Posts Tagged ‘Folk music’

Janis Ian in 1969, and today. Did this woman really ever believe she was an “ugly duckling”? Surely not. And she is surely a beautiful soul, and one who effortlessly combined skill as a writer with genius as a composer. Respect.

… and I dial up one of those on demand radio station things to get some background music that helps the creative juices to flow, when suddenly Janis Ian comes on singing In the Winter.

Well, that was the end of productive work for a while, as it prompted a quick rush round the outer reaches of YouTube to remind myself of this exquisitely personal woman’s haunting music and lyrics.

Do yourselves a favour, and watch this interview and live un-plugged performance, including an hilarious little ditty she wrote about the release of her autobiography, which, as it happens, was very successful.

I reckon it’s the best 15 minutes you’ll give yourself this week. And if you can’t spend 15 minutes, just fast forward to her performance of At Seventeen at the end. If it’s possible, it’s even more heart rending now, as she settles so comfortably and productively into late middle age, than it was when she originally wrote it at 24 years old.

The pain, the humanity, the empathy, the understanding of the human condition. It leaves one breathless.

Remember, this was a woman who received death threats at 16 for writing and releasing a song in favour of inter-racial marriage. As poet Roger McGough once said “Words? Why, she could almost make them talk.”

Yolly reading at the drunken poet

Yours truly reading at the "Drunken Poet". Yes, that's me, over there in the distance, struggling to see.

Apologies for the rough quality of the photo, but it was a dark and crowded pub on a dark and soggy night.

After 20 years of writing poetry, publishing “Read Me”, (see below), and innumerable public speaking appearances, this was, believe it or not, the first time I have ever actually read any of my work in public. In proper public, I mean, not at dinner parties with a captive audience who are forced to listen to be polite. Anyhow, I thought the event deserved recording on the blog.

Interesting experience it was, reading to a noisy pub full of people who’d had a skinful of Guinness and Irish whiskey. (It was near 10pm by the time I was called up.) “Shut the fuck up! Especially you noisy bastards at the back!” seemed to do the trick long enough for the work to speak for itself. I don’t feel I have quite ascended to the heights of courage of a new stand up comedian at a northern working mens’ club in the UK, but I will certainly treat their stories on chat shows with more respect from now on.

Anyhow, it was a very fun night at the Drunken Poet – was a pub ever better named? – and some of the music was brilliant, and they seemed to genuinely like my poetry. Either that, or they just thought I was too big and ugly to boo off. The walls of the pub are adorned with photos and caricatures of the greats – Yeats, Shaw, Behan, Beckett. No Dylan Thomas, though, so I may have to donate one.

The stars of the night were three kids in their early 20s who were visiting Melbourne from Quebec, who played Québécois folk music – in French, naturally – to huge acclaim. Interestingly, I recognised one of the songs from a recording of Welsh folk songs I have from Susan Davies. It would be fascinating to know how a folk song migrates from Wales to Canada and gets translated and transmogrified into French.

Next Open Mic at the DP (as we cognoscenti now call it) is the Thursday before Easter – “Hungover for Good Friday” – how appropriate! I am emboldened to have another go. Would be great to see some of the readers of this blog there.

And if you feel like investing thirty bucks in the book, I’d be delighted. There’s 71 poems and a long short story. That’s less than 50 cents a poem. Feed the starving artist! As I once saw on a little sign by a poet reading his work in public, next to his cap with a few coins in it, “Will Think For Money”.

Read Me

Go on, grab one. I dare you. I won't tell anyone you read poetry. Promise.