Saturday, July 31, 2010

Agnès Varda - Gleaner of Everyday Life

All film buffs know the French Nouvelle Vague (or New Wave) of course—even more casual enthusiasts are familiar with the works of Goddard, Truffaut, Demy et al.  But there is one of the New Wave who’s still with us, tho she isn’t as well known by the public at large.  That relative obscurity is a shame—at least—because her works are as filled with high artistry & inspiration as those of her more famous colleagues.  That filmmaker is Agnès Varda.

Eberle & I have been on an Agnès Varda spree of late—a whirlwind of beautiful & inspired films.  Actually, until a few months ago, neither of us had seen any of Varda’s films except for Sans toit ni loiVagabond as it’s called in the States or Without Roof or Law (a literal translation) in other English speaking countries.  We both saw the film at Vinegar Hill Theater in Charlottesville, VA; I recall that I found the film beautifully made & powerful—but so powerful as to be harrowing.  Eberle says quite straightforwardly that Vagabond changed her life.  I found it quite interesting that when we saw Varda’s 2008 cinematic autobiography, Les plages d'Agnès (in English, The Beaches of Agnes), she talks about how Sans toit ni loi was born out of rage—rage at the marginalized & oppressed condition of women (it’s telling that Varda discusses the film against a filmed backdrop of women’s rights protests), but also about her marginalization as almost the only woman, along with Marguerite Duras, within French cinema. 

There is no question that Sans toit ni loi is a great film, but it may not be the best introduction to Varda’s work—at least in my opinion (Eberle might disagree with me on this).  During our recent Varda watching spree, we’ve seen La Pointe-Courte (Varda’s debut film in 1955), L'opéra-mouffe (The Diary of a Pregnant Woman, 1958), Cléo de 5 à 7 (Cleo from 5 to 7 from 1962), Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners & I, 2002) & Les plages d'Agnès.  In these films we were struck by Varda’s focus on the ordinary objects & appurtenances of everyday life—her eye for detail—& a focus that can morph readily from surreality to candid realism.  Varda’s films also celebrate process, whether following the real time movement of a woman awaiting a possibly serious diagnosis in Cléo de 5 à 7 or her detailing the process of gleaning in Les glaneurs et la glaneuse—in case you don’t know, gleaning is picking up what is left over after a harvest.  & despite her treatment of serious themes, her films are always inviting to watch.

Agnès Varda began her artistic career as a photographer, & you can see this background in the composition of her shots—many stills from her films would be art photographs in their own right.  She combines this with a thorough feminist vision & a fierce love of life combined with a keen sense of social justice.  I’ve added four clips from her films—I know that’s a lot, but I’ve selected short ones (& sorry—the definition on the Vagabond clip isn’t so great.)  The clips should give at least some sense of these characteristics.

Some of Ms Varda’s 47 films are available on DVD.  The Criterion Collection has issued a must have set called 4 by Agnès Varda (La Pointe Courte, Cléo from 5 to 7, Le bonheur, Vagabond), & The Beaches of Agnes, The Gleaners & I & Vagabond also are available.  All of these except for Le bonheur are also current NetFlix selections.

Hope you find the clips intriguing, & please do check out the marvelous films of Agnès Varda.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Homegrown Radio 7/30/10

It’s Friday, so I hope you’re ready for some Homegrown Radio.  This is our last week with Sister Exister, but don’t worry—Homegrown Radio won’t miss a beat in August as we’ll have a musical offering from Carrie Bradley Neves every week.  Carrie is a fantastically talented musician & songwriter, & has played in groups such as Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, the Buckets, the Breeders, 100 Watt Smile & the Great Auk.  If you’d like to check out Carrie’s Musical Questions interview here on Robert Frost’s Banjo, you can do so right here.

But I’m glad we have one more week with Sister Exister—& don’t forget, you can check out her fiction & poetry here on alternate Tuesdays in her incarnation as L.E. Leone.  Now, let’s see what Sister Exister has to say about this week’s song, “Bowling Ball.”

Well, the percussion took me forever this time. The beat's a little ambitious for me. The bassline I played on the e-string of an old beater beach guitar with 90-year-old strings on it. I found it behind the piano at Tami's house, where I was house- and dog-sitting. It's a beautiful intrument, Tami's piano. Shiny and new. I almost hated to put little stickers on the keys, and then I did forget to take them off, to my later embarrassment. The piano does not "appear" on this recording, because it sounded way too good for my purposes, and I couldn't figure out how to quite muddy it up. Like most of my songs, I wrote this one in the car. And just sang it and sang it and sang it until I got it down. Now it's yours!


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Eberle’s Homegrown Cherry Pie

Happy Thursday, folks!  Hope you have a good appetite this morning.

Eberle says that her recipe for a cherry pie begins as follows: “Plant a cherry tree.”  We are so lucky to have two pie cherry trees in our garden, & they are very hardy & consistent producers, too.  Springs in Indian Valley, Idaho can be unpredictable.  On the whole, they tend to come pretty early, but we can be cursed with a late freeze that will wipe out peaches & pears & even plums.  But the cherry trees always seem to hang in there & produce a bounteous crop in July & August.

Once you’ve planted your cherry tree & it’s grown & producing cherries (or you find another supply of same), Eberle suggests the following:

For the pie filling:

2-½ cups of pie cherries
2 Tbsp of tapioca
1-¼ cups of sugar

Warm the pie filling ingredients until the tapioca is dissolved.

For the pie crust:

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
6 Tbsp (¾ stick) unsalted butter, cut in pieces & cold
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp of ice water

After you have formed your dough, refrigerate it for 1 hour.

