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LETTER TO MAXINE SULLIVAN, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: Just when I imagined I had conquered nostalgia so odious
Subject(s): Letters; Singing & Singers; Nostalgia

Just when I imagined I had conquered nostalgia so odious,
had conquered Vermont and the half-dozen good years there,
here you come singing "A Cottage for Sale," which is a better than average song
as a matter of fact, though that's
not saying much and it's been lost to my memory for years and years,
but you always had good taste, the same as mine.
Oh Maxine, my dear, how screwed up everything is now.
Your voice in 1983 is not altogether what it was in 1943,
nor are the Swedish All Stars up to the standard of John Kirby, Russ Procope,
Buster Bailey, Charlie Shavers, Billy Kyle, and -- but who was on drums? Ben
Thigpen? Shadow Wilson? -- I don't remember but oh
the names, names, lovely old names calling to me always through echoing dark;
no, nostalgia will never be conquered --
yet your singing is as as ever, a passion evinced in these exact little accents
and slurs and hesitations, the marvelous stop-time measures, the languets of
so that I am overcome, I am almost devastated, by your musical excellence and
also by anger and sorrow because everyone
hoo-hahs so outrageously over Ella Fitzgerald, the eternal bobby-soxer (and
You, a black woman singing a white Tin Pan Alley tune in Sweden about my home
back in the sticks of Vermont,
and I in Syracuse, where the jasmine has no scent --
feelings and values scattering as the death-colored leaves scatter on this windy
Maxine, I cling to you, I am your spectral lover, both of us crumbling now,
but our soul-dust mingling nevertheless
in the endless communion of song, and I hope, I believe, that you have striven,
as I have,
beyond the brute moments of nostalgia,
into the timelessness of music,
and that you have your people with you, as I have mine.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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