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And no, it wasn't Leonard Cohen.

Last night Stompin' Tom Connors thundered his way off into the sunset.

It's hard to convey the significance of both his life and his passing. Stompin' Tom was one of a kind, an authentic voice in a world of phonies, who lived an improbable life; a life so improbable that it reads like fiction, the sort of fiction a great national author might try to create in honor of his own culture.

Allow me explain, eh ...

Of any non-Canadians who know anything about him at all, only a tiny fraction will be familiar with anything beyond The Hockey Song. He wrote it 40 years ago, but somehow it only became the unofficial anthem of hockeydom over the last decade or so. Here it is:

Now, I know there are basically three categories of listeners to popular music. There are the snobs, who, though they may enjoy the stuff, deny that it is really "art". No, they will tell you, John Lennon, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, pick-your-own-generations-icon, were/are not poets -- not really. Opposite that set are those who take the view that the snobs are ... well ... snobs. And then of course, there are the overwhelming multitudes of folks who wouldn't ever stop to give it any thought.

My own opinion depends on my mood and the particular performer in question. Today, now, I have no doubt at all that Stompin' Tom Connors was a poet extraordinaire. Take for example that line in the song above (recorded in 1973):

They storm the crease like bumblebees
Now watch this clip, of Bobby Orr's sudden-death goal to clinch the 1970 Stanley Cup.

If you don't know, one of the 3 or 4 most famous photographs in the history of North American sport was taken from the corner of the rink, as Orr flew threw the air. This was the first Stanley Cup final I saw on TV, and I never forgot the image of what happened in the 20 seconds after Orr's goal -- and when I first heard The Hockey Song a few years later, I knew exactly where that line came from. That's a beautiful thing.

Stompin' Tom's work is filled with such crystal-perfect phrases, capturing the sense of a moment or a place or a person with precision and an improbable sophistication.

Why so improbable? Well, consider his biography: Born in the depression to an unwed teen mother, at the age of 3 he was hitchhiking around with her, at the age of 4 he learned to beg, at the age of 8 he was taken from her for his own wellbeing (apparently, he actually lived with her in a low-security women's penitentiary at some point), at the age of 9 he was given to an adoptive family, and at the age of 15, he left home and started hitchhiking around Canada, supporting himself with odd-jobs.

This is the sort of biography that gives the snobs fits -- the same snobs who think Shakespeare couldn't have written those plays, because he was so frightfully common.

Now consider this tune, which for years was played as the opening music to a Canadian TV newsmagazine:

If you don't get it, let me clue you in: There is more sociological, nevermind economic, sophistication to be found here than in many of the pratings of people with a superabundance of abbreviated suffixes appended to their signatures.

But that song is not at all typical of Connors' career. More commonly, his songs were witty, or thoughtful, or sometimes just sentimentally corny, observation pieces about the people and places of Canada. In all of the literature I know, I know of only one other person whose approach to song and place and nation compares with STC, namely Woody Guthrie. This is STC's absolutely definitive work, Sudbury Saturday Night, recorded at a now-classic concert in a tiny venue. Everything about this song, this performance, this performer sparkles and smokes with Canadianness. The only thing missing is the McKenzie Brothers sitting at one of the tables. ("INCO", by the way, is the International Nickel Company, whose flagship mining operations were in Sudbury -- home of the world's largest nickel.) I claim: If listening to this song doesn't evoke in you a fundamental respect and sympathy for ordinary working people, you have a long, long way to go on your path to becoming a progressive.

Here's a youtube video I was surprised to discover. For those of you younger folk who perhaps know kd lang as a vaguely matronish, mature, and supremely powerful vocalist (check her out at the Junos, singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah), and of course lesbian icon, I'll have you know that in her youth, Ms. Lang was a bit ... well ... odd.