Then bake the crust at 425 degrees for 8 minutes before adding the pie filling.  After 8 minutes, turn the oven down to 375, add the filling & bake until the crust is golden brown.

I think you can handle it from there! 

Have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Union Pacific #7

A gray board-&-batten shack in Owyhee
            sagebrush in a drizzle no one’s in-
                    side hasn’t been for years two
empty windows barbed 

            wire fence strung on weathered splits lining the 
ridge southward

            What’s anyone else about
at this moment or at this moment
            a tanker truck downshifting up an eastbound grade three
Harleys churning a mist on US 95
                        a stone gray sky

            anyone in California anywhere
                    under a lemon sun or
Pittsburgh under a lemon sun or Bozeman
                        where I don't know anyone
            under a lemon sun there was always a lemon
sun when I tried to look there are

                    two empty windows framed by gray
            a power pole with no wires connecting it
                        elsewhere the desert
dripping astringent green in this damp May
                    slate gray sky awash in crows

Jack Hayes
© 2010

[To see other poems in this sequence, please click on the "UP Poems" label]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Poetry Summer Sale!

& now for a word from our sponsors! 

You can get any one, two or three of my poetry books currently on sale at for 20% off anytime from now until July 31.  Simply enter the coupon code code SANTA305 when you check out (see the details below.)*

The three books in question are The Spring Ghazals, poems written between May 2008 & February 2010, The Days of Wine & Roses, poems written during my days in San Francisco 1990-1996 (I actually lived there a bit longer but….long story), & finally, Nightingales in a Stateside Zoo, poems from my MFA days at the University of Virginia, 1984-1989.  Each book is currently listed for $8.00, which by my math means $7.20 when you take 20% off.  If you really can’t swing $7.20, you can get each book in pdf form for free. 

The San Francisco poems are currently being posted at the rate of one per week (Sundays) on my blog, The Days of Wine & Roses.  Once I’ve posted that complete manuscript, I’ll probably begin a dedicated blog for The Spring Ghazals, tho you can read a number of those poems here on Robert Frost’s Banjo (just not in any very organized fashion, tho you can search the ghazals & Helix poems labels to find some of them).

Thanks everybody for your support!  We now return to our regularly scheduled programming….

* All the legal verbiage from     

Use coupon code SANTA305 at checkout and receive 20% off your order. Maximum savings with this comically early holiday promotion is $50. You can only use the code once per account, and you can't use this coupon in combination with other coupon codes. Sorry, but eBook purchases aren’t eligible. This great offer ends when Santa gets back from his vacation - on July 31, 2010 so don’t miss out! While very unlikely we do reserve the right to change or revoke this offer at anytime, and of course we cannot offer this coupon where it is against the law to do so.
Copyright © 2002-2010 Lulu, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


[L.E. Leone says she's switching to fiction for a bit & is that a problem in Robert Frost's Banjo terms?  Not at all, I say.  Please check this 0ut!]


First I thought—I was taught that soul was something dead people had, how Grandpa Rubino got to be with God even though there he was, plain as daisies, in the coffin, open, closed, down in dirt.

I was a religious kid. I heard a lot of talk, a lot of words, some of which were “soul.” We knelt, we sat, we stood, tried to see things. The dark space between the skin and the fabric, was that where soul was? Or white on the tongue, in the back of the throat, the scream, forming.

For the longest time I thought that soul was what made poetry so goddamn poetic, art artsy, and so on. I read a lot, wrote some stories, and tried in general to be soulful.

Then I was sure that soul was all about music, man. I mean, think about it: the song of the tissue-comb harmonica.

Tried drugs. That was something, but not soul.

Next came soul food, which was a happy, fun, and filling if not fulfilling period of my life. Full-feeling? Not a lot of enlightenment, no but: fried chicken! Biscuits, barbecue, greens, beans. Smothered pork chops. Gravy. This was a happy, fun, and fulfilling period of my life (did I say that?)—only instead of immortality . . . high cholesterol.

Now I would like to have a child. I feel empty inside sometimes. My biology says to have a kid. It’s in you to do this, it says. It’s body chemistry and hormones. Ooga, I will love my child. It will look like me, like us. We will try to be good parents. But is this soul? Creating a body with our bodies, another body with another brain to try and figure out about soul? My body, on my best days, says, “Maybe.”

L.E. Leone
© 2010 

Monday, July 26, 2010

“Into the Trees”

Happy Monday all!  & it’s another musical Monday here on Robert Frost’s Banjo, tho I am taking the week off from the Monday Morning Blues—I like to mix things up just a bit!  & in that spirit, I’m presenting you with some music you may not know but I think you’ll find intriguing.  That’s the music of cellist Zoë Keating, whose second album Into the Trees was released in June.

It’s a wonderful album, simply put—a series of 11 soundscapes with richly layered sound, gorgeous melodies & harmonies & shifting rhythms—& such rich layering is possible because Ms Keating has constructed multiple tracks, so that she becomes a one-woman cello orchestra.  As a studio production, this would be impressive in itself—however, Zoë Keating is able to reproduce these performances live by simultaneously playing two instruments: her cello & a MacBook Pro.  In the second video below, Ms Keating explains her looping technology in an interview with Wired.  Suffice it to say that Zoë Keating’s compositions are all of a piece, from the melodic lines to the percussive effects.

The compositions themselves are the kind of music that seems at once familiar & completely fresh—the music one might hear in a dream—you believe you know it, & yet in the light of day, you realize you’ve never heard anything quite exactly like it, it seems, too, both ancient & modern.  This is “classical” music, for all its indebtedness to more contemporary sounds—but classical music that could be comfortable in any number of surroundings—from concert hall to dance club.  

