Monday, January 30, 2012

From Lorca to Dylan

I read The Gypsy Ballads of Garcia Lorca 47 years ago and I have been carrying them in my head ever since.  Sometimes I wake and they are there.  The myrtle and lime. The three hundred crimson roses. The trail of tears and tinny lights. The moon by sounding water. And then I come to this, and it always stops me:

Green as I would have you be.
Green wind. Green boughs.
The boat on the sea
And the horse on the mountain.

I remember reciting these lines to my professor, Dr. Richard O'Connell, translator with James-Graham Lujan of Five Plays by Lorca, and he smiled. "Whose translation is that?" he asked.

I told him, "Rolfe Humphries."

Doc, as we called him, looked a little uneasy. "Rolfe will forgive me if I say he got it wrong. It needs to be more like, 'Green, green, I want you green.'"

He emphasized it with his hands, clasping the air, grabbing at the invisible but palpable green. "Maybe desire is a better word than want," he said. "Have you heard it better?" he asked.

"Maybe I said, and I recited:

Green green rocky road
promenade in green
Tell me who you love
Tell me who you love

"That isn't Lorca!" Doc said.

"It's Len Chandler, folksinger-poet. I heard him sing his green song at The Gaslight in Greenwich Village in 1962. Len played the 12 string and he could really get you going with that song. Bob Dylan was usually in the audience."

"Who's that?" Doc asked.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Monday, January 23, 2012

All Is Beautiful All Around Me: Navajo Ways and Ceremonial Stories

I've done a post on this book earlier, but today it comes out as a digital book on and Nook, so I feel I should say something about this new edition.

What can you get out of a book like this?

The stories, all of them oral renditions of Navajo healing Ways, are evocations of a culture that as Tony Hillerman says in the Foreword deserves to be called "The Enduring Navajo" . . . he also adds that this same culture is "engulfed by a dominant materialistic society."  Guess which one.

Frederick Turner (Beyond Geography) said this book was "a useful map of the cosmogony of North America's most populous tribe."

Frank Waters commented: "This oral equivalent to our Christian Bible loses none of its power and significance in its easy readability."

So, I believe you could read this book to heal yourself, to remember yourself, to bring yourself back into harmony with all things, which is the Navajo Way.

You have only to look at the last line of some of the stories to understand what All Is Beautiful is about:

"And all was well."

"And his wish was done."

"But his spirit is always there on the Wind's breath."

"And life was restored to the village."

These endings are merely beginnings -- to your own well being. Don't take my word for it, read this book of beginnings wherein all things merge and are one.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Lion and the Scorpion

I still think kids are the best storytellers.  Here's a story told by my grandson, Taj, when he was six.  He called it "The Lion and the Scorpion."  And he said it very fast and I had to really race with my pen to keep up with him.  Such stories have been called "Yo Mama" but basically they're just one-upsmanship word-plays called out on every playground in America.  Taj said it, I scribbled it down in my journal and then Taj illustrated it, all done -- story and drawing -- in five minutes.

The Lion say, "Can't you be my friend?"

(The scorpion raises his tail . . .)

The lion he say, "I am going to eat you for breakfast if you sting me!"

The scorpion say, "Hey, you, what are you lookin at, Turtle?"

The lion say, "Hey YOU, what you lookin at, Bird?  I will eat you for BREAKFAST and LUNCH and SNACK and DINNER!"

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Year in Review

One time when I was on the road doing some storytelling, I read a newspaper that was full of stuff that I thought had to be made up.  Of course it wasn't.  It was "real."  So I underlined the headlines, one after another.  And then cut them out of the newspaper and taped them into my journal and they looked like this --

Two die as car speeds off lift-bridge into river

Woman believed to have stolen baby

Police kill wandering emu in suburban St Louis

Man bites panda; panda bites man

Cat kills dog; man kills cat

Hawk attacks people

Voters decided on instant runoff

Maintenance man wins 163 million

Space station receives toxin scare

Bismarkers want world snow angel title back


Yes, the whole voyald, as William Saroyan once said, and all the people and animals
in it hopping and popping and scrapping.  I am siding with the five-year-old Jamaican girl
who read her own one-line poem on a stage where I was proud to be part of a program with
Cedella Marley and our daughter, Mariah Fox.  So what did the little girl read?

She stood before hundreds of people and shook a plastic bottle full of uncooked rice
and said in a very loud voice:

"Stop the violence NOW!"