Okay, let's be real, she was a freak. I mean ... she did some really strange stuff, bordering on performance art. But Canadians loved her anyway -- or some of them did anyway -- and here she is, apparently hosting the Junos or something, and from what I can tell, this is the first public performance of STC's wonderful, witty, admiring, and just damned proud tribute song to the little weirdo:

I could go on, but y'all all know how to use Youtube. (suggestions: Bud the Spud, The Ketchup Song, Red River Jane, and, for good measure, Luke's Guitar, the first Stompin' Tom song I ever heard.) And I suppose I could scare up various anecdotes -- like how, his first performance in a pub came about because he was a nickel short of a beer, and how he started carrying a slab of plywood to his gigs because the manager at one of his regular gigs got pissed off at him for wearing a hole in the stage, and how he returned his Juno awards in protest of the trophies being given to Canadians who neither lived nor made their music in Canada. Incredibly, Connors spent much of his life fighting just to get his music on the air, after Canadian radio stations latched onto the crossover pop country music that came to dominate the American country scene, beginning in the late 70s. The bottom line is this: a great Canadian poet has died, a man who dedicated most of his adult life to documenting what he saw as he traveled around the country that he loved beyond measure. To quote another Canadian songwriter: The world will never see another man like him.

Originally posted to UntimelyRippd on Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 06:23 PM PST.

Also republished by An Ear for Music and Community Spotlight.


Who is the greatest Canadian poet of the last 50 years?

25%19 votes
61%46 votes
13%10 votes

| 75 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Take home exercise: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Why is Phil Esposito in the poll?

    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

    by UntimelyRippd on Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 06:54:48 PM PST

  •  Republished to (12+ / 0-)

    An Ear for Music

    NPR did a piece about him on ATC this evening. Hadn't heard of him til now, so it's sad to realize there won't be any more from him

    Among Connors' many fans, one you might not expect is musician Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Nirvana. Grohl first heard Connors' music when he was touring in Canada with one of his early punk bands.
    "Punk rock was all about walking it like you talk it, and integrity was always something that we measured an artist by," Grohl told NPR's Melissa Block. "And it just seemed like, how could you be more for real than Stompin' Tom?"

    "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

    by Catte Nappe on Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 07:15:43 PM PST

    •  Thanks (4+ / 0-)

      It's that authenticity that sets STC apart. The truth is, over the years he sometimes said or wrote things that were a bit cringeworthy -- but so would we all, if we weren't busily concealing the less admirable elements of our beings.

      Stompin' Tom's attitude was, here I am, whether ya like me or ya don't.

      A while back, the CBC ignored a petition for a Stompin' Tom special, so he put up the money and produced one himself, then sent it in to their staff. They jerked him around for a bit, then told him the music/variety thing didn't really match their "new format" or something, but if he'd like, they could schedule him to sing a song on some other show, somewhere, some time. He told them -- and I quote -- to "shove it".

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 07:22:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bit of fun on this one (7+ / 0-)

    Stompin Tom liked to have some fun too.

    There's room at the top they're telling you still But first you must learn how to smile as you kill If you want to be like the folks on the hill

    by taonow on Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 07:40:55 PM PST

  •  Hockey (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, Observerinvancouver

    I'm watching a Kings-Dallas game while reading this. They played Hockey Game between periods.I bet every rink in the world played that song in the last couple of days.

  •  Perfect (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    absolutely perfect

  •  My STC moment (14+ / 0-)

    My Stompin Tom Connors moment--In around 1971, I was playing with a road band and we were in Saint John NB. Sundays were off so everyone went to a place called the Flame for open mike and jam. I was playing drums with a lot of different musicians when this guy walked in with a black cowboy hat, black jacket, carrying a guitar case and a briefcase. Everyone became very excited and were saying to each other "Tom is here" He was big in the Maritimes then but not in the rest of Canada so I didn't know who the hell he was. He got up on the stage with his guitar and I said to him "what songs are you doing" trying to get some clue what it would be. He turned to me and said " I was listening to you play when I was out in the parking lot--you won't have any trouble" And he did 2 songs, I don't remember what they were, shook all the musicians hands, waved and left to applause and cheers. I wondered who the hell that was. And that's my Stompin Tom Connors moment

  •  Recognition for Mr. Connors (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    appears at nodepression. There are also tributes to Alvin Lee (Ten Years After) and Richard Manuel (The Band), who died recently as well. Thanks.

