Monday, June 18, 2012

blues I

Blues poetry comes straight from the blues -- an American musical form with its roots in African music and the music of American slaves. Actually most American popular music (R&B, rock, rap, etc) is heavily influenced by the blues. it is also basically the most essential, visceral music there is, I THINK. Definitely my favourite musical genre, especially the old stuff.

According to the Handbook, blues poems may or may not follow the structure of traditional blues music. As you might expect, however, they always reflect "blue" content -- loss, hardship, hopelessness. Blues aren't depressing, though -- they acknowledge and accept the reality of the human condition, and i think say something about the endurance of the human spirit. They aren't songs about giving up. Occasionally, too, the blues have something to say about the humour to be found in bad places.

Before you try to write blues poetry, get a feel for the structure and tradition of blues music. I like to create stations on Pandora based on old performers like Bessie Smith, Howlin' Wolf, Lead Belly and the like.

Here are a couple of classics to get you started:

yup, totes put Led Zeppelin on there.

so yeah, have some fun with that stuff if you like. In a couple days i'll post some examples of blues poetry by peoples who knew what they were doing. Then i'll share a few of my amateurish attempts (^_^)


  1. I love finding out about your musical tastes! I can see it was a mistake to click over to your blog when I was supposed to be in bed already. I'm REALLY TEMPTED to click on those links and check out some good blues music, and create a Pandora station based on the artists you mentioned. Your mini-lesson in blues intrigued me and now I realize I am sorely unfamiliar with any old blues music. I will be back, Emily. Tomorrow is going to be blues day.

  2. The Blues is such a powerful form of music. I have tried, and failed, to meld blues and the gospel message.Maybe David did it in his Psalms of lamentation. I cannot. Robert Johnson speaks of a fear of hell, but no hope for heaven. I do so love the Blues, though.

  3. Emily, I've been meaning to tell you about our recent blues obsession. Sam came home one day and turned on John Lee Hooker on Spotify, which he had heard playing at the Vinyl Cafe. And we recently discovered that they play blues on the local college/community radio station on Sunday afternoon/evenings! We were driving in two separate cars one day, and as soon as we parked and got out we both said, "Did you hear that great music on KURE?--Yes!" Both occasions made me think of you. Wish we could hang out with you and Dennis this fall and talk music. We miss you guys!

  4. P.S. One of the songs they played on KURE that day was recorded in the 30s. Timeless!