Hello! It’s winter!
Which means snow here in Iowa.
Here’s a cute puppy running through some:
And here’s me, Florida girl that I am:
But winter doesn’t only mean cold. It also means a brand new issue of Ploughshares, and a playlist to go with it!
Here are nine songs to go with nine pieces from the new issue, and below, my notes on why I picked them.
“Mother” by Said The Whale: In “Law,” a poem by Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III), Mother’s word is law, more so even than religion: “Like I said, there were two great laws/The greater my mother and the lesser/Made of missionaries and Bibles and/Hellfire.” This speaker in this song tries to “live…life like David does,” and fails. Don’t tell his mother.
“Comptine D’Un Autre: L’Apres Midi” by Yann Tiersen: “Fat,” is a surreal story by Marie Potoczny, in which the speaker discovers objects—ChapStick, a sandal, an old passport—falling out of her body as she loses weight. The story is quiet and bizarre and reaching, just like Tiersen’s piano piece.
“If I Didn’t Know Better” by Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen: In “Embarazada,” by Andrew Foster Altschul, a tourist gets a local Peruvian pregnant. He stalls his travels and wanders the town, looking for answers in every pharmacy that opens its doors for him. In the end, he offers to stay. Both parties know this is a hollow offer. Both wish it could be any other way. Though this song isn’t 100% lyrically true to the story’s subject matter, it embodies the sad and wistful qualities of the narrative.
“Closer” by Nine Inch Nails: Priapus is a demigod, son of the Greek god, Dionysus. In Greek mythology, he’s a minor rustic fertility god, protector of livestock and gardens, always depicted with an absurdly huge erection. I’m a big ol’ nerd for mythology, and Alan Dugan’s posthumous poem, “Priapus,” suits the demigod it’s about. It’s rough and raunchy and a little sinister—just like this song by Nine Inch Nails.
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Lorde: “498,” a story by Julian Zabalbeascoa, follows the experiences of a soldier in the Spanish Civil War. The story is full of blood-blackened gutters and truck beds piled high with bodies. It’s dark and gritty, which is why I chose this Tears For Fears cover—much darker than the original—featured on the Catching Fire soundtrack.
“Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car” by Iron and Wine: “Introduction to Philosophy” by Carl Dennis is a lovely, thought-provoking poem. This song is a love song of sorts, yes, but it speaks of intangible promises, and asks the question, what do we do if…?
“Little Girl Blue” by Ella Fitzgerald: ‘The Blue Bowl” by Emma Duffy-Comparone is a bittersweet story about a heartbroken woman and her newly sightless brother. They’re left to eat popcorn and count their fingers because “gone are the tinsel and gold.”
“Living on A Thin Line” by The Kinks: Tonally, this Kinks song is much brighter than Pantea Amin Tofangchi’s poem, “Thin Us,” but both are war stories, and both wonder, “What are we supposed to do now?”
“Turning Japanese” by The Vapors: “Unreliable Tour Guide—A Plan B Essay,” by Robert Anthony Siegel, is an essay about taking refuge in another culture, which, of course, brings this song to mind.