, and the A 10. One guy on the forum even said he saw a  C130 with the shark mouth. No matter where it came from or what it's been used on since, the sharkmouthed P-40 has become an icon for WWII aircraft.

The P-40 was the 3rd most produced fighter in WWII and served in most of the Allied Powers' air forces. Wiki says,
Although it gained a postwar reputation as a mediocre design, suitable only for close air support, recent research including scrutiny of the records of individual Allied squadrons indicates that this was not the case: the P-40 performed surprisingly well as an air superiority fighter, at times suffering severe losses but also taking a very heavy toll of enemy aircraft.[9] The P-40 offered the additional advantage of low cost, which kept it in production as a ground-attack aircraft long after it was obsolete as a fighter. In 2008, 29 P-40s were airworthy.
The P-40 gained some of its fame because of a popular John Wayne movie made in 1942, Flying Tigers. From Wiki:

Flying Tigers (aka Yank Over Singapore and Yanks Over the Burma Road) is a 1942 black-and-white Republic Pictures war film, starring John Wayne, John Carroll, and Anna LeeFlying Tigers dramatizes the exploits of the American Volunteer Group (AVG),Americans already fighting the enemy in China prior to the U. S. entry into World War II....Jim Gordon (John Wayne in his first war film) leads the Flying Tigers, a squadron of freelance American pilots who fly Curtiss P-40 fighters against Japanese aircraft in the skies over China. The pilots are a mixed bunch, motivated by money (they receive a bounty for each aircraft shot down), or just the thrill of aerial combat.
Here's the fuzzy old trailer from the movie which gives you some idea about the importance of the P-40 to the movie.


When the Japanese launched their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, there were sixty-two P-40s lined up wing tip to wing tip on Wheeler Field, and most of them were destroyed in the attack. But two American pilots, George Welch, and his friend Kenneth M. Taylor, got two P-40s on Haleiwa Field in the air and shot down some of the Japanese attackers' aircraft. They were credited with two kills apiece (4 Japanese Aichi D3As, Val dive bombers).

Here's a short, contemporary video of a beautifully restored P-40 starting up, taking off and flying.



As for the shark mouth logo...Do you think we could get the "Donald" to put that shark mouth logo on his 757? Works for me.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cubs Lose: It Makes No Difference Now

The Cubs were swept in 4 straight games in the 2015 NLCS. The Mets are happy. I'm just a little depressed. But I'll get over it. I'll get by. Jimmie, Willie, and Fats help me express my emotions with versions of the same song.

First Jimmie Davis.

Next, Willie Nelson.

Finally Fats Domino.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

An Old Cubs Fan

I've been a Cubs fan since about 1993.

Watching my team win the NLDS on Tuesday night, made me think back to a time in July of 1955 when I was 15 years old. Our family visited my Dad's sister and her husband who lived on Long Island in NY.

I don't remember much about that trip, but one thing stands out -- one night we saw the Cubs play the Dodgers at Ebbets field. I was excited to see the Brooklyn Dodgers and all their stars that I'd only seen on baseball cards up till then, stars like Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, and Duke Snider. Campanella hit 32 home runs that year, and Hodges 27. Baseball's royalty, the Duke, hit 42. The Dodgers were in the middle of a great season in July of 1955, which culminated that fall in their winning the World Series against the New York Yankees.

I was pretty much a Yankee fan in those days (there was no southern major league team in those days and the Yankees got a lot of national press coverage -- I read about them daily in both the Tennessean and the Nashville Banner), but even the Nashville papers had plenty of stories about the Cubs new shortstop, Ernie Banks, who was Rookie of the Year runner up in 1954. He continued his slugging in '55 as well and ended up that year with 44 home runs.
I don't remember much about the game, just the feeling I got when we came up the ramp and saw the field. Ebbets Field! The Major Leagues! It was one of the biggest thrills of my young life. We sat on the lower deck somewhere on the third base side. The Cubs probably lost the game (the Dodgers beat them more than anyone else that year, winning 14 out of 21 games), I do know from checking the stats that the Cubs lost the only July series they played at Ebbets Field that year. They finished 6th that year with a record of 72 wins and 81 losses and one tie (I'm guessing that was a rained out tie that didn't get made up).

