Friday, September 25, 2015

Unexpected Chords

Kabir says: The only woman awake is the woman
who has heard the flute!

Amy Lowell is a bit harsh on fat, bald guys here (I almost titled this post, "Hey, I like fat, bald guys!" but I thought my husband might object).

To me, though, Lowell's bigger picture is the way we can (must?) separate art and its maker, the interplay between the ordinary and the extraordinary, and the places that art can take you.

Anyway, here's Music by Amy Lowell (1874– 1925):

By Amy Lowell

THE NEIGHBOR sits in his window and plays the flute.
From my bed I can hear him,
And the round notes flutter and tap about the room,
And hit against each other,
Blurring to unexpected chords.
It is very beautiful,
With the little flute-notes all about me,
In the darkness.

In the daytime
The neighbor eats bread and onions with one hand
And copies music with the other.
He is fat and has a bald head,
So I do not look at him,
But run quickly past his window.
There is always the sky to look at,
Or the water in the well!

But when night comes and he plays his flute,
I think of him as a young man,
With gold seals hanging from his watch,
And a blue coat with silver buttons.
As I lie in my bed
The flute-notes push against my ears and lips,
And I go to sleep, dreaming.


Poetry for Children has the Poetry Friday round-up.


Linda Baie said...

Both a love poem and a bit of a laugh as she says "There is always the sky to look at,
Or the water in the well!". When I go to our Museum of Contemporary Art (where my daughter works), I've often thought of the artist, but now you've given me a new idea of only seeing the art, without speculating about the person 'behind' it.

cb hanek said...

The last stanza makes me smile. How audaciously like us humans: listeners recreating/reimagining creator (Creator, too), into a preferred image, one more our style... I appreciated your synthesis of the complexity of the poem, especially the challenge I need to address in my own life, aided and inspired by poetry, to see and to experience "the interplay between the ordinary and the extraordinary." God bless you! And many thanks!

Julie said...

It's so hard to separate artist from art - I've had trouble for years with loving the work of Ezra Pound, knowing him to be a fascist sympathizer, and with loving the beautiful prose of so many misogynist novelists. Ah, well - it really is not about the onion-eating, it's about the music, isn't it? About hearing the flute. Interesting post, Tabatha, thanks.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

A bit harsh, yes, but lots of truth to what she is saying... human nature is hard to get around.

Diane Mayr said...

Amy Lowell is one of my favorites! I really try to separate the art from the artist. That separation has often been a bone of contention, between myself and a friend, relative to Woody Allen.

Tabatha said...

Diane, interesting that you would mention Woody Allen...I was just discussing him with someone the other day. I can look past an artist's personality & opinions far more easily than their (criminal) actions. (I don't really care if I disagree with someone about stuff, but if he is like Bill Cosby, for instance, I can't overlook it.)

Gathering Books said...

This is lovely.
While it does seem harsh how she never looks at the neighbor, i think about how the art alone makes the beholder impose on it a vision of its creator. I have had experienced this when I was writing in a poetry site. I kept all my details hidden and played around and have been mistaken as a all sorts of genders and ages. thanks for sharing this.

Mary Lee said...

I'm wondering if this poem also has something to say about religion. We each close our eyes and imagine The Artist who created our world, but who's to say whether our imaginings are anywhere at all close to the truth!

Irene Latham said...

I've had the experience more than once where I have loved a writer then been disappointed when I met them in person. I think it's because the written word, once on the page, doesn't belong to the writer anymore, it belongs to the reader AND the writer, and so there is something incomplete when one meets the author with these expectations that he/she should "fit" what's on the page -- when hello, we readers have changed what's on the page just by reading it! (Not sure that makes a whole lot of sense, but I hope so.)Plus, when a piece of writing touches the soul, other sensory details (like how the author looks) are really just a distraction and take away from the purity of the experience. All this to say, fine, good, close your eyes! And I will, too. xo

Sylvia Vardell said...

Hi, Tabatha, and thank you for joining our Poetry Friday gathering this week-- and for sharing Lowell's evocative poem. I love that comments reflect so many different interpretations! Poetry does that, doesn't it?!

jama said...

What an interesting poem. I think it was easier to separate the artist from the art in the old days before the internet. We were left to our own devices fantasizing about authors and poets and what they might look like, thinking that a nice poem was written by a nice person. Not necessarily so.

Lots to ponder here. Thanks for sharing!

Heidi said...

Your choice and Diane's Amy Lowell poem remind me to read more and deeper. And on the subject of beautiful art from less than beautiful personalities, I think we children's literature people forget that not every community of artists is as warm and generous as we are! : )

Bridget Magee said...

Thanks for sharing Lowell's poem, Tabatha. Very thought-provoking as is evident by these comments. Sometimes it pays to be tardy (attending to Friday's poetry on Monday) because I get to read extra content in the comments. =)

Keri said...

I agree with Bridget -- reading the comments here is half the fun. I have 2 relevant thoughts: with the advent of MTV, we got used to beautiful people in videos being the artists, and the emphasis morphed from an emphasis on musical talent to performance. Thought 2: how nice that art, in all forms, allows us to share our spirits, regardless of the physical cloaks they wear. It gives rise to the unexpected!