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On Crystal Trees

The piece I read on track 3, 'Crystal Trees', is excerpted from the book ' Orphan Girl: The Memoir of a Chicago Bag Lady' by Marie James, as told to Jane Hertenstein, published by Cornerstone Press Chicago. The book is a biography of Marie James, who was a long-time friend of the Jesus People community. I found this passage deeply moving when first I read it. Several people have told me they still shiver, after many listenings, every time they hear the closing words, 'crystal, and diamonds, and light.' Sometimes, so do I.

On the writings of cf.escue

I'm not a poetry buff, but I sure enjoy Chuck's writing. The relationship between an artist, his work, and his audience is a peculiar thing. I suppose an artist is employing a personal symbolic language in his work, and so is primarily communicating with himself. To others, his work might therefore be completely obscure. This is great, so long as such an artist does not display his work expecting some sort of cathartic accolade from the audience. If he is going to produce work addressed essentially to himself, I will have no pity if he complains as he starves. This one, in my opinion, needs to keep the day job and produce his art either for his own personal consumption, or for exhibit with no particular expectation of being understood . The lyrics of Jon Anderson might be a suitable example. Jon produces art that is almost completely obscure. If he expressed angst and contempt for an unappreciative world, I doubt I would be able to bear to listen to 'Close To The Edge'; but since he doesn't seem to care if I know what he's talking about, it frees me to enjoy it without even trying to understand it, and we can stay friends.

At the opposite extreme is the artist who incorporates so universal a symbolic language in his work that the masses instantly identify. They flock to his exhibits, studios and web sites and proclaim him the prophetic voice of the age. I call him a trivialist, stooping to the lowest common denominator of a shallow culture. Any pop music lyricist will suffice to illustrate. I had a hobby project in mind: I was going to create a piece of gag software to generate pop lyrics. You enter the meter and rhyme scheme, and out comes a string of cliches in two verses, a chorus and a bridge.

Chuck's work strikes a middle ground that I find very appealing. For the most part, his poems consist of sensible, grammatically coherent English sentences: a big plus in my book. His choice of word-play makes them fun to listen to, if only for the sound and flow of the words. His very quirky vocabulary provides lots of feathers to tickle my ears. (Chihuauas? Half-baked Mexican food? Stone bread? Windshield-wiper blades?!) This provides a poetry-ignoramus like me with easy access. It engages me. And guess what? There is meaningful content there, too! I, even I, stand a chance of UNDERSTANDING his piece 'The Womb', with enough careful listenings. And it's pleasant work. Thanks, Chuck. Your stuff delights me. And thank you, too, for explaining the reference to Plato's Cave.

I would like to hear from Busker fans with thoughts on this subject. And I'd like to recommend a short Martin Scorcese film 'Life Lessons', contained within Woody Allen's 'New York Stories'. I suppose the plot is primarily about a famous New York artist's relationship with his nubile assistant, but I was more interested in the sub-plot, which was about his relationship to his art and his audience. I watched this with my mother (an artist) and we talked about it for hours.

Glen van Alkemade