Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Call to Dance

People often ask me how Newford came to be, and seem a little disappointed when I make vague references as to how it was cobbled together from bits and pieces taken from all sorts of different places I’ve been—that I just took the elements that intrigued me, and like a musical mash-up, brought them all together in one place (even though this is all true). I think they’d like Newford to be based, however loosely, on a real place—maybe so that they could go there and try to find traces of what I pulled from the actual locales to put into my made-up city, as they can do when they visit the part of Ottawa where Tamson House is in Moonheart.

But while I can’t point to any one city—or even a part of a city—as a definitive source, I do sometimes come across things that remind me so strongly of something I know is only made up that I have to stop a moment to remind myself of that simple fact.

One of those things is the video for “The Call to Dance” by a local (to me) group called Leahy. They’re from “up the valley,” home to all sorts of fiddlers and step-dancing, probably because this area was settled by Irish and Scots, way back when.

It helps that in my mind the music itself is definitely a soundtrack to certain parts of Newford. But it's also more than that. There’s something about the ghostly black and white images of the woman in her cloak, wandering streets and railways, juxtaposed with the loft and the musicians and the dancing, that always makes me think I’m getting a peek into a place that’s only supposed to exist in my head.

I just wish it was a cleaner version. I keep hoping the band will make it available as an extra on some concert DVD, or maybe combine a version with some reissue of that first album on which the tune initially appeared, but so far that hasn’t happened.  I should note that occasionally the video disappears but if you do a search on You Tube for "Leahy Call to Dance" there's invariably a version available.

An amusing aside: I can remember years ago, MaryAnn and I would go to our local exhibition/autumn fair and see “The Leahy Family” play in one of the exhibit buildings (surrounded by booths displaying pies, or giant vegetables). They were so young—I don’t think Donal (the main fiddler) was much older than twelve or thirteen—and they were all dressed the same, as some family bands used to do. But even back then the music was wonderful—I still have the vinyl versions of those early albums—and I’m happy for the success that’s come their way.

Here are a couple of album covers—one from way back when and one to show them all grown up:

Though I like cuts on all their albums, the first self-titled CD is still my favourite.  After all, it's got a bit of a Newford soundtrack on it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Counting Crows haiku

I've been writing a haiku every day for years now.  It started as a way to connect with a friend of mine in Australia who was going through a hard time, but now it's become a habit.  Throughout the day snippets and phrases come to me until the time comes to sit down and write one.  Sometimes they're more like tiny journal entries; other times they step headfirst into the mystery that is poetry.

This year I've been playing with the odd series where every day the haiku connects with the day before and leads into the next.  Here's one called...

Counting Crows

One for sorrow, the
      solo flight
      across the sky
like an errant yarn

Two for joy, they spin
      like dervishes,
      chase the last
of the waning light

Three for a wedding,
      the guests all in
      black watch a
hooded moon drift by

Four for a death, the
      murder gathers,
      four and four
and more, all mourning

Five for silver, the
      tarnished precious
      lost in the
moonlight, gone for good

But six for gold, the
      harvest, the
      autumn leaf, the
promise remembered

Then seven for a
      secret not to
      be told, and
yet, tell it they do

Eight for heaven, up
      where the fools dance
      on bridges
made of falling stars

Nine for hell in the
      frozen trees,
      wintered with no
shelter for the night

Ten for the devil,
      when his fiddle
      rings above
the midnight crossroads

And then they fly, the
      counting crows,
      from story to
song and back again