I’ve been tardy in many things for this project lately — but let me get on to recounting which pieces were most liked and listened to during the past quarter.
It may be a bit strange to revisit a winter we are glad to be emerging from, but poetry is about remembrance of all kinds of emotions and experiences. Which ones did the Parlando Project readers and listeners most connect with?
As we usually do, this is a countdown, so we start with the 10th most listened to and liked piece, and then over the next few posts we’ll move on to the most popular this winter. The bold-faced titles are links to the original post that introduced the piece in case you want to read what I wrote then.
10 Trifles – I Know What Stillness Is by Susan Glaspell. I wanted to do something special for this project’s 500th audio piece, and I decided to try to use some words from my distant relative who was herself a figure in the Modernist revolution of the early 20th Century that I mine for many of the pieces used here. Glaspell is not a poet like most writers I present, but this short scene is from what remains her most famous work: a still effective short play about two women who have accompanied their husbands who are charged with investigating a murder* in a remote 1900 Iowa farmhouse. At this point in the play, we know that a farmer has been strangled there and that his wife, Minnie, has been taken into custody as a suspect, even though there is some doubt that a small, quiet woman could have had the motivation and strength to commit such an act.
While the men continue their very official investigation, the two women discover a dead canary entombed in a fancy box and connect it with the lonely life of the farmwife. Should they tell their husbands what they found?
I solved a difficult problem by treating this scene as “poetic” enough to work with the music and then locating a dialog performance that let me avoid trying to do the voices of the two women myself. I’m also quite proud of the music I composed for this one. You can hear it one of two ways: this highlighted hyperlink, or for some of you, a player gadget below.
Susan Glaspell getting her work done. Per the radio-play practical audio-effects tradition: in the wintertime it’s nice to sit next to the crinkling cellophane and work on your manuscript.
9 The world is a beautiful place by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I bent the rules to publish this older performance that Dave Moore and the LYL Band did with my off-the-cuff reading of a piece from Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind collection that so many treasured decades ago. These words are not in the public domain, and I had never received a reply when I sent in inquiry about presenting them here a few years back, but on the occasion of Ferlinghetti’s death I felt I had to share this with you, some of whom are among those that treasured those words.
But maybe some of you hadn’t “met” Ferlinghetti’s words before. Buy or read his book and meet more. Perhaps a few of you have an idea that the label “Beat Poetry” requires a dour and slack protest, a litany of muttered and solipsistic defeat. Maybe that’s not so.
This highlighted hyperlink will play the performance, or you can use the player gadget some of you will see below.
.8 Escape by Georgia Douglas Johnson. I still know little about this “Harlem Renaissance” writer who wasn’t actually located in 1920s New York City. As time for this project gets harder to locate, I still hope to remedy that. Despite my deteriorating ability to complete new pieces, I made an extra effort this year to do work celebrating Black History Month this February, using work found in the landmark The New Negro anthology published in 1925. “Escape” was the one that found the most favor with this Project’s current audience.
Musically, I used the magic of MIDI “virtual instruments” to pay tribute to the Afro-American fiddler tradition, playing the featured violin part on my MIDI pickup guitar. At the end of the recorded performance, I tacked on a verse by the altogether unrelated Moondog, a musician who ironically was connected to New York City. Here’s the link to hear my performance, or if you see it, you can use the player gadget below.
*Glaspell was able to use her earlier reporting on an actual Iowa murder case as matter in her ground-breaking play.