Words by themselves can sometimes be limiting. The language of poetry, though, is much like the language of melody. Because poetry says more than the words say. It’s not just about the words themselves but it’s even how they sound together, it’s about the flow, it’s about the percussion and the stops and the starts. So again, one of the reasons I love Bruce (Cockburn’s) music too is that it has really encouraged me to delve into poetry more.
One of the problems with poetry is that it requires something of you; it takes work. It takes repetition and contemplation and there’s always the anxiety, am I getting it? And I think often with great poets, they’re not all that concerned about you getting it. But when we do work with it like we work with melodies, you sense a deep intuition of what’s true and good and what’s authentic. And so poetry is like melody in that sense, rather than straight compositional language. Bruce does both really well.
“Pacing the Cage” – that’s one of those songs that put me on the floor the first time I ever heard it. I can’t remember exactly what was going on in my life at the time but I was so weary of many many things at the time.
Every once in a while I get this way. I’m a very positive person. I see life very positively most of the time. But every once in a while, like everybody else, things just overwhelm you whether it’s fatigue of labor or the relational things that we deal, and the reality of human suffering if you’re paying attention to any of that stuff at all. Every once in a while, you just think, get me out of here, I’m done, I’m so, so done.
That’s the place I happened to be at when I listened to that album - “Pacing the Cage,” it was the most hauntingly beautiful, world-weary song I’d ever heard in my life. And I remember quite literally by the time the song was over I was on the floor beside the stereo holding my stomach because it had just kind of pulled up all of that feeling.
But again, it’s the voice that lets you get it out, you speak it, and as you speak it and you put it out there, you can deal with it. But before it has language, it’s the murky thing deep in your soul, you can’t touch it, you can’t feel it. And so Bruce, again, puts words on these things we have no words for. We can put it outside of us, we can look at it, we can deal with it.
That song is a very important song for me at that time in my life and it sort of gave me permission to write. You know, once I could put what I was feeling out there in language, I could express the way I do that and hopefully write something that someone else can use.
Filed in Writing - Poetry