Thursday, July 14, 2011

Let's All Write A Blues Poem!

We have now reached one of the forms that absolutely terrifies me. It seems like embarrassing myself is an inevitability here. It's not that I don't like "the blues." I think it's a beautiful form of music that serves as an outlet for a certain type of basic human anguish.

Our textbook offers a quote from Ralph Ellison which I think expresses the spirit of the blues.  He said that the blues "at once express the agony of life and the possibility of conquering it through sheer toughness of spirit."

I am going to sit this form out on making a video of myself reading an example poem aloud for two reasons.  The first is that the thought of me reading the blues strikes me as going beyond absurd and nearing the realm of the disrespectful.  I am that far from a credible blues man as you shall see anon (or, as you can see by how I finished that sentence out of the abundance of my heart.)  The second is that I feel that this form would be better served by giving an example in the musical form.  Here's Leadbelly:

 But we also want to include an example in the form of poetry.  When one looks to the form of Blues Poems, one could not find a better place than the works of Langston Hughes.  Hughes was one of the golden children of the Harlem Renaissance and wrote a great deal of blues poetry.

Morning After
by Langston Hughes

I was so sick last night I
Didn’t hardly know my mind.
So sick last night I
Didn’t know my mind.
I drunk some bad licker that
Almost made me blind.

Had a dream last night I
Thought I was in hell.
I drempt last night I
Thought I was in hell.
Woke up and looked around me—
Babe, your mouth was open like a well.

I said, Baby! Baby!
Please don’t snore so loud.
Baby! Please!
Please don’t snore so loud.
You jest a little bit o’ woman but you
Sound like a great big crowd.

Ok.  So, I'm going to take that as a permission slip from Langston Hughes to use humor in my blues poem.  I've decided that I must needs go meta with my piece.  I am also borrowing from the first stanza from a joke blues poem I posted on Facebook.

The Paul Mathers Style Blues
by Paul Mathers

Oh, I looked in my cupboard this morning
I was out of Earl Grey tea.
I made Kadota Fig Tarts
and the Pinot Grigio wasn't chilled properly.
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew.
I'm just a nebbish who's feeling devilish,
I've got the Paul Mathers style blues.

Well, I'm a raging neurotic.

I've got my ennui down. 
My existential dread 
is known all over town.
I read the German philosophers 
and tend to agree with their views.
But my poetic cathexis compels me to employ this form,
I've got the Paul Mathers style blues.

The blues, it isn't in me.
I'd rather talk interior design.
The pedant in me recoils
from how I used too many beats in a line.
I've bumbled up this form poem.
I'll never be a Langston Hughes.
And that's why I'm a'wailin' 
"I've got them Paul Mathers style blues!"


  1. Enjoyed both the sample and your own poem. Look forward to watching the video. As a much younger man I think barely 30 a friend introduced me to Glenn Kaiser and Darrel Mansfield, they have at least three albums together Slow Burn, Trimmed and Burnin' and Blues Night (which is live from Amsterdam). I had never heard anything remotely like this kind of music. In my youthful naivete I could only ask "whats this?" If you never heard them try youtube and "Kaiser+Mansfield" - some of the videos are poor but some are pretty good. I've since found Blind Willie Johnson and the Rev Gary Davis and also Trace Balin.

  2. I really don't know if I could write one but I really enjoyed yours! I've written songs,poems, rhymes, and limericks and even a few raps but really I don't think I could sit down and write a Blues Song nope I just don't think I could.

    Praise & Laughter
    Joy and Song
    When I wrote this
    I was wrong
    I can't write blues
    Can't even try
    Because I'm to happy
    I fly to the sky
    I'll write limericks and poems
    But sell me no blues
    I'll read em still when in the news
    But Blues just isn't me
    And it just wouldn't do
    To try to write it even for you.
    -Poem Girl

    Yours Truly
    Poem Girl