Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter

Music, Poetry, Writing

Day 151

Over the last week or so, I’ve been working on a song with the brilliant Marina Florance. This is probably the most complex song we’ve worked on together, and it’s really interesting from the point of view that song-writing requires even more conciseness and precision than poetry (and don’t sound like their concise or precise). Like all writing that looks and sounds effortless and simple, it’s the total opposite. And it’s a long and fascinating process. Of course, we always run the risk of deciding to bin these songs even after putting lots of work into them!

When we still lived in Stradbroke, I used to set myself linguistic/language conundrums on my daily walks. Because they tended to appear out of nowhere about a third of the way into any walk, I’d totally forget about them by the time I got home, and so it would take me weeks (or even months) until I finally still had them in my head when I got back to my shelf full of dictionaries (and here, at the moment, I only have half of my dictionaries/thesauri to hand). For some reason, I remembered this on my walk yesterday, probably because I walked past the landing window of a block of flats, and the exact same event was taking place on that landing as had been the day before (woman leaning in through door of ground floor flat with cigarette in trailing left hand which was still outside the flat while her right hand/arm was in the flat – you get the picture, I hope), and I muttered a bastardised combination of French and Norwegian for “the same as yesterday.” And then my brain went off down the slippery slope of wondering about Grimmsche Lautverschiebung (Grimm’s Sound Shift) and asking myself if “som” (“like” in Norwegian) had been a sound shift from “comme” (“like” in French). An etymological conundrum that I suppose I will research at some point. I’m not going to do it now, because messing with song phrases, writing work emails, and trying to pacify my racing mind are all a bit more important.

There is at least on poem translation I haven’t done yet that I was going to, but that, too, will have to wait. I realise now that I don’t stand a chance of finishing The Mortality Code before we go on holiday unless I work on it to the exclusion of everything else in my non-working hours. Focus, focus. Except life’s too precious to focus. One of my favourite songs (Belgique, Belgique by Friedrich Liechtenstein, which O introduced me to) finishes “Das Leben kann sehr kurz sein, wenn man sich auf zu wenig Dinge konzentriert.” That literally translates as “Life can be very short if you concentrate on too few things.”




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