Thursday, October 4, 2007


From the Archives

(May 2005) Found the words and chords to the old Leadbelly song "Bourgeois Blues" a while back and hashed out a tune on the guitar. I've never heard the recorded version, so don’t know if my approach is anything like Leadbelly's, but do like the one I created.
Listen here people, listen to me. Don’t try to find no home down in Washington, DC. Lawd it’s a bourgeois town. oh it's a bourgeois town. I got the bourgeois blues—gonna spread the news around.

White folks in Washington they know how to throw a colored man a nickel just to see him bow. Lawd it's a bourgeois town. Oh it's a bourgeois town. I got the bourgeois blues—gonna spread the news around.


I played it for a pal today and she said my voice is perfectly suited for rot-gut blues. Taught her a few chords too in the coruse of introducing her to Lucinda Williams’s and GIllian Welch's music.

I'm thinking Dm and A7 and B7 and G and C can take her a long ways with them—and everyone needs to learn how to play Lucinda's "Hot Love."

Lucinda’s songs aren’t even complicated really, and some of her rhymes make me laugh out loud. Example: The sun's so hot and my heart is thumping. Let me buy you a beer or somethin’. You’ve been traveling a hard road. Sit down Bill and lighten your load. .

I love her twang and her passion, and find her allusions to American poets wonderful.

Lucinda's father runs the Arkansas writing program and is a really good translator.

One of the poets associated with the program committed suicide years ago and this shows up in her songs from time to time (see "Lake Charles," "Pineola," and "Sweet Old World," especially).

So here’s a Miller Williams translation that I really like. The poem is by Nicanor Parra (1914–), a Chilean academic who refused to leave the country after the coup that brought Pinochet to power. Instead he established himself as a voice of dissent.

Carolyn Forché says that Parra's poetry "imparts a quality of multiple estrangement and exemplifies his deep commitment to what he calls anti-poetry—a rejection of poetic language and conventions” (from her brilliant compilation Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness).

by Nicanor Parra
(translated by Miller Williams)

Let’s no fool ourselves.
The automobile is a wheelchair
A lion is made of lambs
Poets have no biographies
Death is a collective habit
Children are born to be happy
Reality has a tendency to fade away
Fucking is a diabolical act
God is a good friend of the poor.

I scratched that poem onto a piece of silver paper with a nail and posted it on my bulletin board at work. People never fail to comment on it too.

In other news, I came across a sobering statistic about our depreciating currency today. The US's deficit in international transactions reached $666 billion in 2004, which is up 24 percent from 2003. That’s 5.7 percent of the economy (2–3 times what economists generally consider sustainable) ... but Shrub is a compassionate conservative looking after our money, right?

So here’s my obscure joke of the day: Q. What nationality are you? A. Depreciating currency.

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