A Day (Life) of Remembrance

“Nonintervention does not mean that nothing happens.

It means that something else happens.”
Christopher Hitchens

On this day when we remember the fallen, lets gave pause for thought, to the boys forced to become men, to become killers. In silent contemplation, I at times shout out to my silence; why do we discard our best and brightest to senseless conflicts. The hopes and disappointments of generations of young (mostly) men/boys are always dashed at the altar of political expedience and greed. Young men fighting old men’s wars. The First World War poets have always stuck a deep chord on my soul and I reread the poems and contemplate deeply on the what, why, how and the loss. The poetry of Owen, Rosenberg, Blunden, Gurney and Sassoon are those that I turn to when I need to pause and think, why is this world so fucked up?

Consequently, I have put my pen to writing about war, and the effect it has had on me; as who served, and on our youth and the broader society. Here are some of the poems I have written with a precise of what inspired/motivated me to to put pen to paper. Not in the same league as Owen and Sassoon, but hopefully it will cause you dear reader, to pause, and reflect as to where we are going in this crazy world.

The Forgotten Soldier

Upon reflecting on my time in the military/war as an Ops Medic, my mind flitted around the war, in which I was involved, and its unpopularity (in my opinion) and the baggage that one carries after the fact. The PTSD that soldiers carry with them for life, but that society has long forgotten, especially if the war was unpopular. Sting said: “History will teach us nothing” in some respects he is true.

Fuck War

The passing of Muhammad Ali gave me pause for reflection on the issues of war, forcible conscription and all that goes with it, he went to prison rather than be drafted to serve in Vietnam. I then reflected back on my time when I was forcibly conscripted in 1981 and my battle with the process of all that is war.

My Enemy is My Friend

This arose from a dream I had, which then made me think back to a Wilfred Owen poem I read, “Strange Meeting”. Upon further reflection I cast my mind back to when I was an Ops Medic in the bush war in 1981/82 and the time I spent treating patients at the main POW camp in the now Namibia. My thought process then meandered through a montage of past present and future. It was a difficult poem to write but the words just spilled out once I began.

White Feathers

Penned this on the International day of Peace in Sept this year.                                                 To quote John Lennon: Give Peace a chance.

…. and a few others:

Mist of War

Peace in our Time

The 1% War

© 2018 michael d emmerich

© 2018 mikesnexus.com

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Bob Dylan and His Many Muses

In Paul Zollo’s book “Song Writers on Song Writing”, the expanded 4th edition, in teh interview he held with Bob Dylan; Dylan makes an interesting comment, in how often songs “come to him”. That’s how he could write “Blowing in the Wind” in 10 minutes, which he says came right out of that well spring of creativity.

Does Dylan think he can do it again today? No, says Dylan. “You can’t do something forever,” he says. “I did it once, and I can do other things now. But, I can’t do that.” when speaking to Ed Bradley on 60 minutes in 2004. he also goes onto to say: “I don’t know how I got to write those songs. Those early songs were almost magically written,”

Dylan seems to be saying that his muse, that wellspring of creativity he so magnificently tapped in that golden era of the early sixties, is gone and he is not able to access it anymore. Thom Hickey in his article You really should have been there says:

“Over the next 47 years he would never again attain the heights of inspiration achieved through to 1966 (neither would anyone else!)”

Before he even attained those great heights in the of the mid-60’s he was already writing lyrics that would never be matched. My favourite Dylan protest song “Masters of War” was written when he was just 22! Released in 1963 on his Freewheelin’ album, the message is timeless and still relevant to all the current ongoing conflicts across the globe.

Dragging the conversation back to its original question, has Dylan lost his muse and can one just lose your muse? Webster’s dictionary defines a “muse” as any of the nine sister goddesses presiding over song, poetry, the arts and sciences. Greek mythology aside, writers think of a muse as a source of inspiration, a guiding genius rife with ideas. Writing teachers say one way to not lose your muse is  “Just keep your hand moving and write!”- be your own muse.

Dylan has most certainly done that, he has published six books of drawings and paintings, released 36 albums (excluding live albums and bootlegs) and written well over 500 songs …and counting…

That wellspring of creativity, has sustained Dylan for more than 50 years, and it keeps on giving, and he keeps telling his tales in a different way, with each telling. People who attend his concerts say, that they do not even recognise some of his songs as being their favourite, until halfway through, he keeps experimenting, reinventing himself and his music. I think his muse has changed, if we track his career/life and all the transitions/phases he has gone through, he certainly does not have that 60’s muse anymore, but has proven he still has the craft and the gift. Although Dylan might disagree:

“I’m a ’60s troubadour, a folk-rock relic. A wordsmith from bygone days. I’m in the bottomless pit of cultural oblivion.” – 2004

His last album, Tempest, still proves he can tell a great story, despite his voice being a bit more gravelly. The title track still gives me goosebumps when I listen to it…all 15 minutes of it!

Tempest is fantastic, but being impressed by Dylan is old hat. That he still finds ways to surprise us is an achievement beyond all comprehension. -American Songwriter 2012

His angry protest song Pay in Blood, from the same album – Tempest – brings back memories of his 60’s anger. You can hear his anger, his sneering voice as he growls and rasps over cutting and biting lyrics.

