Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday's Poetry: "Sounds of Silence"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Years ago when I was an undergraduate student at Missouri Southern State College in Joplin, MO, I had a wonderful literature professor by the name of Ann Slanina. Under Dr. Slanina's careful tutelage I learned to love the romantic poets: Byron, Keats, and Shelley. She also led me in an individual study of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a novel that is so wonderfully complex that no movie maker has come close to capturing its full essence. The thing that made Dr. Slanina such a great teacher was that she loved what she taught with a passion.

I can only remember one time when I felt like I knew more than Dr. Slanina. One day she was at the board discussing Byron, or Keats, or the Shelley's, when a cloud seemed to drift across her persona. She declared, sadly, that she worried that no one seemed to be currently writing great poetry. The first thought that came to my mind was that she needed to spend some quality time listening to Simon and Garfunkel - or the Beatles - or the Moody Blues. There was so much great poetry being written at that time!

What follows is the signature song of Simon and Garfunkel - Sounds of Silence. It is poetry, pure and beautiful, as are so many of their other songs: Bridge Over Troubled Water, Bookends, At the Zoo - just to name a few.

Great poets are still at work writing great poetry, its just that now they often put their works to music.

Sounds of Silence
by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools", said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence

The last I heard of Ann Slanina, she had changed her last name to Marlowe in honor of another of her favorite writers, Christopher Marlowe, and was still inspiring college students - but that was thirty years ago. I would love to have an update!


Mike Box said...

As I recall Rod McKuen was all the rage back then. Perhaps your professor discovered that among the other sorrows was the contemporary dearth of published poetic works rivaling Tennyson. Your assessment of lyrical verse is spot on. You provide a keen example of perspective.

There is an incredible lady by the name of Ann Marlowe whose works I have been meaning to read. I think she is younger than the Ann Marlowe nee Slanina of whom you write. Her works include "How to Stop Time: Heroin from A to Z."

I especially appreciate and agree with this Ann Marlowe’s assessment of the internecine nature of Afghani politics, tribal links, and hence the war in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon didn’t get it in Iraq and doesn’t get in Kabul. Listen to this Ann Marlowe. Read her at

bK in MO said...

Dr. Marlowe -- I will send you an update by email, not on the blog. It is rather sad.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

Yes, I have read of the Ann Marlowe that you mention. Different ladies.

I actually have Rod McKuen on tap for next Monday or the Monday after. I have several of his collections, and they hold up very well.