I didn't become a Cubs fan at that point, but I did follow them some over the years. Beginning in the '70s, like lots of other Americans, I became a quasi fan of Ted Turners "America's Team," the Atlanta Braves. Most of the time the Braves weren't that good but you could watch most of their games on TV.

But in '93 I switched my allegiance to the Cubs. We had a big dish in those days and we got WGN. Many Cubs games were televised so I began to watch them. I remembered my trip to Ebbets Field in 1955 and became a loyal fan. I enjoyed watching players like Mark Grace, Sammy Sosa, and Ryan Sandberg, and WGN's colorful play by play announcer Harry Caray made the games fun. They finished 4th in the NL East that year.

So, I haven't been a suffering "lovable loser" Cubs fan my whole life, just for the past 22 years.

During those years, the city of Chicago itself has spiraled downward (they're 3 times deeper in debt than the city of Detroit was) and the whole state is so far in debt they can't pay their lottery winners.

But this post is about their financial woes. It's not a political post.

It's about baseball. And finally getting into the NL Championship Series feels great. "Hey Chicago, let's play two!" Two videos.

First, Eddie Vedder's tribute, "All the Way."


Now, The CrackerJack Music Video, an entrant in the Tribune contest.


THEY PLAY THE METS TONIGHT IN THE FIRST GAME OF THE NLCS. GO CUBS!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

S. O. B.'s: The Three Types

In 2012, Alan Jackson released a new single, "You Don't Have to Love Me Anymore," penned by songwriters Jay Knowles and Adam Wright. The knockout line for most folks was "I'll be the S. O. B." in the first verse.

This great song was included on Jackson's album Thirty Miles West that same year.



IMHOP there are at least three kinds of S. O. B. -- (1) the person who consistently by his deeds and words is a true S. O. B., (2) the person who makes a stupid mistake that hurts someone or a group, and (3) the person who deliberately plays the role of S. O. B. to get something done.

(1) First, there's the real, authentic S. O. B.  Most of us have known a few. They might be in our family or maybe we worked for them or with them. But they're pretty good at disguises and deception so some of them go into politics. :-)  I don't think I personally belong in this category (although I know a few people who might disagree).

(2) As for category 2, I guess most of us have done or said something stupid a few times in our lives. I know I have, and I still remember and regret those times today. I've made some mistakes, said some stupid things that hurt someone. I can't go back and erase those things, all I can do now is accept my mistake and hope for forgiveness.

(3) At other times a person plays the role of S. O. B. in order to do a job. I'm thinking for example of the executive or administrator who because of circumstances has to fire someone, or of the military TI who has to discipline a recruit, etc. I've been in this category at least a couple of times, but it was over fifteen years ago, so the statue of limitations has probably run out.

The narrator in Jackson's song fits in this category as well. He's willing to play the S. O. B. role if it will make his lady's life easier after their breakup. The Knowles/Wright lyric is simple and unadorned, but emotionally -- very powerful. To illustrate, here's that first verse:
I'll be the bad guy, I'll take the black eye, When I walk out, You can slam the door, I'll be the S.O.B, If that's what you need from me, So you don't have to love me anymore. 
This great song has it all. A son of a bitch (at least a guy willing to play that role), a breakup, a broken heart, a sacrifice, a sense of regret...the very life blood of country music. And then there's the great singer who brought all that emotion to life -- Alan Jackson. All that makes it a top 100 song in my book.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Little Songwriter Wisdom

“A song ain’t nothin’ in the world but a story just wrote with music to it.”
Hank Williams, Sr.

