Monday, 14 September 2009

Monday Poem – and of all the songs in all the world...

So it's time for another Monday poem project (thanks to the literary kingpin that is TFE). We've had the five minute poem and the person in a café poem and this week the exercise goes a little something like this (I've pared the instructions down a bit):

- Take a piece of music (one you love or that means a lot to you..).
- Listen to it
- Write something.

When I first read this brief I wondered what music I might pick (I have been a huge music fan since I can remember so there was a lot of material to cast my mind over). I looked up at the CD shelves for inspiration but nothing seemed to be calling out from there so I carried on with normal duties - collected Girl from school, walked dog - and it was whilst doing the latter that a song flew into my head with 'use me' taped to its intro. I had hoped for something perhaps just a tiny bit cool but it was not to be. The song that came into my head (almost of its own accord) was this one:

As you can see...not really very cool...unless we're getting into that 'so uncool it's cool' territory (and I've been there a lot recently – start here and there's plenty more where that came from...). Anyway this particular song, as I'm sure many of you know, is 'Don't it make my brown eyes blue' sung by Crystal Gayle (younger sister of Loretta Lynn – I never knew that). The song (usually described as 'pop country' and lyrics here) was a hit in the UK in 1977 and was written by a bloke called Richard Leigh. The title is kind of poetic when you think about it...and I really like the song (whatever kind of music it is) even after all this time. I remember listening to it most a bit after 1977...probably something more like 1981... and in particular on our local commercial radio station in Middlesbrough back then (Radio Tees) whilst hanging about in my bedroom (in between bouts of my main teenage pastime which was of course getting into serious trouble). In that period I listened mainly to heavy rock/metal with friends (it was the North East of England...there was a lot of rockin' going on) but like many people I was more open-minded on my own at home and listened to all kinds of sounds (rock, metal, pop, disco, funk, my brothers' LPs, my Mum's LPs, all kinds of radio...).

Anyway, back to this week's job. Once the song for this project had chosen itself I listened to it a few times and then I sat myself down, honey, and I wrote this little ol' poem (sorry, country music does this to a person apparently...). I tried not to write a rhyming poem but I'm afraid that matter seems to have been out of my hands too. It's very, very different to last week's Monday poem...and the week before's too. And that's good, isn't it? Here it is – hope y'all like it. I've recorded it as an audio file too (here) – it just seemed to be asking for sound.

Crystal clear

Here we are, one and all, in an '80s teenage bedroom
It's best not to picture it, horrors galore
Ugly, ill-chosen, stupid plastic furniture
Duvet cover from hell, scruffy posters, eyes sore
And under the bed, with the dustballs and rubbish
Two curious magazines from a holiday find
We wanted romance when we went Spanish shopping
We got prose porn but in the end didn't mind

The centre of the room is a box that looks empty
A funny old thing, handed down from a Gran
It's a radio (burgundy) only plays FM
It can take you away like no other box can
Even the local commercial stations
Though their drone and their drivel can feel like a bind
At fourteen I handle the endless pop music
The gardening phone-ins, crap chat, I don't mind

The voices tell stories of what is still waiting
Comforting sounds and a background to new
And once in a while there's a call that comes clearer
Like a gal singing 'don't it make my brown eyes blue'
For a few minutes all there is is that piano
That song like a bell, ringing joy (but resigned)
And even though my eyes are green and so useless
I can sit, love the song, sing along, I don't mind

RF 2009

Now I wonder what music everyone else has chosen...



Niamh B said...

That is really lovely. A great little snapshot of youth.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Niamh (big thanks!). In some ways this feels like a follow-up to that photo meme post from back in June (this one). That was primary school...this is more secondary. I didn't plan to write about's just what come up to the surface.

Rachel Fox said...

Must preview comments...CAME up to the surface!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Those were the days my friend - to coin another song, Rachel. You paint a lovely teenage picture that is full of nostalgia - nowadays things are so different that we could be in another world. Isn't this monday thing fun?

Rachel Fox said...

Oh Weaver I loved that song too...though I think I listened to that more in the 70s than 80s.

Rachel Fox said...

And a different world? My daughter still sits in her room and listens to music. Not everything changes.

Dr. Jeanne Iris said...

Teenage bedrooms... now there's substance for an anthropological study, eh? Great poem, Rachel! And I agree, this Monday poem project is delightful.

NanU said...

Oh, you've taken me back to those left behind thank goodness teenage years. In my crowd, I would never have admitted to knowing this song existed, let alone that I liked it!

Spot on!

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks JI...yes, it's good to get prompts from elsewhere sometimes.

And I don't think I listened to this song with teenage friends! More like Motorhead or Led Zep...and then later on some 80s pop (although it was never my favourite...I'm one of those who was born at the wrong time, I think).

Colin Will said...

Nice poem Rachel. I'm trying to think of a song which might do it for me, but nothing's happening yet, apart from Beethoven's Ninth.

Rachel Fox said...

Sounds like that's the one that's calling you then Colin!

ken armstrong said...

That's very good. I like that the song appears in it rather then it being some kind of dissection of the song.

I liked that song.

I had a boring technical point about radios and things but I edited it out, trust me, it was pure shi*e. :)

Rachel Fox said...

And now of course I want to know what it was! And you know there's at least two radio fanatics who call in here. They'll want to know too!

I'm not surprised you liked the song too. You and I are very in touch with our schmaltzy side! Plus we're not afraid to show it...


Regina said...

Oh, I loved this, Rachel- and listening to you recite it was a blast!
That song was a huge hit here, of course, in the US- I always loved CG's hair... ;)
Well done, my friend!

Rachel Fox said...

It was a pretty big hit here too. Glad you enjoyed the poem. Thanks.

Rachel Fox said...

