May 24, 2016
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Lindsay Tigue's impressive poetry collection System of Ghosts was awarded the Iowa Poetry Prize.
Craig Morgan Teicher wrote of the book:
"Lindsay Tigue has, first and foremost, a curious mind: her poems are motored by information. Bits of knowledge, gathered magpielike, which others might consider trivia—the origins of the red and green on traffic lights, the different ways distant towns told time before railroads connected them, the composition of the asteroid Ceres—spur these poems toward startling personal and public insights."
My first poetry collection, System of Ghosts, betrays a lot of my obsessions—namely, the people, places, and ideas that haunt the spaces around me. I didn't listen to music while writing these poems, but music did happen in those spaces. In the driving and walking and kitchen-dancing that occurred alongside (or behind) these pages.
So here are some of the songs I've been obsessed with—both as I was writing this book and more recently—a soundtrack of sorts to the ideas explored. Here are the lonely places and rebuilt moments, the connected melancholies, and the filled-up hollows.
Joanna Newsom, "Peach, Plum, Pear"
I've listened to this song so many times. I love its play, its taunting, and its earnest questioning. "Am I so rare? / Do I run dear?" I think I'm asking earnest questions in these poems and that I am often writing, via associated images, to attempt impossible answers.
Spirit Family Reunion, "I Want to Be Relieved"
I wrote much of this book in Iowa where I lived in a crumbling, old, sun-bright and orange house. I lived with other writers and a musician/scientist among the flaking paint and scratched banisters. So much happened there: a garden grew full of tiny tomatoes; I had my heart broken; we filled a huge dining room table with friends and food for so many dinners, bats flew down from the attic, needing to be caught and released; my roommates fell in love; cats chased each other and lazed about on sun-streaked carpet. We hosted concerts in this house, gathering together friends and community members. One of the bands that played there was Spirit Family Reunion, whose album "No Separation" now feels like a soundtrack to that time. So much of this house is in my book.
I love the optimism of "I Want to Be Relieved." I love the lyric, "Though the burden hangs like an echo / We are turning up the sound." I hope there is optimism in this book amidst all its loss and fear. I hope for hope by "turning up the sound[s]" and I think I am writing about echoes.
Claire Cronin, "They Say"
I was only recently introduced to the brilliant music of singer-songwriter Claire Cronin. She is a fellow poet in my Creative Writing PhD program at the University of Georgia. I heard her play this song the other day in Athens and it brought tears to my eyes.
Someone told me recently that I am trying to write poems and stories that fill up the empty spaces in people, at least for a second. This person said it better than that, better than I could. But "They Say" is Claire Cronin filling in what's missing: "two notes, two notes / fill up the empty field / like a doorbell."
Frontier Ruckus, "Pontiac, the Nightbrink"
I went to college with Matthew Milia and Zach Nichols and they play songs about the Michigan I know and remember. Their music brings me back to college and even before that—to high school in southeastern Michigan and the "salted roads," the "drugstore dried out parking lots," "the Rochesters and Troys."
This song, to me, is being 22 and working at my first job. It's living in Chicago and listening to this song and walking to the El and riding the train and arriving at an office full of books. I will always love this song. "That is what my youth was for."
Svevestøv, "Here Comes the Flood," (Peter Gabriel cover)
I downloaded this cover of "Here Comes the Flood" on my first iPod when I was nineteen and I listened to it over and over in my dorm room. After that iPod died and I lost the file, I forgot the band's name and couldn't find it for a while. This near-loss mitigated by technology feels like the first part of my book's title poem. It's the Italian restaurant my mom and I could never find again.
This song probably is the soundtrack of my collection. It's an apocalypse song. It's a song of interconnection and radio waves and silent seas. "I took the old track / the hollow shoulder, across the waters." I'm less interested in the religious story that can be read in the lyrics and more interested in the quiet—in the environmental loss and loneliness there. This song is such a spooky emptiness to me. It's the white space of the poems and it's the blankness around the stark door of the book's cover.
The music of Svevestøv, a duo from Norway, is described on their MySpace page as "songs made around a beautiful voice within an airy soundscape." I think I am trying to write in an airy soundscape about the vanishing and ephemeral, about "All the strange things / [that] come and go, as early warnings."
Lindsay Tigue and System of Ghosts links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)