“Yellow”

There is a backstory about the compelling letter that Director Jon Chu wrote to the members of the band, Coldplay asking permission to feature a cover of their song “Yellow” in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians.”  I’m very glad Coldplay agreed!!

This is sung in Chinese by Katherine Ho.

 

The movie takes place in New York City and Singapore and features an all Asian cast.  The film is based on the first book of a trilogy written by author, Kevin Kwan: Crazy Rich Asians (Book 1); China Rich Girlfriend Book 2); and Rich People Problems (Book 3) .

Advertisements

Agatha Christie — Writer, Traveler, Playwright, Wife, Mother, Surfer

AgathaChristie1925                                       Agatha_ChristiePhoto

This weekend (specifically Saturday, September 15, 2018) was the birthday of the British writer, Agatha Christie.  Born in 1890 in Torquay, Devon in southwestern England, Ms. Christie is best known for her detective mystery novels and short stories.  The youngest of three children in an upper middle class family (her father was American and her mother British), Ms. Christie was educated at home by her mother and later studied, also, in Paris.

It is believed Ms. Christie began writing detective stories during World War I when she worked as a nurse volunteer.  Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was published in 1920.  In this story readers are introduced to one of Ms. Christie’s best known fictional characters, the eccentric Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.  Along with Poirot, the other well known, albeit, “amateur,” detective fictional character that eventually also became familiar to readers is the elderly spinster woman, Miss Jane Marple, who began appearing in Ms. Christie’s novels and stories in 1927.

While Ms. Christie’s crime stories brought her much professional success, her private life was not without heartbreak.  Her father died when she was 11 years old and her mother in 1927.  In the late 1920s, her 1914 marriage to Archibald Christie, with whom they share a daughter, ended badly.

In 1930 Ms. Christie fell in love and married the archaeologist, Max Mallowan.  This pairing proved to be happy, and Ms. Christie often accompanied her second husband on his archaeology digs in the Middle East as well as spent time traveling with him in Europe and Asia.  Ms. Christie began to feature the places they visited and spent time in as locations in her some of her novels including Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express.

agatha_and_max                   Agatha&MaxinSyria

A prolific writer, Ms. Christie is now recognized as one of the most widely read authors in the world.  In 1971, several years before she died at the age of 85 in 1976, Ms. Christie had been given the title “dame” by the British Empire.  Along with being credited with writing 66 crime novels, 16 plays and numerous short stories, Ms. Christie also wrote 6 psychological romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott — this is something the public did not know until it was revealed in 1949 that Ms. Westmacott was actually Agatha Christie.

There have been many films made of Agatha Christie novels and short stories (just recently, for example. a 2017 movie adaptation of the novel “Murder on the Orient Express” was released).  One of the most memorable movie adaptations of an Agatha Christie story, made while Ms. Christie was still alive, is the 1957 movie “Witness for the Prosecution” starring actors Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton and Elsa Lancaster and directed by filmmaker, Billy Wilder – this film still captivates movie goers today!

MurderOntheOrientExpress                            WitnessFortheProsecution

 

“You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way”

Elvis Costello song from the 2017 movie “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” (featuring actors Annette Bening and Jamie Bell)

 

Another one for nature and National Poetry Month

BuffaloSkullFullPhotoApril2018Cropped

A Buffalo Skull

No fine white bone-sheen now;
a hundred hard years
have worn it away, this stump
washed up on a bar
in the river, its horns
like broken roots,
its muzzle filled with sand
and the thin gray breath
of spider webs.  Once,
they covered the grasslands
like the shadows of clouds,
and now the river gives up
just one skull, a hive of bone
like a fallen wasp’s nest,
heavy, empty, and
full of the whine of the wind
and old thunder.

–Ted Kooser (American Poet — born in Ames, Iowa, 1939)  This poem is from One World at a Time, published 1985

TedKooserAmericanPoet                       TedKooserAmericanPoetPhoto4

Poems – Earth Day 2018 (April 22)

EarthDayRiverApril2018.jpg

History

All night the wind
Yelled at the house,
The trees squeaked and hushed
But the wind would not.
All night the trees complained
And the rain rushed and rained.

Now in the cool
Morning the trees stand, tall,
Still and all composed—
Sun on their sunny pages.
Of the storm only the riled
Creek remembers; and rages.

