Road Trips with Mom: A musical Odyssey

by Gabi Watkins

Over spring break I visited Florida with my mom and younger siblings. During the 42 total hours on the road I listened to a lot of NPR and classic rock. From epic ballads about love gone wrong to ventures of sex and drugs, the era of Rock ‘n Roll was a defining and crucial point in the evolution of music. Throughout my car ride I heard some songs that stuck out to me not only as a fan of this genre, but as a music lover in general:

Part 1: “Paradise By the Dashboard Light”

Michael Lee Aday, better known by his stage name, Meat Loaf, started his musical career in high school through theater productions. After graduation he made his way to Los Angeles where he formed his first band “Meat Loaf Soul”. The band opened for various artists including Janis Joplin, the Who and The Grateful Dead.

Meat Loaf then went on to record for Motown Records, where he released his debut album, Stoney & Meatloaf in September 1971. Despite the album’s moderate success, he was unhappy with Motown and left shortly after to audition for various parts in musical theater. It was during one of these auditions he met his future collaborator Jim Steinman. He had success in the theater, starring in the production of Hair on Broadway and earning a part in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

All the while he was working with Steinman on creating his second album and left theater in 1974 to pursue his music career exclusively. In 1977 he signed with Cleveland International Records and had his big break that October with his sophomore album and claim to fame, Bat Out of Hell.

Bat Out of Hell contains some of the most revolutionary and iconic tracks of the 1970s. Composer, Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf brought together aspects of hard rock, pop and spoken word lyrics, tied together by one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s key elements – sex.

 

“Paradise By the Dashboard Light” highlights the album; a three part, eight minute long epic, telling the tale of high school sweethearts about to take their relationship to a physical level in a car. Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley embody the suspense and desire of young lovers at the beginning of the song, with Meat Loaf proudly proclaiming “we’re gonna go all the way tonight”.

The first part then cuts to a metaphoric play-by-play done by New York Yankees’ shortstop, Phil Rizzuto. This transition is part of what makes this song so iconic as listeners feel the excitement resounding through commentary as the player reaches first base, is nearly thrown out at second, steals third base and sprints for home plate leaving Rizzuto to proclaim, “Holy Cow I think he’s gonna make it!”

Foley then stops the run short, making it clear that she won’t go any further until she knows they’ll be together forever. The male and female vocals intertwine as Meat Loaf pleads with her to let him ‘sleep on it’, promising to tell her in the morning. After their banter makes it clear that she needs confirmation now, he gives into frustration and reassures her that, “I’ll love you ‘til the end of time”.

The song ends with an ironic twist as Meat Loaf exclaims, “now I’m waiting for the end of time, to hurry up and arrive”. Despite the relationship turning bitter and the couple clearly not being able to stand each other, they keep their vows to stay together and reminisce of their first time, remembering how the spark that was once there is now but a distant memory.

The well thought out story line and sarcastic undertones portrayed in these lyrics mash together with an experimental pop-funk tune and the heavy guitar that this era is known for. The song itself peaked at 39 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the album has sold over 43 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best selling records of all time.

Poetry Review: We Walk Alone

by Mollie Ryan

This book will appeal to anyone who finds beauty in heartache. With its narrative being one of love and loss, We Walk Alone evokes a sense of nostalgia in its readers through the use of imagery and emotion. The book centers around the idea that although we may share the same road as others, we ultimately find ourselves alone in the end. The book as a whole is about how each of us longs for a sense of individuality while remaining a part of a whole. Wilson has stated that this message is perfectly exemplified in her poem We Walk Alone (26) (shocking, I know), which speaks on how we all wish for an outside source, especially a lover, to make us feel as though we have a companion for life’s journey, someone to overwhelm us with emotion in the best of ways. This poem then shifts, abruptly taking the reader to a dark place, a place that many see as being reality. Wilson’s final message in this poem and in this book as a whole is that although there are people who stand beside and light fires inside of us, at the end of our journey we find ourselves alone. However, finding oneself alone is not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, there is much beauty and value to be found in one’s solitude.

