21st September 2012
Leonard Cohen became an inductee into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame recently because his lyrics verge on poetry. In fact, he is the one songwriter that you can find among the pages of the Norton Anthology of Poetry:
As the mist leaves no scar
On the dark green hill,
So my body leaves no scar
On you, nor ever will.
It sounds as if it comes from a much earlier era than own. It paints a mood simply and doesn't engage us in any intellectual acrobatics. Lyrics can't do that - the music keeps them from it, because on the spectrum from intellect to emotion, music is as far from intellect as you can go and still end up with any kind of form. At some point in the past, about the time poets started wearing dufflecoats and smoking pipes, intellect made inroads into all the arts and for a while has been dallying there. In the meantime, the visual arts have been making a curcuitous route back to a kind of representationalism, and poetry has gone uderground into song.
Leonard Cohen is a good example, but there are others: "Is a jewel just a pebble that found a way to shine? Is a hero's blood more righteous than a hobo's sip of wine?" Joe Henry there. "Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes, they call me on and on across the universe. Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box. They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe." Lennon. There are more, of course. Poetry is the nebulous art of capturing mood and thundering it into the soul of the reader. It almost entirely misses the intellect, as someone once said. It's a rape of sorts, but one that you feel better for.
This week, in a haze of insomniac semi-consciousness, I tackled the line-edit of my novel "Veil of Time," (I keep hoping to find that title tripping off my tongue, but it hasn't yet.) I should line-edit the title: This would pack more punch if it were simply called Dunadd. I don't like the commercial feel of "Veil of Time," though, as my author friend Scott Lasser said to me, "I would trade commercial success over respect any day." So maybe I'll live with a commercial title. Anyway, the line-edit consists of a lot of replacing my English spelling with its American equivalent, a few suggestions as to how to make a sentence run more smoothly; a few small changes to a few scenes were also asked for. I have begun to panic about this being my last run-through, because if I get things chronologically out of sequence at this point, or if my foray into other languages has gone badly wrong, that's the way it will stay, unless the proof reader picks up on it down the line. Still, it's a small panic. As my friend Gail says, it's a high class problem.