Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Bob Dylan, Steve Earle and why you don’t need to learn poetry

I don’t want this to become one of those inspirational-type blogs because that would really blow my cool. And my carefully cultivated ageing cynic routine.

But I got my life back this year (after being made redundant) and I’m taking more care of it now.  One of the ways is remembering to recognise the small, good things. (And if that sounds inspirational, go away and read A Small Good Thing by Raymond Carver, who is a pretty cool cynical kind of guy and who wrote a story that will make you cry.)

This morning, I was singing on the way to work. And that was a miracle. Not because I’m a great singer (I’m not) but because I’ve had a cold for three weeks and this was the first time I’ve been able to.

I was singing, if you want to know: ‘Clouds so swift, Rain won’t lift… You ain’t goin’ nowhere’. The reason I was singing it is because I’ve been reading ‘Invisible Republic’, Greil Marcus’s book about the Basement Tapes. And I read those lines in the book, and the tune played itself in my head as I was reading, and  later, while I was walking and not thinking about them, the tune and the words came out of my mouth before I’d realised it.

Then I started thinking about all the songs that are inside me waiting to come out when I need them. We used to be told that learning poetry by heart was a good thing because if we were ever in prison, or if they ever burned all the books, we would remember the poems. (I think that was the reasoning, anyway.)

But we don’t need to learn poems now, because we have songs. I never tried to learn them by heart, but they’re there anyway. In my heart, in my head, tucked away as memories you don’t know you’ve got til you need them. I’ll always carry them around.

Then I remembered another song...

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