The music is also narrative in the best sense of the word—it moves us to different points on an emotional spectrum while all the time leaving space for our own; they allow for stories without insisting on them.  Another way of saying this is that Ms Keating’s music is like the river that’s changed each time you step into it.  It shouldn’t be surprising, given this characteristic, that Zoë Keating has also composed several film soundtracks as well as ballets.

Listening to music that’s built on a looping foundation, like Zoë Keating’s or that of guitarist Matt Stevens, puts me in mind of one of my favorite jazz artists, Rahsaan Roland Kirk.  It’s not that the music itself—the melodies, harmonies & rhythms
are similar, but that Kirk, like these performers, was literally a one-man orchestra.  Because of his mastery of circular breathing, he could play three wind instruments simultaneously.  Some dismissed this as gimmickry, but to me, Kirk was the proptype one-person orchestra—different than a one-man-band in that the overall effect becomes symphonic—tones melded together in a harmonious whole, yet distinct in themselves—tones that create a complex aural vision.

Ms. Keating’s album (as well as her first album, One Cello x 16: Natoma) are available from her website, both as an actual cd & as digital downloads; her music is also available on iTunes.  Hope you enjoy “Escape Artist” (the first video below) & stick around to listen to Ms Keating’s interview with Wired (also set to her music!)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Photo of the Week 7/25/10

Grapes in our Garden
  Tuesday, July 20th

Please check out today's post at The Days of Wine & Roses; it's the next poem in the A Few More Fold-Out Postcard Sonnets series.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Union Pacific #6

Inverted white air white-blue snow con-
gealed on concrete the sense of swimming under
    an ice sheet at 6,000 feet
& where have those distinct moments
        gone to in space &

frozen fog & frozen wrought iron
            & black & white freight trains
on the plaza’s historical markers   
        those distinct snowdome moments

a store window window-shopping
    a scarlet cowboy shirt a wooden cross
pinned with a tin star en-
            circled with rusted barbed wire
    this is what I wanted to say when the sun came up

once upon a time when time was liquid &
chromatic in
    every direction
the canteloupe glow over I-79 in a June driving
east by northeast but it’s this
    March in Cheyenne in gray-white air
a row of skateboards & a Dark Side of the Moon
        t shirt & my reflection
    in plate glass framed by bricks in-
verted white air white-blue snow con-
gealed on concrete
    have I gone into time in a paradox a
    wooden cross pinned with a tin star
the Union Pacific depot
        graystone in frozen fog a galloping
horse statue hulking oxidized geometric
    & no yellow freight trains in sight

Jack Hayes
© 2010

[To see other poems in this sequence, please click on the "UP Poems" label]

Friday, July 23, 2010

Homegrown Radio 7-23-10

Happy Friday morning!  It’s time for some Homegrown Radio, & we’re back with Sister Exister—today she’s laying down the law to her man—he may not be her man much longer if he doesn’t straighten up & fly right.

I really like this one—the arrangement is so good, & the tenor guitar/bass player player & back-up singer (see below for details) add a lot—of course, being a wayward tenor guitarist myself, I’m partial!  & Sister’s voice sounds fantastic.  Here’s what she has to say about “Not My Man:”

A thing happened: the neck broke off of my one-string bass earlier this week, in an ugly and hard-to-fix way. You can imagine my sadness. Well, my friend Kaley Davis had already volunteered to play some tenor guitar on this recording, so I called her and said, "Can you make a bassline too?" She has a four-string accoustic bass, which is three too many strings for me to even think about. Luckily, she came through, with flying colors. So: the bassline and the two guitar tracks are hers, and I made another friend, Kim Gilhuly, sing some of the ooh-ahhs. Which was fair, cause I'd also made her dinner. I tried to get her to sing the lead vocal, too, but all of a sudden she had to go. We'd had hot dogs for dinner. They were pretty fancy hot dogs, but maybe next time I'll get steaks.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

“Toward a Patronage Society”

Today, something perhaps a bit different….

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to free versus pay content.  Over the past few months, as I’ve used Twitter more, I’ve seen a lot of musicians tweeting about this—in fact, in its broadest implications, this is a huge issue for anyone involved in the arts.  & so, I have a video I’d like to share—a talk by cabaret singer/composer/pianist/uker Amanda Palmer about these very issues; & tho the talk is focused on the music industry, I think some of the general principles apply to online content from other art forms.

By the way, I should note that I was originally put onto this talk thru Twitter by blogger 9to5poet of everything feeds process, an excellent & frequently updated site about the creative process, complete with exercises 9to5poet assigns herself, & the results thereof.  You really should check it out; & I also should mention the fiction blog Soulless Machine—another writer I’ve “met” thru Twitter.  I know some folks have negative feelings about Twitter, but I'm finding that it has great potential as a networking tool.  & I will admit: it took me a while to figure it out at all.  The TweetDeck browser really helped.

Hope you enjoy this talk & spend some time thinking about the issues Amanda Palmer raises—& you might consider checking out Amanda Palmer’s brand new release Amanda Palmer Performs The Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele—84 cents or more  as a digital download!  You know I love all things ukulele.

Pic: Yours Truly & Tip Chick busking at the Council Farmer's Market last August

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Buy this Book!

Happy Wednesday afternoon, all!  Just a quick note to mention that my copy of friend Kat Mortensen's book of poetry, shadowstalking, arrived via our friendly neighboorhood UPS man this afternoon.  It's a handsome book as you can see (can't say much for the fellow modeling it!)

& you can have your very own copy: they're available for sale at Kat's dedicated shadowstalking blog.  Rumor has it that if you contact Kat directly you might get a signed copy.

