Book Notes – Fred Marchant “Said Not Said”
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book…In his own words, here is Fred Marchant’s Book Notes music playlist for his poetry collection Said Not Said:
Who knows for sure how and why the music I listen to works its way into my writing? Sometimes it feels like snake charming, the hypnosis of rhythm. Sometimes it feels like a re-charge in the batteries of the inner life. Other times it feels like the one true language of feeling. But then again maybe it is the dictionary for that language. All I am sure of is that music for me opens the doorway into complexity of feeling, the way emotions cluster, cross one another, or orbit like electrons. Sometimes they collide and let loose some surprising energies. Van Morrison once said he loved the blues because the music told him something about his own life. When I assemble this sound-track I feel nothing but gratitude for the way in which these pieces help me in just that way. The same can be said of the writing of Said Not Said, my most recent book of poetry. Writing it helped me surface many things I did not really know about my own life. Perhaps too that is why I gravitate here toward “roots” music. That’s what I was after in my writing, and “roots” music was what I was listening to.
Veedon Fleece, 1974
Ok, let’s begin with a Belfast girl emigrating to America. She might be leaving her home and country, maybe breaking off a romance, to follow a dream. Maybe she wants to be a singer in the U.S. Though the music has a rockabilly, bar-band propulsion, this is an exquisitely sad, somewhat ominous song. The ending verse begins with a question: “We’re just screaming through the alley way / I hear her lonely cry, ah, why can’t you?” and the verse ends with the girl in the shadows of an alley, down “where the street lights all turn blue.” I shiver still when I hear that verse, and my mind wanders a bit as it always does in listening to music. I keep seeing in this song an image of my older sister Pat as she launched her life and lost her mind. This was back in the mid-1950s, and she was, as I am, from Providence, RI. In my mind’s eye she is going off to begin art-school and later to work as a commercial artist. A few years later she had developed a profound paranoid schizophrenia that afflicted her for the rest of her life.
Yes, I am projecting all this onto the song. Who doesn’t do that? Who wouldn’t see her standing in those alley shadows? Said Not Said has four sections, and the first one is a suite of poems devoted to my sister, and it’s not too much to say that around her in her coming of age the street lights are all turning blue.