TBT poetry

When I was at Knox, I had to take an art class. After determining that I was not cut out for the standard studio art class due to my complete lack of artistic ability (I can't even color inside the lines) I decided it would be best to pursue an art credit that would still challenge me a bit while still being reasonably accomplished.

 Enter "Introduction to Poetry." Every week, we wrote a different type of poem. Every week, we workshopped the previous week's poem. It was both fun and painful at times, mostly more fun than painful. I was recently reminded of one of the poems I wrote and worked on quite extensively and have decided to share it here because I really, really liked it. Who knows, maybe in the midst of this regularly blogging thing I will post an old poem every once in a while Throw-Back-Thursday style. 

So here it is! The first of possibly, but maybe not, many! This is an ekphrastic poem based on the piece of art by Ben Shahn titled Concerto for Clarinets and Tinhorn. The image can be found here. I got to bring my love of the clarinet into my poetry with lots and lots of research into different kinds of clarinets, its history, etc., so it wound up being a lot of fun to write.


That tin does not, can not, stand up to the beauty of the clarinet.
How dare it sit there, among those real instruments?
A bad doppelganger, not worthy of standing in that line.

Altissimo. A member of the wide clarinet family, not to be lost,
but celebrated, that clarinet knows his place. He can play you
the highest note, C7, but he only does so when he knows
it to be necessary. Bringing that high-pitched note in to pierce
even the darkest of spaces. He has purpose with his pitches,
unlike that excuse for an instrument a tin horn.

Clarino. The reed is set, ready to fill the space of the hall with bright,
happy notes. Ready to blend with the rest of the clarinets,
harmonizing, five voices ascending. She can feel the breath
passing through her, fingers licking her silver keys.
And she is a clarinet, B, warm with her tones.
Not harsh, like a tin horn.

And see that clarinet? Bechet. He burns with disobedience,
He’s jazz and funk, bouncing from note to note
with such grace that you think they are all one.
But he sticks to no rules, changes rhythm and meter,
so you know where he stands. A tin horn would bend over
at the idea of playing such an fiery line.

Chalumeau. That clarinet stands tall, carefully built of wood.
The sweet, low timbre she expels through her bell sends
chills up and down your spine. It’s as if you know
that clarinet has a song for you, to smooth away
your concerns, and relax your muscles with her
soothing pitches. She doesn’t make your hair stand
on end, like that tin horn does.

Romanesca. That one, there on the end, plays Greensleeves
in perfect pitch. Sorrowful at the loss of love,
that clarinet can bring you to tears with his melody.
And the keys glide with the finger tips against that black wood,
trills and slurs, to tell its story. But a tin horn can’t tell
a story beyond its squeak for attention.

And that piece of tin thinks he can ruin this scene.
A common piece of metal that just happens to make a noise
when blown through. That screeching, pathetic excuse
for an instrument.

What is this I see? Those arms are reaching past Oehler’s formulations
for that cheap piece of metal. How can this be? It has no range,
no real musicality!

That tin horn does not belong in a concerto
of clarinets. It barely belongs in a circus.
And I will be the one to make sure
that it does not cross its boundaries.

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