THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Tuesday, March 3, 1970
THE MICHIGAN DAILY Tuesday, March 3, 1970
By JOHN ALLEN
Robert Bly doesn't read his poems, he performs them. His
readings become a kind of dance with narration, and at times it is
difficult to tell which is the accompaniment and which the song.
In the course of an evening they become one, and it ceases to mat-
ter, and some kind of union of the voice and the body creates a
third entity that is not simply the sum of its parts.
Perhaps that is why it is somehow more satisfying to hear
him than to read him. The voice that gives shape to his poetry is
not altogether present on the printed page.
There is another advantage to hearing him read rather than
simply reading him. It is the advantage of motion picture over a
segence of slides. His images are not necessarily enhanced by be-
ing dwelt upon overlong, defining as they do a curve of energy
rather -than a series of independent points. When reading him it is
a temptation to settle upon single visions, either to relish them or
quarrel with them: to fix on images that are either too strong, too
weak, or too private when approached statically. Hearing them
read, however, removes the temptation by making it impossible.
The flow of the voice provides the necessary wings
There are at least two further advantages to hearing the poet:
it fixes in the mind the tonalities and inflections of the poet's
speech; and - certainly in the case of Bly - the experience may
be rich with the fringe benefits of his offhand observations and
The fringe benefits of hearing Bly read are manifold: tales
told about other poets - some of them friends, some of them quite
obviously the opposite; offhand remarks, sometimes bordering on
the vicious, regarding English faculties - individually and col-
lectively; and the flashes of philosophy and anecdote that round
out the image of the poet as poet, as citizen, as thinking and feel-
ing human being.
What emerges from an evening of hearing the poet is a per-
spective not readily accessible to the reading eye divorced from the
hearing ear, a perspective that is particularly valuable in coming
to grips with a poet like Bly who sets great store in the voice be-
hind the words - not just the persona of the speaker but the ris-
ing and falling of his speech, the intonations that are not just a
signature capable of being copied but a fingerprint fixed in the
Mr. Bly divided his program into poems on the darker side
and poems on the lighter side - a distinction not between serious
and unserious poems but between poems of protest and poems of
affirmation. Since the program was made up largely of unpublish-
ed works it is virtually impossible to quote from them with the ac-
curacy that poetry deserves. Hearing "The Teeth Mother Naked At
Last," however, seemed to me the best part of the evening; and the
reading of selections from an equally long, as yet unfinished, poem
at the close of the program was perhaps the least satisfying: partly
because the readings were understandably fragmentary, partly be-
cause the poet was more fixed to the printed page in front of him,
and partly because the hour took some of the energy from the at-
tention the poem deserved.
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TUESDAY, MARCH 3
Dept. of Geol. and Mineralogy and
Inst. of Science and Tech.: Dr. D. C.
Tozer, U. of Toronto, "The Thermal
History of the Earth", Physics and
Astronomy Mui. 4:00 p.m.
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Rm., 4:15 p.m.
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dents welcome, 1017 Angell Hall, 7:30
The following individuals can be
reached through Foreign Visitor Divi-
sion of Visitor and Guest Relations Of-
fice, Rooms 22-24, Mich. Union.
Mr. M. Telem; Head of Registry, Tel-
Aviv Univ., Israel. Mar. 3-6.
Mr. Zingerevice; Senior System Anal-
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(Continued on Page 6)
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Joan Baez: One step behind
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A FRANKOVICH PRODUCTION
Joan Baez holds a mirror up
to, the music of the folk, cap-
tur'ing the present in reflec-
thrs of things past. Listening
'to -her latest album, One Day at
a Time, you won't discover any-
thing that will alter music for
the next decade. She does not
possess the creative genius of
Bob Dylan 'or John Lennon-Paul
McCartney. You have heard
many of her songs before. Some,
like "No Expectations" (Rolling
Stones) and "Long Black Veil"
The Band)', are still on the
But even though Joan's songs
are seldom original and often
already well-known, her voice
and, interpretations make her.