    I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. ― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

    by dannyboy1 on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 03:21:02 AM PST

  •  I admit I've never heard of the man before (5+ / 0-)

    Thanks for introducing me to his work.

    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

    by MichaelNY on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 04:09:46 AM PST

  •  A fitting tribute (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terjeanderson, lcbo

    to a real Canadian icon. I remember him from my youth in Regina. He might have been from New Brunswick, but we all thought he was from the prairies.

    BTW, I'd add some others to the poll for greatest Canadian musician/poets. Stan Rogers, for instance.

    "Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter." (Homer Simpson)

    by mitumba on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 05:42:35 AM PST

    •  Well, of course, one irony is that it is a bit (4+ / 0-)

      difficult to name Canadian poets who are not also musicians of some sort -- at least ones that anyone outside of Canada has ever heard of. If you polled Canadian university faculties, Anne Hebert would get some votes. On the other hand, if it were a serious poll and wide open to popular musicians, you'd have to include Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, for starters.

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 06:51:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Like Canadian Tire Money (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Observerinvancouver, Randtntx

    I lived in Canada, and I've got a Stompin' Tom record to prove it.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 06:43:26 AM PST

  •  When I saw the title, I though maybe (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Joni Mitchell had died - after all, "greatest Canadian Poet" has to be a fairly narrow niche, right?  

    •  We have a lot of poets. One of my favourite (4+ / 0-)

      lines is from a poem dating to the '30s by F.R. Scott about the Mackenzie King government:  

          "Let us do nothing by halves
           That can be done by quarters"

      We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. B. Franklin

      by Observerinvancouver on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 08:24:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Lots of amazing Canadian poets (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy, Randtntx, ichibon

      Not to go all nationalist Maple-Leafy on your ass, but here's just a few worth getting to know:

      Earle Birney
      Al Purdy
      Irving Layton
      Margaret Avison
      Eli Mandel
      Gwendolyn MacEwen
      Margaret Atwood
      Michael Ondaatje
      Raymond Souster
      Alden Nowlan
      John Newlove
      George Bowering
      EJ Pratt
      Duncan Campbell Scott
      Archibald Lampman
      AM Klein
      Ralph Gustafson
      Louis Dudek
      .... and those are just a few of the English-Canadian poets worth reading, not even beginning to scratch the surface or consider French language writers.

      Really not such a narrow niche.

      My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world - Jack Layton

      by terjeanderson on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 11:38:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wow, and you didn't even mention Terry Jacks! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ichibon, bigjacbigjacbigjac

        Goodbye to you, my trusted friend.
        We've known each other since we're nine or ten.
        Together we climbed hills or trees.
        Learned of love and ABC's,
        skinned our hearts and skinned our knees.

        Goodbye my friend, it's hard to die,
        when all the birds are singing in the sky,
        Now that the spring is in the air.
        Pretty girls are everywhere.
        When you see them I'll be there.
        We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.
        But the hills that we climbed
        were just seasons out of time.

        Goodbye, Papa, please pray for me,
        I was the black sheep of the family.
        You tried to teach me right from wrong.
        Too much wine and too much song,
        wonder how I get along.

        Goodbye, Papa, it's hard to die
        when all the birds are singing in the sky,
        Now that the spring is in the air.
        Little children everywhere.
        When you see them I'll be there.
        We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.
        But the wine and the song,
        like the seasons, all have gone.

        Goodbye, Michelle, my little one.
        You gave me love and helped me find the sun.
        And every time that I was down
        you would always come around
        and get my feet back on the ground.

        Goodbye, Michelle, it's hard to die
        when all the bird are singing in the sky,
        Now that the spring is in the air.
        With the flowers ev'rywhere.
        I wish that we could both be there.
        We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.
        But the stars we could reach
        were just starfishs on the beach

      •  Of all of these.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        UntimelyRippd, terjeanderson

        ....Margaret Atwood is the only name that would ring a bell with the average Canadian, and that's from her prose, not her poetry (which is a pity, since her poetry is better).

