It’s time for the seasonal tallying of the pieces presented here that received the most listens and likes from you during the past three months.
We presented 36 or 37 pieces in that time, including our increased posting activity during April’s National Poetry Month, but the most notable event for me during this interval was May, which became the most active month ever here for both blog visits and audio piece streams. I’m grateful that you’ve lent this effort some of your attention, and that goes double for any of you that helped spread the word about what we do here informally or through things like Facebook and Twitter.
As usual we’re going to follow the count-down format, moving from the 10th most popular piece as determined by your listens and likes and moving up to the most popular one.
10. Sweet Thames. It was a close finish with Charlotte Mew’s “The Trees are Down,” but one part of our ongoing annual April serial performance of “The Waste Land” made it into the Top Ten. “Sweet Thames,” the portion that kicks off that poem’s longest section “The Fire Sermon” was the part that made it, while the rest did not. Perhaps the listens/likes were lower because I warned our audience that “The Waste Land,” and particularly “The Fire Sermon” part of it, is not light entertainment, and things only got darker as “The Fire Sermon” continues after this. “Sweet Thames” may seem to have jaunty parts, particularly the catchy Mrs. Porter section near the end, but even that has dark undertones as it was sung by the ANZAC troops heading for the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in WWI.
I did like the music I composed and played for it though, mixing some buzzy synth lines with American delta-blues style slide guitar. Listen to it here:
You could think of Dr. Tearle’s 3 minutes of video here as the trailer if “The Waste Land” was a film. Definitely not a date movie then.
9. Smoke and Steel. Frequent visitors here know my love for Carl Sandburg, and the Sandburg piece that made our Spring Top 10 was a selection I took from the longer poem that is the title piece from his 1920 collection Smoke and Steel.
I found Sandburg’s extended metaphor of our working lives as smoke incredibly moving, something that a few of you must have agreed with. Musically, the toughest part was the piano part, the song’s musical hook. It’s not a complicated part, but I had to record it in two passes on my tiny plastic keyboard due to my naïve piano skills. Here’s the gadget to hear it.
Sandburg greets Richard Wilbur, Amiri Baraka, and Frank O’Hara at the start of a 20th century poetry symposium. “All poets must wear a hard hat and steel-toed boots before entering the typewriter area.”
8. The Aim Was Song. Robert Frost’s ode to the genesis of poetry gave me an excuse to break out with an unapologetic electric lead-guitar song. The poem’s text talks about wind being shaped by the mouth, which may have clued me into using one of the oldest electric guitar effects devices: the wah-wah. The wah-wah is a foot-treadle pedal which when moved sweeps a frequency-band emphasis. The sweep of frequency seems to be changing the note as it sounds, like a jaw-harp or a horn plunger-mute. The player gadget for “The Aim Was Song” is below.
Wah-Wah Robert Frost
Next time we’ll continue the count-down with numbers 7 through 5.