Something in me says there should be more new pieces here since the last post, as I have several partially completed things, but the distress of folks around me pulls me several ways away from that. The distress hints that this music and poetry stuff should yield to more pressing problems, and then the unpredictability of the distress primes a sense of anxious alertness mixed with weariness. Though I’m at home, I feel like I’m in a medical waiting room, perhaps outside an Emergency Department, waiting for what it is that will be, in some not predictable soon, be said. As waiting people do, I read and do random things, anything having nothing to do with the matters at hand. Nothing too absorbing, for I don’t know when I will need to put it down.
But I’ll also say this, poetry has managed to stick itself into this state nonetheless. Poems can be as small as house mice, there’s always some place they can sift or scrunch their way in. And so it was early this morning when I saw this poem by Frank O’Hara “Now that I am in Madrid and I can think.” I found it could be fit to an already composed musical piece I had done late last month, and so I put them together this afternoon. If you’d like to read the text of this poem, here’s a link to that.
This is a love poem, and more specifically a poem about separation from the beloved, and O’Hara’s language is as beautifully askew and full of charming scatteration as any of his more well-known poems. If I had time and an inclined mood, I could write at length about his musical language here and his turns of phrase: “The slender heart you are sharing my share of, “See (sea) a vast bridge stretching,” and “The lungs I have felt sonorously, subside, slowly.” There’s this intimacy interrupted, the separation of bodies and their encased lives. The title says the speaker in the poem can now think. Well, they have constructed a fine thing, something that takes some smarts, some wit, but what they have constructed is a set of feelings outweighing any thoughtful aesthetic pleasures of travel.
The exciting places in Madrid Frank O’Hara is ignoring to think of his beloved. Oh— this is Madrid, Iowa! Iowans can tell out-of-staters by how they can’t get the French pronunciation of Des Moines right, and then they’ll see if they’ll correctly say this town’s name as “Mad-Rid.”
Perhaps this is why this poem snuck in between the trivia and my nervous time-passers. Here the illustrious culture of Spain is obscured by the distress and longing of separation. The poem finishes with one of O’Hara’s fine last lines. Do I want the empty world, the world without art? Yes, sometimes, but only by the choices of joined desire.
From the times I’ve listened to recordings of Frank O’Hara reading, I suspect he’d be more off-hand and playful in reading his poem than I was, but my reading reflects my current mood. The music for today’s performance is dense and urgent, I will not dance much about its architecture right now, but you can hear it with the player gadget below — or if that’s not visible as you read this, with this alternative highlighted link.