Corrinne's Musings - A singer-songwriter's life.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I write songs, I sing them... I play the piano and a little bit of the guitar.. I've released 5 albums of music, I love the scent of freshly fallen rain and the scent of lavender on bedsheets. I would drink tea all day long if the caffeine didn't keep me up at night. I hate driving in L.A traffic. I would love to one day catch the squirrel that steals the plums from my tree and make him a pet. I don't watch TV anymore. My 3 year old daughter is more entertaining than any TV show could ever be :)

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Pablo Neruda - Ode to Criticism

Criticism....there's no escaping it's sharp edge, it's stealthy approach,
it's loud shouts, it's quiet whispers, it's acid sting....

Seems like everyone meets with it sometime or other.
And as a writer, criticism has become my sometime friend.
It is also a close relative of praise, being two sides of the same coin.

Praise is always there with my favourite food, warm inviting, nurturing, strength-building, but Criticism is like eating a lemon and giving your senses a wake-up call. Sour, full of acidic flavour, and filled with the desire for change, for sweetness.

Sometimes, it's easy to ignore it, just like you can ignore
the brush of a stranger
as you walk along the street.
Sometimes, it comes up to you, hungry, homeless
and asks you for some spare change....asks to be fed and clothed.

I was recently introduced to Pablo Neruda's poetry by my good friend Clinton Jackson.

I'd like to share two "odes to criticism" by Neruda.
I want to share them because I identify with them
and I love the way Neruda gives shape to something so intangible
that most of us brush our feelings of it aside.
Neruda tackles it head-on with a perceptiveness that shows him as
a great observer of human emotion and character.

The first ode gives a form and shape to the initial burn of criticism,
the second gives a roadmap by which one can learn to benefit from criticism.
He has lovely imagery for it all and it makes for a great reflective read.
Enjoy :)


I wrote five poems :
one was green
another a round wheaten loaf,
the third was a house, abuilding,
the fourth a ring,
and the fifth was
brief as a lightning flash,
and as I wrote it,
it branded my reason.

Well, then, men
and women
came and took
my simple materials,
breeze, wind, radiance, clay, wood,
and with such ordinary things
walls, floors, and dreams.
On one line of my poetry
they hung out the wash to dry.
They ate my words
for dinner,
they kept them
by the head of their beds,
they lived with poetry,
with the light that escaped from my side.
came a mute critic,
then another babbling tongues,
and others, many others, came,
some blind, some all-seeing,
some of them as elegant
as carnations with bright red shoes,
others as severely
clothed as corpses,
some were partisans
of the king and his exalted monarchy,
others had been snared
in Marx's brow
and were kicking their feet in his beard,
some were English,
plain and simply English,
and among them
they set out
with tooth and knife,
with dictionaries and other dark weapons,
with venerable quotes,
they set out
to take my poor poetry
from the simple folk
who loved it.
They trapped and tricked it,
they rolled it in a scroll,
they secured it with a hundred pins,
they covered it with skeleton dust,
they drowned it in ink,
they spit on it with the suave
benignity of a cat,
they used it to wrap clocks,
they protected it and condemned it,
they stored it with crude oil,
they dedicated damp treatises to it,
they boiled it with milk,
they showered it with pebbles,
and in the process erased vowels from it,
their syllables and sighs
nearly killed it,
they crumbled it and tied it up in a
little package
they scrupulously addressed
to their attics and cemetaries,
one by one, they retired,
enraged to the point of madness
because I wasn't
popular enough for them,
or saturated with mild contempt
for my customary lack of shadows,
they left,
all of them,
and then,
once again,
men and women
came to live
with my poetry,
once again
they lighted fires,
built houses,
broke bread,
they shared the light
and in love joined
the lightning flash and the ring.
And now,
gentlemen, if you will excuse me
for interrupting this story
I'm telling,
I am leaving to live
with simple people.

