4 thoughts on “music theory

  1. Susan Hollis Merritt

    I enjoy reading and re-reading your poem.

    Your lines about the “gaps . . . the music / between / you and me” recall a poem by Harold Pinter called “I Know the Place,” dedicated to his second wife, Lady Antonia Fraser. Here is a “poemhunter.com” link to it:

    Very coincidentally perhaps, “Mind the gap” also reminds me of the endlessly-repeated recorded reminders played in speakers at the doors of London Tube cars, “Mind the gap,” heard so that one does, indeed, mind the gap. Perhaps not exactly “music” to one’s “ears”; perhaps, at times, more like “noise,” but a welcome reminder, nonetheless. Makes me wish there were comparable reminders at the curbs entering London traffic. With your poem “Music Theory” now in mind, such things lead me to think of “the music of everyday life.”

    1. Steven Schroeder Post author

      Many thanks for the comment — and for the link to Harold Pinter’s poem. I am always delighted when a poem brings another poem to mind, and a poem that brings Harold Pinter to mind has done an especially good thing. The “mind the gap” of the London Tube (and the Hong Kong MTR) was part of the music in my mind as I wrote the poem, so I’m glad to hear that resonated as well.

  2. Susan Hollis Merritt

    Thank you for such a quick reply. I was off hunting for related information and didn’t see it until coming back to this site. Having had the association, I had wondered whether or not you might have had the London (etc.) Tube “Mind the gap.” in mind at all too.

    Since you mention your experience composing the poem, I thought I might add that in her memoir, _Must You Go? My Life With Harold Pinter_, first published in 2010, after Pinter’s death (2008), Lady Antonia Fraser quotes two poems that Pinter wrote for her after their getting together in January 1975, adapted from her diary entry for 22 February 1975. The first one, the “very long” one, “which he read to me twice” and from the beginning and end of which she quotes 4 lines each, is not collected. The second one, “the short one,” is “I Know the Place,” which became the title of a limited collection of his poetry and also appears in various other volumes of his collected poetry and prose; e.g., you can find it in _Collected Poems and Prose_ (Grove, 1996), as well as in the editions of _Various Voices_.

    After quoting “I Know the Place” in full, Fraser observes,
    “It subsequently became a favourite poem of Harold’s to mark this stage in our lives and he often recited it. However, when the [two] poems arrived [from Hong Kong, where he had written them] on the pale banana-coloured paper of the Peninsula Hotel, I protested about the comma after ‘me’ which divided us and left him on the side of death and it was eliminated (although not put immediately after ‘death’ as I wanted!).”

    As a poet, you might find interesting this response by the reader for whom Pinter had written the poem (Fraser) and especially how he responded in turn to it as the poet (who deleted the offending comma but did not place it after the word “death” as she wished). Thus, he removed one kind of space (gap) via the comma (pause) but still did not delete such spaces (gaps) entirely, since he maintains the line break between “me / And you.” Though his line break creates that space or gap, I wonder if she may have preferred also no line break at all and keeping “me and you” together. Taken farther, even the word “and” (though in grammar signaling combination) still creates some gap (space) between me and you; for each of us, I am not you and cannot be in real life; perhaps only in poetry, music, and other arts. In that sense, poetry, music, and other arts connect us, despite the gaps (spaces) and how we may or may not “mind” them.

    If you would like to follow up, you can find Pinter’s much later poetry pertaining to death, such as “Death,” quoted in his Nobel Prize lecture (“Art, Truth and Politics”), and also published in the volumes _Death etc. _ and _Various Voices_, which has an audio cassette edition as well as print editions.

    “I Know the Place” is currently still making rounds in Julian Sands’s one-man show “Harold Pinter: A Celebration”; Sands begins with that poem and quotes it throughout his readings. This program was originally created for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it was directed by John Malkovich.

    The program initially came about because, when Pinter was scheduled to do a benefit poetry reading and found that he was too ill to perform, he asked Sands to take his place, and then he spent time coaching Sands in reading his poetry. With Pinter in the audience of the initial benefit reading, with some trepidation, Sands stood in for Pinter. Later, he and Malkovich went on to develop the readings into Sands’s one-man show, which has toured all over and which Sands is still presenting in a variety of venues here and abroad. (I list some of these performances in the “Harold Pinter Bibliography” in the 2011 “Memorial Volume” of _The Pinter Review,” and update that list in my essay “Being and Not Being Harold Pinter: Pinter Still in Play in the USA” (published as chap. 11 of _Harold Pinter on International Stages_, edited by Tomas Onic, Peter Lang, 2014). If you have an opportunity to attend a performance, you might enjoy it.

    In the meantime, here’s a link to the YouTube video of Julian Sands being interviewed by Charlie Rose about the program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRkYO9Oj7zk. He reads “I Know the Place” at the beginning of the YouTube video “Julian Sands Reads Harold Pinter”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77ERhb8Hsyg. This seems to be from the program, as posted in January 2017. (Other relevant YouTube links are in righthand menu.)


Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.