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    Friday, September 12, 2008

    I wish I was a poet

    I miss letters. My address scrawled out on the envelope. The twenty-three-cent stamp voided with grill marks. The folded looseleaf and lines of blue script. Chatty paragraphs from pen pals or long-distance girlfriends updating me on their lives. I's dotted with stars; the vague scents of foreign places. I don't remember the last time I've received a letter, and I don't remember the last time I've written one. It seems like a relic of a bygone century now, a time when we'd condense months of information and thoughts and emotions into a few pages. A time when my mailbox contained more than wedding invitations and Netflix envelopes.

    I miss missing people too. Sure, I have cross-country friends I'd love to see more than biannually, but there's no deep sense of loss. Between cellphones, email, Skype, Gchat, Facebook wall postings, Twitter, and oh yeah, Blogger, it's almost harder to detach yourself than to keep in touch. We're all within reach, with every banal thought and bowel movement ripe for mention. With communication becoming so immediate, we've lost the chance for our thoughts to stew. We've lost the poetry of distance.

    However, that poetry's at the heart of Samamidon's "Saro," a gentle reworking of an old folk ballad. Set in 1849, the song is narrated by an immigrant who had to leave his wife behind. Like singer Sam Amidon's delivery, the lyrics are spare but deeply stirring: "'Tis not this long journey that grieves me for to go/ Nor the country that I'm leaving, nor the debts that I owe./ There's one thing that grieves me and bears on my mind/ That's leaving my darling pretty Saro behind." Set against Nico Muhly's sweeping strings and our knowledge that this couple may never reunite, "Saro" strikes a raw nerve. It makes me want to find a girl that beautiful, or feel a loss that vast. Most of all, it makes me want to write letters until my hand cramps and my heart is light.

    * MP3: "Saro" - Samamidon from All Is Well [Buy it]
    * Also: The Torture Garden on Samamidon

    Comments on "I wish I was a poet"


    Blogger Adam said ... (11:33 AM) : 

    'We've lost the poetry of distance.'

    - Not to get all sycophantic on you but that's fucking great man.


    Blogger Hannah Elizabeth said ... (9:16 AM) : 

    In the version of Saro that I know, the couple isn't married - in fact she won't even have the person who is singing the song, which makes it all the more tragic because he kind of goes off with his tail between his legs. Samamidon certainly has a beautiful way of recapturing those old traditional songs, though.

    And letters are completely underrated these days. I find myself trying to mail a letter each week, just for the thrill of that kind of lost communication.


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