Saturday, October 27, 2012

The two-way man

Literature and music seem in the same family.

I had decided last week to go the musical route.

 Tom Pearson  The  MC at the Anti-poverty rally I'd sung at,  insisted that I was a writer first, and a musician second. Actually, he had been quite complimentary, announcing to all and sundry that I was an "iconic writer." Heh I kind of twigged onto the word iconic.
"Who me? Iconic writer? I'm just trying to be as interesting-- and even biblical!--  about characters in  John Prine. songs. In "cowboy" music, John Prine is my hero. His writing seems more like Ecclesiastes  than  the late and nasal drones of ole  Ernest Tubb.

It is amazine when a cowboy song reaches damn near symphonic proportions.
Yet, I didn't write that song, though I love to perform it.

It takes me at least 70,OOO words to even approach the greatness of John Prine.

There is an  apparent similarity between writing and music, though sometime I fear I do both badly.

The nice thing about actually perfoming live-- and not in cold print-- is that the applause is often immediate, if not surprising.

You're not going quite the way of the writer, who might have the attitude, "I'll read my stuff and bring the house down."

Well, not always.

Better to go with the almost psalm-like music of John Prine, especially his "Angel for Montgomery."

An old woman in his song is asking for a message, any message that will ease here old age and loneliness:

"Make me an angel
that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing I can hold onto
To believe in this living
is a hard way to go.

For that woman in Prine's song it is endeed a hard way to go.

(Thank God I live in an apartment that contains seventy women and three batchelors, one of them apparently gay.)

Wonder if the gay guy is singing "Make me an angel."...To wrestle with?

There are different kinds of loneliness, I suppose.
But I'm partial to the loneliness of the old woman in the song,


How come John Prine can write a masterpiec in a few stanzas while I go on  and on the keyboard
in hopes of creating a masterpiece in 700 words.

Ah, words and music.

I'm starting to like both.


Charles Gramlich said...

I know I do music badly. very very badly.

the walking man said...

Did he say Iconic or a comic? said...

P-p-P Pesky wabbit
come over to Porky's ! said...


With music, it's a come-and-go thing with me.

When you're hot you're hot;
When you're not, you're not.

But a fifth of bourbon in the gig bag seems to help a lot.


Anonymous said...

Hi folks,

I was lucky, back in March, to be able to attend the literary awards night in St. John's with one of the people in my book, Alison Dyer, and she got my win and acceptance speech (ie long series of thank yous) on video. Were you thanked? Watch and find out! (Or not, if you can stand not knowing.) Anyway, my one regret was that I was so nervous I forgot to congratulate my co-nominees on their excellent books. What a maroon. Here's the vid:

And on to print:

My latest column is about a hugely talented poet in Halifax, Sue Goyette. Because it was a nice excuse to bask in her wisdom. And her work is not only emotionally potent, it covers important environmental and community ground, without seeming like an eco-sermon. Hard to do. You can read that at

I also wrote a short review for The Coast of the first-ever winner of the Beacon prize for social justice literature, Rock Reject, which is about asbestos mining. That's at

And now, as The Kings once so poignantly observed, nothing matters but the weekend...and yes that also applies from a Friday point of view. Enjoy yourselves.


Chris Benjamin is a freelance journalist, fiction writer, CBC News web writer/editor and columnist. He is the author of Eco-Innovators: Sustainability in Atlantic Canada, winner of the 2012 APMA Best Atlantic-Published Book Award and finalist for the Richardson Non-Fiction Prize, and the critically-acclaimed novel, Drive-by Saviours, winner of the H.R. Percy Prize and shortlisted for Canada Reads 2011 and a ReLit Prize. In 2006/2007 he worked as a journalist in Ghana. He shared an honourable mention in the 2009 Canadian National Magazine Awards. Chris has also written for The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Chronicle Herald, VoicePrint Canada, This Magazine, Now Magazine, Canadian Dimension, Halifax Magazine, Descant, OpenFile, Arts East, East Coast Kitchen Party, Third Person Press, Nashwaak Review, Pottersfield Press, Rattling Books, The Society, University of Waterloo Press, Z Magazine, Briarpatch Magazine, Coastlands, Progress Magazine, Rural Delivery and many others.

Erik Donald France said...

Ivan, fantastic, man ~! I dig it ~! I also love John Prine. Music, writing, any or all of the arts ~ go for it ~! said...

Thanks, man.

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