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July 27, 2016

Book Notes - Kelly Schirmann "Popular Music"

Popular Music

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Kelly Schirmann's poetry collection Popular Music is an impressive debut.


In her own words, here is Kelly Schirmann's Book Notes music playlist for her poetry collection Popular Music:



Bob Dylan: "Isis"

You began your life by slamming the screen door of something! You wore your favorite hat, you hid a crystal in your mouth! You squinted into the morning sun, carried an instrument, clapped your hands! You knew everything you'd ever need to know! Then you walked into the world, and you touched the world's tapestries, and you smelled the world's spices, and you fell in love! You began your life by falling in love! Now all you have is knowledge! Go out again, go back out into the sun! The words aren't important! Look! The cloud of your life, moving across the sky!


Townes Van Zandt: "I'll Be Here in the Morning"

Some songs move like a train. You are in the train car of the song, and it sways gently, carrying you along with it, along the bank of the polluted river, past the dirty shores of the city. You are free here, have never been more free than this, you think, watching the gears and machine parts, the office women touching their thin scarves. You know what The Highway means, you think; you hear the drunk trying to touch you through the dried grass of his voice. The pure pale green of youth shining in a dry palm. Longing is the only feeling, you think; you keep your true love far enough away and you long. You long and long for her, the pure green of her in your mind. She is so beautiful, beautiful as the trees and the dirty boats are beautiful. Beauty that hurts and doesn't stop hurting. You are going along a river the color of old fish and The Highway is singing. This is love, you think, and you love everything. The shrill laugh of these beautiful strangers. The dead river going right on by.


Joanna Newson: "In California"

Youth is the greatest loneliness. You get up on the roof with your thoughts, alone, eternal in your loneliness like the moon. Alone and singular in the night, above the soft noises of animals, alone. Young and in love with the source of your own destruction, young and alone and holding it there, where your chin touches your knees in the cold dark. There is no one to protect you, to carry you, there is none of you left to be destroyed. You are alone and so beautiful. You are alone and among the animals, you smell the pines and you have learned nothing. The sun of you grows and rises, dies into a moon, which fills you and empties you, your beautiful stupid body, holding the glow of your furious power, young and alone and emptied by the dark, by its strong clean wind.


Tanya Tucker: "New York City Song"

I didn't ask to be born into this world, but here I am alive anyway. You get lonely in it sometimes, all by yourself lookin' for money and something to cover your body with. You need shelter, alright, but it's not always that kind. You need to find some money and you need to find it fast. Lots of girls waste their lives in dirty rooms lookin' for money. They wanna fall in love with their lives and they fall in love with a man, you'll see. A man's got his own life, plus all the other lives he wants, when he wants ‘em. This city's nothin' but a big man. Only a man could make you feel that lonely. No real money and the wrong kind of shelter. He ain't worth singin' about, but here I am singin'. What else kind of song is there, besides what you can't let go of, or what never seems to wanna let go of you.


Ravi Shankar: "Prabhujee"

The world is endless and full of suffering. The world chants and rocks, lies prone beneath you, fat and beautiful and breathing. There is no world you do not sit with daily, that you could not suffer for, that you do not bleed into. There is the breath and the voice married to the breath, the life carried from the breath into the fat and living world. There is no world that is perfect and there is no perfection and there is no world. You are one body in a strong wind. You watch the water clear a space for itself.


Bill Callahan: "Drover"

The man moves slowly onto the stage. He squints under the bright lights, touching the microphone stand softly, bracing his tall sandy body beneath the glow. He is so large, so handsome, though when he leans forward to speak he struggles to say even this: that he is alone, that everyone has left. I don't know what he means, at first. I know his heart is broken, that's obvious, but there's something else. Something exciting. I keep listening. He's mad, I realize; he even seems a little crazy. I look around to see if anyone else is excited. A lot of near-empty bottles clink in the dark. The handsome angry man stands close; he hunkers forward, then lashes out – Tss! Tss! He lays out a timeline of his destruction, he spreads the map out as wide as it can go. The man is commanding, picking up speed. He whips his horses! I can hear him loping now, loping through the plains with his horses and his broken heart, the wind in his angry hair, and as he rides he swallows the wind, all this beautiful senseless wind, and then you see: he sees: something in the distance! He sees the song, he sees the wind of the song! Tss! Tss! He grips the hair of his handsome horse, he lopes and lopes and lopes. I lose sight of him then, all his pain and ecstasy burned into the gold smear of ancient sun, all my proud tenderness sailing straight toward his naked, angry heart.


Father John Misty: "Only Son of the Ladiesman"

God strides handsomely into the dark of his own mind. Outside, the shining angry gold death of the world blares cinematically. I know what it sounds like! God is here: he's not embarrassed. I'm here to walk with you, he says, I'm here to fuck you beneath the dying gaze of a thousand angels. I'm here, with my golden mouth on your nipples, with all the lights of Los Angeles ringing below us. Sincere waves of God pummel your soft body, loving you harder than you could ever love Him. It makes sense, you think, lost in the cinematic fucking of God's love, the liquid echo of the world's end cascading over us in waves, that we would fall just like this, full of beautiful skeptical pleasure, screaming and coming into death's open golden mouth.


Smog: "Let's Move to the Country"

One day the clean pure sun rolled in. I saw the whole world, I saw its clean lines. I saw all the clichés: holiday photos, beautiful naked asses, fresh lawns. I saw the reasons why towns and cars were invented, and canned fruit, I saw what families were doing holding each other in broad daylight. Nothing was mean anymore. The sun on the trees and the sun on the water and the dream of our babies. And I wrote songs for our babies, for the easy solitude of our babies and of us. I looked at the water, I said making love. I forgave the world by learning the names of trees. I had it wrong; there were no mistakes. I slept in a bed of clean white sheets and you were in the bed. I dreamed your clean smooth skin against mine. I dreamed the water. I dreamed the sun hitting the water of your skin.


Kelly Schirmann and Popular Music links:

the author's website
the author's Tumblr

Washington Independent Review of Books review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

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Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
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