-Pablo Neruda


I touched my book:
it was
like a white ship,
half open
like a new rose,
it was
to my eyes
a mill,
from each page
of my book
sprouted the flower of bread;
I was blinded by my own rays,
I was insufferably
my feet left the ground
and I was walking
on clouds,
and then,
comrade criticism,
you brought me down
to earth,
a single word
showed me suddenly
how much I had left undone,
how far I could go
with my strength and tenderness,
sail with the ship of my song.

I came back a more genuine man,
I took what I had
and all you have,
all your travels
across the earth,
everything your eyes
had seen;
all the battles
your heart had fought day after day
aligned themselves
beside me,
and as I held high the flour
of my song,
the flower of the bread smelled sweeter.

I say, thank you,
bright mover of the world,
pure science,
of speed, oil
for the eternal human wheel,
golden sword,
of the structure.
Criticism, you're not the bearer
of the thick, foul
of envy,
the personal scythe,
or ambiguous, curled-up
in the bitter coffee bean,
nor are you part of the scheme
of the old sword swallower and his tribe,
nor the treacherous
of the feudal serpent
always twined around its exquisite branch.

Criticism, you are
a helping
bubble in the level, mark on the steel,
notable pulsation.

With a single life
I will not learn enough.

With the light of other lives,
many lives will live in my song.

-Pablo Neruda

Monday, July 11, 2005

The kid within.

Just finished reading "Charlie and the Chocolate factory." I'd heard so much about the book as a kid in secondary school, but I'd never gotten round to reading it.
It was lovely reading it and taking a trip back into childhood again. Then again, I don't think I've ever really left childhood. I'm not sure any of us have. I mean, I think there is a kid in all of us. I think that's the beauty of it, to be able to still be in touch with that kid within, yet learn from the years of living as each year goes by.

I only just discovered Shel Silverstein a couple of years ago. He is the amazing author who wrote "The Giving Tree". This story is short, the moral is touching and the result left me teary eyed and yearning to read more from the author. So I bought "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and laughed my way through it :)'

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I worked as a music teacher at a piano school and taught piano classes to kids. I was known as "Miss Corrinne" and had a couple of group classes to teach. the kids were all very young and my youngest class consisted of kids who were 2 and a half years old.

They would come in with their parents, sit at the little keyboards and Miss Corrinne would be moving them around every couple of minutes to keep their attention, 5 minutes at the keyboard, 5 minutes at the blackboard drawing out notes, five minutes dancing to a song, another five minutes telling a story. It was exhausting and fun at the same time, and it got me to know more about kids.

Kids at that age have an innate curiousity about the world around them. "Miss Corrinne, why did the wolf try to eat the pigs?" And they are not shy about expressing their feelings, or about trying something new. Well, some kids are more shy than others, but it seems to me that, the older we get, the more fearful we become of the world around us. Kids don't care that they will fall, they just get up and start stumbling around, trying to find their pacing, trying to walk and if they fall, they get up and start over.

Sometimes, I wonder where that gutsy little toddler in me went :)
I'd like to believe that we all still have the ability to be fearless.
We just need to be reminded once in a while :)

Saturday, July 02, 2005

TV and chewing gum

"Television is chewing gum for the eyes." ~ Fred Allen (1894-1956)American comedian

How true....Even when there are no viable programmes to watch on TV, my fingers reach for that remote and automatically click on the buttons to find something to watch..ah....distrations, distractions!

So it was one early morning at 3 a.m this week when I scrolled through the cable channels and lo and behold, I found myself on AZN, a cable channel aimed for an asian american audience. I found myself watching, a made-in-Singapore TV drama called "The Hotel".

It was so bizarre and surreal to be watching a drama from home on a TV screen in Los Angeles. Singapore is also the only country I know that has banned chewing gum. So, my mind swirls just thinking about the metaphorical possibilities of making chewing gum out of a TV program.

I promptly put a season pass for the drama on my Tivo.....won't be too long till the next gumball.