August already / in defense of tropes

July's gone and I'd be sad if I wasn't so sure that I've never crammed a month more full. I feel I am losing some control over the work I'm producing. I send it out all over the place anyway. I start playing ping-pong at work. I dance at two rap shows. I buy a record player the size of a bathtub. I pitch articles. I attend my first music festival in nine years. I develop my first roll of film.  Nothing I write comes out right, but there is so much of it. An astounding woman named Mary tells me to "embrace the chaos". I try. Over the weekend I find myself reaching for my phone to record a line of melody that is quickly becoming attached to the line of poetry I am writing. I am horrified. Thank the creative gods. 

Listening to Jasper and Ella's new record, over and over, I begin thinking about folk music in general, how it is still so powerful while it continues to reference highways, coffee, and cigarettes--the river, the radio, the long-suffering woman. As for my poems, the newest one uses a double-yolked egg to represent the world's surprising generosity. Hardly original.

But I think there is a sense in which tropes become like new words, and more than that, codes for things we cannot understand anymore without them. Last night Dylan said he didn't like a new verse for a new song because it used a woman's eyes to describe a feeling. I said on the one hand maybe women's eyes feel overused; on the other hand they've become shorthand. That verse will mean something to people because their Canadian brand of emotional intelligence has developed around Neil Young songs. Maybe in this distracted era they've never had a single intense encounter with a lover, but if they're human and they have, it probably involved looking into someone's eyes.

Life itself can be a glorious cliche. Dancing in the kitchen simply does not get old. Lovers continue to leave and come back, contrite. Driving a truck down a highway is more meaningful than ever, now that even more of us spend our entire lives in the city. Maybe, though, we only realize it's meaningful because we've cut our teeth on tropes that developed within the context of trucks on highways being a way of life. Or were they ever, for folk musicians? Is it all just over-romanticization of a life we don't understand, directly experience?

As for coffee and cigarettes, my friends, I can tell you the chemistry is real.

All to say: I am uncomfortable with my new poems and even more uncomfortable writing songs, Dylan is writing a gorgeous song, and you need to go download Soon the Wind Came this instant.