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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Born Yesterday

Seeing as how Joyce knew the poem I mentioned by Philip Larkin called "Churchgoing", I figured I'd post my favorite P Larkin poem, "Born Yesterday". It may even be my favorite poem by anyone, although it has stiff competition from Bob Dylan's "Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie". I'll post that one another day, although it's quite long. I love "Born Yesterday" so much that I lifted the title for one of my own (there's an old T.S. Eliot quote that says "immature poets imitate, mature poets steal", i'll refer to that for my own selfish interests). "Born Yesterday" is one of those poems that is so great you'd wish you written it yourself, & Larkin's poem is what made me want to write a poem for my nieces & nephew.

I can't remember the professor's name that introduced it to me, but I remember his face & I remember the passion with which he explained it to us. I thought, like many young college students, that poetry was rather silly & inconsequential, until I met this professor. He was a rather slovenly character, who you thought would be better suited to changing oil, or serving drinks. Maybe that was part of what made is passion for poetry so astonishing, that such an ordinary character could be so interested in a well turned phrase. I don't think he much cared about what grade you got in the class, or if you went to grad school or not, I think his sole purpose for teaching that course was that you understood this poem, although he only spent half of a class period talking about it. It was enough for me. I can't remember much of the rest of the British Literature class, in fact, it was just now that I remembered that it was a British Literature class.

There's so much truth to that poem, I almost wish every parent would constantly read it to their children. The poem was written for Philip Larkin's best friend Kingsley Amis's daughter, Sally, after her birth. Enough blabbering from me, over to you, Phil:

Born Yesterday
for Sally Amis

By Philip Larkin

Tightly-folded bud,
I have wished for you something
None of the others would:
Not the usual stuff
About being beautiful,
Or running off a spring
Of innocence & love -
They all wish you that,
And should it prove possible,
Well, you're a lucky girl.

But if it shouldn't, then
May you be ordinary;
Have, like other women,
An average of talents:
Not ugly, not good-looking,
Nothing uncustomary
To pull you off your balance,
That, unworkable itself,
Stops all the rest from working.
In fact, may you be dull -
If that is what a skilled,
Vigilant, flexible,
Unemphasised, enthralled,
Catching of happiness is called.

20 January 1954

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Just a Closer Walk With Thee-Dave Van Ronk, The Folkways Years

The most distinct voice from the Greenwich Village Folk Scene of the early sixties sings a great spiritual. I wish I could post an mp3 or something of this one, it would blow you away. The Mayor of McDougal Street, indeed.

The Sporting Life-The Decemberists, Picaresque

Looking back at childhood, I feel bad for those kids whose parents took their sports so seriously.

"But there's my father looking on, and there's my girlfriend arm & arm, with the captain of the other team and all of this is clear to me, they condescend to fix on me a frown, how they love the sporting life!"

Life Worth Livin'-Uncle Tupelo, No Depression

Time Has Told Me-Nick Drake, Five Leaves Left

Nick Drake has one of those tragic voices that you can't ignore, this song is a perfect example of this, where his songwriting perfectly meshes with his voice. The only voice that can compare is Nico's, I don't think you can listen to the both of them in the same day.

Up to Me-Bob Dylan, Biograph

The last verse of this song would make the perfect epitaph for any songwriter:

"If we never meet again, baby, remember me, how my lone guitar played sweet for you, that old time melody. And the harmonica around my neck, I blew it for ya free, no one else could play that tune, ya know it was up to me."

Happy Tuesday, friends...

andrew






5 comments:

Heidi said...

Very nice!! Almost as good as yours!
For everyone else, he wrote poems for all of the kids when they were born. See my blog for a post of Avery's! They are all so goodand touching! I can actually read them now, he gave them to us right after the kids were all born, and it was really hard to read them with all of the hormones!

Pam said...

I had a hard time reading them, too, without welling up and I didn't have a hormone thing going at the time. Love ya Andy.

Pam said...

P.S. I love P. Larkin's version also. That's a wonderful wish for all my children!

Amanda said...

That's a nice poem; I have to agree with Heidi, though...*almost* as good as yours to Avery! And I don't think I've heard any of these songs...I should try to get out more.

Joyce said...

Thank you for reintroducing me to Philip Larkin. If a few of his poems hadn't made their way into the seventh grade literature book I used to teach from, I probably wouldn't even know who he is. Teaching is still the best way to learn. As soon as I finish this comment, I get to read Avery's poem.

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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...