Friday, September 26, 2014

Poetry Friday

     This week I want to celebrate two singer/songwriters (who are really poets) - one country and one rock-n-roll.  The first one is Johnny Cash.  I read a picture book biography of him this week and brought it to class.  I brought it to school and tried to book talk to a student looking for nonfiction, but he had no idea who Johnny Cash was and wasn't really interested in finding out.  He chose the Mr. Ferris biography instead.  That's okay, but it still made me a little sad.  I'll try again!  If you haven't seen it yet, here it is.  It's especially appropriate to share today because it's all told in free verse!

Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash by G. Neri, illustrated by A.G. Ford
One of my favorite songs by him is Folsom Prison Blues:
I hear the train a comin'
It's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine,
Since, I don't know when,
I'm stuck in Folsom Prison,
And time keeps draggin' on,
But that train keeps a-rollin',
On down to San Antone.

When I was just a baby,
My Mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy,
Don't ever play with guns,"
But I shot a man in Reno,
Just to watch him die,
When I hear that whistle blowin',
I hang my head and cry.

I bet there's rich folks eatin',
In a fancy dining car,
They're probably drinkin' coffee,
And smokin' big cigars,
But I know I had it comin',
I know I can't be free,
But those people keep a-movin',
And that's what tortures me.

Well, if they freed me from this prison,
If that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move out over a little,
Farther down the line,
Far from Folsom Prison,
That's where I want to stay,
And I'd let that lonesome whistle,
Blow my Blues away.
I also want to celebrate Bruce Springsteen today, who turned 65 this week!  My husband is a huge fan of Springsteen, and we've been to several of his concerts.  He's another amazing poet and musician.  Ed used to sing Thunder Road to our oldest daughter, Libby, as a lullaby. 

 The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey, that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again, I just can't face myself alone again
Don't run back inside, darling, you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty but, hey, you're alright
Oh, and that's alright with me

You can hide 'neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now, I ain't no hero, that's understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey, what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well, the night's busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, heaven's waiting on down the tracks

Oh oh, come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
Oh, Thunder Road, oh, Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey, I know it's late, we can make it if we run
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road

Well, I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride ain't free
And I know you're lonely for words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free, all the promises'll be broken

There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines rolling on
But when you get to the porch, they're gone on the wind
So Mary, climb in
It's a town full of losers, I'm pulling out of here to win.
I'm looking forward to the picture book coming out by Bruce in November!
Outlaw Pete
Outlaw Pete by Bruce Springsteen, illustrated by Frank Caruso
I love pointing out to students who may be less than enthusiastic about poetry that song lyrics are poems, and these two writers/artists/musicians are two of the best ever!
Head on over to Laura Purdie Salas's place (I love her books, Water Can Be... and A Leaf Can Be..., and so do my students!) for the Poetry Roundup!


  1. Hi, Holly. What a great pairing of poem/lyrics. The Johnny Cash PB is on my to be read list. One of my favorite picture books is a biography in verse of Bob Marley (by Tony Medina).

    1. I haven't read that biography. I'll put it on my TBR list!