National Poetry Month: Poems About Music, 1/30

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I’m offering 30 days of poetry (mostly on music) with a few links and comments thrown in, as I can’t help myself.

To start, American poet Elizabeth Bishop:

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

Anything but the superstar poet during her life, Bishop wrote very little, but all of it to an extraordinarily high standard. (Her prose is faultless and radiant too. When I need to reset my compass for a certain kind of dappled clarity I re-read her 1938 essay on Gregorio Valdes.) She lived in Key West and Brazil, which also seems perfect somehow. Since her death in 1979, her work has become well known, and well loved.

Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 10.35.10 AM

And since the earliest idea of this blog was to combine images, words and music, here’s a bit of Bach played by Wilhelm Kempff, an arrangement of the Siciliano from The Flute Sonata No. 2. His poise and supernatural calm as a pianist evokes “A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool.” And because supererogation is how I roll, here it is in its original instrumentation.

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