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November 12, 1972 - Image 16

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Michigan Daily, 1972-11-12
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Page Eight


Sunday, November 12, 1972

Sunday, November 12, 1972


"I would like to see a time when anyone could sing or live or hassle out
any variant of the blues and get taken care of decently, before they have
to scream and turn it into marketable art."

(Continued from page 7)
of musical talk. Men and women
who have made some really
great American music seem to
be getting pretty lazy.
Maybe little white mothers like
me are getting what we deserve
from folks who have worked
very hard for a long time and
have been steadily ignored for
most of their lives. More prob-
ably, most musicians are simply
giving audiences that to which
they seem to respond best. More
cynically, the money comes in as
long as musicians can recognize
what the people want and keep
on feeding it to them.
I see the blues as a relatively
personal and pretty private ex-
change of feelings and experi-
ences shared and understood
through music. Goddammit, a
really good performer is trying
to tell me something. Music be-
gan as and remains a way of
sharing consciousness left iso-
lated and unrecognizable by or
in any other medium. Granted,
music hasbeenmadbusiness for a
lot of people for a very long time
and is now a very big business.
Before that it was a way of say-
ing things, expressing what words
could not. It is still that to me.
Little else about it is of any last-
ing importance to me. Music
dies under the weight of the in-
dustry it has become-all that
money, all the promotional hypes,
all the media flashes.
It seems particularly ironic to
cast the blues into this industrial
snake pit. The blues has been
created and nurtured by men
and women given the short end
of the Great American Stick.
Dredging up the dead liberal
myth for a moment, it seems a
bit unjust that the people who
did most of the work got almost
none of the goodies.
And it saddens me to remem-
ber that many of the great blues-
people are now dead-most of
them of alcohol, smack, simple
poverty, or violence. Very few of
them died of anything bearing

even a laughable resemblance to
old age. Sometimes I think John
Coltrane was the greatest of them
all. I know he was officially a
jazzman, but he seems to typify
all the strength, virtuosity, and
longing that make the blues
meaningful to me.
Now I find myself in the
untenable position of refusing to
support the survivors. I could
get up fourteen clams for the
festival without batting an eye.
But for most of the performers
at the 1970 Festival, fourteen dol-
lars was a fair days wages. We
were paying three hundred dol-
lars for an hour's work and a
weekend of pleasant reunions to
people who were accustomed to
seeing that much money in a
month, if then.
Now the survivors and their
descendants are seeing a little

more of that money. Maybe
that's all that really matters.
You are free to write me off as
another idiot purist or guilt rid-
den neurotic snob. Nevertheless,
I would like to see a time when
anyone could sing or live or
hassle out any variant of the
blues and get taken care of de-
cently, before they have to
scream and turn it into market-
able art.
You do what you're gonna do.
Me, I'm gonna make music with
my friends, buy no records, shell
out for an occasional concert-
regretting every moment of it,
even as I love the music and
wallow in my cynicism - and
hopefully, someday, take the ad-
vice of the Firesign Theater:
"cut the bottoms from my shoes,
go live in a tree, and learn to
play the flute."

IV ALL KNOW that a poet's work is
directly dependent on his personal
fate, that the poet's personal qualities-
his character and his esthetic culture-
directly influence the content or form of
his work. Whitman even said that if
you have some carefully hidden vices,
your poetry will betray them. This is
quite true, and the experienced reader
can make conclusions about the author's
qualities from one stanza.
Less well known is the reverse-the
dependency of the author's personal fate
on his poetry. At best we recall in-
stances of personal sacrifice by such and
such an author for such and such a
work. Therefore, when we find out that
some poet was subjected to so-called
persecutions, we think that he wrote
something which angered the powers
that be.
But in fact this reverse dependence is
far more profound. As a rule, a person
who takes up a pen to write a poem for
the first time has a rather poor idea of
what awaits him. He begins (as a rule,
this is a young person) with a panegyric
to the object of his love, a description
of some landscape which he likes, or by
fixing some idea which seems to him
original or strange. But little by little in
the process of his work something truly
strange begins to happen: rhymes ap-
pear; distant, often opposite concepts
begin to m o v e together, to acquire
phonetic similarity; sometimes they sim-
ply merge, and things which yesterday
were completely real begin to seem like
abstractions today. And the person who
is simply in a bad "mood" can write

The fate of



0 0 *

that he feels like going away into a
"dark wood," and-for phonetic reasons
-also add "for good." Thus without even
desiring to think about death, the poet
involuntarily begins to ponder it; it be-
comes a greater reality for him than
it was before.
But there are multitudes of rhymes
other than mood-wood-good. And multi-
tudes of problems connnected to them
arise too, and these can take one rather
far afield. At times without willing it,
the poet utters something on which he
immediately begins to be dependent. And
the more profound or the more elevated
what he has said (even if he himself
acknowledges that it is chance), the
more he is dependent on it. What takes
place is a kind of acceleration of con-
sciousness, and the process is irrevers-
ible. Once it occurs, it is impossible to
retreat. Phonetics and the mechanism
of association continue to work more or
less in spite of our will, and often they
catch us in totally unsuitable situations.
And, sooner or later, such a person
becomes in a certain sense a foreign
body-in any human environnent. And
all of the physical laws of the environ-
ment with regard to foreign bodies begin

to work against him: repression, rejec-
tion, and occasionally-destruction.
This roughly the fate of Natalia Gor-
banevskaya, a thirty-four-year-old Rus-
sian poetess. It is unlikely that her name
will mean anything to the a v e r a g e
American reader. And if it does, he
knows it from the newspapers: that Gor-
banevskaya took part in the single dem-
onstration in the Soviet Union against
the invasion of Czechoslovakia, that she
was arrested, and in spite of the fact
that she had two small children (the
second at the time of the arrest was only
a few months old), she was put into an
insane asylum where she spent more
than three years and was only recently
released. That is, if the average reader
of newspapers k n o w s anything about
Gorbanevskaya, he knows her at best
as a character in a political, or more
precisely, a police drama. A reader who
is a little better informed might know
that a book of Gorbanevskaya's poetry
came out in English in London this year,
but it too is completely filled with po-
litical commentary which occupies more
than half of the whole book. And this
half is incomparably easier to read than
the second, i.e., the poetry itself, trans-

lated in
So in Il
to mind
one of
poet ir
her wc
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does de
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cause h
a poet
her po
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to disc
which f
had ra
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all the
from th
of her
a high

The survivors can remain themselves* .

Joseph Brodsky is

the University's

.0 . .or respond to new cues.

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0 0. Ni

OCeHb 1968-BOCHa 1970



Such a moonless sunless night anguish approac
But behind me Pokrov Cathedral is spreading i
And the white Lobnoe Square* presses against
And someone in tears smiled-to you or at you,
Filling a name with time, like a dipper with wa
Probably you will guess, for whom the trees
For whom?--but laughing, but saddening, but
You will draw your full handful of darkness, do
And starry sky . . Such anguish hangs around
As if the skiff's been tossed onto the dark and c
And the helmsman is dead, and the swimmer, 1
The leaves from the notebook fly, fall and are s
Fall 1968 - Spring 1970
Begun in freedom, finished in the Serbsky Inst
*A place on Red Square where petitioners came to bow
used for executions. It was the scene of the demonstrat
slovakia in which Gorbanevskaya took part.
**A mental hospital in Moscow, often used as a place of inter

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