        That's not to say that the others are bad, though some of them are, to a painful extent. One that definitely deserves to be better known is Gwendolyn MacEwen:

        This land like a mirror turns you inward
        And you become a forest in a furtive lake;
        The dark pines of your mind reach downward,
        You dream in the green of your time,
        Your memory is a row of sinking pines.

        Explorer, you tell yourself this is not what you came for
        Although it is good here, and green;
        You had meant to move with a kind of largeness,
        You had planned a heavy grace, an anguished dream.

        But the dark pines of your mind dip deeper
        And you are sinking, sinking, sleeper
        In an elementary world;
        There is something down there and you want it told.

        Gwendolyn MacEwen, "Dark Pines Under Water," The Shadow Maker (1972)

        "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

        by sagesource on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 08:12:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The best thing about that poem is that it is (0+ / 0-)

          instantly recognizable as a Canadian poem.

          To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

          by UntimelyRippd on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 08:34:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I disagree... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Canada is a country where the vulgar, crass, and mindless aspects of "patriotism" (which is to say, all of it) are not as highly developed as in, for instance, a certain neighbor of ours. That's one of the things I like most about the place. No value is added to a poem because it is Canadian, nor is any value lost. At most, it can help to explain context and references -- and even then, since Canada is such a large nation with so many regions and ethnic groups and thank goodness, no "melting pot," it might be misleading.

            "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

            by sagesource on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 09:44:37 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, STC was big on patriotism -- (3+ / 0-)

              but of the sort that John Ralston Saul would label "positive nationalism", versus "negative nationalism": The sort that revels in the good things one finds in one's culture, the sort that doesn't dwell on insecurity about one's culture's perceived inferiority to another. It really, really pissed STC off that so many Canadians spent so much time looking wistfully and somewhat embarrassedly southward.

              For myself, I can hardly imagine that poem being written by anyone other than a Canadian. Possibly someone from northern Minnesota, or from Maine -- but if you simply showed it to me, without reference, I would immediately have thought: Way, way Canadian.

              To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

              by UntimelyRippd on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 10:26:56 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  How many US poets ring bell with average American? (0+ / 0-)

          Poetry in North America is hardly a mass pursuit.  There are only a tiny handful of US poets whose names (let alone whose work) would be widely recognised among Americans.

          As to whether some of the listed poets are "bad", I'd argue that they all have some poems of strength worth getting to know -  but many are dated, products of their time and prevailing cultural/artistic norms when they were writing.

          And definitely agree that MacEwen deserves to be much more widely read.

          My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world - Jack Layton

          by terjeanderson on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 06:58:08 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  John Ralston Saul argues that, due to factors (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        of history and geography (including the enormous influence of First Nations culture, something most white folks simply do not recognize), Canadian culture is fundamentally oral, in contrast to US culture which is fundamentally written, and that this helps to account for the large number of Canadian poets.

        I don't know how true that is -- I also tend to believe that Canada's social safety net means you can be a poet and still survive, even if you live in a crummy little apartment and work a crummy part-time job.

        If I really wanted to tick people off, I'd argue that the single greatest Canadian poem ever written was this 4-syllable minimalist masterpiece:

        To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

        by UntimelyRippd on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 09:06:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I am a huge hockey fan (5+ / 0-)

    and last night during the second intermission of the Montreal at the Carolina Hurricanes game - they played 'The Hockey Song' in its entirety without interruption and I stood and sang it, much to the amusement of my fellow fans.  I had to explain to many that Stompin' Tom Connors had died the day before.  

    He is as much of a poet as many.. and to ask any Canadian, they will tell you.. he sang about real life in Canada. AND he was one of the most PROUD CANADIANS of his time.. and my Canadian friends will tell you that too.

    Why do Republicans Hate Americans?

    by Caniac41 on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 08:30:16 AM PST

  •  So sad to hear this! (4+ / 0-)

    He was a true original. Canada should be lowering their flags in honor of their talented son.

    My sons are lifeguards at our local pool here in the states.  Last year on Canada Day they played the CD "25 of the Best Stompin' Tom Souvenirs" over and over again for the patrons. Some of the adults were downright hostile, but the boys just laughed it off.