“Loving is the only sure road out of darkness, 
the only serum known that cures self-centeredness.”
Rod McKuen

"I am putting to music and words things that angered me and hurt me."
Nanci Griffith

“Country Music is three chords and the truth.”
Harlan Howard

 “It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.”
Dolly Parton

"I was rolling cars and wrecking motorcycles, drinking and doing everything I could to die early. But it didn't work."
Kris Kristofferson

"Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I've had to make myself."
Shel Silverstein

I don’t know why I write really depressing songs.
I’m a kind of melancholy guy, I suppose. But I figure I’m about normal.”
Townes Van Zandt

Monday, October 5, 2015

Krist Kristofferson and Jonathan Swift

The narrator in Kristofferson's talking blues song, "To Beat the Devil," says,
It was winter time in Nashville, down on Music City row,
And I was lookin' for a place to get myself out of the cold.
He says, "It'd been a month of paydays" since he's been paid and his "hungry neeed beans." He steps inside a tavern and begins a conversation with an old man in a bar who tells him that songwriter poets' lead a "tough life." The old man then asks the narrator why he's wasting his time speaking the truth to people who don't listen.

The narrator recognizes that this is the devil he's talking to and that "the devil haunts a hungry man."




So, in the end, the songwriter narrator doesn't claim to have "beat the devil," but he "drank his beer for nothing./ Then I stole his song." In other words, instead of giving in to the devil because he's hungry, he makes poetry out of it.

Listening to this song again recently reminded me of a poem by Jonathan Swift, the Anglo-Irish writer best known for Gulliver's Travels. In "The Progress of Poetry," Swift says pretty much the same thing Kristofferson says. He compares the poet to a goose who when fat "with corn and sitting still," can't "get o'er the barn-door sill," but when forced to look for food and exercise will eventually grow "lank and spare" which will enable her to successfully try "her wings" and take flight.

Both poets indicate that poetry is born from hunger and suffering and that success and riches might work against its creation. This explains why a successful songwriter's earliest work might be much better than that which comes after he's achieved success and has grown fat "with corn and sitting still."

Here's Swift's poem (you can find it and other poetry at The Literature Network).
The Progress of Poetry
The farmer's goose, who in the stubble
Has fed without restraint or trouble,
Grown fat with corn and sitting still,
Can scarce get o'er the barn-door sill;
And hardly waddles forth to cool
Her belly in the neighbouring pool!
Nor loudly cackles at the door;
For cackling shows the goose is poor.
But, when she must be turn'd to graze,
And round the barren common strays,
Hard exercise, and harder fare,
Soon make my dame grow lank and spare;
Her body light, she tries her wings,
And scorns the ground, and upward springs;
While all the parish, as she flies,
Hear sounds harmonious from the skies.

Such is the poet fresh in pay,
The third night's profits of his play;
His morning draughts till noon can swill,
Among his brethren of the quill:
With good roast beef his belly full,
Grown lazy, foggy, fat, and dull,
Deep sunk in plenty and delight,
What poet e'er could take his flight?
Or, stuff'd with phlegm up to the throat,
What poet e'er could sing a note?
Nor Pegasus could bear the load
Along the high celestial road;
The steed, oppress'd, would break his girth,
To raise the lumber from the earth.
But view him in another scene,
When all his drink is Hippocrene,
His money spent, his patrons fail,
His credit out for cheese and ale;
His two-years coat so smooth and bare,
Through every thread it lets in air;
With hungry meals his body pined,
His guts and belly full of wind;
And, like a jockey for a race,
His flesh brought down to flying case:
Now his exalted spirit loathes
Encumbrances of food and clothes;
And up he rises like a vapour,
Supported high on wings of paper.
He singing flies, and flying sings,
While from below all Grub-Street rings.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Nashville Indie Writer Wins Top Award

Nashville, TN. October 3, 2015. There's poetry in Music City. Writer Dan Jewell’s collection of poems, A Nashville Woman and Other Sorrows, received the highest award given in the love/romance poetry category of the international 2015 Readers Favorite competition. This year’s contest was the largest ever with thousands of entries ranging from indie authors to NYT bestsellers and authors.

