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Old 03-15-2006, 09:05 AM   #1
Auburn Annie
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Silver Bird on High


ARTICLE FROM: BC Business, Dec 2003, Vol. 31, Issue 12 by Denny Boyd

Picking the next Poet Laureate, before it's too late


I want to write about Gordon Lightfoot, but I don't know how to start.

I don't know if it should be in the present tense or the past. Lightfoot is here as I write this, but will he be when you read it? He has been that sick.

In September of 2002, Lightfoot collapsed during a benefit concert in Orillia, Ontario, his hometown. He was dying as doctors performed surgery to stop massive internal bleeding from a ruptured artery between his liver and pancreas. He was in a coma for six weeks.

When he opened his eyes, he could no longer sing. A life-supporting tube down his throat had ruptured his larynx. He has said that his first waking thought was for the unsung songs that were waiting for him to sing.

That was a year ago. He is mobile now, but as frail as a river reed he might have sung about He faces more surgery in January that may prolong his life, but is not going to give back his singing chops.

In his 40 years of singin', pickin' and writin', Lightfoot has won a pantheon of honors. He's an Order of Canada and Governor General's Award winner, a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. He's been nominated for five Grammys, and won 17 Juno Awards. He has written 250 songs, and has album sales of 10 million. Hasn't had a drink since the 1980s.

That's great and justified but it's not enough. I want one more honor for Lightfoot, and as soon as possible. I want the federal government to appoint him Canada's Poet Laureate. Parliament created the position last year and its first appointee was Vancouver's George Bowering, poet, author of 50 books, renegade thinker and frequent occupant of a seat behind the third-base dugout at Nat Bailey Stadium.

The duties are vague, but it was hoped the laureate might help improve the quality of Commons debate. That's possible, since the poetic rhetoric from the opposition benches to the government side seldom climbs above "Ink pink/You stink/Hangin on/A horse's fedock."

The term is two years. There's an honorarium of $12,000. The plan is to alternate between Anglo and French poets.

I see no problem here. I am sure Bowering would be willing to give up the remainder of his term in exchange for, oh, I don't know, a Senate seat? He would be a grand western senator, loud and irreverent, just what that dozy house needs. As for Quebec, well, there hasn't been a great French-speaking poet since Baudelaire and Quebec certainly doesn't have one worth 812,000.

There is certain to be a philistine out mere who will ask, How can a singer be a poet? Again, no problems. Lightfoot has been writing poems set to music his entire career, narrative poems like the Canadian Railroad Trilogy, Black Day in July, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Pick a line from the shipwreck saga:

"The good ship and true / Was a bone to be chewed / When the gales of November came early."

Or:

"Does anyone know / Where the love of God goes / When the waves turn the minutes to hours?"

Romantic poetry?

"But that was long ago, that I can scarcely feel the way I felt before / And if time could heal the wounds I would tear me threads away, that I might bleed some more."

That's hurtin' music, folks, and as achingly despondent as Byron's "What deep wound ever closed without a scar?" or Shakespeare's "These words are razors to my wounded heart"

I should admit that I'm not an impartial observer of Lightfoot. I still have a powerful sense of gratitude for the time he didn't kill me.

In the mid-'70s he was playing a gig at a downtown coffee house and I went down to meet him, not knowing he had a reputation for swallowing reporters whole. When I walked into the grubby dressing room his veteran guitar player Red Shea told me, "Gord doesn't like interviews and he really hates interviews before he plays. He might talk to you, he might kill you. There's no tellin." While I was weighing my chances, Lightfoot walked in. He glared at me. But he took one question and then another and told me to come back later.

He was warm and witty, said he was spellbound by Vancouver's beauty and planned to stay a few days. Before he left he called in high excitement He had been taken up into the mountains to see an experimental logging technique on steep slopes, extracting the timbers by a radio-controlled blimp. He said he was going to write a song about it. He hasn't yet, but I'm happy to wait.

*********************************************
The State of New York has opened up NOVEL (New York Online Virtual Electronic Library) databases to any citizen with a NYS driver's license or state ID, allowing searches in all sorts of databases for free; it can also be accessed through your local public library. So I tried it out with "Gordon Lightfoot" and came across this article I hadn't seen before.
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Old 03-15-2006, 09:05 AM   #2
Auburn Annie
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Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Upstate New York
Posts: 3,102
Default

Silver Bird on High


ARTICLE FROM: BC Business, Dec 2003, Vol. 31, Issue 12 by Denny Boyd

Picking the next Poet Laureate, before it's too late


I want to write about Gordon Lightfoot, but I don't know how to start.

