Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bill Manhire channels Leonard Cohen

Or do I mean Ray Davies? Yeah, probably Ray Davies.

I haven’t read Bill Manhire’s The Victims of Lightning yet, just the taster, Rough Bounces, a lovely hand-made (the cover is a potato print, Agria of course) 100-copy edition of 10 poems from the new collection, which is due in March from VUP. Rough Bounces isn’t a re-mix. I guess it’s a pre-mix. Bill does these small publications each year, I gather, and all the ones I have been privileged to see and/or receive have been wonderful.

Nine of the 10 poems in this one are lyrics for Norman Meehan’s forthcoming CD Buddhist Rain. The poem that gives the album its title includes this stanza (flagrant breach of copyright ahead):
I closed up my umbrella
And stood there in the rain
I told her that I loved her
She told me much the same.
That could be Leonard Cohen, but is so Ray Davies, such a lot packed into those simple words. “Waterloo Sunset”, anyone?

And here is a taster of what the album might sound like – singer Hannah Griffin and reed player Colin Hemmingsen with Meehan on piano performing his setting of EE Cummings’ “who are you, little i?” from Sun Moon Stars Rain. Spookily the poem includes the phrase “high window”, a pre-echo of the Philip Larkin poem and collection of almost that name.


Rob Hosking said...

Davies, definitely.

The first three lines you quote are fairly generic.

It's the last three words of the fourth line which call into question everything that you have read so far.

The don't quite undercut it - they're not as direct as that - they simply raise a sardonic eyebrow.

Davies could do this with a vocal inflection.

Stephen Stratford said...

Ah yes, but the art of writing lyrics rather than poems is to leave room for the interpreter and his or her vocal inflection.

Which is why writing good lyrics is far harder than writing good poems, which is hard enough.