Jewell’s poems tell the story of a Nashville songwriter whose life spirals downward after he loses the woman he loves. The collection also includes poems and songs about rejection, writer’s block, pickup trucks, Taylor Swift, cowboys, and the struggles of the dreamers who come to Nashville seeking fame and fortune. Readers Favorite Reviewer Lorelai Rivers gives the book a five star rating and says, “These poems ring true, as though author Dan Jewell has first-hand experience of the hope and heartbreak of being a working or non-working, musician/songwriter.”

Jewell says that some of the poems and songs were written over thirty-five years ago. “I was born in Nashville, so songwriting was in the very air I breathed every day. It was only natural that I would try my hand at it. My wife and I cut a demo of some of my songs once in the old Woodland Studio, a legendary place where artists like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Shania Twain once recorded.”

But, like most of the other dreamers in Nashville, Jewell says his songs went nowhere. “This collection of poems is about those women and men as much as anything, the ones who come here and struggle but keep at it, and the others who don’t make it in music but end up making a life for themselves instead. We know more than we want to know about all the ones who make it big. It’s the others I write for.”

Music fans, aspiring songwriters and performers, and anyone whose dreams didn’t quite materialize will enjoy this provocative book. More information about the book and the author can be found on the website http://www.musiccitypoetry.com/A Nashville Woman & Other Sorrows is available as an eBook on Kindle and Nook, and in paperback (68 pages) on amazon.com.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

There's Poetry in Nashville, Music City

There's poetry in Music City.

Many country music songs are poetry in the oldest and most traditional sense. But there's also poetry in the struggles of those who make the music, in the beautiful city of Nashville itself, and in the hearts and souls of those anonymous dreamers who arrive here daily seeking success in the industry.

A Nashville Woman and Other Sorrows is a book of poems, forty-five years in the making, which recently received the highest award given in the love/romance category of the 2015 International Readers Favorite contest.

These "simple and eloquent" poems tell the story of a Nashville songwriter whose life spirals downward after he loses the woman he loves. He stops for awhile in a mental place he refers to as The Catatonic Hotel before he eventually struggles back to writing and living again.

Readers Favorite Reviewer Lorelai Rivers gives the book a five star rating and says, “These poems ring true, as though author Dan Jewell has first-hand experience of the hope and heartbreak of being a working or non-working, musician/songwriter…These snippets of life, feelings, moments, scenes, and snapshots read to me like an epic song put together with the best book openings and chapter closings from every great novel never yet written.”

Another Readers Favorite Reviewer, Jack Magnus, says, “Jewell’s words are spare and eloquent, conveying worlds within a few well-placed words. While suffused with melancholy and loss, these poems also hint at redemption.”

A Nashville Woman & Other Sorrows is available in these formats: Amazon Kindle, ebookCreate Space, paperback, 68 pages, Barnes & Noble Nook eBook.

Comments are welcome in this blog's comment section.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Are Some Country Songs Poetry?

Some might say that mentioning Country Music and Poetry in the same breath is at best an oxymoron and at worst a travesty. IMHOP these readers have a narrow, esoteric, and academic notion of what poetry is.

There are many, many definitions of poetry, almost as many definitions as poems. Here's one I like from Irish poet William Butler Yeats:
Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.
There are numerous country artists whose carefully constructed songs are poetry -- whatever it is -- in its purest sense, such songwriter poets as Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Hank Williams, Kris Kristofferson, and Townes Van Zandt.

Take a look at a couple of videos of songs by two of these songwriters and listen carefully to the words.

First, Bob Dylan's "One Too Many Mornings," performed by Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.


And this is Van Zandt's "Tecumseh Valley." He's singing with Nanci Griffith.


Sad stories. Internal quarrels and remembrances. Robert Frost once said, "Poetry begins with a lump in the throat."

(Reposted from Music City Poetry)