Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Out of the Blue

Out of the blue, a reknown composer Allaudin Mathieu of Cold Mountain Music, from Sonoma County called and asked if I was the one who wrote "I, Poet," and then he quoted a line from it, saying he wanted to use it in a book he's writing on music!

Founder of the Sufi Choir, musical director for The Committee Theater, and Chicago's Second City Theater, instructor at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Mills College, Allaudin was also the arranger for Big Bands including Stan Kenton, and Duke Ellington orchestras—in those days he was better known as Bill Mathieu. Allaudin is his spiritual name.

The mystic improvisational composer is author of four books and some 20 CDs and casette tape. Pete Seeger said, "Mathieu has found the words to tell the power of music."

I was of course, stunned, as the piece in question was a decade old (talk about words coming back to haunt you!), but I was even more stunned when he didn't remember who I was. Or meeting me upon several occasions. He had long since lost the connecting threads across the passage of time—which made the phone call all the more amazing as he had to call two people to find my number. Third time's a charm.

Allaudin thought the line was merely from an article he'd saved from 1991. But the real backstory is probably more like this: I was nervous meeting him and I brought something of myself by way of gift to deflect the awkwardness of the moment of first meeting.

That particular moment was an interview for a poem I was about to write. I was collaborating on a project with a brilliant student of Allaudin's, composer-pianist Kirk Whipple of the Unconservatory (formerly of Sonoma County; now located in Miami, with a branch—Cranberry Coast Concert Series, in Onset, MA).

Kirk Whipple was honoring his music teachers and friends with a series of nocturnes entitled Elemental Portraits: Nocturnes for Two Pianos. My job was to listen to Kirk's notes and musical ideas—to freewrite, and then transform it all into drafts. My final job was to meet the subjects and then shape the final poem. I don't normally write poems this way, by interviewing strangers. So it was all a learning curve into the realm of music.

Allaudin's piece was called "Uncle Al's Cloudscape." ( You can listen to a fragment of music.) Sometime in 1991 or 1992—I think it was late winter, or spring, Allaudin and I hiked up the hill of his back garden located in the outskirts of Sebastopol and he recounted the day when he saw in the sky a cloud in the shape of a clef note. Pause. Take a breath. Caesura. He took it as a profound sign from the universe. And paid heed.

We were quickly off task: our conversation meandered like a circuitous brook in a vast meadow of possibility. It was an afternoon indelibly etched into my mind. So of course, I was shocked that he didn't remember me.

But he did remember me. He just didn't equate that particular me with the me who wrote "I, Poet" so many years ago. Or this present me he was talking to last night on the phone. He thought we were all unrelated strangers but I had the unfair advantage of memory. And I wondered if there were many lost moments like that where memory and experience are unequally shared among acquaintances.

But the story gets stranger still. Out of the blue, an old college friend, Kathie had just mailed me a "care package' of odds and ends she'd collected over the years. Blame it on the Blue moon.

When Kathie purges her house, she mails the goodies to her friends. In my care package was a xeroxed copy of "I, Poet" folded in amongst trinkets, poetry books and cassette tapes. I was shocked to see the article after all these years. I did not read it, but tucked it away, in the "to do" pile as I'm trying to get much of my work online.

This blog is one vehicle for my old work. Though I am pretty discouraged that the only comments I get these days are spam. Who knew spambots read poetry!( I wish Blogger had a "Captcha' for comments. As the spambots find my open comment links, I have to shut them down. Soon no real people will be able to comment on my work—half the reason why I'm blogging in the first place. But that's fodder for another blog.)

It was as if that article was waiting to be rediscovered and when I ignored "I, Poet", then the article sent in the heavy artillery. You will read this again. You will own your words. My own words coming back to haunt—or bite me. Clearly, it was a sign from the universe. I haven't written a poem in ages. Mea maxima culpea.

Allaudin wanted provenance for the book he's writing, he wanted the original "I, Poet" article to footnote it, so I hunted it down, scanned, and sent it to him.

I glanced at the line Allaudin wanted to quote: "A poem is like a stone thrown into the pool of our collective unconsciousness. A small splash—concentric ripples spreading out into the conscious dimensions of the larger pool of humanity—can affect change." —Maureen Hurley, from "I, Poet," page 23, The West Sonoma County Paper, June 20 - July 3, 1991.

That exercise gave me the idea to scan in the actual page as a jpg and post it in my blog. I've been bogged down trying to scan bad copies of my articles—reduced to 6 point type. It makes for a lot of slog work.

Is it really worth the effort and time to create these online archives? Who is reading them? Who cares? Besides, I have so few surviving tear sheets, they're rare as hen's teeth. Most of my memorabilia from those days is in storage, but many boxes were destroyed when the shed roof leaked one particularly stormy winter. Unlike Kathie, though we're both childless, I never purged because the published writing is my progeny.

In the beginning, I meticulously saved everything that appeared in print: my doodles, my photos, and my articles. I catalogued the journey of a career in writing. I learned by doing, and working for The Sonoma County Stump with Joe Leary, and then the West Sonoma County Paper with Nick Valentine was a good training ground. Make that a good university of accidental exposure. Right place, right time. And teachers willing to nurture a budding writer.

Allaudin was delighted but not surprised by the homing pigeon aspect of our connections. Chalked it up to age. The universe works in mysterious ways. Out of the blue, indeed.

I still haven't read "I, Poet" but I've been carefully eyeing it along the edges, cleaning up the margins with Photoshop and I've posted the scan on this site. Maybe it was the last blue moon that triggered this landslide from the past. Instructions from the universe. Have you done your homework?

Soon I will transcribe the piece, but it is readable as is if you double click on it full size. And on the archival front, it also gave me the idea to post the few tear sheets I've scanned in situ along with the transcription as jpgs. I like that.

Maybe I'll write a poem and call it "Out of the Blue."

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