Gone Away ~ The journal of Clive Allen in America

A Blue Note

I don't do poetry. But, just to show that I'm unpredictable, here's a little something I wrote to annoy a poetry competition a while back (needless to say, it didn't win). It may mean nothing if you haven't heard the lady sing the song but, if you have, I think you'll know what I mean.


The Blues?
Hey I'm no expert
Speaking of shady dives
And midnight wailin' singers
The soulful notes
Of a lonely sax
Or broken dreams
Down in New Orleans
These I never knew

It's how you grew
And where
More than any lack of insight
Understanding lives within
What you know
And anguish plucks the same strings
In Manhattan
And Baton Rouge

But I do recall
In the land of my youth
A certain song that says it all
Musicians my age
White guys yeah
And what have they to do
With singing Summertime? And yet

And yet they did
And bent the knee of rock
Before the Blues
Electric sounds
Honed to the freight train whistle
They dragged it out
And laid it down
And all for her

As well they might
Though they could not know
How the years would bring her silence
They did their part
Big Brother
And his Holding Company
Mere backdrop
For her agonies

Oh Summertime
And the livin' is easy
The saw-edged voice
In one so young
She holds the heartbreak note
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high
She cannot know
The sun burning on a breaking back
And the dirt raw in the mouth
Of the daily round

How can this be?
She draws the longing through you
Wrings the tortured ecstasy
From souls of plenty
Hovering on the bounds
Of understanding
She takes them with her

Oh their daddy's rich
And they want for nothing
But she speaks the empty yearning
That brought them here
And draws them on
In silence
Only listening

Now the aching voice
Mounts to a crescendo
Loosing the pent up hunger
Tears the humid atmosphere
Cuts and stabs at innards
Rasps against the skin
Reaches in and wrenches
Guts and veins
And glory
Now pours out her anguish ragged
Empties out her desperate void
In sounds of anger
Pain and loss.

Sing it, Janis
Sing it.

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Oh yeah
Date Added: 06/02/2006

Gone Away
Which, coming from someone who won't allow poetry anywhere near his site, is high praise indeed. ;)
Date Added: 06/02/2006

I love Janis and so I really like this poem. You're right, you have to have heard the song to understand the poem's references to Summertime, but although it accurately captures in words the sound of that experience, it also captures much more. The use of language creates the atmosphere perfectly. I felt I was there, watching her on stage on a sultry night, completely engulfed in the unique and anguished sound that was Janis. I regret that I am too young to have had that chance, but this poem made it a near-memory for me, as if I had experienced it myself. I especially liked the way you wove the song lyrics into the poem. You made it seamless, they fit perfectly with the lines around them. I heard the song playing in my head as I read this. Powerful.
Date Added: 06/02/2006

Gone Away
Thank you, Twelve. I think we can only write poetry about things we care about deeply and this song, with Janis as the vocalist, was one of those things that affected me deeply when I was young. It has stayed with me through the years so that, when I saw a competition to write a poem about the blues, this was the natural outcome. At the time, Janis was singing with a group called Big Brother and the Holding Company and, being essentially a rock group, they formed a bridge for me into the blues, rather as the Zombies bridged the gap between rock and jazz. Without them, I might never have understood how good Janis was. That voice!
Date Added: 07/02/2006

Did the grace you with a comment when you sent that in to drive them mad? :)
Date Added: 08/02/2006

Gone Away
Not a word did they say, Janus. Perhaps they were too stunned. ;)
Date Added: 08/02/2006

One of my favourite songs. I could hear it in my head when I read that.
Date Added: 11/02/2006

Gone Away
Hi, Boogie! Glad you liked it - and, if you could hear the song as you read, that is exactly what was intended. :)
Date Added: 11/02/2006

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