And it's weird...because I listened to the recording of the poem a few times (to check it sounded right) I kept hearing it in my head all day today. It was like an echo (of my own voice) blowing about in my brain! Weird.

Titus said...

Mighty! And with sound too.
A lot of this poem was so real for me I could taste it, to utilise one of the other senses not covered in this week's assignment. Lovely conjuring of time and place that is also universal (with variants) from generation to generation.
And Gayle's voice has always been a revelation! One of my "seriously superior" albums is "One from the Heart" which was with Tom Waits. It's blinding. Soundtrack to the Coppola film.

And Mary Hopkins was on the radio today. Spooky. Oh God, that's another song I haven't thought of for a long time.

I liked this. It took me somewhere.

Rachel Fox said...

Wow. I've totally missed that Waits/Gayle thing. Maybe she's not so uncool after all (and by extension me too!). Hurray.

Good to see your doggy face back on here again, Titus.

As for the poem - it's amazing how recent some of my teenage experiences still feel. I wonder how long that will last?


Rachel Fox said...

The more I think about it the more I think maybe I watched that film once many moons ago. I might have not been completely sober (or something) when I watched it.

Kat Mortensen said...

You see, I thought we were still on the "Five Minute" thing and so...
Now I'm forced to cheat on my retreat and check these out.

Loved that song. Do you remember the length of her hair?
Your poem is brilliant. I'm picturing my bedroom now with a makeshift canopy of sheet tacked to the ceiling and movie posters all over.

Thanks for the boost, by the way.


Colin Will said...

Thanks to you and TFE, I've written a five minute poem about the Ninth. I'll post it in a couple of days, before I head for Elgin on Thursday.

(BTW, word verification is 'cringes'.)

Totalfeckineejit said...

I chose to listen rather than read and really enjoyed it.That's such a great Idea, how do you do that? I wish all the poems could be read like that.I hardly noticed the few rhymes till i read the comments, not that that is a good thing or a bad thing,it's just an ignorant prejudice on my part.This may seem a little mad and I mean it as a compliment but your reading to me was reminiscent of (a mancunian) Sylvia Plath.Thanks for these and joining in.

Dominic Rivron said...

I know what you mean about it asking for sound. I like poems about radios!

Rachel Fox said...

Kat - I think this project is worth coming out for. Some good prompts and some brilliant writing. Nice folk too - life's too short to spend it talking to arseholes (assholes in Canada?).

Colin - it was only the first Monday poem that had to be written in 5 minutes...since then there have been no timers on. But it's still quite an interesting challenge (the 5 minute business) and worth a go.

TFE - Mancunian? I have never lived on that side of the Pennines! But I know what you mean. Sometimes when I hear my voice I do think 'Coronation Street' (my accent is North of England with a few other influences too). As for recording - I have a very techy other half and he does it all (see my feminism in action!). He records it onto an iphone and then does some editing on a pc and then magically puts it online. I have done quite a few read aloud online poems. It's worth looking into - maybe one of the others could give you some tips. I'm about as techy as our dog.

As for's an odd one. I know that some people automatically take a poem 'less seriously' with straightforward rhyme in it...and sometimes that does bother me. Then I just think 'oh those people...' I like writing all sorts of poems in all sorts of ways. That's just the way I work - for good or evil!

Yes, Dominic - bring on the sound! I think that poem of Weaver's just now would be an interesting one to record. Could you do that for her?


Rachel Fox said...

And I guess the Plath thing means I sound a bit miserable. I was going more for wistful...

Rachel Fox said...

And you're all being very polite not mentioning the porn.

ken armstrong said...

Well we're deep down the comments now so (just in case you think I was making it up...) I didn't think really old radios had FM on them? I though it was MW/LW and maybe some short waves options.

'Told you it was boring. :)

Rachel Fox said...

Well, the radio was 'old' to me but it wasn't that old as to not have FM I suppose. At that time my Grandma was ill and in a home so I guess the radio had come to me. Maybe to her it had seemed new.

It was a bit of an issue (the FM thing) because we lived in one of those outback areas that didn't have good Radio One coverage (certainly not on FM) back then and that's one reason I ended up listening to the ILR (Independent Local Radio). I'm not sure I would have chosen it otherwise.


Kat Mortensen said...

Rachel - "arseholes" sounds more genteel.


Rachel Fox said...

Really? How funny.

Rachel Fenton said...

I love poems which pull all that teenage stuff from under the bed!

Rachel Fox said...

It's not so long till our daughter will be a teenager. We're just trying not to think about that...

Kim Ayres said...

Oddly enough, I never really listen to lyrics - never have. To me the voice has only ever been another intrument. I could play the tune of the vocalist, but not tell you the words.

My wife has always found this bizarre, as the lyrics are in integral part of any song, and she's probably right.

Rachel Fox said...

For quite a lot of songs I would agree with you. I am spectacularly bad at remembering lyrics too which is probably not good for someone who professes to be a poet. Now and again though I do notice and remember lyrics and this song is one of those times. I think it was partly the very odd nature of the words...I mean this was before coloured contact lenses were so commonplace and the idea of changing your eye colour (even metaphorically) kind of stuck in my mind obviously. Plus it's a nice tune and she sings it beautifully.

I see it's all eyes over at yours just now, Kim. In every sense!


apprentice said...

What a lovely poem. You did a great job pulling all those memories out from under the bed.

It was one of those songs that just etched itself into your memory wasn't it?

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks, A. And yes I've been surprised how many other people have said they liked this song too!

A Cuban In London said...

I love it because it is vivid and imaginative. It recalls an era that was very important to me, too, as I was born in '71 and came of age when perms and shoulder pads ruled the world. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Rachel Fox said...

I love that photo of the flag and Big Ben!