I wrote about shadowstalking last week, & more generally the importance of kicking in something toward the online artists we support, even if their content can be had for free.  Simply put: it's the right thing to do.

Best wishes to Kat with her lovely book! 

Adams County Makes the News - Council Leader #16

The Council Leader
Published Every Thursday by the Council Publishing Company
Fred Mullin, Editor


Last week’s Meadows Eagle asks why this haste for a courthouse?  No haste at all, brother, but why not a courthouse?  It’s the same old story: what’s the use locking the stable after the horse has been stolen?  Would you consider it good business policy not to insure your property against fire? And how many men do you find who really see how they can afford to buy an insurance policy?  Yet they are buying them every day, because they realize the need of protection against accident that would cost a hundred fold the price of the premium.

If not a courthouse now, then when?  Would you wait until the county is of age?  Why buy anything for yourself and family until you feel that have that much surplus money that you don’t know what else to do with it?  Why do any work on the public roads as long as you can beat you poor old horse through the mud?  Why build a bridge as long as you can ford the river?

There are more failures in life through procrastination than from any other cause.  Then why wait?  Do we want county affairs run on business principles, or do we want them along political and sectional lines?

Why be a tightwad all your life?  Do you expect to stay in this old world forever?
June 12, 1914


The Meadows Eagle last week published a letter purporting to be from J. A. Ellswroth of Iowa, in which he is supposed to say that he intended to come to Adams county, but hearing that there was a prospect of voting bonds for a court house, he would not even come to look at the county.

Now the Eagle failed to give the post office address of this man, and as the letter smacks very much of the style of the Eagle editor as evidenced two years ago, we shall have to believe he is “at it again” unless he produces the address.

If this was a real letter, and the writer was the unprogressive moss-back that the Eagle would make him appear, a man who would want to come in and live off of what others had done without its costing him anything, Adams county doesn’t need him.

And further, is it the policy of this county to be dictated by one man back in Iowa?  The Eagle has been loud in its howlings against one-man dictation.

Give us his address, brother.

March 14, 1913

The State Fish and Game department announces that a large number of eastern brook trout will be ready for distribution during April and May.  These fish are well adapted to the smaller streams, but may be planted in the larger streams where the water’s temperature is not too high in the summer.  Announcement of the time for the distribution of rainbow and native trout will be made later.  Those desiring fish for small streams are urged to make application to the State Game Warden not later than April 1st so that an equable and intelligent distribution can be made.  Application blanks will be furnished upon request.

July 31, 1914

The following letter was received by the county clerk and is self-explanatory.
Dear Sir:
The supreme court of Idaho recently decided that the Live Stock Sanitary board had no legal authority to inaugurate the bounty system in the Predatory Animal department.  This, of course, means that no bounty claims can be paid in the future, and nothing can be done with those claims already in this office which have not been paid.  No feet will be cut off or accepted by any defooter in the future.

V. C. White, State Veterinarian

November 21, 1913GOLD DISCOVERED

Word comes from Goodrich, ten miles southwest of Council, that gold in paying quantities has been discovered near there.  It is said that assays of some of the rock show values in gold and silver as high as $400 per ton.  Three or four claims had been staked Wednesday and a number more have been taken since.  There is considerable local excitement over the find and if it pans out as good as reported, a great deal of activity will be felt there next spring.  The snow that is falling now will probably stop further prospecting at present, but just keep your eye on that spot.

May 9, 1913
OBITUARY: Alex Kesler, Settled in Council Valley, 1877

We asked Robert White, a fellow pioneer, what he knew about Alex Kesler, and he said:
“He was one of the best men in the world: friend to everybody.  I lived neighbor to him, and through all the years we never had a dispute.  He had three hobbies.  First, he was a man of deeds and not of words.  Second, he was very fond of music, which he wanted at all times and sent off and got a music box in the early days.  But I think the happiest moments of his life was when he had his Winchester up to his shoulder chasing a buck deer.”  Then Uncle Ben meditated for a time and continued:  “You can’t say anything too good about him.”

Such testimonials from men who were partners in pioneering are more forceful than anything that could be said by the present generation.  We know not what he has gone through, and we can simply bow our heads at his departure.

May 9, 1913

A very quiet wedding took place at 8:30 last Wednesday evening at the M. E. parsonage when Otto E. Brauer and Miss Iola DeGaris were united in the holy bonds of wedlock, Rev. I. E. Getman officiating and Misses Lila Brown and Florence Getman acting as witnesses.  After the ceremony, a delightful wedding supper was served at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. R. Brown, only relatives and a few friends being present.  The dining room was handsomely decorated with apple blossoms and bridal wreath, the color scheme being pink and white.  Four courses were served.

The charming bride is a niece of Mrs. W. R. Brown.  She is well known and popular and is a figure in business circles as proprietor of Council’s millinery store, which she has conducted for some years.  The groom is the popular, good-natured meat-cutter of the firm of Weed & Brauer and a prominent member of the Council band.  Both of the contracting parties are among our best young people and it is a pleasure to join with their host of friends in extending congratulations and best wishes.

compiled by Eberle Umbach

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Journey Music"

[Here's the title poem to the collection of B.N.'s poems that we've been posting on Robert Frost's Banjo over the past several months; it's also the penultimate poem in the collection.  Enjoy!]

Journey Music

The world darkens into an unrecognizable form
Until even the latch on your
Own door eludes you.
Scattered throughout town tea pots cool
In empty kitchens, and after a while the little
Kerosene lamps flickered and went out.

