Jan 21, 2015
For the first Snapshots of the New Year, we bring you music! The following three books are distinctly musical, but they also all make sure to remind us of how important silence is to both music and poetry.
The Music of Leaving
Tricia McCallum is a two time winner of the Goodreads Poetry Contest. Her writing is simple, observant, and strongly narrative. The Music of Leaving, as described by Demeter Press, is about the "distinct soulful music that we often hear, however faintly, in the background of our lives." The book reaches its peak near the end, when McCallum begins to strip back the narrative in order to reveal the profound music of everyday observations: "My memory has been good to you since you left. / It's taken you and buffed your sharp edges, / polished up your one-liners, / edited your conversations for wit / and sensitivity. /[...] Even your eyes aren't that blue." The Music of Leaving is a fairly quick read, but its influence is sudden and just might just catch you off guard.
Chamber Music: The Poetry of Jan Zwicky
Wilfred Laurier University Press
Chamber Music: The Poetry of Jan Zwicky is the first ever anthology of Zwicky's poems. The collection begins with a beautiful introduction by Darren Bifford and Warren Heiti before it plunges into the lovely, philosophical, and deeply musical poetry within. Zwicky, as a violinist as well as poet and philosopher, has always been acutely musical. In Chamber Music we see not only her experimentation with (musically) poetic forms, but we also witness her written contemplations on pieces such as Mozart or Glenn Gould's performance of Bach's "Italian" Concerto. However, despite the rich collection of poems within the book, Zwicky's focus is clearly on the beauty and music of silence: "One sees with the greatest clarity, / sees nothing." Beyond being a great window into musical poetry, Chamber Music is also a wonderful introduction for anyone who has not yet encountered Zwicky's work. But beware, her writing is addicting and her "language could bend light."
Albrecht Dürer and Me
David Zieroth's Albrecht Dürer and Me is less obliquely about poetry than the other two featured books, however music is still always lingering in the subtext. Sometimes, much like Zwicky's work, Zieroth will focus on his response to a specific piece, such as in the poem "on first hearing Mahler's Fifth" which he describes as "mellow and unmelodic / depths that vanish into ears of listeners where nests of / feelings up till then half note (half unwanted) / fill with formless murmurs from a forgotten life of fury." Zieroth's poems ramble on somewhat ceaselessly and much like music. Ideas, words, and days slide into one another as Zieroth records, through poetry, his travels through central Europe. One of the most poignant pieces in the collection is the one entitled "Travelling Without Earplugs," a sort of poetic recreation of John Cage's 4'33''. I encourage you to read it for yourself, without earplugs, in a strange location, and listen to what you hear, such as the "birds / new to [you] singing in Italian."