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Many of Wilsons poems are reminiscing over times where things felt good, whether that has to do with a lover, a toy, her childhood, or otherwise. In this book Wilson has mastered the art of capturing big concepts in small packages in a way that causes the reader to stop and think about the hidden complexity of her writing. Not only are some of the most powerful poems in this collection also the shortest (Thank You, Come Again (19) for example), but she manages to sneak big ideas into poems which on the surface may seem quite flavorless. Wilsons poems often come off as being very simple, but after rereading her poems a few times, I found many interesting similarities between them. A few themes that I noticed Wilson repeating were that of memories, the idea of consumption, temporary pleasure, finding pleasure in suffering, and last but certainly not least, loss.

Nearly every poem in this collection has to do with loss or memories, specifically memories that come back to haunt or memories of times when life seemed simple. Wilson often writes in past tense, assisting the reader in experiencing the memory as being in the past rather than the present or future. In The Devil Plays a Tune (49), she speaks of the devil in a feminine manner, and how the devil repeatedly unearths old pain which Wilson thought she had overcome or buried. The devil in this poem is romanticized by Wilson in a way that paints elegant and beautiful the ways in which the devil drowns you in your aching. Another example of Wilson romanticizing painful memories is in You’re Not Here (12), where she briefly recalls in a sleepy haze the memory of a lover who made her feel warm and happy, but in the end left her feeling empty, which is exactly how she felt upon waking from the dream. Wilson is constantly romanticizing painful memories and people, so much so that it almost leads the reader to think that she feeds off of self-destructive experiences, or that she did at points in her life. I believe that this is something that she knows many of her readers can relate to, with self-destructive behavior being a common thing that those who are heartbroken engage in. This can be exemplified in her poem One Night (46), where Wilson writes about her experience of the pleasure and excitement of a one-night-stand while admitting that this occurrence was an act of weakness. She says that the heat in that moment seemed to chase her demons away, but failed to keep them away. Many women (and men) use the pleasure of hook-ups and one-night-stands to temporarily rid themselves of their sorrows, allowing another to consume their body, ignoring the idea that afterwards they may find themselves feeling just as empty if not more so than they did to begin with. Wilson brings a sense of universal sorrow into her writing by romanticizing her pain and suffering, all the while remaining somewhat mysterious. She finds a way for her poems to relate to her readers, believing that “in everyone’s heart there is a soft, lonely tune that plays”. Some poems in this collection are like that of Girl on a Tire Swing (50), where she reminisces over her innocence as a child, her ability to be carelessly happy and unworried, with others such as The End of Daydreams (35) being about the end of such innocence and the emergence of the idea that one must live with themselves rather than rely on the company of others.  Many others, being most of the poems in this collection, are about lovers. These poems often contain happy as well as sad emotions, emphasizing that the pleasure that a partner brings to you is usually temporary and does not heal existing wounds, but may create new ones.

Throughout this collection of poems, the reader is made to feel nostalgic about times in their life which could be easily romanticized. Although the image of being alone in a room full of crowded people is quite cliché, Wilson captures this feeling in a way that doesn’t cause the reader to want to roll their eyes. While reading this collection, I noticed a good deal of the poems beginning in a light and happy tone, sometimes coming across as unrealistic and other times simply optimistic, before changing the tone to one that sometimes comes off as being realistic, and other times quite pessimistic. Wilson does a good job of keeping her reader alert and prepared for the revisiting of themes and shifts in her writing. I personally really enjoyed reading We Walk Alone, and plan to keep it tucked away for a day that I find myself needing to feel. Wilsons style of writing, with its ability to evoke intense emotion, is part of the reason I liked it so much. Another reason being Wilson’s willingness to touch on topics which many other authors choose to leave alone.

