Yesterday I wrote about spirituals, which made me contemplate other music that has brought me comfort through the years.
I've written about Woody Guthrie before. We share a birthday, so his work has always fascinated me. I have to admit that I tend to like other people singing his songs better than I like his voice. For years the work Folkways: A Vision Shared was never far away from my tape player or record player (and later CD player). I think it's still easily available, and it holds up well.
In fact, in the past few years, as the nation has settled into this second Great Depression, the music of the first Great Depression has seemed more relevant than ever.
I also have turned to punk music during times of stress, but the rage and nihilism of a lot of that music can be debilitating. A few years ago I sat in a meeting throbbing with anger. When I realized how angry I was, I wondered why. I realized that it was the music I had listened to on my way to work.
No, I can't remember what I had listened to; it was likely Rage Against the Machine or the Violent Femmes. I do remember this poem that came out of the experience. It's now part of my second chapbook, I Stand Here Shredding Documents.
During meetings, she conjugates
every French verb that she can remember.
In this way she sublimates
her desire to dismember.
He hears echoes of his high school teachers,
with their talk of potential and not living up to it.
He remembers taking a bottle to escape beneath the bleachers,
but as a grown up, he must compose his face and sit.
I shouldn’t listen to punk music from an earlier age
as I drive to my day of endless meetings.
I sit and stew with pointless rage.
I should focus on my breathing.
These adolescent coping strategies may not serve us well.
But they’re all we have during days of meeting hell.
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