–Thomas McGrath (American poet, 1916 – 1990)
This poem is from Selected Poems 1938 – 1988, pub. 1988

 

EarthDayGraphic2April2018

Praising Spring

The day is taken by each thing and grows complete.
I go out and come in and go out again,
confused by a beauty that knows nothing of delay,
rushing like fire.  All things move faster
than time and make a stillness thereby.  My mind
leans back and smiles, having nothing to say.
Even at night I go out with a light and look
at the growing.  I kneel and look at one thing
at a time.  A white spider on a peony bud.
I have nothing to give, and make a poor servant,
but I can praise the spring.  Praise this wildness
that does not heed the hour.  The doe that does not
stop at dark but continues to grow all night long.
The beauty in every degree of flourishing.  Violets
lift to the rain and the brook gets louder than ever.
The old German farmer is asleep and the flowers go on
opening.  There are stars.  Mint grows high.  Leaves
bend in the sunlight as the rain begins to fall.

–Linda Gregg (American poet, born 1942)
This poem is from Alma: Poems, pub. 1985.

April is National Poetry Month!

It is the end of the first week of April 2018, and it is National Poetry Month in the U.S.  A contemporary American poet named Laurel Blossom (born 1943) is someone whose poetry I recently stumbled upon.  Among Ms. Blossom’s accomplishments is that she served fairly recently, from April 2015 – April 2017, as the Poet Laureate of the town of Edgefield, South Carolina (a Poet Laureate being a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, typically expected to compose poems for special events and occasions).

Ms. Blossom’s books of poetry include Longevity (2015) and Degrees of Latitudes (2007).  Her collected books of poems are Wednesday: New and Collected Poems (2004), The Papers Said (1993), What’s Wrong (1987) and Any Minute (1979).  Additionally, her poems have appeared in a number of literary journals and in the anthologies 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day (2005), Lights, Camera, Poetry (1996) and Southern Poetry Review, Volume I: South Carolina (2007).

Glee Club
For Stan (1941 – 1976)

You are the tenor singing inside me,

making a silence beside the song,

calling it harmony, making a charm

to hang on my jingling bracelet of longing.

(originally published in Jasper: The World of Columbia (SC) Arts,March/April 2012).

The Papers Said

In Kenya they have two paved highways.
Commuters throw garbage out the windows to baboons
so used to being fed this way
they wait at intervals like pets or trashcans.
One day a man threw out an orange
he’d filled with chili powder just for the hell of it

to see what would happen (it
rolled in the red dust at the highway’s
edge) because the man hated those fucking baboons
or whatever the word is in Swahili, the way
they jerk off at the side of the road, or show their
disgusting red cans
to each other, and this one not especially orange

orange
got picked up by one of those fuckers, who pushed it
into his mouth and bit down.  The white man in the green car
on the liquid red highway
under the burning blue sky (or whatever the baboon
word is for hellfire) – the man in the green car went
his way.
Baboons scream as only baboons can.

The man felt merciful: no more living trashcans.
He forgave his wife.  As the sky turned the brilliant orange
of an African sunset, he drove home. It
gratified him to see the sides of the highway
deserted, the entire baboon
population he’d driven away.

For a while, he went out of his way
to be nice to his wife and children.  He let them
watch American
T.V., on the weekend he bought a six-pack of
orange pop, packed it
in the car and took them all for a drive along the highway.
Of course the baboons

were back; he expected that.  Baboon
Attacks, however, he did not expect, especially the way
it seemed to recognize the green car (uncanny,
the papers called it), hurled itself at the open window
when an orange
shape glistened briefly there, and ripped the man’s throat out.  Call it
whatever you like, poetic justice, but people aren’t safe
on the nation’s highways,

the papers said.

(originally published in the New York Quarterly #43, Fall 1990)

DegreesofLatitudeLaurelBlossomVersion2                           laurel-blossomVersion2

longevityVersion2             EdgefieldSCMapofSC

The Poetry of Vietnam

Seeing the Ken Burns Vietnam War documentary film recently, I wondered afterwards about the poetic voice of the Vietnamese people.  It turns out a nearby library has an anthology created in 1975 entitled A Thousand Years of Vietnamese Poetry (edited by Nguyen Ngoc Bich).  I learned from this book that while the Vietnamese were influenced by Chinese culture, they were able to retain their own distinct culture.  Drawing often from Chinese allusions, plots and poetic forms, the Vietnamese poets were fully aware that their audience was Vietnamese and that their poetry must serve that audience.

To understand the poetry of Vietnam, and what is perhaps complicated from the standpoint of Western culture, is that historically Vietnamese poetry actually has a three language tradition.  The first written language was a version of Chinese called “Sino-Vietnamese,” and it was called this as it was the Chinese language read in a Vietnamese way.  This “Sino-Vietnamese” language was the primary means of literary expression until the end of the 13th century.

