Lunch for Gargoyles, #Paint Chip Poetry, #Tanka, #Silly Poetry

A new leaf, looking

like wilted spinach, dropped down

On a stone gargoyle,

Right on the tip of the tongue,

Salad in dappled sunlight.

© Susan Joy Clark 2021

(Not the greatest photo collage, but the best I could do with current resources.)

This was for Linda Kruschke’s Paint Chip Poetry challenge. The challenge was to use two of the paint color names from the picture above in a tanka form poem. She said there were extra points if we could use four of the words in a poem that still makes sense and extra points for a silly poem. I have a silly poem — that still makes some kind of sense — with five color names, so I hope it is extra point worthy. 🙂

The Random Jukebox That Is My Head

The Songs That Get Stuck in my Head … or just Pop Up Randomly

Photo by Spencer Imbrock on Unsplash

With my busy life lately, I have not been taking that much time to listen to music for pleasure. This, apparently, has not stopped my brain from mentally replaying songs that are familiar to it, as I’m going to bed, just waking up, even in the middle of my sleep or just at random times during the day. It remembers songs from TV commercials, songs playing on the radio in stores while I’m shopping or sometimes just pulls songs from the mental archives that I don’t remember hearing recently. It might even decide to put on “repeat” a song I don’t particularly like. I find music hard to ignore when I hear it. My brain just tends to tune in whenever I hear it, whether I particularly like it or not.

So, I started making a list of the songs that either popped into my head or repeatedly played mentally over the past few days. It’s quite a list: ’70s pop, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Celtic, Christian contemporary, ’80s New Wave in French language … I think I might be the only quirky ding dong in the universe whose brain could come up with this particular list. I almost wondered if this was too embarrassing to post, and it reminded me of the meme below.

So, here is the first one, “I Think I Love You” by David Cassidy from Partridge Family. I do remember how it got started. I recently heard this while food shopping, and it hasn’t fully left my brain since. I do happen to like it. It’s sweet and innocent and tells a little story. Though I remember watching the show as a kid, I’m not sure that I remember the song from then. I think I was reminded of it some time later, probably from listening to oldies radio.

A short time later, my brain pulled up this one from Brady Bunch, and I thought, “Really, brain?” Again, I watched the show as a kid but was reminded of this song since from a friend who is a pop culture aficionado. Unlike David Cassidy, the Brady kids aren’t exactly known for their hit songs. It may have been some mental association between Partridge Family and Brady Bunch that brought this up in my mind, but then, I remembered that there was another reason why this song would pop up. I’ve been hearing a snippet of it in a recent 2020 commercial. I couldn’t recall which one, but, with help from the Internet, I found it, a Perdue chicken commercial. Now, I am wondering how many people have heard the song from the commercial without knowing its Brady Bunch origins? I don’t believe the commercial has the original Brady kid voices though. Some of the lyrics do seem to fit the pandemic, “I just can’t stay inside all day. I’ve got to get out and get some of those rays.”

Okay, so, now we are out of the ’70s. Mandisa’s “Overcomer” was mentally playing in my head as I was waking up one morning. It’s a song I heard a lot on Christian radio when it was a new hit, 2013. I don’t remember hearing it recently, but it was most definitely not the worst song to wake up thinking about. I’ve had a few struggles lately, caretaking for parents. Both Dad and I were bitten by a dog recently, and Dad has now had two surgeries to close the wound and cover it with skin. These positive thoughts are certainly welcome.

This Loreena McKennitt song, “The Highwayman,” was on a playlist I used to help me to sleep, and, oddly enough, my sleeping brain began a mental playback on another night without any help from the actual music playing. It’s a long storytelling song, so you might wonder how much of it my sleeping brain could reproduce. I’m not sure. Maybe, it was one section of it on repeat, but it seems to me my brain recalled a full sound, the voice and instruments.

This next one is an odd one. I am a bit of a musical theater enthusiast, but State Fair is not one of the more popular Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, and its title song is also not the most popular of Broadway style songs. Still, out of nowhere, this little piece of music came to mind, “Our state fair is the best state fair. Don’t miss it. Don’t even be late.” I couldn’t recall any other words, but there it was.

I enjoy this song from South Pacific, but the way it came to mind was very odd. What I remembered first was this little dramatic orchestral section that follows her beginning phrases in the song, say, right after “my faith in romance.” That part came to my mind alone, and I had to think hard to remember why this orchestral bit was so familiar and in what song it belonged.

