Today will be the first really warm day of spring, and therefore of this year. My morning walk through Fort Tryon Park was a foggy one, as if the curtain of winter were being raised, set to an uproar of birdsong. Yesterday I listened to the new President give his first press conference, and even though I have my disagreements with him, overall it was a relief to hear a President talk to the press with both candor and respect while also maintaining both humor and humility. (At one point, he joked about his early days in the Senate “120 years ago.” The President has the launch codes to an arsenal of dad jokes and he is not afraid to use them.) We seem to be about to turn a corner with the COVID-19 pandemic, and yes, spring is here.
Today is also the release day of my band, Love In The Ruins’s second album, Distances. it’s available on all digital platforms, and of course I’d be grateful if you’d take a listen. You can find links to Bandcamp, Apple, Spotify, etc here: http://www.loveintheruins.band/music
My bandmate, Dana Suchow, and I began writing for the new album while the first album, Collapse, was still being mastered. We had song ideas that didn’t make the cut for Collapse that we wanted to explore and maybe make something of, and we had also learned quite a bit in the making of the first record, and were eager to experiment and create. We spent the following year - the latter half of 2019 and the first half of 2020 - writing and arranging the music and lyrics. Many of the songs that, in hindsight, sound like they’re reactions to the pandemic were, in fact written in late 2019. All of them seemed to be about people inhabiting in-between spaces; romances conducted across hemispheres, people in the ever-uncertainty of climate change disasters & the limbo created by once-strong political institutions beginning to crumble, children literally imprisoned away from their families at the border in a permanent impermanence, lovers in dangerous times. We decided on the name Distances early on, and it felt all the more appropriate once the phrase “social distancing” became a part of everyday vocabulary.
We invited some collaborators from Collapse to return to help us; my friend and longtime collaborator on several projects, M.S. Borders played guitars on pretty much every song; Jonny Taylor, who mastered Collapse, mixed and mastered Distances as well as contributing funky guitar licks to “Lies Lies.” And we worked with a few new compatriots as well: the brilliant & talented cellist Wendy Law plays on three songs, and another old collaborator, Eric Leonhardt Brown, lends backing vocals.
The beautiful cover painting is by the artist Claudia Bitran, whose work Dana and I both love. The characters in her paintings often seem to be in some in-between space as well, stuck in a moment of time, phasing between then and now.
I’d be grateful and honored if you’d take an hour and listen to the songs.
Small Magic: 365 Poems
In other news, I’m writing a poem a day for the entirety of 2021. I just wrote the 85th poem yesterday, which puts me at not quite a quarter of the way through. It’s been an interesting experiment. It becomes very easy to let an idea go, to pause on a draft that’s not exactly perfect, and to be ok releasing it to be read knowing it’s probably in need of revision. In this way the experience is much like when I used to attend open mic readings (remember in-person performances?). Often one read unfinished or in-progress work.
But also, knowing I’m going to have another poem to write tomorrow is freeing in an interesting way because my inner editor is much more likely to allow weirdness, silliness or sentimentality through.
The poems are posted daily to my Substack; you can go there and read them on the website or you can subscribe.
Even In A Plague Of Silence
Finally, this winter, weary of the “po-biz,” as my friend Victoria calls it, I decided to kick it old-school and make my own little chapbook. I had the cover letterpressed by a local printer here in New York City, and filled it with short poems I’d written mostly in 2019 and 2020. I had a hundred printed; that’s as many copies as there will ever be. It’s called “Even In A Plague Of Silence” and If you would like a copy, send me your mailing address and I’ll mail you one for $free.99. Poems shouldn’t be commodities. We can’t have open mics right now, so this is as close as we can get.