Yet the town was not deserted—
Saturday afternoon in the cinema
The projectionist asleep by the third reel, and

That first night the neighboring dogs,
Moving wolf shadows, turned their terrible heads
And eyed you crossing the cow pasture.

By dawn they seemed to recede in
A damp fog, big, innocent, treading
The Roman stones in another direction.

Winter did not come those next few days, and
From the top of the hill you could just make
Out the road into town,

Near the marshes where the wooden handles of farm tools
Lost or dropped forever turned to stone
Houses and barns are abandoned.

Two days later in a village twelve kilometers north
People had taken to digging their own graves
Swinging spades, pickaxes and pails.

You watched the corollas in an ordinary flower,
Opening as deftly as the fierce heat
Trembling in the world's outstretched hand.

© to the author 1983-2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

“Hobo Blues”

Do you have a case of the Monday Morning Blues?  If so, you're in the right place! 

“Hobo Blues” is a classic John Lee Hooker song, first issued in 1948.  For those of you who don’t know, Hooker was born near Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1917, right in the midst of the Delta blues country.  Although he is best known for his electric, riff-based songs (which have been covered by everyone from the Animals to ZZ Top), his material had roots in what music critic Robert Palmer termed “the Deep Blues”—music typically associated with artists like Charlie Patton, Son House & Robert Johnson (to name the best known practicioners).  It wasn’t uncommon for this type of music to use a drone-like background, with the 3-chord setting that now typifies the blues being at most implied.  Actually, Hooker wasn’t the only one to bring this type of roots music into the electric blues arena; Muddy Waters & Howlin’ Wolf (to name just two) also had big hits that—in musical terms—never stray far from the “I chord”—you might think of “Catfish Blues” & “Smokestack Lightnin” (again, to stick to two well known examples). 

“Hobo Blues” is just such a song—in my version, it sticks to a D chord (more minor than major), & has two riffs—one copied from Hooker & the other my own invention.  John Lee Hooker played this in open G (guitar’s unfretted strings tuned to a G major chord), while I’m playing in drop D tuning (guitar in standard tuning except the lowest sounding string is tuned from E down to D), so there are significant variations in the arrangements.

Hope you enjoy it. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Photo of the Week 7/18/10

Truck House, Lake Fork, Idaho
  Saturday, July 17th

Please check out today's post at The Days of Wine & Roses; it's the next poem in the A Few More Fold-Out Postcard Sonnets series.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Union Pacific #5

OK—I said I needed to write some poetry.  I did.  My good friend B.N. tells me that the Union Pacific poems are really all parts of one long poem; I think she’s right—actually, I think I thought that all along, but I needed to hear her say it anyway.  But I’ll keep posting them separately, as they come.  I’ve added the label “UP Poems” for those who’d like to read the earlier ones, tho I should note that “Union Pacific #1” has been significantly revised since either of its appearances on the blog.

Hope you enjoy this.

Union Pacific #5

Blue sky chrome clouds wind
                turbine’s jagged cursive in an east wind the
cast iron mesas there are no more
similes a relentlessly

blue sky a sky-blue postcard
              “wishing you were here”
chrome cloud thoughtballoons rolling a-
              above Elmore County’s

concrete overpass bridges & wooden trestles a
UP freight rolling rolling east along
                            rangeland & grazing
black angus cattle March 2010 (a

wooden trestle climbing down the Sierra
Nevada’s pine ridge granite tectonic
                            plates March 1996 a
Toyota van rolling east of course
toward Johnny Cash in Reno I
sat in the back a simulacrum without
words a pack of
              American Spirit smokes going up in

chrome cloud thoughtballoons
“wishing you were here”

(a wooden trestle south of Charlo’s
                            emerald wetlands & cattails
“where the buffalo roam” June 2010 a
flatbed truck hauling beeboxes
“wishing you were here”

I’m rolling across Utah’s stateline al-
ready too late to do anything about it (this
jagged cursive this implacable sky this
              cold-hearted freight this slate gray inter-
                            state this inescapable postcard

“No Artichokes Without Tomatoes”

Happy Saturday, everybody!  I’m here today with one of my translations from French surrealist Benjamin Péret for your enjoyment.  Somehow, it seemed just the thing for a summery weekend when Eberle & I will be playing a wedding on an island in Payette Lake.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, we’ll be transported to this island wedding by pontoon boat—Eberle, her flute & melodica; me, my resonator guitar (the Gold Tone Dobro) & my Beltona resonator tenor uke.  I haven’t actually performed on the uke in ages, & don’t play it too much anymore—a part of me feels lost with only four strings!  But we have a pretty nice set list worked up—lots of improvisation all the way thru the wedding march, which is a pretty piece Eberle & I came up with extemporaneously with flute & resonator guitar; & then we’ll be playing some upbeat old blues during the champagne & cupcake reception.

By request, I’ve included the text of the French original, which comes from Péret’s 1928 collection Le Grand Jeu, sometimes translated as The Great Game, tho I prefer The Big Game myself.  I translated Le Grand Jeu in its entirety, as well as & several others works by Péret, during the 1990s while living in San Francisco. 

Speaking of translating: I mean to get back to the Apollinaire blog, I really do.  I’m kind of stuck on a poem that I hadn’t translated in the past, le Voyageur, but I hope to get back to it soon.  I’m also beginning to feel my lack of poetic input over the past month or so as an uncomfortable thing, & am hoping to get back into that mindset very soon.  

In the meantime, hope you enjoy the poem, & your Saturday, too!

