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Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Honky-Tonk Man

With all due apologies to Wallace Stevens who never did me any harm.

A man sat down at his upright grand
among critics preferring their music canned,
and the critics cried, It honks, it swings! -
apart from which, consider your strings:
they're standing up; they should be laid down.
It isn't a grand; it's too down town!

It's Pop Art, man, in a musical sense
said the man at the grand - it never was dense!
I've fashioned no theory for its defense,
it makes no demands like your serious art,
but it comes from the depths of an ernest heart
that has felt the pangs of Cupid's dart.

Then he started to rap and was seen to swoon
like a lover alone with a pallid moon,
and the notes he plinked and plonked along,
not caring a jot were they right or wrong,
for the rhythms he said, of his simple tune,
he had learned in the school of his mother's womb.

So feel the rhythms I bang from the keys,
he cried to them all, as he rocked from the knees.
I'm the man who can lift an ice-cold crowd -
can do it soft, but prefer it loud.
Why should you worry about my strings
when the world is so full of worrisome things?

They asked him then, and they asked to his face,
What in your music enhances the race?
There's rhythm for sure, but the question is tough:
Is it art, my friend? Is rhythm enough?
Is it more than a boy could bash from a drum?
Will it help man to soar or keep him dumb?

The response was swift, but it didn't convince -
and the argument's rolled on ever since:
the artist, my friends, is of yesterday,
the art's not in the sounds that I play,
but in ears that turn base sounds to gold
and clothe the spirit in gowns of old.

Written to the prompt by Poemsofhateandhope at dVerse ~ Poets Pub Poetics: "Our Music"


Anonymous said...

Aaah, the art is not In the sounds I play but in the ears of those who turn base to gold... Don't you just love how that goes?! It's the same with poetry I find, the reader or in this case the listener can breathe a 100 more stories into the one you intended as they add their own interpretations to the melody.

Claudia said...

hey...very cool beat in this david...reads very rhythmically...and heck yes.. some of the artists you surely wonder what made them big..the marketing maybe, the people that took more from the music than there was...but is that possible..? i think someone must be quite good to have their audience listen in a way that turns base sounds to gold..

The Elephant's Child said...

Hooray for the honest reader/audience who can turn base to gold. Or at least appreciate the gold which was always there.
Thanks Dave - there is always gold to be mined in your work.

Anonymous said...

Love the rhythm - and the sentiment- its like the 'what is art' question....what is music? It's in the ear of the beholder I guess! Personally - I listen to a lot of artists that many would just consider to be 'base' but to me, they turn the air into gold...I also liked the response of the artist- 'why worry about what I'm playing'- almost saying 'if you don't like it, don't listen'- a great poem David....nailed the prompt completely!

A Cuban In London said...

And above, I would add, it has SOUL! :-)

Your poem was just what I needed this morning. Its lines sway from left to right as if it was a boogie-woogie number. Whilts reading several names came to my head: Art Tatum, Charlie, Thelonious, The Rolling Stones, Jools Holland, Muddy, Cream and so many more. Rock on, Dave!

Greetings from London.

oceangirl said...

Great questions, questions I ask myself when I write a poem.

Brian Miller said...

I'm the man who can lift an ice-cold crowd -
can do it soft, but prefer it loud.

ha yeah i like it loud as well...and love that the art is in the ears as well man, as they interpret...its a relationship between artist and the crowd for sure...love it...

Anonymous said...

Wwonderful honky-tonk poem, Dave. So many good lines and you manage to work the rhyme into a flow of narrative and conversation. Well done. (There is one typo I think--an "of" which should maybe be "or". After "will it help a man to soar"--). Sorry these things pop out at me (in other people's work, not my own) and the poem is so good..... K.

Daydreamertoo said...

I think you did the Honky Tonk man proud. It must be a wonderful thing to pick up an instrument and make it play music. It is a gift and music means so much to us all.
Great piece Dave,

Heaven said...

