Debuting a new piece with Geoffrey Keezer at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival this Friday and Saturday (schedule and ticket info here). Never done anything like this, just me standing there in my boots reading while Geoffrey and the jazz cats do their thing. The piece I wrote is about a military veteran and a muse and a bridge, and it’s called “Old Guys Surrender the Jukebox,” and it starts like this:
OLD GUYS SURRENDER THE JUKEBOX
The warm air hits me like a beer belch
As I step inside the Joynt
Outside it’s cold
Not scarf-and-sweater cold, not mama-knit-yer-mittens cold; Deep freeze cold, death star cold. Ted-Williams-cranium-in-a-tank cold.
A real nose-hair snapper.
I stop and stomp—it’s how we make an entrance around here
Knock the snow out, knock the feeling in.
Place feels right tonight,
The cue-ball click, the floorboard creak,
The peanut shell crackle underfoot.
The cheap taps, the shot-glass rap, the chaser,
The rattle of the till, the scrape of change, the hey-dere yah-hey And back above the bar, a simple neon fact: “No Light Beer”
As I am long-term teetotal I find this
Neither a discouragement nor an encouragement.
“O’Doul’s,” I tell the barkeep, “and keep’em comin’”
Then I tip him three quarters and say, “Ach, one’ll prolly do’er.”
They’ve tuned up the Jazz Festival website, it’s easier to figure out the ticket situation. Very eager for this event as it is so different from what I’m used to doing. I wrote a thing about a veteran and a bar and a bridge and a woman and it has a lot of short little lines which might fool me into thinking it’s a poem, and then there’ll be all those jazz people doing inscrutably groovy things…
Looking forward to debuting piece I cowrote with Geoffrey Keezer for upcoming Jazz Festival in Eau Claire. Ticket info here.
I wrote the words, Geoffrey wrote the music, I’ll narrate, and the band will play along. It’s a kind of spoken-word-poem-y-performance-piece sort of a deal. And I won’t hear the music until rehearsal the day before. This place plays a leading role in the piece.
I like steel-toed boots and canthooks and 30-06s and camo caps and stock car racing and feeding pigs in the mud and fire trucks and football and the smell of chainsaw exhaust and the feel of 3/4 ton suspensions and — thanks to this guy — poetry. Another teacher who changed my life.
I was cleaning carp out behind the house one afternoon when the rawboned neighbor guy walked over. He had been fiddling on a junk car. “Nice ones,” he said, looking down at the fish. And they were, a bodacious passel of Ictiobus bubalus, as my carp-shooting buddy Mills and I like to call them when we’re all dressed up in camo on our secret log, sweating in the sun and smelling of fish slime and Off!. A little Latin to offset the caveman behavior and stink. Mills got me into bow fishing, and now it’s a problem. I sneak off to shoot carp the way some guys sneak off to shoot pool. Mills smokes them up with apple and hickory in his old concrete smoker, but first I have to clean them. The neighbor stood there silent while I sawed off heads and peeled out guts. Every now and then he took a drag on his Marlboro and a pull on his Pabst. Finally, he spoke.
When I am deep into writing a book, I return to certain reliable sources, poetry among them. And so deep in the muddy vortex of stubborn prose I was relieved when something crisp and new from my long-time friend and mentor Bruce Taylor (I wrote of him in Truck) popped up yesterday. You can read it here. Also do be sure to click the audio link and note that despite all the cheese in Wisconsin Bruce has never quite shed his east coast mother tongue…
Poet C. Dale Young has a new collection out. Torn contains this poem, which I first heard when it was delivered by Young at an evening reading in Vermont. I have never forgotten the emotion C. Dale invested in the giving of it.
Friend, mentor, and I-wouldn’t-be-doing-what-I’m-doing-today-if-not-for-him guy Bruce Taylor (featured in Truck) had his poem featured on The Writer’s Almanac Sunday. Poem’s called “His Good Felt Hat” and it’s right here.
Here is Bruce reading the brief, lovely, “In Class Exercise”:
A friend forwarded this video of the poet Kevin Young reading four selections. Last Saturday we had a whole crew of kin over to the place for a meal that included a big ol’ tank of pork in various forms, and Mr. Young is right on the money regarding the joys of that meat (“Ode to Pork”, commencing at roughly 4:35 in the video, but I’d watch the whole thing, this is good stuff) (and catch that “B/babe” joke in there). Kevin Young will be appearing here, by the way. Based on our schedules, we’ll likely cross each other in the airport. The “Ode to Boudin” is a gorgeous thing, a poem for his departed father, the universal intersection of grief and food and joy and memory: …his sisters/my aunts dancing/in the yard to a car radio...
Publisher’s Description: in over his head with two pigs, a dozen chickens, and a baby due any minute, the author of Truck: A Love Story gives us a humorous, heartfelt memoir of a new life in the country.