Poetry Review: Night Sky With Exit Wounds

by Grant Blume

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Some poems provide more clear meanings and ideas, while others are more elusive or subtle in their emotions and purposes. Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky With Exit Wounds is of the subtle kind. Strong language and evocative words are in the foreground of Ocean Vuong’s full-length debut, while the larger themes are deep within Vuong’s carefully chosen words. That being said, biographical information is important in understanding much of the poetry in Vuong’s book. Beneath the lyrical but elusive language of Vuong’s Night Sky With Exit Wounds, emotions and themes swell like the motifs and subtle hints that develop throughout. This expressive but subtle writing makes the book all the more rewarding to its readers.

Vuong uses caustic language describing violence paired with references to nature or more serene things in order to create a juxtaposition of perspectives and interpretations of violence. Poems like “Telemachus” or “Aubade with Burning City” serve as good examples of this. In “Telemachus,” Vuong writes of the “bullet hole in his back, brimming with seawater.” But an even more obvious and juxtaposition is presented to readers in “Aubade with Burning City,” in which the lyrics of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” are intertwined with descriptions of the evacuation before the fall of Saigon. Lines like “May your Christmas be white as the traffic guard unstraps his holster” especially create an uneasy relationship between innocence and violence that develops into a stronger theme as the book progresses. The poem later continues:

The treetops glisten and children listen, the chief of police

facedown in a pool of Coca-Cola.

A palm-sized photo of his father soaking

beside his left ear.

 

The song moving through the city like a widow.

                A white     A white     I’m dreaming of a curtain of snow

 

falling from her shoulders.

 

Snow crackling against the window. Snow shredded

 

with gunfire. Red sky.

Snow on the tanks rolling over the city walls.

A helicopter lifting the living just out of reach.

 

Contrasts between “children that listen” and the chief of police lying face down, or between red and white, make the poem more effective and harsh in its realities. Additionally, the comparison develops the thematic idea of how violence is perceived differently.

Vuong is thorough in developing his themes, motifs, and ideas. There are phrases or subjects that are repeated throughout many of the poems within the book, making it consistent and engaging. Vuong again described how actions or stories can be adjusted depending on its context. Vuong writes “Through books, I learned you could use words to make a person good or bad.” This reemphasizes the duality and contrasts of the books images, like the evacuation of Saigon.

While he maintains thematic ideas surrounding violence throughout the book, Vuong develops many other thematic ideas, too. His father is mentioned often in Night Sky With Exit Wounds, as this relationship is what much of the book is about. And on the cover of the book, the child can be seen wearing a shirt reading “I love daddy.” This feature seems to make it more noticeable that his father is missing from the cover photo. Vuong mostly discusses the father figure in Night Sky With Exit Wounds as an adversary. In the poem “Self-Portrait as Exit Wounds,” Vuong writes of “the grandfather fucking the pregnant farmgirl in the back of his army jeep.” This violent language associated with the grandfather here is similar to much of the language surrounding other father figures throughout the book. In the poem “Always & Forever,” the narrator’s father gives him a box with a Colt .45 in it. The poem starts with what seems to be a sentimental exchange between the father and his son:

“Open this when you need me most,

he said, as he slid the shoe box, wrapped

 

in duct tape, beneath my bed.”

 

Additionally, Vuong includes the boy’s mother in this poem. This might serve as an extension of the idea that different characters perceive or interact with violence in different ways. The poem later continues:

…as an amputated hand. I hold the gun

& wonder if an entry wound in the night

 

Would make a hole wide as morning. That if

I looked through it, I would see the end of this

 

sentence.

 

The narrator contemplates the effects of an act of violence in reference to two different contexts, and wonders what difference the contexts might make. What does Vuong mean when he wonders if the hole would be “wide as morning”? And would would an entry wound make a hole wide as morning? The answers are within Vuongs deeply evocative language and clever lines throughout the book. And with careful reading, readers might find answers to the many questions Night Sky With Exit Wounds poses.

