pete seeger



wandering again through the energies of the dead… and through music, and integrity…

the second thing I heard on public radio this morning when I turned it on at 5:00 a.m. was that pete seeger died last night. so I now spend the day listening to WAMC in albany, as they are remembering him all day long. he was a great friend and benefactor to the station.

when I was a teenager with undiagnosed asperger’s syndrome in the 60’s and 70’s of the previous century, my world was rather small. much smaller than those of my friends and acquaintances. I listened mostly to pop music on the radio. I don’t know that I’d ever even heard pete seeger’s name when he was so popular with the anti-viet nam movement. I certainly heard some of his songs, but since they were performed by other people, it would be many years before I would know that he’d recorded them first. I became aware of performers mostly only through other people. one friend gave me a judy collins album, another friend one by tom rush. and so I was introduced to various folk performers only when some friend gave me an album. no one ever gave me a pete seeger. it was the same for bob dylan. I knew almost nothing about him during the time of his most press-worthy fame, because no one gave me one of his albums.

when I became a public radio listener, I was nearly fifty years old, and suddenly there were folk music shows on the radio. on public radio folk music had never vanished from many stations, had been played steadily through the decades. only then, only when my fiftieth birthday was breathing down my neck, did I begin learning about so many people who’d been in the vanguard of both folk music and social protest when I was in high school and college, when I should have been listening to them every day.

it’s only in middle age, only since 1999, that I have learned a great deal about pete seeger, bob dylan, joan baez, judy collins, and many others. learned to appreciate their musical work to a far greater degree, and their social justice positions as well.

peter seeger gave his entire long life to family, creativity, social fairness and responsibility. he was dragged before mccarthy’s commie-haters. he organized, with others, the building of the sloop clearwater and the cleaning up of the hudson river. and on and on. you don’t need me to tell you about him. you can find his story in many places on the internet. you can find his story on four or five CD’s at WAMC radio, for a donation of $100 (800-323-9262). and no, I don’t work for the station.

I’m listening. to his voice. singing and speaking. he was an exceptional person. exceptional on the positive side of the scale. we have so many on this planet who are exceptional to the negative, that when a pete seeger dies, or a ghandi, or a cleveland amory, or any one of scores of others, we all lose. it’s a deficit for the world. we need to hope each time that one such person dies, one or two or three others will rise up in their places, to carry on in our world being exceptional in creativity, in humanity, in dedication to decency, in integrity and incorruptibility. where is the little child, or children, today, who will grow up to fill some of the empty spaces pete seeger left when he died last night.



read…   Spite and malice…   All my stars

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marian mcpartland


wandering a little in music-land…

on tuesday 20 august, at the age of 95, the jazz world lost one of its brightest: the composer and pianist marian mcpartland. truly I don’t give a figgy about the jazz world, as in general I don’t like jazz.

marian had a public radio show for over thirty years, only stopping, I believe, in 2009, when she was 91. it was called, simply, piano jazz. I listened to it for one of those thirty years, from 2004 to 2005, back in my own life. before the personal holocaust and psychotic women banding together to ruin me and my animals, and all that other sick jazz. I didn’t really want to listen to it at first, but it was sandwiched in on sunday evenings (on WAMC in albany) between two shows I did want to hear, and I am usually too lazy to turn off the radio for one lousy hour. so I listened. now that it’s gone for good, I wish I’d hung in with it longer. I stopped listening because most of the guests were so full of themselves (as are a great many musicians, actors and writers). if the show had been marian all alone playing her compositions and her arrangements of other people’s material, I would have stayed with her until my life was destroyed.

I would have stayed for several years more because she herself, marian, fascinated me. I always perceived an enormous gentleness from this woman, and gentleness is another one of those things I’ve always craved in my life. one of the things I always get from animals, but almost never from humans. and as a student of language, her idiolect engaged me. I could pick out england in her speech, but also the bronx or brooklyn. it’s a very unusual combination that I’ve never heard in the speech of anyone else, ever, and it mesmerized me. eventually she did say on the show that she was born in england and only came to america as an adult, after marrying jimmy. and they settled in new york. she verified for me the dialects I was hearing in her speech. her speech which has never ceased to intrigue me.

I would have stayed… though I don’t like jazz. only marian’s jazz. she would no doubt  be horrified to read these words, but to me, her jazz didn’t  sound like jazz. it sounded much more like what they call new-age, and ambient, and things of that nature. I loved it whenever she played one of her own compositions, which wasn’t nearly often enough to suit me. and even when she does some typical jazz chord progressions that I normally cannot abide, I can get through them with only a minimum of irritation when marian is playing them. there is a magic for me when she touches the keys. the same gentleness I felt over the radio from her as a person, I felt, and feel, when I hear her play. there is no bombast there, no showmanship, just a completely loving relationship with the instrument and the sounds it produces, or so it comes across to my ears and to my soul. her touch and relationship with the piano are to me so deeply reverent and charming that I could listen to her for hours, even if she were playing things like chopsticks and three blind mice. if I had ever been really good at the piano (and there were years of lessons), I would like to have played it just the way marian did, minus the jazz.

public radio aired an excellent tribute to her last week, which sadly was much too short. I heard that great idiolect a couple of times, way too briefly. I heard a couple of solos, marian and the piano all by themselves, the way I like her best. and the very first piece they played was a solo she composed called threnody. this took me aback. partly because I almost never hear anyone use that word, and partly because, three years ago, I myself wrote a short piece of music on my lap-harp which I called threnody.  and I have a poem on my poetry blog with the same title, written at the same time as the music was, though the two don’t go together. synchronicities are always uncanny, but some are unusually so, and I was rather shocked when the first piece in the tribute show turned out to have that name.