As Vietnamese poetry began to compete with Chinese literature and flourish, the Chinese called Vietnam Van Hien Chi Bang, the “Cultured State” in acknowledgement of their literary achievements.  When the language “Sino-Vietnamese, the country’s version of Chinese, slowly faded, a new language for poetry eventually evolved known as “chu nom.”  Sanctioned by the government of Vietnam in the 15th century as the country’s chief language, chu nom remained until the 20th century the principal language of Vietnamese poetry.

When Portuguese trade ships started arriving in Vietnam carrying Jesuit missionaries from France and elsewhere beginning as early as the 17th century, the Europeans began transcribing Vietnamese into a Romanized script/lettering.  Eventually, this Romanized alphabet in the 20th century, with the encouragement of the French, replaced chu nom.  This Romanized script, known as “quoc ngu,” then became the universal language or “National language” in Vietnam. Both chu nom and quoc ngu are actually systems for transcribing the same language – vernacular Vietnamese.

The following poems range from as early as the 12th century up to and including the 20th century.  In many instances these poems are translated by two scholar/translators, Nguyen Ngoc Bich and Burton Raffel.  Also, while most of these poems included here were written by men, some of them, where known as indicated, were written by women Vietnamese poets.

A NAP 
    by Khong Lo (died 1119)

Huge sky, great green mountains,
Small village of mulberries and smoke.
No one comes,
The ferryman sleeps –-
And wakes, at noon,
In a boatload of snow.

A WIFE’S LAMENT 

by Tran Nhan-tong (1258-1308)

She wakes, rolls up screens, watches flowers fall.
The oriole is silent, hating winter wind.
Beyond the western pavilion the sun slides down
And flowers lean toward the east.

SUMMER
by Tran Thanh-tong (1240-1290)

Shadows linger, even in the dim halls.
How cool at the north window: a scent of lotus.
The rain stops; green vegetables like a screen;
And three, five cicadas sing to disturb the evening sun.

THE STONE DOG 
     by Le Thanh-tong (1442-1497)

With a heavy paw he guards the frontier,
Squatting alone in the middle of the pass,
Paying no heed to the snow or frost,
Never asking for good food or payment.
Staring straight at the visitors’ faces,
He is above listening to their gossiping tongues.
With one mind he serves his lord.
A thousand-weight strong, he cannot be swayed.

THE TEMPLE OF FRAGRANCE
    by Ho Xuan Huong (a Vietnamese woman poet, late 18th century)

Who could have fashioned this marvel?
The mountain cracks into a wide, hollow cave.
Pious Buddhists struggle to set foot inside,
others gaze at it tirelessly.
Drippings form a sweet streamlet,
as sailors on incoming junks bend their heads.
City folk also flock to these springs and woods.
Clever, indeed, the Old Man in Heaven!

CROSSING THE NGANG PASS 
    by The Lady of Thanh Quan (a Vietnamese woman poet, mid 19th century)

The sun sets just as I reach the Ngang Pass,
Where plants jostle with rocks, flowers with leaves.
Below the hill, woodcutters bend under their loads,
Scattered market stalls dot the river bank.
The moorhen calls: Remember, remember your land!
The partridge cries: Only the sky, hills and streams.
And myself?  Communing, talking with myself!

ETERNAL STRUGGLE
    by Tru Vu (born circa 1940)

Light stretches out its hand filled with light
to smash into the face of darkness.
Darkness loses a slice of its body
equivalent to the hand of light.

Darkness stretches out its hand filled with darkness
to smash into the face of light.
Light acquires a portion
equivalent to the hand of darkness.

Between these, man progresses, transfixed.

OUR SON’S PROFESSION
     by Ha Thi Thao (born circa 1940)

you ask what our son’s profession should be
I say teach him to paint
so he can sketch maps of Vietnam
where the hate we’re creating will be blotted out
teach him to cut the barbed wire
that pierces the festering waist of our land
teach him medicine
so he can heal the clotted wounds of the past
last teach him the land’s language
of acid fields and saline waters
then you can burn all the rest of the books
I’ll spread my thin arms to hide the fire
as for the ashes just sweep them aside
with the years of bleeding and weeping
let our son remake this land
let him complete the circle
whose diameter now is the river of shame
you and I will stand north and south
and watch over our young boy as he sleeps.

TWENTY YEARS
     by Do Tan (born circa 1940)

The girl grew up to become a woman
the boy grew up to become a man
man met woman in the forbidden wood
their child was the gift of spring.

