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Laying Low in Martin, Tennessee / Sponsorship Update

although I did make it down to the campus yesterday just in time to lead my “workshop” (yes, I have mixed feelings about that word)–which consisted of my revisiting the Dylan Songs as Nobel Literature debate, though this time I came armed with the last paragraph of Bob’s acceptance speech (“Nobel Lecture”), in which he pretty much says the same thing that I and many others have said–basically: thanks for this, it’s cool, I appreciate it, but don’t forget the difference between songs and literature–song lyrics are just a part of the form; and the intention of the work itself matters a lot. That’s a bit of a bad paraphrase; here’s the link to the whole thing, which I recommend:

I also recited my favorite Denis Johnson poem from memory (terrifying though I’ve known it for years), talked about poems and how the white space on a poem’s page matters as much as negative space in a painting–unlike, say, a printout of lyrics to a song (though yes, those spaces between verses do mean something, though more mechanical). Recited a Japanese haiku, and followed with a James Wright poem in which some of those same “eastern silences” are employed.

It was a little awkward–I had my laptop with semi-prepared remarks on screen, up on a podium, along with a couple of books. When I stopped to play a song to illustrate a point, I’d walk over, and sit down in a chair and play. Then stand back up, go to the podium, and start talking again. (I did this with Dylan’s “Jokerman”, and Chuck Berry’s “Nadine”–speaking the lyric (meant to be sung), then picking up the guitar and singing it. Saying some things about how the instrumental part of the song could not just be forgotten (in the name of calling song lyrics “poetry”)–that that music positively informed those words, as great as they are, with rhythm, with melody, with energy.

I had a hard time relaxing, simply because I don’t do this lecturing/workshop thing much–but was able to settle down when I did just sit down and play a couple of my songs (“Colfax”, “Saint on a Chain”, and a small bit of “GTO”) and talk about theme. Took plenty of good questions, and tried my damnedest to answer them generously, though it’s hard when you feel like some of your own creative process still remains a mystery to your own self, all these years later. For me, that mystery is part of what keeps this fun. I don’t want to know exactly what I’m doing all the time, when I’m writing. For me it’s always about what’s there leading you to what’s next–and that what’s next is something you didn’t know or think about previously. Plenty of self-help books about creativity as self-discovery out there–though I guess I’m restricting my view here to what I’m working on–the song, or the poem. Or the blog post, ha ha. Not necessarily: me. Though the spirits know I could use some revision, too . . . .

I left the building and hunted down some horrible fast food (I was that hungry)–came back here to the hotel and decompressed. Happy to have done what I think was a pretty good job, and glad to have so many polite, smart folks there listening. I ended up staying in, though–not going to the open mic reading at Bartola’s, the venue I’ll be playing this evening, starting early, around 6 I think. My new friend Ethan, who I’ve yet to meet in person, will open the show.

Instead of going out, I caught up on some work–some writing I need to do for the upcoming publicity campaign. Walked across the parking lot to the Casey’s and bought one beer, some baked Lay’s, a bag of pistachios, and an apple of still-undetermined quality. Turned on the television long enough to get disgusted with the behavior of yet another member of the president’s cabinet (didn’t take long!), then settled in and read more of the James Wright biography, by Jonathan Blunk, that I’ve been raving about lately. Slept soundly from midnight til 3, when I woke up from a “mild” nightmare. Wrote in my journal for twenty minutes, then fell out again, til about 8.

I’m going to now get my ass up, get dressed, and go hear what Bobbie Ann Mason has to say, over on campus.

The funding campaign has been going exactly a week now; THANK YOU so much for your participation. (This just in: Level 7 is now SOLD OUT!In 7 days we’ve raised almost $8K in sponsorship contributions. I am humbled and honored by your appreciation of what I do. If you missed the blog post last week, where the different levels of sponsorship are laid out, here’s a link to it:   We’ll be moving that info to its own page here on the site very soon. More soon–gotta run.



One Response to Laying Low in Martin, Tennessee / Sponsorship Update

  1. John Jackson April 6, 2018 at 11:46 am #

    Love your posts, and this one especially. Wish I could have been there for the workshop and the show to follow.

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