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Philip Larkin

Poetry Reading After Action Report

NOTE: This entry contains a spoiler for the 1996 film Phenomenon. I LJ-cut it , but remember clicking on any LJ-cut will reveal all of them.


Last night was the poetry reading at Jackson's Java. Lots of famous people had died, and I had haiku for most of them. I also read a poem called Annus Mirabilis by Philip Larkin, one of my favorite poets. (I have also made him the user pic for this entry).

Here are the haiku I read:

Sneaky Pete Kleinow

Burrito brother

Has flown away from this world,

This palace of sin

Gerald Ford

You were shot at twice

And still lived to 93

That’s not bad at all

James Brown

You, like Dean Martin

Died on Christmas. However,

You were funkier

Momofuku Ando

Noodle inventor

Saved many college students

From certain famine

Sadaam Hussein

You were not funky

And invented no noodles

I say good riddance

Yvonne DeCarlo

Cherry blossoms fall

A Lily withers and dies

On Mockingbird Lane


It was mostly a light-hearted reading, although there were some gasps in the audience from boomers who didn't know Sneaky Pete had died. Sometimes people learn of their favorite celebrities deaths at the JJ poetry reading.

Last month I reported on helping an attractive young woman with calculus after the reading. Nothing that exciting happened this time (how could it?) but in conversations after the reading I got to hear some very interesting stories, which I will share here

Brett (the manager) had a copy of the lyrics to I Get Along Without You Very Well by Hoagy Carmichael and Jane Brown Thompson. He was going to read them, but changed his mind. I've read lyrics to songs there myself. After John Hartford died, instead of (maybe in addition to, I forget) a haiku I read the lyrics to his Gentle On My Mind. It was well-timed, and GOMM is one of those rare lyrics that also work as poetry.

I was familiar with "I Get Along WIthout You Very Well"  because I am a big Chet Baker fan and that was one of his signature songs. Brett told a back story about the song I had not known. The lyrics were originally a poem written by Jane Brown Thompson, a student at Indiana University. She gave the poem to Carmichael with only her initials as a signature. After he wrote the music, he made a public appeal for the author to step forward. She was finally found, but died the night before the song was played on national radio.

I seem to remember that Hoagy Carmichael is related to someone whose livejournal I have read, a friend of one of my friends. If memory serves me correctly the user in question is tridentlord, although I could be wrong.

The other story came from one of the women who read. One of her poems was inspired by a scare she had when her husband reacted badly to his blood pressure medicine. I'd recently had an experience like this so I drew her out about it after the reading.

She told me that he was on blood pressure medicine because he'd had a stroke. After the stroke, he became ambidextrous. He was not only ambidextrous, but his left handwriting was indistinguishable from his right handwriting. This was fascinating. It was boilerplate comic book stuff, where a freak accident leaves a Bruce Banner or a Peter Parker with amazing superpowers.The analogy breaks down a little. The ambidexterity went away, and this guy does not have an alliterative name. And of course a stroke is serious business, so I tried very hard to contain my "gee whiz" attitude. I'm not sure how good a job I did.

She described some of the side effects to his medicine. Along with the unpleasant ones (dizziness, swelling of the face), he experienced an improvement in vision. He was able to see across the room without his glasses, which he was unable to do before the side effects. This went away like the ambidexterity after the side effects went away.

Years ago I saw a movie called Phenomenon, where John Travolta plays a character who acquires super intelligence, telekinesis, and the ability to predict earthquakes after seeing a flash of light in the sky. Later in the movie these are revealed to be the results of a brain tumor.
I thought this was rather hokey at the time, but after my conversation last night it seems a lot more plausible.


In the meanwhile, I think I am going to go out and try to find a radioactive spider to bite me. Or see if  cousindoc knows of a blood pressure medicine that will cause me to turn into a big green scary  monster when people make me mad. That's a superpower everybody wants.

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