The spring child joined the revolution
the revolution was a ravening cannibal
man’s portion was exile, prison, bullets,
with sun, roses, and a blood-reeking flag.

The woman weeps for the girl that was
the man weeps for the boy that was
their child sleeps the eternal sleep in the earth
the spring hangs its head and sighs.

AThousandYearsofVietnamesePoetryBk                             VietnameseFolkPoetryBk

 

 

The full moon as the “wolf moon” January 1-2, 2018

Howlin’ Wolf was an American blues singer, guitarist and songwriter.  Born in June 1910 in West Point, Mississippi, Wolf studied with bluesmen Charley Patton and Sonny Boy Williamson before eventually signing with Chicago’s Chess Records.  A captivating performer, Howlin’ Wolf had such hits as “The Red Rooster” and “Moanin’ at Midnight,” and by 1960, he had begun working with songwriter, Willie Dixon.  Revered by both British & American rock artists, Wolf died in Hines, Illinois in January 1976.

Paterson, Poetry & William Carlos Williams

Directed by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch and featuring actors Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani, “Paterson” is a quiet lyrical movie about day-to-day life and work and poetry and art.  There is in the film, between the characters, some discussion concerning the New Jersey poet, William Carlos Williams, who wrote the poem entitled “Paterson.”  This poem “Paterson” was initially published as an 85 line poem in 1927, and Williams later expanded it into a five volume work.

“Poet, artist, and practicing physician of Rutherford, New Jersey, William Carlos Williams wrote poetry that was experimental in form, ranging from imagism to objectivism, with great originality of idiom and human vitality. Credited with changing and directing American poetry toward a new metric and language, he also wrote a large number of short stories and novels. Paterson (1946–58), about the New Jersey city of that name, was his epic and places him with Ezra Pound (his friend) of the Cantos as one of the great shapers of the long poem in this century.”

(from “About the Author,” two Google “Books” webpages – years cited as 1969 and 2004)

The Hunter

In the flashes and black shadows
of July
the days, locked in each other’s arms,
seem still
so that squirrels and colored birds
go about at ease over
the branches and through the air.

Where will a shoulder split or
a forehead open and victory be?

Nowhere.
Both sides grow older.

And you may be sure
not one leaf will lift itself
from the ground
and become fast to a twig again.

–William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) from Collected Earlier Poems, pub. 1938

SourGrapesWCW        TheEarlierCollectedPoems           Paterson

The Great Figure

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
firetruck
moving
tense
unheeded
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

–William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) from Sour Grapes: A Book of Poems, pub. 1921

428px-Charles_Demuth_-_Figure_5.png    “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold,” painting by Charles Demuth, 1928
(owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC)

 

 

 

Montage

“Montage” is a long ago song that for some reason left an imprint on my mind.  It was when I was a teenager that I heard it in the movie “How Sweet It Is” starring James Garner and Debbie Reynolds who portray a married couple who become chaperones to a group of teenagers, including their adolescent son, on a trip to Europe.  While this song’s pop melody and catchy lyrics peaked my interest, it’s actually taken me some years to actually track it down.

From what I’ve read recently it is believed that songwriter/composer/singer, Jimmy Webb, was asked to write a song specifically for this movie “How Sweet It Is” (released in 1968) and this is how the song “Montage,” was created.  The version here is sung by the group “Love Generation.”

Montage

“It was written on my mind like the back of an envelope rehearsed
and very carefully in reach,
Like cool cucumber noncommittal speech,
That I wrote while hanging out down at the beach.
And I shivered from the cold of the ice in my granite heart,
Knowing that you didn’t have a prayer,
And then I rang the bell and you were there.

And darling, then your face was full of me,
And then your eyes were, too.

And I knew that you knew that I knew
That you knew that I knew that you knew
That I knew that you knew that I knew.

I regained my self control and I tried to close my big fat mouth
Before I love you fell out on the floor,
I didn’t feel like Batman anymore,
I hit my funny elbow on the door.
And then your brother asked if I had money for a haircut,
And the pimple on my neck began to hurt,
Suddenly I wished I’d changed my shirt.

And darling, then your face was full of me
And then your eyes were, too.

And I knew that you knew that I knew
That you knew that I knew that you knew
That I knew that you knew that I knew.”

—Jimmy Webb (born, 1946)

the-love-generation-montage-from-how-sweet-it-is-i-knew-that-you-knew-imperial                       MontagePicardy

Advertisements