#455: Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello . . .

Day Seventeen of Sonnetpalooza finds me writing a poem about music, a thing I do from time to time, as music, it turns out, is one of the central concerns of my life–listening, making, recording, performing. Hardly a day goes by when I am not doing one of those four things at some point or another. And here I am at a point in life’s musical journey, where I am about 20 to 25 years away from the most pivotal and influential music of my 30’s–a time in my life when I had kind of grown up: had firmly established myself in a career, had bought and lived for a significant time in my first house with my partner, and had accomplished a number of other life goals. And there was tremendous growth happening, as well. Most of it was of profound significance to me, creatively, professionally, intellectually, even spiritually–in the most secular of ways. But some of that internal movement had a rippling effect that was, conversely, upending, destructive, devastating. So the music of the very late 90’s and early 00’s was a soundtrack to a lot of upheaval, both joyful and excruciatingly hard. Two pivotal albums for me have been given new life in their 20 to 25 year anniversary editions, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips and Painted from Memory, a collaboration between Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach. For this poem I chose Elvis and Burt. But either record would have been for me truly representative of those years of my life.

Even though it won’t always scan correctly with an unstressed syllable followed by the stressed, I have maintained in this sonnet the ten syllable line, and I seem to be holding on for dear life to the closing rhyming couplet. Otherwise, I am continuing to give up on rhyme in the three quatrains–because I can, and because the rhyme continues to make saying what I really want to say super difficult. Remember the frogs and dogs? Sometimes there’s just no room for dogs in a poem about frogs.

If you are among the uninitiated when it comes to this particular album, do yourself a favor and listen to Painted from Memory. And bring a hanky. Same goes for The Flaming Lips album. As weird as the Lips are, they have always had a sneaky way of plucking those emotional strings, at least for me. And Rest In Peace, Burt.


Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello,
Two names that make a perfect iambic
Pentameter line there all by themselves,
And too, a perfect collaboration. 
This great album, “Painted from Memory,”
Is etched on mine, and now, it’s here again,
Remastered, with new material gifts; 
I listen to it now as if it were
Newly minted, so dumb-romantic, sad,
But some of the most beautiful pop songs
I have ever heard, and timely now, as
Bacharach’s passing is recent bad news.
Then, a soundtrack for my life in tatters,
Now, mostly whole again, the music still matters. 

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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