Archive for November 17, 2009

Planet Wave

Posted in Jazz, Poetry, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on November 17, 2009 by telescoper

Regular readers of this blog (both of you) will know that from time to time I like to post little bits of poetry. The verses are usually related to astronomy (or science generally)  and they’re usually things I come across pretty much by accident when I’m browsing through the books of poetry I occasionally buy. This evening I was leafing through a collection called A Book of Lives, by the popular and highly respected Scottish national poet Edwin Morgan.  In the middle of this set is a long sequence of poems called Planet Wave, each of which is to do with a specific historical episode or important character, such as Copernicus or Darwin. The first poem in the cycle is about the Big Bang so I thought it would be a good choice.

However, regular readers will also know that I like to post bits of jazz on here too – although the blog statistics suggest that these are much less popular than the poetry!  I read in the Book of Lives that the first half the sequence of poems making up Planet Wave was commissioned by the Cheltenham International Jazz Festival and set to music by the excellent Tommy Smith. The poetry and music combination was first performed in Cheltenham Town Hall on 4 April 1997.

Great, I thought. Here’s a chance to combine jazz and poetry (for what would only be the second time on here, the first being this post). Unfortunately, though, I’ve been unable to locate any recording of a performance of this work. I found an interview with Tommy Smith on the net which suggests a recording was made but never released. I’d certainly love to hear it and I hope that there might be a jazz fan out there somewhere who knows what happened to it.

Anyway, in the absence of the music here’s just the first verse of the first poem of the cycle.  As you will see, Morgan’s style is very inventive, often extremely funny, and always extremely Scottish.

In the Beginning
(20 Billion BC)

Don’t ask me and don’t tell me. I was there.
It was a bang and it was big. I don’t know
what went before, I came out with it.
Think about that if you want my credentials.
Think about that, me, it, imagine it
as I recall it now, swinging in my spacetime hammock,
nibbling a moon or two, watching you.
What am I? You don’t know. It doesn’t matter.
I am the witness, I am not in the dock.
I love matter and I love anti-matter.
Listen to me, listen to my patter.

(Reproduced by kind permission of Carcanet Press.)

If you want to read the rest you’ll have to buy the book! And if anyone out there knows what happened to the recording of Planet Wave please let me know. I’d love to hear it!

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