The subtlety and sometimes ambiguity in Vuong’s poems are one of its strongest aspects. Amidst the highly evocative but honest language within the book, there is an endless possibility of meanings to be found in regards to humanity, family, emotions, and more. And where meaning is hidden too deep for myself or other readers to find, there is beauty in the words used. Lines like “& remember, loneliness is still time spent with the world” or “A mother’s love neglects pride the way fire neglects the cries of what it burns” illustrate Vuong’s concise wisdom and remind readers the power that a single line or even just a few words can hold.

Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky With Exit Wounds is a deeply personal and intimate recollection of events that have occurred in his life. The poems are a gift, courageously and honestly given to its readers. Through Vuong’s careful word choice and form, we are made aware of great meaning, beauty, and emotion in each of his stories and experiences. Poetry like this makes readers wonder: what meaning and emotion could be derived from our own experiences if we had the same preciseness and control of our words?

 

 

Poetry review: Milk and Honey

by Jack Miles

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Milk and Honey is no ordinary poetry book. It is raw, relatable and full of emotion through to the core. The book deals with abuse, love, loss, and femininity. The book is split into four chapters, each one dealing with a different pain, specifically involving relationships. Though some of the poems may seem unoriginal, Rupi Kaur takes readers through the most bitter points in her life and finds the silver lining beneath. Overall, though, I found this book to be just a little underwhelming.

Most reviews I have heard said it was the most beautiful thing they had ever read, but honestly the book was a bit plain. Many of the poems in this book were a bit unoriginal, especially when it came to the whole empowerment of women and feminism aspect. The idea that women want a man and don’t need a man is something I have heard over and over again for years. Not that these topics are not important, but Kaur makes her points in a very “vanilla” fashion. For example, on one page in the third chapter it simply says:

“love is not cruel

we are cruel

love is not a game

we have made a game

out of love.”

This, and many other poems in her book, seem just very cliché and “already done”. Many of her poems seem like something that would appear inside of a fortune cookie:

“give to those who have nothing to give you.”

“some people are so bitter… to them you must be kindest.”

These are just a few examples.

Many of the poems in this book have been compared to things found on Twitter and Tumblr, which could be the authors intent; panning to a much younger, more modern audience. To me, this seemed a bit cheap and effortless which is unfortunate because I can tell Kaur poured copious amounts of emotion into this project. Along with the simple feel to the writing, the formatting in this book seems somewhat random and choppy. The lines and stanzas seem to cut out at odd places, causing for weird pauses in dialogue when reading through the works. Aside from the generic feel to the poems, most of this book really lacks lyricism; most of the works read just like regular everyday sentences, especially in the last chapter of the book. The points and ideas in the book are good, I only wish the author had conveyed them a bit more poetically.

There were many things I liked about this book, though. Many of the poems from the first chapters of the book were based off real experiences the author had with physical and sexual abuse. These poems were very moving and impactful because she dug up those emotions she felt during the attacks and portrayed it in an extremely vivid and visual way. For example, one poem that hit me quite hard was:

“he guts her

with his fingers

like he’s scraping

the inside of a

cantaloupe clean”

Some of her writing can be so descriptive, the book touches on all five of the human senses.

I really enjoyed reading the stories about her life and personal experiences much more than some of the more pandering poems towards the end of the book. For example, she tells us about the first boy who kissed her:

“The first boy that kissed me

held my shoulders down

like the handlebars of

the first bicycle

he ever rode

I was five

 

He had the smell of

starvation on his lips

which he picked up from

his father feasting on his mother at 4 a.m.

 

he was the first boy

to teach me my body was

for giving to those that wanted

that I should feel anything

less than whole

 

and my god

did I feel as empty

as his mother at 4:25 a.m.”

This is by far my favorite poem in the book because I have never experienced what it is like to be a woman who has been sexually assaulted and this piece gave me just a little taste; it is easy to empathize with the author in this poem, and many others.

