High Five! from The Juliets
After the disbandment of his former aptly named project, Freer, singer/songwriter Jeremy Freer plugged in his Roland, called on a few friends, and set out to prove that he was no one-trick pony. Instead of resting on the decaying laurels of Detroit’s garage rock scene, Freer turned a new leaf and pieced together a Baroque pop quintet currently rounded out by Sarah Myers (violin/vocals), Anthony Marchese (cello), Ashton Hopkins (bass/vocals), and Jaz Philips (drums). Since 2008 when The Juliets first formed, Jeremy Freer and company have delighted national audiences with what Abolish Confusion calls, “A charm that comes with the adventurous thoughts from five skillful minds."
This week, The Juliets take a break from rehearsing for their upcoming show at The Blind Pig with Bear Lake and Flashcash on March 29th to toss up a High Five! of their favorite poets:
1. T.S. Eliot
T.S. Eliot found both the spiritual and the sublime in the common details of everyday city life. He was cinematic, mystical, comical, and random. In his poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Eliot opens with a panoramic shot, “Let us go you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky,” which he immediately follows with, “Like a patient etherized upon a table,” bringing us seamlessly from a majestic evening skyline to a sterile operating room. Somehow, Eliot is able to make these completely unrelated environments speak to each other. The poem continues with comic self-reflection:
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, 'Do I dare?' and, 'Do I dare?'
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair-
[They will say: 'How his hair is growing thin!']
There is one line in the poem that repeats twice and is seemingly unrelated to the rest, “In the room women come and go, talking of Michelangelo.” The use of that line, the way it is singled out as the only line repeated makes me think that at some point, Eliot was working on the poem in a public place. Whatever the case may be, in this poem as in all of his poetry, imagery and ideas remind readers of how every detail in life, even the ones that can seem monotonous, repetitive, or even pointless, are actually full of mystery, meaning, and imagination.
2. William Blake
William Blake, unlike T.S. Eliot, found little success during his lifetime and was for the most part, a social outcast. Blake’s poems were as spiritual as his philosophical paintings - both inspired by a heightened imagination. His visions were dark, yet hopeful, and his prophetic ramblings became unflinching critiques of the Age of Enlightenment’s hypocrisy. Like all great art, Blake’s poems were timeless; the message he carried could connect to anyone of any age. He was a man of complete conviction who, from the tone of his poetry, letters, and accounts of his life, proved that he had no patience for bullshit. “The Human Abstract” is one of Blake’s poems that in my opinion, best sums up what this man was all about:
Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody Poor:
And Mercy no more could be,
If all were as happy as we;
And mutual fear brings peace;
Till the selfish loves increase.
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.
He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the ground with tears:
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.
Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the Caterpillar and Fly,
Feed on the Mystery.
And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;
And the Raven his nest has made
In its thickest shade.
The Gods of the earth and sea,
Sought thro’ Nature to find this Tree
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain
3. Jorge Luis Borges
Blindness is something Borges became familiar with near the end of his life, an ailment which he could have bitterly suffered from, allowing his poetry to bleed with irony and sarcasm. Instead, his work was filled with landscapes gathered from [memory] and the myths he poured over. Borges was obviously a man whose introspection and contemplation of divine mysteries kept him from stooping to a level of self-pity. Through his blindness, came some of Borges' best work. Near the end of his life, he even published a book called Atlas, a picture diary accompanied by prose, verse, and dreams, inspired by his travels around the world as a blind poet.
Borges’ “A History of Night” begins with the stanza,
Through the course of generations,
men brought the night into being.
In the beginning were blindness and dream
and thorns which gash the bare foot
and fear of wolves.
The poem progresses with reference to “The Chaldeans, Latin hexameters, Pascal, and Luis de León,” ending with,
Now we feel her inexhaustible
as an old wine
and no one can think of her without vertigo,
and time has charged her with eternity.
And to think that night would not exist
without those tenuous instruments, the eyes.
There's a sentimental element of his poetry that strikes me in way that I find completely unique. Sometimes Borges is subtle, as in his use of the words “she” and “her” in the poem quoted above, while other times, the meaning behind his work is obvious.
In “Moments,” Borges notes,
If I could live again - I will travel light,
If I could live again - I'll try to work bare feet
At the beginning of spring til the end of autumn,
I'll ride more carts,
I'll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live - but now I am 85,
- and I know that I am dying...
I go back and forth on this, but I usually come to the conclusion that Borges is the poet I'd keep with me if I had to choose just one.
4. Pablo Neruda
Every poem Pablo Neruda wrote was an emotional painting with so much color. Neruda mixed imagery and metaphor into the fabric of his poetry much like many of the other Spanish Modernists, yet he spoke in a voice that was completely his own. In the forward to Neruda’s Residence on Earth, Jim Harrison says, “In the past century, there [has been] no poet so profligate and exquisite in the realm of metaphor than Neruda.”
This stanza from Neruda’s “Ordinance of Wine” perfectly illustrates Harrison’s point:
The wine digs in its black thorns,
and it walks its lugubrious hedgehogs,
amid daggers, amid midnights,
amid hoarse, bedraggled throats,
amid cigars and twisted hair,
and like a sea wave it swells its voice
howling tears and corpse hands.
5. Rainer Maria Rilke
Man's search to understand God and the inspiration, struggle, joy, frustration, and confusion that spirituality can evoke is a reoccurring theme in most of Rilke's poetry. Even if someone identifies as an atheist, one could argue that atheism is merely a response to the sentiment that, “God exists.” That response in itself is a struggle many are faced with while trying to uncover the mystery of God. This means that a poem like Rilke's “Imaginary Career” can speak to the faithful, as well as those who reject belief in spiritual deities:
At first a childhood, limitless and free
of any goals. Ah sweet unconsciousness.
Then sudden terror, schoolrooms, slavery,
the plunge into temptation and deep loss.
Defiance. The child bent becomes the bender,
inflicts on others what he once went through.
Loved, feared, rescuer, wrestler, victor,
he takes his vengeance, blow by blow.
And now in vast, cold, empty space, alone.
Yet hidden deep within the grown up heart,
a longing for the first world, the ancient one...
Then, from His place of ambush, God leapt out.
This week’s High Five! is brought to you by: The Juliets’ Jeremy Freer with Lauren Mercury Roberts
Photo Credit: Kyle LeMere
To celebrate the end of the nine to five, a Green Light Go staff member or artist will leave you with their short list of favorite things, better known as the High Five!