No Artichokes Without Tomatoes

My tomatoes are riper than your shoes
and your artichokes look like my daughter

In the marketplace
were a tomato and an artichoke
and they both danced around a navel
that turned on its root

Dance tomato and you too artichoke
Your wedding-day will be clear as a carp’s gaze
The shoes that contemplate us
shed tears about it that are over-ripe pears
and if they sing they’ll raise a ruckus like coffins
bursting and stirring up corpses
The corpse slaps his hands like a pebble against a window
and says
No way you’ll get my tomato for that price

Benjamin Péret
translation © Jack Hayes 1990-2010

Sans Tomates Pas D’Artichauts

Mes tomates sont plus mûres que tes sabots
et tes artichauts ressemblent à ma fille

Sur la place du marché
il y avait une tomate et un artichaut
et tous deux dansaient autour d’un navet
qui tournait sur sa racine

Dansez tomate danses artichaut
le jour de vos noces sera clair comme le regard des carpes
Les sabots qui nous contemplent
en pleurent des larmes de poires blettes
et s’ils chantent ils font un bruit de cercueil
qui éclate et fait surgir un cadavre
Le cadavre bat des mains comme un caillou dans une vitre
et dit
Non tu n’auras pas ma tomate à ce prix-là

Benjamin Péret

Note on the Pic: I don't tend to "illustrate" poems too much, but I couldn't resist re-posting this photo Eberle took of some of her homegrown tomatoes back in the summer of 08!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Homegrown Radio 7/16/10

Good morning!  A bit late with this morning’s post due to technical glitches both on my end & at Sister Exister’s, but here we are with this morning’s song.  Let’s see what Sister Exister has to say about “Why, You.”

I started singing the chorus in Germany in January, and I sang it on the train to France, and I sang it in Paris in the freezing rain, and in Rome when I was in Rome. Whenever I thought I might go insane, I would sing this chorus out loud, or hum it under my breath if people were around, and I honestly think it helped me survive the hardest, loneliest time I've ever had to go through. Not because of anything it says. It was just something to hold in my head. A small tune, and I'd made it up! That gave me hope. I didn't start to try and play it until I was in the Caribbean, with a steel drum. And then once I was home in San Francisco I finally made some versus for it. Oddly, there's no steel drum on this recording, just two ukes, bass, and the usual array of kitchen things. For the record, my ex did have a "thing" about brown—in particular brown textiles—as a result of which, I had dumped all my brown clothes. And I have brown hair and brown eyes, so brown looks good on me. The things we do for love, huh?

Yes, indeed—hope you enjoy the song!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What’s Your Story, Morning Glory – The Music of Mary Lou Williams

I’d like to introduce you to someone this morning—I say “introduce,” because I imagine many of you won’t be familiar with this person, despite the fact that she was one of the top jazz composers & pianists from the 1930s thru the 1970s.  She played blues & swing & bebop & more—including her own wonderful jazz liturgical music after a conversion to Catholicism later in life.  She was an arranger for the Duke Ellington band & the Benny Goodman band; she also hung out with the Minton’s crowd: Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, Kenny Clarke et al.; she composed an extended song cycle called Zodiac Suite that is among the most ambitious of jazz works—she also composed a jazz mass.  Yet, her name isn’t well known—her name is Mary Lou Williams.  This is what Duke Ellington said of her:

Mary Lou Williams is perpetually contemporary. Her writing and performing are and have always been just a little ahead throughout her career. . . . her music retainsand maintainsa standard of quality that is timeless.  She is like soul on soul.

Mary Lou Williams was born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs in Atlanta, Georgia in 1910, but she greup in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  She was a child prodigy, gifted with a remarkable ear, & began public performance at age seven, & went on to play with Duke Ellington’s Washingtonians while in her teens.  In 1927, she married saxophone player John Williams, & she eventually moved with Williams to Kansas City, where they both joined Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy, Williams serving as both pianist & arranger.

Following a divorce from in her husband, Williams moved back east in the early 1940s, first putting together a band in Pittsburgh (with Art Blakely on drums!), then eventually moving to New York.  During this time she was composing the magnificent Zodiac Suite & also playing a large role in the development of be-bop.  She said:

During this period Monk and the kids would come to my apartment every morning around four or pick me up at the Café after I'd finished my last show, and we'd play and swap ideas until noon or later.
Mary Lou Williams became a convert to Catholicism in the early 1950s, & much of her later music dealt with her new found faith.  She said, “I am praying through my fingers when I play.  I get that good ‘soul sound,’ and I try to touch people's spirits.”  Her Mass for Peace was choreographed by the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, & performed as “Mary Lou's Mass.”  She performed through the 1970s, with her final recording being made at the 1978 Montreux Jazz Festival—in fact, this is available on dvd (as Norman Granz Jazz In Montreux Presents Mary Lou Williams '78), & I recommend it highly; it’s a good introduction to her work.  Mary Lou Williams passed away in 1981.

If you’re interested in her work (which I hope!) you have quite a selection from which to choose.  My own recommendations (in addition to the Montreux dvd) would include My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me (Pablo); Zoning (Folkways); Zodiac Suite (Folkways); & Black Christ of the Andes (Folkways).  There’s also an excellent biography by Linda Dahl titled Morning Glory (University of California Press); I’d also mention that the classic Nat Shapiro/Nat Hentoff compilation Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya (Dover) contains a number of Ms Williams’ reminiscences & anecdotes—this book is a must read for jazz fans.

Hope you enjoy Mary Lou Williams’ music!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


[L.E. Leone reports that the Dating Poems series is over; but this new poem is really amazing.  Enjoy!]