    Rest in peace, Tom!  Like it or not, some of us Americans loved you, too.

    The man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the State because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government. -T. Roosevelt

    by rudeboy on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 09:51:26 AM PST

  •  Ahhh, the memories! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Maple Leaf Gardens. Leafs and the Habs. About 15 friends from work and me. Good seats. Hooting' and hollarin' our way through The Hockey Song, complete with foot stompin', until we were hoarse. Repeated a couple of times a year until I moved west, & the Leafs stopped winning, and the Gardens came down. Good times. (When I want to impress someone with how damned old I am, I tell them I'm so old I remember when the Leafs used to win the Stanley Cup. The response is usually: holy shit, you ARE old!)

    "Let's see what fresh fuckwittery the dolts can contrive to torment themselves with this time." -- The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

    by Skookum on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 10:35:59 AM PST

    •  1967 (0+ / 0-)

      I remember that too.

      BTW Maple Leaf Gardens didn't come down. The teams moved but the building is a designated historical building. And now I think a grocery store on the main floor. Haven't walked by there lately.

      •  Early 70s for me. (0+ / 0-)

        And you're right, of course, the building didn't physically "come down" -- although they were threatening demolition at one point. Don't know why I wrote it that way, an overdose of nostalgia maybe! LOL! I lived not far from the Gardens and used to walk by it. Harold Ballard would be getting out of his big black limo before games and always laughed when you told him to "give 'em hell, Harold". Used to see Alan Eagleston in the magazine/
        smoke shop on Yonge. Good hockey games, too. Man, I AM getting old!

        "Let's see what fresh fuckwittery the dolts can contrive to torment themselves with this time." -- The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

        by Skookum on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 08:40:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  EagleSON (0+ / 0-)

          Honestly, I should just quit while I'm ahead here . . . . Got himself disbarred for his shenanigans regardless, mind you.

          "Let's see what fresh fuckwittery the dolts can contrive to torment themselves with this time." -- The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

          by Skookum on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 08:43:45 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  My favorite player from the '67 Leafs was #13: (0+ / 0-)

        The great Hap Shaugnessy:

        To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

        by UntimelyRippd on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 08:50:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Stompin Tom and the Junos (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Randtntx, bigjacbigjacbigjac

    Ironic that your story mentioned the Juno Awards given Stompin' Tom's history with the Juno people.

    In 1978 Connors returned the 6 awards he had won and announced that in the future he would boycott the awards, not accepting any future nominations or awards.

    His reason was the frustration that many Juno award winners (Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, etc) were Canadian born artists who had long ago moved to the USA, taken up American citizenship, and maintained dubious connection to their homeland. As an ardent Canadian nationalist, he felt honouring these performers as "Canadian" artists was an insult to the artists who continued to live and work in Canada, and that it hurt efforts to support Canadian music.

    Connors was very politically aware, self-consciously working class, and quite proud of his 50 year union membership.  

    Jian Gomeshi (host of the CBC show "Q") yesterday replayed an interview he did with Connors about 2 1/2 years ago... well worth a listen

    Stompin' Tom on Q

    My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world - Jack Layton

    by terjeanderson on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 11:24:25 AM PST

  •  Tillsonburg, Tillsonburg (0+ / 0-)

    My back still aches when I hear that word.

  •  None of the above. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lcbo, mitumba

    It's a tossup between Gordon Lightfoot and Stan Rogers.

    You can't keep a mighty tree alive (much less expect it to thrive) by only spritzing the fine leaves at its tippy-top. The fate of the whole tree depends on nurturing the grassroots. - Jim Hightower

    by PSzymeczek on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 12:50:23 PM PST

  •  How about a list that includes actual poets? (0+ / 0-)

    You know, people who write poetry and not songs? You are really rather insulting to the lively and vital poetry scene by pretending that poets don't exist and songwriters are the new poets. Poetry is alive and well in Canada, and my vote goes to Erin Mouré.

    Why does reading poetry amount to being a snob in your book, whereas listening to music doesn't? Why do you insist on ignoring creative people who have dedicated their life's work to the actual craft of the art form known as poetry? And what's wrong with being a great songwriter? Isn't that good enough? Why do they also have to be the greatest poets?

