Poems & Songs - Volume I. #7


Poetry is best when taken in doses of 2—read twice, preferably aloud, and then discussed with a friend.


Here are quotes by Flannery O’Connor (packed with a mouthful of “meaning”) that point to the heart of what we’re after when engaging a poem or a work of art.


Meaning is what keeps the short story from being short…not abstract meaning but experienced meaning, and the purpose of making statements about the meaning of a story is only to help you to experience that meaning more fully.


The type of mind that can understand good fiction is not necessarily the educated mind, but it is at all times the kind of mind that is willing to have its sense of mystery deepened by contact with reality, and its sense of reality deepened by contact with mystery.


~ Flannery O’Connor





With all the hints and associations with Hopkins in Above the Waterfall, I couldn’t help but include a harvest selection from the master.  It is joined by a beautiful poem from an American master, Emily Dickinson, and by a lovely song from Rosie Thomas (who reminds me of or at least gives me hints of Dickinson).  Rosie’s Wedding Day is mentioned in the journal, and while the title (and a misbegotten youtube video) may suggest otherwise, it has more autumn and winter notes than spring.







Because I could not stop for Death



Because I could not stop for Death –

He kindly stopped for me –

The Carriage held but just Ourselves –

And Immortality.


We slowly drove – He knew no haste

And I had put away

My labor and my leisure too,

For His Civility –


We passed the School, where Children strove

At Recess – in the Ring –

We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –

We passed the Setting Sun –


Or rather – He passed Us –

The Dews drew quivering and Chill –

For only Gossamer, my Gown –

My Tippet – only Tulle –


We paused before a House that seemed

A Swelling of the Ground –

The Roof was scarcely visible –

The Cornice – in the Ground –


Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet

Feels shorter than the Day

I first surmised the Horses' Heads

Were toward Eternity –




Hurrahing in Harvest



SUMMER ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise

  Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour

  Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier

Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?


I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,

  Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;

  And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a

Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?


And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder

  Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!—

These things, these things were here and but the beholder

  Wanting; which two when they once meet,

The heart rears wings bold and bolder

  And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

Wedding Day



So much for love

I guess I've been wronged

But it's all right cuz

I'm moving on

I've got my car all packed with cassette tapes and

Sweaters and loose change and cheap cigarettes and

I'm gonna drive through the hills

Put my hand out the window and

Sing till I run out of words

I'm gonna stop at every truck stop

Make small talk with waiters and truck drivin' men

I'm gonna fall asleep in the back seat

With no one around but me and my friends


It's gonna be so grand

It's gonna be just like my wedding day


Yeah I've had enough of love

It feels good to give up

So good to be good to myself and

I'm gonna get on the highway with no destination

And plenty of vision in mind and

I'm gonna drive to the ocean

Go skinny dipping

Blow kisses to Venus and Mars

I'm gonna stop at every bar and

Flirt with the cowboys in front their girlfriends


It's gonna be so grand

It's gonna be just like my wedding day


So much for love

I guess I've been wronged

But it's all right cuz I'm moving on

I'm gonna drive over hills

Over mountains and canyons

And boys that keep bringin' me down

I'm gonna drive under skyline and sunshine

Drink good wine in vineyards

And get asked to dance

I'm gonna be carefree and let nothing pass me by

Never ever again


It's gonna be so grand

It's gonna be so grand

It's gonna be just like my wedding day

Note: (to take or leave)


We have engaged this song as a work of art and as an exercise in perception and judgment at a variety of SEi pilot group meetings.  You may find it interesting to engage and discuss with another.  Here are some of the questions that came up throughout the ebb and flow of a conversation. (Not all of these questions were asked at each meeting).


Some things to bear in mind before listening, and best to listen twice:


Is it a song of liberation and hope, of renewed power and triumph?


Why is it titled as it is?


What is the wedding day experience?


Is it a love song?


What does the music itself, including the key and tone of voice, say in addition to the lyrics?



When discussing stay close to the song and have folks support what they say…while not clogging the flow of discussion.  I usually find it easy to start with: who is the narrator? what’s going on, the context? (Of course it is necessary to remind folks to not presume the narrator is the artist).  These simple questions open the flow of discussion.  Other questions to bear in mind, include:


What are her/the narrator’s experiences that are “gonna be so grand”?

Does she actually do them or just dream of them?


Why does it start with “so much for love” and keep returning to that declaration?


Is the freedom a freedom from love or to love?  What are the experiences of freedom?


Does the narrator really believe that those dreamed experiences will be “so great and grand”?

Is this a real dream, a real vision, will it hold its “grandeur?”


Why do these lofty dreams come back to “just like my wedding day”?

Did the wedding day happen in the past?  Is this a memory?


Do we get a sense that underneath it all there is really a heart, a person that is freshly wounded?

Or is this an image of a truly bold courageous soul breaking from conformity and societal norms?

Is there hope or a despair that comes through the music and words? or both?

What is the wrong she experienced?  While mysterious, any clues?


How do we perceive the narrator and what she may “need” or not need?


A video, less polished version of the song, but the real Rosie with friends…

A good song recording to listen to, but best to not behold what’s on screen, or at least to wait…

Red Rover



Red rover, red rover, send Mary right over

Schoolbooks in her hand and a shawl over her shoulders

And let her run, run as fast as she can

Don't let her grow up to be like her mother

Heart so unconvinced and a world so undiscovered

And asking for forgiveness, not knowing how to forgive


In time, just let her go

In time, she's beautiful

If you hold her back she may never know


Red rover, red rover, send Daniel right over

Schoolbooks in his hand and a coat over his shoulders

And let him run, run as fast as he can

Don't let him grow up to be like his father

Heart so set in stone and a smile so undercover

And opening the door to love, never letting love in


In time, just let him go

In time, he's beautiful

If you hold him back he may never know


A ”bonus” from Rosie (for those who have dared this far).  Like her friend Sufjan Stevens, with a poet’s eye and skill she can tap deep nostalgia and longing for memory and for hope, while her lyrics deftly probe what blocks the flow of life’s sources…enjoy!

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