This leads me to another reason why I liked this book and why I personally think it is so popular. It is super relatable. Anyone who has gone through a bad break up, been in an unhealthy relationship, or just has relationship problems in general should read this book. Despite the slight lack of artistic flair in these poems, so many times was I reading this book and felt like she was speaking to exact moments and experiences I have had in my own life.

“I don’t want to be friends; I want all of you.”

This is a line from the third chapter of the book. I’m sure everyone has had someone who they are just friends with who they wish could be so much more.

I believe there is a time and place to read this book: directly after you break up with a significant other. When we end a relationship with someone who was once a big part of our life, we feel all sorts of strange emotions and think “crazy” thoughts that we believe no one else understands. Rupi Kaur understands. Milk and Honey is there for you when nobody else is; it is a voice that tells you that what you feel is natural and others have been in your shoes before. You are not alone.

This book might not be 100% beautiful, aesthetically pleasing art but it serves a great purpose for young people, especially women, who might be struggling with relationships and self-image. I believe the only reason I did not enjoy this book more is because I was not in the correct state of mind when I read it. If you are having difficulty letting go of someone, doubting your self-worth, or confused about how to move on, I would highly recommend this book.

Thank You A$AP YAMS

by Jacob McKay

A$AP Yams is one of the biggest reasons why this site exists. As we approach growth milestones, I think it’s only fair on his birthday to show him the appropriate amount of respect. In 2012 I was a much more insecure version of myself, a skinny teen with an affinity for hip-hop and the internet. I was just into the skinny pants and Vans phase then, and the type of music that I was listening to was increasingly weird. I remember the first time I saw the A$AP Rocky video for Pe$o like it was yesterday. I was fully caught up in the way these guys carried themselves, and the pudgy Puerto Rican guy with braids had the most gravitas out of all of them. I quickly spent time learning all I could about the A$AP Mob, and Always Strive and Prosper became my motto too. The Mob taught me how to be cozy, and also taught me to be confident in myself and my dress the way I wanted to dress. When people weren’t getting it I took solace in the fact that being a weirdo meant you were a few steps away from being a star. Yams was the mastermind behind the groups’ success, seeing Rocky for the star he was and promoting him as the frontman for their rise. He had the foresight to see that their fashion forward art house sensibilities and streetwise raps created something unique and electrifying. They became the kings of cool over years of guidance from their visionary, Yams aka Steven Rodriguez. We know the A$AP story by now and we know how broad their current success is, but Yams is behind more than that. He knew about Lil Uzi Vert years ago, and MadeinTYO, and Carti, Yachty, and more. He could sniff out talent a mile away and then new the moves to make in order to get them where they wanted to go. He was a master facilitator, and I want to operate in the same way. 26th & Cottage Grove the blog was fostered under the idea that we could give people a platform to showcase their talent. Local people, who may not have the confidence or resources to display their gifts to a larger audience. That’s the goal here, and hopefully Yams would appreciate something like this. His death was one of the first times in my life where I was shaken by a celebrity dying too soon. I was so emotional because he was one of the people I saw myself collaborating with, He gave me hope because I connected with his vision, finding talent and bringing it to the fore. Finding beauty and bringing it to the fore. Life is unfair and brutal, and Yams’ death is proof of that. But his vision lives on and grows more and more beautiful with the expansion of the Mob. It still inspires me, and the vision for 26th & Cottage similar. I see artists of all kinds growing under this umbrella, and with the help of people reading this, like you, we can do that. We can inspire people together. It’s as simple as not being afraid of sharing what you’re passionate about. We all have gifts to give each other, and like Yams did in his life, we have the ability to spread our gifts far and wide. Stay cozy, my friends, in the memory of the man known as Yamborghini aka lil Newport aka the Puerto Rican R. Kelly. Always Strive and Prosper.