Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

4th of July Special: Music, a Poem, an Eagle, Jon Meacham, and Tim McGraw

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Challenger, the bald eagle, spotted by Gus Puryear in the Nashville airport, 7/3/2019. Challenger (aged 30) used to fly at the Super Bowl every year but has retired and now makes special appearances only, as his schedule and mood allows.

Perhaps you are up early, dear friend, as I am. Perhaps you have a moment to call your own before the day begins. I’d love to share some music and poetry and a book with you. Plus the bald eagle at Nashville International Airport which is – you know – surprising.

Let’s start with the poem. It’s from the annually published collection, The Best American Poetry (2018). I loved reading the 75 poems that guest editor Dana Gioia chose – though I didn’t love all of the poems. When you read a collection like this, you feel: this is our present moment, in the world, and in poetry. And it encourages you to ask: what do I like in poetry? What do I think of as a poem? 

This collection is just right to dip in and out of, in moments that are – in between.

Here’s one I loved…

Ives

by Mandy Kahn

Oh to be Charles Ives, who wrote for the future
and lived in an organized present,
who filed away each symphony
in a leather sleeve and took the train
from a garden house in Connecticut
to a seat at a corporate desk. Think of Mozart,
wild with sorrow, dodging debtors, out of work,

and Ives is on his train ride watching trees arrange their boughs.
He hasn’t had a concert in twenty years,
and there he is, beating out dissonant lines
on his two pressed lapels.
He’s not the cat that ate the canary
but the cat who holds the bright canary live
inside the mouth. He’s the cat that feels it breathing,
the cat that will not speak or smile,
the cat that godly patience fills with peace.

*   *   *

Originally published in Ambit

*   *   *

Charles Ives is one of our first great American composers, as you know.

What I’d like to share with you this morning is the music of another great American composer, Randall Thompson. A couple of days ago, I was in the car returning from the grocery store when I tuned into Sirius Xm Channel 76 – Symphony Hall. What I heard was this: a collection of Robert Frost poetry set to music by Randall Thompson. My ice cream melted in the back of the SUV because I couldn’t stop listening…

*   *   *

Finally, one more book recommendation. Nashville’s own Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw have collaborated on a book about American music, Songs of America.

Their editorial in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago gives me hope for our republic. As do my interactions – on the daily – with people I do not know – and people I do.

From their editorial, taking about the music of the 60s:

Yet for every hippie, there was a hawk — and therein lies a useful history lesson. We tend to caricature and oversimplify the past, thus making the tensions and tumult of our own time seem uniquely difficult. But we do ourselves, and the past, a disservice by falling prey to the narcissism of the present.

By failing to appreciate the complexities of history, we risk losing a sense of proportion about the relative gravity of contemporary problems and our odds of success in overcoming them. If we can more intimately and accurately grasp the nature of previous eras, we are more likely to see that debate, dissension and disagreement are far more often the rule than the exception.

Here’s the cover of their book and a couple of reviews…

Links to reviews:

-from one of my favorite sources, Kirkus Review…

-and one from Billboard.com.

*   *   *

Happy 4th of July to my friends in the Bacon Neighborhood! And to anyone who stops in today! We are all in it together, I believe, in this great and good experiment called America.

16 Comments

  1. Thank you for this uplifting post. Happy Fourth of July!

  2. In Kyoto! The 4th (and we) are not long for bed – thank you for this post dear Jennifer! Cheers!!

  3. Such a lovely way to start this day. Thank you!

  4. I appreciate your thoughts this morning. I’ve been dreading this day and have sworn to avoid any news or hype that disturbs the real reason to ponder and celebrate. Thank you for tilting my thoughts to the positive and starting my day towards hope.

    From the lovely state of Oregon.

  5. Thanks for sharing the Randall Thompson pieces. My college choir sang a few of these and it was wonderful to hear them again.

  6. Wonderful post. Happy 4th!

  7. What a wonderful post for today! I can’t wait to read the Meacham/McGraw book.
    Thanks! Jeanne (Joelle’s sister )

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