Saturday, October 01, 2005


Greil Marcus: “‘The Coo Coo Bird’ was a ‘folk-lyric’ song. That meant it was made up of verbal fragments that had no direct or logical relationship to each other, but were drawn from a floating pool of thousands of disconnected verses, couplets, one-liners, pieces of eight. Harry Smith guessed the folk-lyric form came together some time between 1850 and 1875. Whenever it happened, it wasn’t until enough fragments were abroad in the land to reach a kind of critical mass—until there were enough fragments, passing back and forth between blacks and whites as common coin, to generate more fragments, to sustain within the matrix of a single musical language an almost infinite repertory of performances, to sustain the sense that out of the anonymity of the tradition a singer was presenting a distinct and separate account of a unique life. It is this quality—the insistence that the singer is singing his or her own life, as an event, taking place as you listen, its outcome uncertain—that separates the song, from which the singer emerges, from the ballad, into which the singer disappears.”


There’s a line walk’d tipsily between pure revelatory release—in language—and blithe spittle’d idiocy.


A devotee of Mother Ann Lee comparing the heart to “a cage of unclean birds.”

The dozen or so Drosophila: now numbering in the hundreds. I put the fruit away. A dispersal occurs: where dozens lined up earlier on the lathed two-by-twos of the “breakfast bar,” now I locate individuals maundering and lost, inconsolably flying a slow hang and hover down the hall to th’apartment’s nether regions. An open container of colamata olives collects its dead: Drosophilae diving into oil enshroudment. Critical mass.


Note: Robert Cándida Smith, Utopia and Dissent: Art, Poetry, and Politics in California