Joni Mitchell and Paris

RT doesn’t talk much about the four years he spent in Paris as a teenager. It’s kind of like talking about what it’s like being a poet; you know you’re damn lucky to be one and that any mention of it brings out a surreptitious feeling in your interlocutor, “My life isn’t as rich as that!” Unless of course he or she happens to be a poet–and has admitted it to themselves. And the resentment that talking about Paris or poetry stirs up in people who have never had close encounters with either makes it very hard to describe the equivocal position of us makers (or makaris, as the Scots call us): we are in exile from the Great City as we are in exile from the deepest source of ourselves, the beauty in our voices. The sense of beauty is always with us, but it is not easy to actually go back to the places we acquired it and re-experience it directly.

Or maybe this is just a complicated way of saying none of us can go back to our youths.

Anyway, our sleepy poet has had yet another YouTube epiphany, this one just a few minutes ago as he listened to Joni Mitchell‘s “Edith and the Kingpin” from her amazing and difficult 1975 album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns. God, this thing is gorgeous!

The song summoned feelings that RT usually leaves where he felt them forty or so years ago, memories of the intense beauty of Paris and the various thunderbolts of panic thrown at him by the muses as they awakened him to the transparency and mystery of the world. RT had a rather dramatic time in the City of Lights, but one that he kept to himself (and for some years after).

Or maybe this is just a roundabout reminder that poetry and Paris aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. What, after all, is wrong with being a commodities trader in Chicago, a teacher in Arizona, or a secretary in Boston? Lives like these are full of possibilities that creative folk in general don’t participate in.

RT knows that in fact his first encounters with poetry took place before his family’s posting in France, but not with the kind of urgency that neatly separates a teenager from the prospects of a normal life. Sorry, but you’re too busy struggling with your inner voice to be bothered with keeping a schedule…

And then there were encounters with the voice and images of Joni Mitchell to remind RT of what transcendent reality might look like. And come to think of it, it was in Paris that RT first acquired an interest in things ancient and Middle Eastern (not least from JM’s album Hejira). RT confesses himself plain puzzled by the relative obscurity that JM has slipped into, but trusts that genius will out and receive its due, even if the process takes a few more decades.

*

All of this is by way of introduction to one of RT’s recent poetic efforts and a link to Edith and the Kingpin. Here is the poem:

ARK

*

star plunges down the sky:

the impact shrivels a hill,

leaves the glowing nugget

to cool in a dusty, windy

grave;

*

and they come dancing,

singing for the rain, the

bolts that burst upon them:

thorny canes, fierce blossoms.

*

they cut a blade, free an axe

from the hard starfall,

shape lesser stone for walls

and roof;

*

the waters are rising

& they people the cube

with Betelgeuese, Deneb,

Fomalhaut: seal the door.

*

they will make landfall.

¶ 

Copyright © 2014, The Rag Tree

*

&, with thanks to JM for the inspiration, here is “Edith and the Kingpin”

*

* * *

Photo: 1974, Joni MitchellAsylum Records – Billboard page 2. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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  1. May 16, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Beautiful words inspired by my favorite artist Joni…thanks for sharing both!

  2. May 18, 2014 at 12:08 am

    jmro98: thanks for your kind words, and glad to hear you’re a JM fan! RT

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