one of the most cogent of fe-
male folk singers. Judy Collins
offers a close second, but some-
how Judy neve-r seems to re-
"move herself from the concert"
hall and recording studio. Joan
Baez is an activist; she possess-,
es her music and exploits. it for'
her. own ends. She uses her
voice to express her beliefs, and
its strength lies more in its
deeply emotional rather than
In this new album, especially,
the.songs contain undercurrents
of the Revolution she and her
imprisoned husband David Har-
As she summarizes in her let-
ter to David on the inside cover
of the album, "Your spirit is
strong. here on Struggle Moun-
tai. It seems that keeping us
apart is much trickier than
Uncle Sam ever counted on. The
Arizona sky breathes over your
head, exhaling 'a calm that
stretches all the way to Struggle
Mountain. You are fine. We are
healthy in the sun. I even think
I see the' birth of a real revolu-
tion, if our weapon remains the
power of love . .. and if we
keep, doing it one day at a time."
Two songs that contain such
'an obvious message are "The
Ghetto" and "Joe Hill." The
last ' stanza of "The Ghetto"
Well, if there's such a thing as
And there will be if we rise to
When we build a new
There won't be no ghetto at
While the music of this song
and the poetry are rooted in
black spirituals, the story has a
contemporary punch line. Like-
wise, "Joe Hill" is about a miner
who is killed while fighting for
workers' 'rights but whose spirit
returns to encourage those who
While other singers document
the ideology of the times, very
few of them have balance of
poetry that Joan consciously
includes in her albums. "Sweet
Sir Galahad" and "A Song for
David," her two original compo-
sitions, are bits of imagination
that brighten any revolution.
However, despite these at-
tempts at spiritual uplift, the
overwhelming mood of the al-
bum conveys a sense of collapse.
Even the love songs despair in
their plea for better days. At
times the pace is so painfully
slow that it seems as if she has
reached a state of ennui from
which there is no return. And
when she sings "No Expecta-
tions," the words act as an im-
portant commentary on the
times (Anyone who listened to
the words when the Rolling
Stones sang it, please stand
Your heart is like a diamond,
You throw your pearls to
And as I watch you leaving
You pack my peace of mind.
So, take me to the airport
And put me on a plane,
I got no expectations
To pass through here again.
Not only does Joan present
songs with which she can
stronglyj identify, she also acts
like a musicologist, carefully
organizing each to fit a pattern
of style, accompaniment and
content. Her earliest albums
contain many ballads from
England and colonial America.
Appropriately, they are accom-
panied by herself on the guitar.
Now she has moved to a new
interest, the music of the South
and especially the Nashville
Sound that Dylan recently pop-
ularized. (In fact, the album
itself was recordedat Bradley's
Barn in Mt. Julietn Tenn.)
Seventeen musicians contribute
to the accompaniment, includ-
ing electric and steel guitars,
fiddle, viola, harmonica, piano,
organ and drums.
Additionally Joan partakes of
the Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazel-
wool -- Johnny Cash/June
Carter tradition and sings sev-
eral songs with still unidentified
Jeffrey Shurtleff. One arrange-
ment that the male vocalist es- 4
pecially enhances is "Seven
Bridges Road," which allows
Joan to make use of her soprano
The end product of this blend
of traditional ballads, electric
sound, social relevancies and
popular tunes is peculiarly Joan
Baez. However, One Day at a
Time fails in one respect. Some-
how you never quite understand
why Joan chooses songs of the
South to express the Revolution.
The Nashville Sound has been a
To be really great is to adjust
to changes, but Joan Baez
hasn't kept pace lately. Perhaps
Dylan will give her a little ad-
vance notice in the future.
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Nonetheless, it was somehow right to
ing int6 being, a poem full of the future.
end on a poem still com-
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