marian and I will never know each other, and would never have met even if she’d lived yet another 95 years. but it pleases me at the level of heart and soul to know that if we had nothing else at all in common (and perhaps we didn’t), we each, unbeknownst to the other, wrote a piece of music called threnody.

they played another version of it at the end of the show, rightly pointing out that now there are threnodies for marian herself. all over the jazz world, these threnodies, and here in turners trolls in the heart of one anne nakis, who doesn’t like jazz, but who loved marian and her piano-art from afar; loved them to no small degree.

this page, from me, a small threnody for a genuine artist I could meet only over the radio.


read…   scealta liatha (poetry)…     shadowpoems

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the tintinnabulation of the bells

Page One hundred thirteen

thursday 16 december 2010…     turnered

Two things I once loved:  Poe’s poem The Bells; and the Ukrainian Carol of the Bells                         
Another thing I loved:  bells
And a fourth:  my lovebird Tuuschi
We listened every holiday season to Poe’s poem set to various melodies by various musicians. We listened to various choirs singing the Ukrainian carol. We listened, and I sang, and Tuushi, along with the other birds, chirped away.
When I was a little girl, back in the stone age, every year at Christmastime, Ed Sullivan would have bell-ringers on his show. Musical handbells. I was enchanted by these bells, how each one was a different note, how co-ordinated with each other the ringers had to be, etc. But after the Sullivan show was gone, the only time I ever heard handbells again was a rare performance on Public Radio at the holidays.
So there we are in 2007, my animals and I. Catalogs are coming in the mail, it is the fall, Shirley Temple is my new case manager at the DMH, and I believe in her (oh fool). I have already bought the harp and the tin whistle from these catalogs, and then I buy something I’m not even sure what to call: eight pipes lying on a wooden rack, tuned pentatonically, and you play them with mallets. I buy it. But right before that one, there are the BELLS. Eight bells, one octave, each in a horrendously bright color, meant as a children’s toy. But they are the only damned handbells I’ve seen since I was a kid, so I buy them. “The jingling and the tinkling of the bells…”
Why was I buying all these instruments? Because another thing I loved was fooling around with instruments, even though I don’t play well. And because, when Shirley Temple found us a place to go, I would have fun with these things, and with at least SOME of my animals. And because, if Shirley failed (which I didn’t really believe in), I would play some music for my animals before we were destroyed.
You can’t play much on one octave with no sharps and flats, but I mastered Joy to the World, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (music by Mozart), and a couple of other things on the bells.
Tuuschi, the effervescent, crippled-from-birth lovebird, had a copper bell of his own in his cage. And when the handbells arrived and were played, he decided that these were quite the thing, and, as animals often do, he made up a game and taught it to me. He started ringing his own bell every time I STOPPED playing mine. After a few times of this, I said: What do you want? Another bell? So I went and got a bell, rang it in front of his cage, saying: this is an A, and it’s turquoise.
Every single day he had to have a bell. He would ring his little copper one incessantly until I brought him a colored bell. I always told him the note and the color, and he would gaze at those bells with sheer rapture on his face, not moving a muscle until I stopped ringing.
Another thing that often happens:  you have your OWN reason for doing something, but after you’ve done it, a different, more meaningful reason appears that you didn’t even know about. I didn’t buy those bells for ME. I bought them for Tuuschi. And we never had a Christmas again. Hell, we never even had another St. Patrick’s day. Valentine’s Day 2008 was the last holiday we ever had.
How did Tuuschi end after he was stolen from me? I was told that the unholy priest adopted him out to someone here in town, but I was never told to whom, and I was never allowed to visit him, and I’ve never been told when and where he died. May the ocean’s dogs devour them all: Shirley Temple, the unholy priest, the adopters, and everyone in town who knows about my bird and will not tell me. Christians all. Damnable, lying, sneaking followers of christ.
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My Gentle Harp

Page One hundred one

Thursday 16 Sept 2010         Turners contorting

website ~~~~~~~~~~~~}


                                                My gentle harp,
                                             once more I waken
                             the sweetness of thy slumbering strains.
                                                     In tears
                                       our last farewell was taken.
                                               And now in tears
                                                we meet again.


                                                            ~~   thomas moore


So this is my harp. A small 12-string reproduction of a design from the Middle Ages. I’m supposed to be writing a piece of music for my stolen animals on this little instrument, a piece I started in July. But…  it is extremely difficult to make music of any kind since the events of 2008. The piece is maybe one-third finished, and I don’t know when, or if, I’ll go back to it.

I bought the harp in 2007, only months before everything was over. Had only months to fool around and play little songs for my animals to hear. Not that they cared one way or the other whether I played little songs on the harp for them or not. But I cared.

I said good-bye to it in March 2008, when things were being sent off to storage, and hello again in May the same year, when I moved into the rented bedroom and rescued Benazir (so I named the harp) from said storage. And then in August, fleeing Greenfield, I left it again, and didn’t get it back from someone’s barn for nearly two years, until May 2010.


(part of the book Being Toward Death)




friday 21 august 2009

Page Twenty


I shared everything with my animals. I suppose you can’t know, you can’t feel that, unless you have felt about animals in your life the same way I have.

We had feasts: thanksgiving, solstice, christmas, new year’s, my birthday, their birthdays. I cooked and cooked, and shared it all with them.

I walked with them, different places in different years, under sunrises and sunsets and full moons and the 2001 amazing leonid meteor showers. In snow and in rain and in sun.

I gave up my car to keep my family, as there came a point when there wasn’t enough money for both. I went begging for us when extra expenses had left money really tight.

I walked I don’t know how many miles from the center of Turners Falls to a place in Gill where my nervous, fear-biting dog was being boarded, all so he wouldn’t miss his Friday visit and get cranky with the staff.

And there’s much more to wander through, the sharing of our lives, another time. And the great emptiness.

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