“Another politician pumping out the piss,” he sings later, the microphone audibly struggling to cope with the ferocity of his delivery. “You bastard, I’m supposed to respect you? I’ll give you justice.”

Dylan does not soften the blow here, as he does on Like a Rolling Stone, he vents his anger fully, proving that he can still be angry and anti-establishment in his 70’s 🙂

Possibly one of Dylan’s muses is/was his first wife Sara. She is definitely a key player in Dylan’s history and worthy of remembrance as the inspiration for some of his most incredible songs. Notably Sara and Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. Sara is possibly Dylan’s most public display of his own personal life, and an ambitious tribute to his wife, Sara. The song also gives us a rare glimpse into the intensely personal and closed life Dylan leads. Rarely does he address a real person in his music, here he does and it is very autobiographical.

Bob Dylan – Sara from the album “Desire”

This was released in 1976 on the album Desire, Sara and Dylan were divorced the next year in 1977. They have apparently remained close (despite the acrimonious divorce) and they have still travel/holiday together. In fact his son Jakob said:

“My father said it himself in an interview many years ago: ‘Husband and wife failed, but mother and father didn’t.’ My ethics are high because my parents did a great job.” Jakob Dylan – 2005

Well we wish Dylan and his many Muse’s well, he has provided us with many thought provoking and entertaining albums through the years and I believe he still has songs left in his well, its not dry yet, or dark.

Things to Live For

“Poetry, Beauty, Romance, Love – these are what we stay alive for.”

The words of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society

My thoughts of late have wandered far and wide, but over the past few weeks they have shifted back to a few core questions; the above quote encapsulates some of the answers to the questions that have been spinning in my head. So please bear with me as I unpack this quote in a wider context of what goes in inside my head – be warned it can be a scary place at times, just ask my wife 🙂

Central to my thoughts of late has been inspiration, creativity, stability and harmony; as in how to achieve these aspirations and what path/s I will explore to best find my end goals. I do find inspiration and peace through reading and music, which then inspire me to explore areas of creativity. Strangely though the words (books and poetry) and music that I immerse myself in, do tend to be on the dark side, and through this darkness I find both solace and an opportunity to see light and a future.

I find myself gravitating back to reading the first world war British poets (Owen, Sassoon, Brooke and Rosenburg), why war poetry you might ask? I can relate to their fears, despair and bleakness from my own time in battle, but through this process one begins to understand that even in the depths of despair and the bleakness of the trenches, their is hope. In Wilfred Owen’s last letters to his mother from the front, in 1918, he said that there was no place he would rather be.

Of his work he said:

“My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”

My work has taken me to black and bleak places on the African continent, so I am always driven to find hope in despair, light in dark and compassion in pain and suffering. I think that is what keeps me sane and focussed on the bigger picture/s in life. It helps me to gain perspective and see the forest and not just the single tree, blocking my path.

Music and poetry form a part of the way I relax and reflect (plus cigars, scotch and bourbon – but that is a tale for another day), that is why I am a huge fan of Bob Dylan.

The poetry of Keats, Milton and Blake (not war poets, they pre-date the first world war some what), also inspire me, and help me to push the boundaries, notably William Blake. He was a revolutionary romantic, he was iconoclastic in his views, notably to the established orders of the day; church and politics. A critical reading of Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” in which the figure represented by the “Devil” is virtually a hero rebelling against an imposter authoritarian deity, clearly highlights Blake’s idiosyncratic views of his feelings towards the established order of his day. (views that I can sympathise with)

“Blake’s theory of contraries was not a belief in opposites but rather a belief that each person reflects the contrary nature of God, and that progression in life is impossible without contraries.”

It also certainly formed part of the revolutionary culture of the period. It was composed between 1790 and 1793, in the period of radical foment and political conflict immediately after the French Revolution. It to then deals with turmoil and man’s search for meaning:

Blake explains that,

“Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion,

Reason and Energy, Love and Hate are necessary to Human existence.

From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil.

Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing

from Energy.”

For an excellent blending of music (Electronica Folk Black Metal) listen to Ulver’s Themes From William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven And Hell

http://www.amazon.com/Themes-William-Blakes-Marriage-Heaven/dp/B0000278IT/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408094497&sr=8-1&keywords=ulver+-+Themes+from+William+Blake%27s+The+marriage+of+heaven+and+Hell

I am a huge fan of their music, and their most recent album: War of the Roses -(2011), is a mix of Pink Floyd and Radiohead, how is that for a neo progressive rock band with its roots in Norse Black Metal!

So where does all this lead; how does this bring me closer to Beauty, Romance and Love? and a means to finding my end goals?

I actually do not have an immediate quick answer to the above questions, but what I can say is that by exploring these paths, the mist often clears and I can get to the top of the ridge and see the forest that I thought had me surrounded was in fact just a small copse of 10 or 20 trees.

What is clear for me is where I want to be, the trick is how to get there :).

One of my end games is to actively pursue a path of being a more active writer, than I currently am, and to publish some of my works in the foreseeable future (I have placed time-lines for myself on 2 of my projects). These will bring more harmony to my life, which will in turn make me more balanced (only for awhile, I am a restless soul), this then will positively resonate in my life, bringing more love and peace to my soul and those that I love and hold dear.

Until next time my gentle readers, peace, love and hope to you all.