Check out the review and the playlist that corresponds to poems in the book!
Check out the review and the playlist that corresponds to poems in the book!
One afternoon in 2014 I ran across an article about how, in the 1950s, Russian hipsters found it difficult to get their hands on banned Western music. No Chuck Berry. No Miles Davis. So they got creative, copying bootleg records onto discarded x-rays. Mind blown. Poem i the works almost immediately.
A number of example photographs accompanied the article. Some were records superimposed on x-rays of ribs. Some were etched over a humerus or femur. And one record was carved onto the image of a skull. When I decided to entitle my fifth collection of poetry Bone Music, I knew I had to get the rights to one of those haunting images. Preferably the skull. What better image could one have of creating art in the face of certain death?
So I emailed the author of the article inquiring as to who he had contacted for the rights to reprint the images. He wrote back quickly. Said he couldn’t help. Thank you very much.
I looked at the rights for the photos at the end of the article and emailed two people. Turned out they had rights to some gorgeous images, including a beauty of a record superimposed on a ribcage, but not to the coveted skull.
I kind of gave up. Only weeks later did I decide to try the roulette of Google again. Miraculously I found at the end of another article a photo credit that hadn’t been in the first. It was for a museum in Hungary. I quickly found and clicked on the museum’s site. Within minutes I was staring at not only the image of the skull I’d been looking for, but the name of the photographer as well. Joseph Hadju.
Hadju, it turned out, had passed. The rights to the images lay with the museum.
So I found the name to a curator at the museum and, full of a new hope that this might actually work, emailed her.
A week later I emailed again. Nothing.
Then, days later, it hit me hard. Of course she wasn’t going to email me back. I had emailed her in English, and she probably spoke Hungarian. How completely selfish of me. So with a few clicks on an online translating tool, I translated my email and, fingers crossed, sent it again.
The next morning—it felt like a miracle—I had a reply in my inbox from the museum. The email was in broken English, but clear enough. Most importantly, I had broken through.
Over the next two weeks I sent a few emails of clarification. The process was painstakingly slow, with a day or more between each reply, but in the end I got permission. We could use the photograph for the cover of the book as long as we sent a couple copies of the finished product to the museum. Easy. Done.
Then it was just a matter of getting the press to agree to use the image.
Well, as you can see, the folks at Trio House have excellent taste.
Check out the book here:
Here’s the link for Amazon:
and here’s an awesome blurb by the awesome David Jauss:
“Stephen Cramer’s Bone Music opens with a stunning meditation on “Dark was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” the Blind Willie Johnson song that is “touring the cosmos” as part of the spacecraft Voyager’s “aural primer to planet Earth.” Bone Music is itself just such a primer, and like Voyager, its cargo is music, not only the music of the blues and jazz musicians Cramer writes about but the music of his own elegant and gut-wrenching lines. In poem after poem, he transmutes “the absurdity of our glory & our pain” into the kind of harrowing beauty that, like Blind Willie’s voice singing into space, defies the vast silence that surrounds and awaits us all. This is an essential book of poems. You should, you must, read it.”
Bone Music, winner of the Louise Bogan Award, has arrived, and I’m psyched to be doing readings around town and the state!
So my last couple books have been heavily thematic: a book following the history of hip-hop in sonnets, a cookbook in sonnets and haiku. But this new book, Bone Music, is driven by personal narratives that reveal, dare I say, my feelings. Feelings about the fact the Blind Willie Johnson’s blues songs are now whirling outside our galaxy, about clams that live to be over 400 years old, about the seemingly simple act of giving blood. If you care about me caring about such things, or if you care about such things yourself, boy it would be so great if you would hop on over to one of the readings.
Here’s a calendar of 7 events over the course of the next 4 weeks. I’d love to see folks at the launch on the 15th at the uber-awesome Light Club Lamp Shop, and elsewhere if you just can’t get enough.
–April 5: Bridgeside Books, Waterbury. From 5:30-8:30 I’ll be reading with Julia Shipley, David Huddle, Karin Gottshall, Neil Shepard, and Barbara Murphy.
–April 15: The book launch at the Light Club Lamp Shop, at 12 N Winooski, Burlington. 6-8. Much fun planned for this event.
–April 16: I’ll be reading at The Furious Festival at UVM, a non-profit event to raise money
for SEABA, the South End Arts and Business. The event will take place Athletic Campus in Amphitheater next to L/L) I’ll be on at 4:50.
–April 19: I’ll be reading at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, starting at 7:00. I’ll be sharing the stage with Neil Shepard and Karin Gottshall.
–April 26: I’ll be at Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, starting at 7:00. I’ll be reading with with Neil Shepard and Victor Densmore.
–April 30: From 2-4 I’ll be reading with other Burlington poets at the Fletcher Free Library.
–May 2: I’ll be back at the Lamp Shop. The reading starts at 8.
Ground into paste then mixed
with chamomile & verbena, the rhino
horns are guzzled as a cure for cancer,
their filaments leeching
pathogenic heat from the blood
so that it can glide, cool & pure,
from heart to toe & back.
Or, as a swank aphrodisiac,
they’re passed around like roaches
at a party to grease the wheels
of foreplay. Less death, more
sex: marketing doesn’t get more
effective. That’s why the Jeep’s stereo
bleats across the Serengheti,
the blue sky & torched earth
staring each other down like mismatched
eyes. Mark’s driving because Becky
took a second longer to pull
on her boots, & Dave’s rubbing sleep
from his cheeks as the homing
device quickens, its beeps
turning from a sprinter’s heartbeat
to a continual whir
until the dip in the plain reveals
the rhino’s hulk slumped in the red
dust. Dave & Becky are on the ground
before the Jeep even stops.
It’s only been minutes since
the 2000 pounds of black rhino
had been darted from above,
but the tranquilizer skimming
through its blood won’t last,
so as Bowie croons to take your protein pills
& put your helmet on, Becky tugs
the blindfold into place over its eyes.
The others finish fastening the rhino’s
tree-thick ankles just as the helicopter
veers into view, its staccato peal slicing
Bowie’s voice to a disjointed blur,
& before ground control can even declare
that it’s time to leave the capsule
if you dare, the three have attached the cords
& given the pilot six thumbs up.
The helicopter clambers back into
the sky with the rhino hanging
from its underside like a dull pendant,
its toenails scratching the clouds. I’m floating
in a most peculiar way, Becky sings along,
& by the time Major Tom is drifting
in his tin can, the rhino is halfway
across the sky. By nightfall, he’ll be pawing
new ground far from poachers,
& Becky & the boys, having just seen
something amazing—a rhino flying
as high as the most buoyant ember-flecked
warbler—will lean back between drinks
as the first few pinpricks
of light poke through the dark fabric
of the sky. & the stars
look very diff-er-ent today.
Check it out here:
Dearest Vermonters, please join me at Chef Contos’ Kitchen & Store this Saturday at 9:00 AM. I’ll be making some delicious food and reading some delicious poems from A Little Thyme & A Pinch of Rhyme! 66 Falls Road in Shelburne. Hope to see you there…