I don't know if it should be in the present tense or the past. Lightfoot is here as I write this, but will he be when you read it? He has been that sick.

In September of 2002, Lightfoot collapsed during a benefit concert in Orillia, Ontario, his hometown. He was dying as doctors performed surgery to stop massive internal bleeding from a ruptured artery between his liver and pancreas. He was in a coma for six weeks.

When he opened his eyes, he could no longer sing. A life-supporting tube down his throat had ruptured his larynx. He has said that his first waking thought was for the unsung songs that were waiting for him to sing.

That was a year ago. He is mobile now, but as frail as a river reed he might have sung about He faces more surgery in January that may prolong his life, but is not going to give back his singing chops.

In his 40 years of singin', pickin' and writin', Lightfoot has won a pantheon of honors. He's an Order of Canada and Governor General's Award winner, a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. He's been nominated for five Grammys, and won 17 Juno Awards. He has written 250 songs, and has album sales of 10 million. Hasn't had a drink since the 1980s.

That's great and justified but it's not enough. I want one more honor for Lightfoot, and as soon as possible. I want the federal government to appoint him Canada's Poet Laureate. Parliament created the position last year and its first appointee was Vancouver's George Bowering, poet, author of 50 books, renegade thinker and frequent occupant of a seat behind the third-base dugout at Nat Bailey Stadium.

The duties are vague, but it was hoped the laureate might help improve the quality of Commons debate. That's possible, since the poetic rhetoric from the opposition benches to the government side seldom climbs above "Ink pink/You stink/Hangin on/A horse's fedock."

The term is two years. There's an honorarium of $12,000. The plan is to alternate between Anglo and French poets.

I see no problem here. I am sure Bowering would be willing to give up the remainder of his term in exchange for, oh, I don't know, a Senate seat? He would be a grand western senator, loud and irreverent, just what that dozy house needs. As for Quebec, well, there hasn't been a great French-speaking poet since Baudelaire and Quebec certainly doesn't have one worth 812,000.

There is certain to be a philistine out mere who will ask, How can a singer be a poet? Again, no problems. Lightfoot has been writing poems set to music his entire career, narrative poems like the Canadian Railroad Trilogy, Black Day in July, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Pick a line from the shipwreck saga:

"The good ship and true / Was a bone to be chewed / When the gales of November came early."

Or:

"Does anyone know / Where the love of God goes / When the waves turn the minutes to hours?"

Romantic poetry?

"But that was long ago, that I can scarcely feel the way I felt before / And if time could heal the wounds I would tear me threads away, that I might bleed some more."

That's hurtin' music, folks, and as achingly despondent as Byron's "What deep wound ever closed without a scar?" or Shakespeare's "These words are razors to my wounded heart"

I should admit that I'm not an impartial observer of Lightfoot. I still have a powerful sense of gratitude for the time he didn't kill me.

In the mid-'70s he was playing a gig at a downtown coffee house and I went down to meet him, not knowing he had a reputation for swallowing reporters whole. When I walked into the grubby dressing room his veteran guitar player Red Shea told me, "Gord doesn't like interviews and he really hates interviews before he plays. He might talk to you, he might kill you. There's no tellin." While I was weighing my chances, Lightfoot walked in. He glared at me. But he took one question and then another and told me to come back later.

He was warm and witty, said he was spellbound by Vancouver's beauty and planned to stay a few days. Before he left he called in high excitement He had been taken up into the mountains to see an experimental logging technique on steep slopes, extracting the timbers by a radio-controlled blimp. He said he was going to write a song about it. He hasn't yet, but I'm happy to wait.

*********************************************
The State of New York has opened up NOVEL (New York Online Virtual Electronic Library) databases to any citizen with a NYS driver's license or state ID, allowing searches in all sorts of databases for free; it can also be accessed through your local public library. So I tried it out with "Gordon Lightfoot" and came across this article I hadn't seen before.
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Old 03-15-2006, 09:32 AM   #3
SilverHeels
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That is a great article, Annie. Thank you for sharing it. The comment about Gord 'swallowing reporters' really made me laugh aloud. I remember that Gord so well. So very unlike the gentleman he is today. And while describing Gord's poetry and talent, the writer chose one of my very favourite Lightfoot lines: "And if time could heal the wounds I would tear the threads away, that I might bleed some more."
That is so beautiful, so evocative of a heart in torment.

Thanks, again.
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Old 03-16-2006, 12:03 AM   #4
Sheryl
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Thank you very much, Annie. I always love reading about GL, be it past or present.
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Old 03-16-2006, 04:37 PM   #5
Ginny
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Great stuff Annie. Your skills are alive and well in this forum and for me always a bright light. Many thanx. RJ.
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