At the bottom of the anger
At the bottom of the letter
At the bottom of the cough syrup bottle
At the bottom of the stairs
At the bottom of stars
At the bottom of memory itself
At the bottom of an imagined childhood
At the bottom of the dream
At the bottom of a bottomless pit
At the bottom of the mystery
At the bottom of why
At the bottom of the beat
At the bottom of the song
At the bottom of the bed
At the bottom of flowers painted on the bottom of a bed
At the bottom of flowers, real ones, in the ground
At the bottom of hope
At the bottom of ducks
At the bottom of my heart
At the bottom of the feeling in my stomach
At the bottom of that pile of shit
At the bottom of the gum on the bottom of my shoe
At the bottom of the ice cream cone
At the bottom of the world
At the bottom of everything
At the bottom of the bottom of everything
At the bottom of that bag
At the bottom of “it”
At the bottom of another man who doesn’t get it
At the bottom of another man who can’t handle it
At the bottom of another man who doesn’t want it
At the bottom of another man who does
At the bottom of cowardice
At the bottom of lack
At the bottom of failure of imagination
At the bottom of lust
At the bottom of rape
At the bottom of the compost pile
At the bottom of a German author’s unfinished manuscript
At the bottom of the river
At the bottom of my oatmeal bowl
At the bottom of madness
At the bottom of the Gatorade bottle
At the bottom of betrayal
At the bottom of the ocean
At the bottom of night
At the bottom of the bathtub I wring my pillowcase in
At the bottom of morning
At the bottom of coffee
At the bottom of another beautiful lonely day with lots of people in it
At the bottom of the ninth inning
At the bottom of the grave
At the bottom of hatred
At the bottom of breath
At the bottom of misunderstanding
At the bottom of a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes
At the bottom of a pair of brown socks on someone else’s stinking feet
At the bottom of disbelief
At the bottom of fear
At the bottom of the poem
At the bottom of the page the poem is on
I find, incredibly, love, still
and white

L.E. Leone
© 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010


Hope you’re all having a happy Monday!  I’m back this afternoon to announce that my friend—& blogging comrade to many—Kat Mortensen has just published a book of her poetry—it’s titled shadowstalking, & it’s available with just one click on her dedicated
shadowstalking blog, as well as on her Poetikat’s Invisible Keepsakes blog.

I’m happy to give Kat’s book a boost—
Kat’s poetry is a delight: she frequently writes in form, & she has a great ear for rhyme.  Kat’s wit is another of her strong suits—a good thing for a rhyming poet, as it tends to make the rhyme “make sense.”  In addition, her formal experiments seem to derive from an underlying sense of play—which to me is the great thing about writing in form!  It shouldn’t feel straitened—it should feel like a game.

In addition, Kat has been one of the longest-standing followers of Robert Frost’s Banjo (in the traditional use of the term, as well as in Googlespeak), & she’s one of a core group of followers I’m happy to consider real friends.  Kat has been incredibly supportive; when I published my “collected poetical works” this winter, Kat linked to the page on her blog; she’s also one of a very select group of people to actually have the complete poetical works of Jack Hayes in her possession! 

So this brings me to a thought: so many of us are offering our work online for free—whether that work is poetry or music or photography or essays—etc.  What happens when we then decide to bring it forth in the 3-D world?  For one thing, there’s often some expense involved to the creator; for a second thing, there’s always a bit of pride in the tangible object.  Especially amongst those of us who are solidly into middle age, the tangible object still has a magic reality—we grew up on books & record albums & cds & real glossy photos, & however wired in we may be, there’s still something powerful about the 3-D object.  Of course, with that pride, there’s also a certain amount of insecurity—do people actually like what I do enough to plunk down some hard earned cash on it?

There’s a lot of debate about free vs. pay content on the net.  I like guitarist Matt Stevens’  “pay what you want” approach to his music, but that's not an option when third parties become involved.  & while I believe in free content (after all, my books are available as free pdfs, & I’m publishing the entire contents of The Days of Wine & Roses in blog form), I also believe in supporting people who are actively creating outside the marketed machine of showbix & poebiz.

Do yourself a favor & check out shadowstaking!

“It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”

It’s the Monday Morning Blues again, but this time around I’m doing something a little bit different—I’ve recast the great Bob Dylan song “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” as a bluesy slide piece.  I started fooling around with this a week or so ago & performed it for the first time on Saturday. 

As many of you know, the song comes from Dylan’s 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited—& of course, the “Highway 61” of the title is the “Blues Highway”—U.S. 61 that runs from New Orleans, Louisiana up thru the Mississippi Delta region, eventually coming to an end in Wyoming, Minnesota.   Dylan himself said of the Highway 61 Revisited album:
"I'm not gonna be able to make a record better than that one... Highway 61 is just too good. There's a lot of stuff on there that I would listen to."
(from Wikipedia)

I sure had fun with this—hope you enjoy it, too!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Photo of the Week 7/11/10

White rose blossom in my workspace
  Saturday, July 10th

Please check out today's post at The Days of Wine & Roses; it's the next poem in the A Few More Fold-Out Postcard Sonnets series.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

& then….

Howdy, all!  Just checking in with a bit of personal news & general observations.  No Sepia Saturday this week, & with a weekend performing schedule that’s filling up, I think it’s likely I’ll be bowing out of that group for awhile.

I’m off to the Cambridge, Idaho Farmer’s Market shortly, where I’ll be performing with friend & student Heather U., who sings & plays some wonderful contemporary “folk”—Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Natalie Merchant, Neil Young, Nanci Griffith.  Yours truly is just filling in the gaps on my resonator guitars.  Afterwards, I’ll play a set of the old-time blues.  Next weekend, Eberle & I will be playing a wedding, & at least one aspect of the event is a first—we’ll be transported to the island where the wedding is being held on a pontoon boat.  This will be the first time I’ve caught a pontoon boat to a gig!  In addition, I’m exploring some regular performing options in McCall—a resort town, hence a good place to play—& it looks like I’ll be forming a trio up there (or quartet, when Eberle’s free) playing the old blues.  One of the trio members will be familiar to regular Robert Frost’s Banjo readers: Lois Fry, the violin player from the Alice in Wonder Band.  Those who are curious to know more about Lois can read her delightful Musical Questions interview right here.

