Friday, February 29, 2008

Mildred Bailey, the stars, and us

Trombonology at Relative Esoterica has a wonderful post on the singer Mildred Bailey, born 105 years ago this past Wednesday. This post made me think of James Schuyler's poem "Let's All Hear It for Mildred Bailey!" It begins

The men's can at Café Society Uptown
was need I say it? Upstairs
and as I headed for the stairs I
stumbled slightly
not about to fall
and Mildred Bailey
swept by in a nifty outfit:
off-brown velvet
cut in a simple suit-effect
studded with brass nail heads
(her hair dressed with stark simplicity)
"Take it easy, Sonny," she
advised me and passed on to the supper club
(surely no supper was
served at Café you-know-which?)
A star spoke to me
in person! No one
less than Mildred Bailey!
I love the dowdy diction of this passage: the vulgar can next to the swank Café, the nifty outfit, the dressed hair, and of course, Sonny. You can read the poem here. I've taken the lines above from Schuyler's 1993 Collected Poems, where the punctuation differs slightly.

Schuyler's poem made me think of the various close encounters that my dad had when doing construction work in New York City and environs. He once met Doro Merande, who asked "What are you men building?" And he once said hello to Groucho Marx, who moved his eyebrows in response. I need to get a list. Until then, let's all hear it for Mildred Bailey, Doro Merande, Groucho Marx, and those wonderful people out there in the dark — i.e., us.

A related post
A poem for the day (by James Schuyler)

Related reading
Mildred Bailey (Wikipedia)
Mildred Bailey (MySpace, with four songs)

comments: 1

Tom the Piper's Son said...

Michael -
Loved the Mildred poem! And enjoyed the selections from Moment's Notice - thanks so much for posting that! One poet they didn't include, a friend of Bob Kaufman and a former jazz drummer,
Howard Hart. here's a little poem snatched from one of my blogs on him


since poetry is the only nightclub
where anything can happen
let's take a look at it

if you go to the right you're wrong
if you go left you're incorrect
if you go straight you're a fool

poetry is a swimming pool

no it's a diving board
this drink is so good I could dive right into it

you've got to avoid
......................the ice cube

- Howard Hart from "The Sky of Orange Whispers"