    I have friends who are both, and the song writers I know understand quite well that there is a difference between poetry and song. Leonard Cohen respects poetry as well as songwriting. Is he a snob too in your book?

    "Microscopes are prudent in an emergency." -- Emily Dickinson

    by godotnut on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 12:50:38 PM PST

    •  if i send you a bright shiny beaver nickel, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      do you think could buy a sense of humor?

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 01:00:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  And by the way: (0+ / 0-)

      The instant you classified "people who write poetry and not songs" as actual poets you planted yourself very firmly, nevermind humorlessly, in the snob category. You do not get to be the arbiter of what "actual" poetry is -- and indeed, I defy you to try to define it. (Note: I do not challenge you to do so, I defy you to do so. I suggest you do not waste your time trying.)

      To steal a meme from Ratatouille: Anybody can be an actual poet. You don't have to be published, and you certainly aren't disqualified just because you sing your poems, any more than Yeats should be disqualified for chanting his poems -- though I understand that music permits poets -- especially, but not exclusively, lazy poets -- to get away with lines they otherwise would not.

      Is Joni Mitchell an actual poet? Why don't you ask her? (Do you recognize that sentence, by the way?) Is she disqualified because almost nobody is interested in any of the poems she has written, other than the ones she has set to music?

      Is Gordon Lightfoot? Or is the little ditty below insufficiently buried in inscrutable imagery and metaphor?

      All is well
      I've left the cold midwestern towns behind.
      There's a semi up the road ahead, I'll take him in my time
      For the hot-blooded mountain love is calling me again
      And the vagabond within me cries
      The wind and rain might burn my eyes
      but I won't feel the pain
      For the mountains and Marian will greet me there as only she can do ...
      Well? Does it rely too heavily on the shared familiarity of the audience with the scenes being described in order to evoke so much ... so much ... sense of being there ... with such simple and common vocabulary and idiom? Does it compare unfavorably in its actualness with the great, published, and very actual Canadian poem, God Sour the Milk of the Knacking Wench?

      Is Neil Young a poet? After all, this is at least pretty damned cryptic, in addition to being utterly haunting:

      i am a lonely visitor
      i came too late to cause a stir
      though i campaigned all my life towards that goal

      i hardly slept the night you wept
      your secret's safe and still well kept
      where even richard nixon has got soul

      Jesus, I just got a chill reading that back over in the preview. Of course, I can also hear the music in my mind, so I guess it's not actually poetry, because igspledig.

      Is Steven Page actually a poet?

      Drove downtown in the rain
      Nine-thirty on a Tuesday night
      Just to check out the late night record shop
      Call it impulsive, call it compulsive, you can call it insane
      But when I'm surrounded I just can't stop
      What about Ed Robertson? This excerpt is from the middle of "Bank Job". It's not necessarily the best part, but it has the virtue of not spoiling the song's element of surprise for those who've never heard it before. But feel free to view the embedded vid for the delicious full effect. All I can tell you is this: The average book of "actual poems" contains damned few, if any, pieces that I would rather have written than this beautiful lofty thing:
      Inside the police car you tried to explain
      Your crisis of conscience, the voice in your brain
      And now that the whole thing has gone down the drain
      I think we all know who should shoulder the blame

      'Cause you made a choice there, almost sublime
      I'm all for compassion, just not on my dime
      You look like an amateur, and that's the real crime
      So I'll take a walk now, and you do the time

      Here's the embed. I could have chosen a live concert performance in front of a big crowd, but I figure a guy sitting in his bathroom recording himself singing to his computer is, maybe, you know, more in keeping with the self-image of all those actual poets ...

      In the end, here's what really ticks me off about your comment: The art and craft of Poetry, if they are about anything at all, are about language. If you want to bust out the nunchucks with me in a throwdown over Poetry, which is to say, the artful, masterful application of language, you'd do best not to start by failing to carefully read what I originally wrote, and then challenging me on the basis of some weird straw man. If you read poetry with comparable carelessness, I'm surprised you find it very intellectually compelling.

