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Friday, October 23, 2015


peggy lee
Peggy Lee has been singing in my head the last couple days, all day. Is that all there is? If that's all there is, my friend, then let's keep dancing, let's drink some booze and have a ball. It's been something of a mantra in my head. The way Peggy Lee sings it in her Peggy Lee style made the song hers for all time. I saw her on YouTube out of curiosity because this song had come to mind and I wanted to hear her sing it again. It had been a long time. She's as cool as a jazz singer as Miles Davis is cool blowing his horn. Peggy Lee was best known on the Ed Sullivan show associated with big bands and the Forties. This song, Is That All There Is?, recorded I think in 1969, was played on the radio for awhile. Not many people knew that in the jazz world Peggy Lee was held the highest among jazz singers, up there with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.

I just now took a digression, went to amazon and ordered a CD of Peggy Lee At Basin Street East Live, 1961. I have it on 33, the same as not having it. It was an impulse purchase, but hearing Peggy Lee in my head for two full days convinces me I want more, and that's the album I want to hear. The song, Is That All There Is?, has been something of a mantra in my head. I hear her sing it and think about it in agreement that the best way to get through this life is to keep on dancing, drink some booze and have a ball. Why the hell not? It's saying live free of the imaginary restraints of other people's unspoken expectations, keep a light-hearted spirit about everything, don't worry, be happy. The material dimension, itself, is a disappointment. A multi-billionaire looks in the bathroom mirror after a night of too much to drink and says, Is that all there is? No matter our status, our assets, our fame, our reputation, our religion, no matter, we are well acquainted with the disappointment in the earth experience, the realm of the physical where seldom we feel full satisfaction for more than a few seconds.

A spirit with  physical body and mind sometimes feels trapped and separated from the world of spirit my spirit longs for. Home it's called in hymns. Existence in the physical world is hard work for the spirit. There is no certainty in anything. We pretend certainty by mapping the night sky and misinterpreting scriptures. This afternoon I sat down with Louise Gluck's Collected Poems, opened it, selected a page randomly, p191, Hawk's Shadow. I found it online easily just now googling Louise Gluck Hawk's Shadow. Went straight to it. It is a good example of how concisely  she tells a story you can see visually, physically, then it goes into shadow. Seeing a hawk hovering with its kill and flying away, watching the shadow of predator and prey in one shadow. Remembering her partner, maybe husband, embracing her spontaneously, the shadow of him holding her, followed by the shadow of the hawk and its kill. It reverberates.

louise gluck

This poem is a good illustration of why I like poetry. She weds spirit and matter. She brings out the spirit from matter, like the way she went from hawk to its shadow to nothing. I like her concise language, I watched them veering toward West Hill, casting / their one shadow in the dirt, the all-inclusive / shape of the predator--Then they disappeared. I sat staring out the window, stunned by awe, by how she made this shadow of a flying bird an image of her deepest feeling around her relationship with partner, the predator consuming her. She has a way of arriving at the end with a reverberation that goes on and on like circles in a pond. She finds her deepest feelings and addresses them in a physical form with words that bring them to life in such a way the reader shares the feeling. She makes reading an art form.

louise gluck
national book award 2014


  1. Another wonderful composition, Tj. I love the way you express your thoughts and the content of them, and that I learn something every time I read your essays. Thank you.

  2. Thank you, Rob. I don't reply much from not knowing what to say after what you write. Like a moment when a woman so beautiful I can't help but look in her eyes while she's talking and have to pay extra attention to what she's saying because I'm absorbed in her soul, when she talks with me (I'm thinking of one in particular) like I matter, I feel gratitude for giving me her attention. Hephaestus drawn to Aphrodite. I know you mean what you say and I take it humbly. If I didn't, my ego would explode. You affirm that I am able to express my thoughts and the content of them, something constructive I can use, like the confidence I am able to do something really important to me that I am unable to see without feedback. It's the best kind of feedback. And I'm most often left speechless and grateful like looking into divinely gorgeous eyes.