This next one is in a completely different category, an ’80s New Wave song in French. I was not familiar with it in the ’80s but learned of it more recently through Wii Just Dance games. I don’t think this particular song is available on U.S. versions of the game, but I found the Just Dance song on YouTube. My interest in French language led me to look up the French lyrics and the English translation and then the original video and the story behind the song. By the time I did all this, I gained more and more of an appreciation of the song. The whole video has a bit of a surrealist feel. In spite of its bright colors and costumes and dancing, the subject matter is rather dark. It’s about a woman who died from cancer, a friend of the band and a dancer. The rhythmic beginning and more lyrical sections of the song express a celebration of the woman’s life, but the more aggressive sounding section speaks more bluntly about death, “It is cancer that has assassinated you …” There are a few hints in the video of the sad, dark content: bones used as percussion instruments, a splash of red paint, tears in the lead singer’s eyes. I do have an appreciation for it but feel that an English version would feel too blunt for me, rather than hearing it through the filter of a foreign language.

I have quite mixed feelings about the next one, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Melodically, it’s very pleasing. Lyric-wise, it is cryptic. I’m not sure which rendition became familiar to me first. I’ve listened to both the Leonard Cohen version and the Jeff Buckley version, and neither seem particularly familiar. Lately, I’ve heard renditions by several artists and bands I like including Pentatonix. In spite of its title and mixed Bible references to David and Bathsheba and Samson and Delilah, it is not essentially a religious song and does not belong on either a Christmas album or album of sacred arias. I’ve seen it on both. It seems to be more about a human relationship, and the expression, “Hallelujah” which literally means “Praise to the Lord,” does not seem sincere to me in its literal meaning. After all, the writer expresses, “Maybe there’s a God above” and seems even in doubt about this basic faith. Still, I like to hear it sometimes and puzzle over the artist’s meaning. This article in Rolling Stone might give some enlightenment.

I remembered that a friend and I were riding together in a car and a version of this with more Christian lyrics came on the radio. The one below may have been the one we heard. If you are a person of faith, or even if you aren’t, give this one a listen. This version would be appropriate on a Christmas album.

And, similarly, here is an Easter version.

New Review of Action Men with Silly Putty

Action Men with Silly Putty got a new five star review on the Literary Titan.

“Susan Joy Clark’s Action Men with Silly Putty features two comrades in the toy business on the adventure of a lifetime. Clark’s main characters are best friends who are attached at the hip and one another’s voice of reason. Jack Donegal and the book’s narrator, Andy Westin, set off on their journey to uncover the mystery of a mistaken identity and to find out what the heck is so important about the teddy bear from 1915 that Jack purchases at an estate sale in San Francisco. From their company, Out of the Box Toy Design, to breakdowns of Picasso’s private escapades to the Salvador Dali special–it involves eggs and a toast–Action Men with Silly Putty is filled with eccentricities at every turn and brimming with mystery!

I have always been a mystery fan and jumped in headfirst wanting, wholeheartedly, to love Action Men. I wasn’t disappointed. Jack Donegal, a character with every quirk imaginable, is as interesting a central character as I have seen. He appears as an amalgamation of whimsical leads from a handful of stories throughout the years. Incredibly well-read, dead set on having a plethora of alternatives to the traditional curse words, and a virtual fount of knowledge, Jack leads Andy on a wild ride with Andy doing little to challenge each subsequent request. Clark has given readers a vivid personality in Jack Donegal who is impossible to forget.

It’s fairly clear from the beginning that Jack is the book’s focus, but, for me, Andy sets the tone of the entire story. His obvious frustration juxtaposed with his allegiance to Jack is highly relatable. Readers will find common ground with Andy as he fights the urge to question his best friend while simultaneously appeasing him. I thoroughly enjoyed the repartee between the two and give full credit to Andy for the book’s future success.

Clark is consistent with her depiction of Jack as the absent-minded professor type character. She bestows upon him the same qualities that make one Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory the lovable and appealing guy he is. Andy, faithful to Jack to the bitter end, has some truly fantastic lines. Clark brings laugh-out-loud moments via many of Andy’s thoughts: “I thought of that famous photo of Albert Einstein, the one where he was sticking out his tongue and looking anything but genius, and felt reassured…slightly.”–my favorite line in the book as Andy reveals his never-ending stress over Jack’s idiosyncrasies.

I am giving Action Men with Silly Putty by Susan Joy Clark 5 out of 5 stars. Clark’s success with the business partners-turned-private investigators team of Donegal and Westin is tied up neatly in her narrator. As the solution to the mystery of the teddy bear is pursued through colorful secondary characters and unique settings, Andy simply shines. Clark is eloquent, creates one scenario after another to engage readers in her comedy team’s plight, and helps to define a new niche in the mystery novel. In addition, the path to the mystery’s solution is peppered with pop culture references which will appeal to a broad range of readers.”

Pages: 214 | ASIN: B00Y49AUXU

via Action Men with Silly Putty

Giveaway for “The Lit Club Mystery”

Over the next few days, there will be a giveaway for my short story ebook, “The Lit Club Mystery,” featuring my female sleuth, English professor, Grace Darby. The story involves a series of secret messages hidden in books and in poetic graffiti, a Rubiks Cube and a lot of literary references for book lovers. Claim yours. 🙂