      In any case, I begin to suspect that indeed, you consider yourself a poet, actual or aspiring, which is entirely okay by me, and if in fact you do, here is my wish and blessing upon you: I hope that someday, somewhere, in the exercise of your craft, you have, or may yet, write a couplet that compares with this one:

      i hardly slept the night you wept
      your secret's safe and still well kept

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 10:16:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You call me humorless? (0+ / 0-)

        I didn't say songs suck. I said they are songs. I like almost all of the songwriters you praised. I'm a huge Joni Mitchell fan. But what these songwriters understand, and you seem not to, is that songs don't have to be some other art form in order to be great.

        "The art and craft of Poetry, if they are about anything at all, are about language."

        Shocking! So are speeches, short stories, novels, rants, blog posts, etc.

        "Microscopes are prudent in an emergency." -- Emily Dickinson

        by godotnut on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 01:36:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Also, (0+ / 0-)

        you just responded to my comment by insulting what you speculated was my capacity for poetry? Really? Think about that.

        Talk about humorless. What wit!

        You have no clue what you are talking about, who I am, what I do. But for what it's worth, I'm just someone who loves the written word as well as music and understands that just as there is a difference between a memoir and a story, there is a difference between a poem and a song.

        Musicians and songwriters are doing just fine and don't need to move into the poet laureate market.

        "Microscopes are prudent in an emergency." -- Emily Dickinson

        by godotnut on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 01:43:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Certainly I have a clue. (0+ / 0-)

          You've given us several clues.

          And where, pray tell, did I "speculate" with respect to your capacity as a poet. I've no notion what that may be, but I wished you, fairly sincerely, success. If you think you've written better couplets than the exemplar I gave, good on you -- perhaps you have, in which case, I'm impressed.

          As to the difference between a poem and a song: You can say there is a difference, but that doesn't make it so -- more especially, it doesn't establish that All Poems are Not Songs and All Songs are Not Poems. Either way, the pedantic, scholastic obsession with technical classification is a fool's game.

          Beyond which, both of your latest responses to my comment continue to demonstrate a disregard for what I have written, preferring to take issue with some other set of concepts more amenable to your refutation. Whateverage, mcdude. For someone who claims to love the written word, your relationship with it seems to be weirdly casual.

          To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

          by UntimelyRippd on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 11:40:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  In 1990s, I was living in Houston, TX (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Randtntx, bigjacbigjacbigjac

    and a certain DJ on the public radio station would play Stomping Tom Connors.  I ran into her one time at a concert and mentioned that I liked the Stomping Tom Connors songs that she played  She told me that the radio station limited her to playing two of his songs per shift.  Although, I saw Leonard Cohen in concert last October and he and his band were just amazing.  The way he gets down on one knee to sing his songs is a sight to behold.  

  •  I'm convinced (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The Hockey Song on the Conan O'Brien show convinced me. I've never seen a group of Canadians that enthusiastic about anything.

  •  One of my Canadian FB friends posted about this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I almost replied that it would be the first ever funeral where the choir sang "The Hockey Song". Then I remembered that it's Canada, so I was most likely categorically wrong.

    RIP, Tom.

    The last time the Republicans were this radical, they were working to elect former slaves to Congress. What a difference a century and a half makes!

    by jayjaybear on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 03:12:17 PM PST

  •  I'm pretty clueless about Canadian anything. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My favorite thing about Canada is that,
    back in the day,
    when it was fashionable for various groups
    around the world
    who were part of the British Empire
    to gain some kind of home rule,
    the Canadians did it by....
    I don't know enough Canadian history to know
    what the heck they did,
    but I read somewhere,
    maybe it was here at Daily Kos University,
    I read that the Canadians actually stayed,
    under the British crown.

    The American way,
    then and now,
    seems to be,
    get some guns and shoot a lot of people.

    I like examples of other ways to skin such a cat.

    On the topic of poetry,
    from Canadians,
    I like Gordon Lightfoot,
    especially his song,
    The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

     Does anyone know where the love of God goes
    when the waves turn the minutes to hours?  

