“We lie like lizards in the sun, postponing our lives indefinitely.”
“The kelp in amorous coils appear to pin down the Pacific.”
“A wet wing brushes away the trembling night……. the vines assume their social airs ingratiating green with children’s fingers.”
Those quotes are from Canadian author Elizabeth Smart’s book By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept. I read the book to prepare for attending an upcoming concert by Heavy Bell a Winnipeg music duo composed of Tom Keenan and Matt Peters. They collaborated on last year’s award-winning musical version of Shakespeare’s Richard II directed by Christopher Brauer. Now Keenan and Peters have written and recorded a song cycle based on By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. They will perform it on January 13 at the West End Cultural Centre.
“I have become a part of the earth: I am one of its waves flooding and leaping. I am the same tune as the trees, hummingbirds, sky, fruits, vegetables in rows. I am all or any of these.”
I am looking forward to the performance because the lush and lovely language of Elizabeth’s book fairly sings itself off the page and I can see how its poetic images especially those related to nature would make beautiful music.
In her book Elizabeth is describing a decades long affair she had with poet George Barker. To say she was besotted with George is to do her a disservice. She was passionately in love with him. Although they never married he was her very life’s breath. Smart and Barker’s son Christopher says his father always remained a Christ-like figure to his mother.
There are many poetic Biblical references in By Grand Central Station I Lay Down and Wept and these too will lend themselves well to music. The very title of the book alludes to Psalm 137:1 “By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept.” Ms. Smart quotes extensively from the Song of Solomon.
I am certainly excited about hearing the musical version of By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. I am sure I will appreciate the concert on January 13 even more now that I’ve read the literary prose it on which it is based. But I am also glad I read Elizabeth Smart’s book because it raised lots of good questions for me about my ideas about love and life. I’ll address those in another post.