Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Marilyn Bushman-Carlton: "Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major"

Music, as poetry, has power to bind us through and with the body's rhythms. Marilyn Bushman-Carlton provides a case in point with "Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major," a fairly short poem that shows the development of a relationship between the poet's son and music. "Good child," she says, "he takes the method books / ascends, descends the scales" (lines 1-2), though its likely he only does so because he is that "good child"---because he wants to please his parents with such dedication. That is, until "[o]ne day, he hears a familiar voice, / a tune from another life" and "[t]he music eats him whole, / turns him inside out" (3-6). This consumption swallows up any external reason he assumed for his art. It becomes the "something more important / than hunger" (9-10), the obsession, the passion, the thirst that drives the artist to create, to perform his vision of and for the world.

The thing that strikes me most about this poem is the way the poet seeks to engage the experience of aesthetic connection, the power that can bind souls gathered to commune around the flaming altar of the arts, a eucharistic rite administered by the artist-as-priest/ess, a person dedicated to expressing the "deep-throated ache," the "sky that spells his[/her] life" (17-8). Whether the medium is sound, word, or image, the arts are one thing that bind us as humans, that reach across time and space and make us "closer, even, / than blood" (20-1).

To deny ourselves such uniting power as transmitted through aesthetic experience is to ultimately neglect the development of our whole being. And sometimes we only need go as far as our own families, our own cultures to find that communion.

You can experience some other Bushman-Carlton poems here (scroll down to find the hyperlinks) and here (scroll down to 1999).