    I really don't like the water,
    anything larger than a swimming pool,
    five feet deep.

    The ocean,
    or even Lake Superior,
    or even a good sized pond,
    it's too big;
    you think you can handle it....

    As I understand,
    the least likely ship to sink
    would be a ship

     With a load of iron ore
    twenty six thousand tons more
    than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,  

    That song gives me the willies,
    and reminds me why I don't like getting on a boat.

     All that remains
    are the faces and the names
    of the wives and the sons and the daughters.  

    All these quotes are from memory,
    so there might be a mistake or two.

    Most of the other poets in this diary,
    including the one who just died,
    I've never heard of.

    I feel a desire to comment on the argument,
    between the diarist
    and the commentor who argued that songs are not poems.

    I'm not writing lightly when I write this:

    You are both correct.

    I write that from my personal paradox,
    if you feel it's a paradox:

    For at least two years now,
    I've been writing everything I write here at Daily Kos
    in the format you see here:

    I choose my words carefully,
    I choose my punctuation carefully,
    and I choose my line breaks very carefully,
    to show the reader where I would pause
    if we were speaking face to face.

    Some call this well written free verse poetry;
    others call it words that are hard to read.

    (Those folks find poetry hard to read?)

    My wife says it's not poetry,
    but she's a speed reader,
    with a PhD to prove it,
    and she says it's great,
    much easier and faster to read than lines all the way across the page.

    I truly admire anyone
    who can write a great melody,
    a catchy tune,
    as they say.

    I tried it once,
    and it seemed a little too much like a song I knew,
    and the other song was much better.
    (Wayfaring Stranger)


    Those who say a song has it's place in the arts,
    and it's not a poem,
    for those who feel that way,
    you are correct.

    For those who notice,
    as I do,
    that unless we actively seek out poetry outside of songs,
    we hear no modern poetry,
    and we should acknowledge the poetry
    in the lyrics of the popular songs we hear,
    and the songwriters are the best paid,
    and most famous,
    you are correct.

    and the diarist suspected that the commentor
    had ambitions and feelings
    of being a poet himself?

    I know I do.

    I may sound arrogant,
    but not only do I enjoy my work,
    including this comment,
    but on a few occasions,
    my work has inspired one or the other of my fans
    to write breathtaking poetry,
    in praise of me?  as a man?
    or my poetry?

    One such line:

    you are the stars on a cloudless night.  

    Is that borrowed from a famous poem?

    Even if it is,
    I bask in the glow
    of such words directed towards me.

    when I die,
    someone will write that I was
    one of the best poets who ever lived.

    That's a harmless daydream, isn't it?

    Thanks for reading.

    •  Canada hides its complexities behind (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      easygoing howzitgoinehs and broadly painted mythologies. It's been doing this for so long that more than half the population no longer remembers the true story of the nation, being instead bamboozled by the dividers and the charlatans. Sometimes, the truth is more obvious to the outsider, like the visiting dignitary who, reflecting on the tension between French and English, observed, "Canada is a solution in search of a problem." Sometimes, though, the truth rises up and makes itself very, very clear, as when, during the last Quebec referendum crisis, many English Canadians, despite years of being jerked around by the separatists, despite having been well-propagandized to hate on the French, adopted the slogan, "My Canada includes Quebec." Of course, even then the dividers and charlatans tried to misrepresent that as English Canadians asserting dominion, when what they were asserting was the indivisible identity of the nation.

      As far as I'm concerned, a song is a poem you sing. It might or might not be a very good poem, standing by itself -- the poet may cheat, and rely on the music to carry on through the weaker parts. The temptation is strong. Good poetry is hard. (A prof of mine once observed, "It's a lot easier to write bad poetry than bad fiction, but harder to write good poetry than good fiction.") For some poets, the more difficult the challenge, the better -- thus, Frost's remark that writing poetry without rhyme was like playing tennis without a net. Maybe that was true for Frost -- or maybe to the contrary, free verse was something Frost couldn't do well, because without the constraints of rhyme and meter, he couldn't focus his choice of language. Who knows?

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Sat Mar 09, 2013 at 12:04:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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