On the more problematic side, I learned yesterday that the job I’ve held since September 1989 (with a few gaps here & there) with a “major manufacturer of household consumer goods” is no more.  I’d been laid off all year—first, it was a 3-month lay-off, as company policy had been amended to dictate that all contract workers must take a 3-month lay-off every two years.  That freed me up for the great cross-country odyssey, & I returned from this fully expecting to go back to my telecommuting self.  At that point I was informed that they couldn’t take me back until the new fiscal year.  The new fiscal year came, & finally, so did the answer. 

As Eberle has pointed out, this is not altogether bad news.  For one thing, this job isn’t my main income source, & it’s likely the income can be replaced to a large degree by music—I’d cut way back on teaching of late, & it looks like it’s time to expand again.  Who knows: there may even be more Music Teacher’s Notebook posts!  She also points out that it will free me up to travel more, & it’s true I seem to have a major case of wanderlust following the big road trip.

Still, it is a transition point to say the least.  I moved to San Francisco in July 1989 & first started working as a temp with this Oakland-based company in September; I left in 1993, but came back in 1994; my job (along with most of the consumer service jobs) was eliminated in 1996, but I was back as a contract worker in 1997.  When I moved to Idaho in 1998, I began telecommuting.  & as riots went down in Oakland on Thursday evening in the wake of the Johannes Mehserle verdict, it took me back to the time we were all hustled out of City Center Oakland after the Rodney King verdict in Simi Valley.  Let’s all hope for both justice & peace in the Bay Area.

& a happy weekend to you all!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Homegrown Radio 7/9/10

Friday is upon us once again, dear readers, & that means Homegrown Radio.  We’re back with another song from Sister Exister, AKA L.E. Leone, & this one’s a dandy.  A solo performance, it’s a great example of Sister Exister’s ear for sweet melodies combined with an ear (& mind) that's chock full of wonderful wordplay.  If you like what you’re hearing from Sister Exister, please consider checking out her album, Scratch, which is available here on CDBaby.

& let’s see what Sister Exister has to say about her song "When You Come Home:"

I'm not sure what to call this song.... The cough at the beginning and the siren at the end are happy accidents I decided to keep. Other accidents were not so lucky. You can imagine: my desk (and therefore recording studio) is under a street-level window...Percussion this time includes a lamp, a butter knife on a plate, a red wooden box with a lot of papers in it, and a "gourmet pecan" tin. I think I did almost all of it on Monday. It's about a guy I used to date a couple years ago. I've never smoked, myself, but really do like the taste of it on others.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Strawberry Rhubarb Pie"

Happy Thursday, all.  In case you’re wondering, the poem at the bottom of this post isn’t new; it was written in May 2008—however, it hasn’t appeared on the blog before.  I’m taking this opportunity to post it by way of giving a plug to my own little corner of the poebiz universe, namely my poetry page where you can buy the book in which this was published for a mere $8.00 USD—or download it for free as a pdf.  The book is called The Spring Ghazals, & it contains poems I wrote between May 2008 & February 2010.

That’s not all, however.  There are two other books available at my storefront: The Days of Wine & Roses, which contains poems from my San Francisco days in the 1990s, & Nightingales in a Stateside Zoo, which is made up of the poems I wrote while living in Charlottesville, VA in the 1980s.  I know some of you have already purchased or downloaded these, & my heartfelt thanks to you! 

Hope you enjoy the poem.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

If memory serves me right it was time for dessert
not to mention a beige cottage house baked into a
shimmering egg crust this happened so long ago last
Thursday or earlier even another lifetime etc.
outside the lemon sun gleamed thinly pungent
a gray haired mutt was turning
circles in the street of course you spoke to it
simpatico of course &
that street really went no place
& that snow wasn’t granulated sugar that snow was
salt in everyone involved’s
wounds &
you were almost gone just then Good -
bye good-bye this is something like
memory, a late winter’s day oh
early afternoon
Then I thought I found love &
lost it & I thought I found love & lost
it walking the floor off-tempo couldn’t
eat couldn’t sleep etc. a country song & so forth the
years passed as they do pass they were
red peonies shedding their petals where Eberle
planted them next to the hammock
& under the cottonwood not to mention a
tune you hear dreaming you can even hum it
you wake up the tune is lost inside yourself
it’s the red red taste
of the best pie you ever ate sad to say that was
long long ago last Saturday you were
                                                      someone else
                                                      & love was different then
                                                      a magnolia in February
                                                      a moonlit railroadcar diner
                                                      an fm radio dialed far left of the dial
& I thought I found love &
did like a ’58 Harmony archtop cradled in my arms & my
lap & found love & sat lonesome & loved & savoring
those last forkfuls of strawberry
rhubarb pie Eberle’s baked again & has spooned on a
blue blue china plate & you don’t know this however the
rhubarb’s growing where now and again a sunset
drips syrupy thru the honeysuckle hedge
& the thorn tree’s growing there too
& that’s all about love after all this Friday &
for awhile
& nothing’s bitter just now only
memory tho memory’s not bitter

Jack Hayes
© 2008-2010

This poem previously appeared on the Haphazard Gourmet Girls blog—many thanks to the editors of that site