Well he sure has the hands of gold and the ears for real music...a lovely response to the music prompt dave. Love the honky tonk man ~

rch said...

This is great Dave, it sings and what a fantastic story too, it's true the best stuff comes from the heart.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Great issue and tremendous poetic reflection on music that I feel as exactly the rock music of my boyhood that has never left me despite the passing of time, it has remained the same and still turns base sounds to gold... and, and,and, even if it's all a fake, well... I am a fool...but if a fool persists in his folly...

And the question "will it help to soar or keep him dumb?"
Well it depends on God's mood,
beware of God's thumb.

Anonymous said...

Great poem. Love the wit in this. A nice mask of lightness to conceal and enhance its weight too, Auden would be proud.

Mary said...

So true - it is the 'ears' that decide what is gold and what isn't! This poem, however, with its playfulness and its rhythm, IS gold.

(Hope you will take a look at what I did over at dVerse for the music prompt. Being of the same generation, you might enjoy it.

Shawn said...

I enjoyed how the rhythms you wove filled my head with the sounds of the Honky-Tonk Man. Very Fun! The questions are well worth pondering. Thanks for sharing.

Ygraine said...

As with the work of any great artist, yes; it is dependent upon us, the audience, to interpret it's value!
How could it be otherwise?
It was created for us, and will live on in our collective memory:)

Rachna Chhabria said...

"A man sat down at his upright grand
among critics preferring their music canned,"

the first two lines hooked me completely. Great poem.

Susie Clevenger said...

Love this..I feel the rhythm..the questions...great piece!

vivinfrance said...

This is my favourite of all the music poems I've read today - maybe I'm biased, having a ragtime/honky tonk past, but you've done it so well, with all the rocking rhythm of the genre. I love it!

Windsmoke. said...

Very vivid imagery because my feet were tapping to the rhythm of the honky tonk piano :-).

Dave King said...

ordinary life less ordinary
Hi and a warm welcome to you. Yes, I do absolutely agree that the listener or reader can breathe narratives into a piece that would never have occurred to the author.

Yes, I think marketing is a big factor, as maybe is the Emperor's New Clothes. I was largely thinking, thoug, of the views of people like Damien Hirst that the viewer (or reader) supplies the meaning.

The Elephant's Child
Well, thanks for this last. I agree with the first - so long as the gold was there, of course!

poems of hate and hope
Hi, Good to have your company. Thanks for visiting - and thanks too for the kind words.

A Cuban in London
Wow! Well, thanks for this - and these! To be associated with such a roll of honour!

ocean girl
Hi! Good to have your comments. Thanks for visiting. I agree, salutary questions to ask oneself.

I think that states it exactly. It is a relationship. Thanks for your thoughts.

Do you know I must have read over that typo a dozen times without spotting it. Thanks for saying. I did correct it - eventually: it took three attempts, kept changing back!! Thanks also for your further thoughts. Always helpful.

Day dreamer too
I agree about it being a wonderful gift. Makes me wish I had stuck at my music lessons more than I did.

Many thanks for this. Appreciate the comment very much indeed.

Yes, I go along with that. Heart-felt counts more than polish or perfection.

Thanks for these thoughts... I shall surely watch out for God's thumb. Brilliant comment!

Hi and a very warm welcome to the blog. Thank you so much for your thoughts. It is good to have them. Auden, eh? Methinkks you do me too much credit - but i thank you for it.

Hi and many thaks for your comments. yes, your contribution was impressive and yes, I did very much enjoy it, a great read.

And my thanks to you, for the kind words of the comment. Good to have you visiting.

Thanks for this. Some of course go further and suggest that the artist has been superceded by the recipient.

Thank you for this. Vey much appreciated.

Thank you. Really good to know.

What a nice comment to have! I could hardly have a better one, and do thank you very sincerely for it.

Wow, now that really is good to know! Praise indeed. Thank you.