Tuesday, July 6, 2010

vachel lysol blues


lincoln's stovepipe.

Well. I confess I was not even remotely familiar with American poet, Nicholas Vachel Lindsay until Bill Altice opened my ears.


Unless The Gentlebear got there first with an antique photograph of a bowler hat in an avalanche.

My memory is full of holes. And travellings beneath the ice.


Born in Springfield, Illinois on November 10th, 1879, by convention Lindsay ought to have been content merely to enjoy the fruits of inherited wealth. Instead, he abandoned medical studies at Hiram College, Ohio and eloped to New York City with his mu
se.

Instructing his parents by letter that he was ill-suited to follow in Lindsay Sr.'s footsteps as genial frock-coated general practioner, the young fool promptly enrolled at the New York School of Art and began peddling "Rhymes To Be Traded For Bread" on the street.

"But, son," his mother protested, "doctors may dabble in pastries every Sunday."


Vachel Lindsay was smitten. A lifetime of courtship and financial woe opened its arms to receive him. Where an indulged dolt like Crowley went in search of Himalayan peaks - thrashing at his team of Sherpas - Lindsay peddled poetry on the road beween Jacksonville and Kentucky; Springfield and New Mexico.

On blistered foot, cap in hand.


Performance is key, he swore, corresponding with Yeats: "
an aural and temporal experience...meant...to be chanted, whispered, belted out, sung, amplified by gesticulation and movement... punctuated by shouts and whoops."

Variously considered the "father of singing poetry"; the "Prairie Troubadour"; or a "racist misguided primitivist", of course it ended badly.

Despondent and in ill health from spreading the word, Vachel Linds
ay drew a line under it in December, 1931 and choked back a bottle of Lysol.

His last words, it is reported, might have tumbled straight from Jimmy Cagney's crumpled lips:

"
They tried to get me, those punks. Well. I got them first..."

And that is where it might have ended. Save that Bill Altice is something of a resurrectionist.

The following is his "duet with the American poet Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931) from his poem "The Chinese Nightingale" (1922). From a forthcoming compilation CD, "Nescroscopix (1970-1981)." "

Ah. This hits the spot medicinal gargles otherwise fail to reach. I hope it incites as much as it delighted me.


the plague doctor.


anonymous german engraving, left, and as he appeared
in a 1931 advertising campaign for Lysol Disinfectant.


THRUMPER: MAYAK B.A. from "Necroscopix (1970-1981)" CD (Artifacts/yclept) 1981 / 2009 (US)

2 comments:

LöstJimmy said...

I suspect the Plague Doctor (great name by the way) always had a handy supply of leeches as he went from village to village...

ib said...

The archived advertising for Lysol is disturbing. Allegedly, sales were bolstered by promoting the product as a medical endorsed feminine douche.

And morning after solution. Best used neat.

Vachel Lindsay was the Brothers Grimm of troubadour poetry. I suspect much of the characterization of the evangelical preacher from "Poltergeist" was derived from anectodal accounts of his wandering and exposure to recordings.

Ill-founded, perhaps, but Lindsay must have struck a discordant note
as he travelled from one rural backwater to the next.

The stuff of delirium and unease.