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The Friday Morning Listen: Greg Brown – In the Hills of California

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Greg Brown two weeks in a row? What the heck? Well, there's a fine reason and it has to do with the time of year. As a friend of mine likes to say, the change of seasons into the final quarter of the year can make a person feel 'nesty.' Yes, some of us would like nothing better then to stay in the house, put on a pot of hearty stew for a long simmer, and sit back with a cup of tea and and a good book. I write that and it seems to have a heavy scent of AutumnCliché™. Still, it's the truth.

Thinking a little more on it, the cliché is heavier than expected. Not only do I like to nest in with the stew pot and tea, the book is usually a book of poetry.

OK, so the stew and tea thing make perfect sense to me, what with the cooler temperatures and skies that lose their light so early. Fall is my favorite time of year, though I might be stumped if forced to chose between the bright and crisp daylight hours or the long and chilly evenings. None of this, of course, explains the poetry connection.

One thing that strikes me as weird is that, as a kid, I totally hated poetry. Maybe I should say that I just didn't get it. But poetry in school was all about rhyme schemes and structure, and styles…all of which were made up of yet more structures and rhyme schemes. Free verse? Prose poems? Nobody ever mentioned them, mostly because they were too busy flogging us with quatrains and sonnets, and other gunk that a 16-year old boy just does not give a flying hooey about. Most of the poems I had to read (and understand…which almost never happened) felt like verbal finger puzzles. I'd look at them, get stuck…and give up.

Somewhere in the years that followed I discovered a whole other poetic world. Why didn't anybody introduce me to Ginsberg or Russell Edson or Rexroth back then?

I'm thinking that the poetry/seasonal link has to do with the "weight of the year." No matter what the year, the weeks and months leave their residue behind. That stuff can get awfully heavy as the holidays approach. Nine months of stuff — it's heavy! My mind wants to slough it off, to relieve the building tension by indulging in bits of writing that distill down to simple thoughts that allow the reader to (temporarily) exit the moment. A kind of literary meditation.

Greg Brown wants a weekend full of "slow food." Me too. And some words to go along with it…and some crusty bread…and…

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