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To the Morning - Po' Girl





Both Jolie Holland and Samantha Parton (see last eight posts) were members of the Be Good Tanyas along with Frazey Ford (see https://www.unclestylus.com/single-post/2018/03/30/september-fields-frazey-ford and https://www.unclestylus.com/single-post/done-frazey-ford ) and Trish Klein who formed Po' Girl in 2003 with Allison Russell. Since then the band have released six excellent studio albums including the terrific "Vagabond Lullabies" (see https://www.unclestylus.com/single-post/take-the-long-way-po-girl ) . In 2007 Trish Klein left the band as did violinist Diona Davies, leaving Russell and fellow singer songwriter Awna Texeira at the reigns.


The day before yesterday, April 23rd, was Shakespeare's birthday and, curiously, the day of his death in 1616, which, even more curiously, was the same date on which Miguel de Cervantes died. Curious because two of the most important people in the history of literature, if not THE most important, were Shakespeare and Cervantes, the former who in 38 plays and 154 sonnets unforgettably dramatised the whole gamut of human emotion, the latter who in his most famous work, Don Quixote, effectively invented the novel. People often talk of the "modern novel" or the "postmodern novel", but whatever innovation they come up with, Cervantes did it first.. Detractors are usually people who have not read "Don Quixote".


In a Borgesian twist, although Shakespeare and Cervantes both died on the same date in 1616, they didn't die on the same day.. Cervantes died ten days earlier than Shakespeare, the 23rd April on the Gregorian calendar. England, typically recalcitrant, was still using the Julian calendar, which differed by ten days.


Experts often debate whether the pair met, but this is incredibly unlikely, and while Cervantes could not have read or seen Shakespeare's plays - there were no Spanish translations in his lifetime - Shakespeare almost certainly read the English translation of "Don Quixote" of 1612, as an episode from the book was borrowed for the plot of the final "missing" Shakespeare play "Cardenio"!


To celebrate Cervantes, in 1922 one Vicente Clavel of Barcelona set aside April 23rd as World Book Day. It caught on, spreading worldwide. So much so that since 2001 a different city has annually been appointed the World Book Capital. First off in 2001 was Madrid, followed in 2002 by Alexandria in Egypt. This year it's Strasbourg, next, Rio de Janeiro. In the interim, cities from countries worldwide have been chosen including South Korea, Canada, Poland, Ghana, Malaysia, Mexico, Armenia and the Republic of Guinea.


Not the USA, not Russia, not China, not Israel. Curiously (again) the serially recalcitrant UK has declared its own World Book Day which was in March this year. It's a paradox that the increasingly self-isolationist UK chooses to celebrate a world cultural festival by effectively turning its back on other participating nations. As though freedom of thought was an infectious disease. One can't help thinking, country by country, there may be an inverse relationship between the consumption of literature, and the propensity to start wars.

In the words of the German poet Heinrich Heiner ( 1797 - 1856), "....where you burn books, you end up burning people."


In 2005 the World Book Capital was Montreal, birthplace of Allison Russell, who wrote and sings lead vocal on "To the Morning".


Po' Girl's music brings together folk, country and western, Canadian roots music, rock and even jazz and rap influences, at times happy and light, but just as often tough and hard-hitting such as "To the Morning". Here Russell sings from the point of view of people whose homes suffer nightly bombardment, of the relief to be still alive in the morning, when the assault stops. Brilliant and moving, it captures the despair but renewed hope that there is a future after giving up in the darkness of attack, as is the case for families in Gaza, the Ukraine, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere in this war-torn world. Sing along if you can, or readalong in sympathy. Then play again. And again. And again. Till the message gets through. A beautiful, sad song.


"Sing oh we sing and we sing to the morning.

We didn't think that it was coming,

we didn't think it was ever coming back


Weak oh so weak we are weak but still willing

on hands and knees out of the stinking building

into the yard sunlight shot through barbed wire.


They're outlined in amber outlined in gold,

broad well-fed shoulders good strong thick clothes,

faces like children stricken by visons they can't explain.


Sing oh we sing and we sing to the morning.

We didn't think that it was coming, we didn't think it was ever coming back.


Yes we are visions terrible frightening but we are miracles struck by lightning,

struck by lightning, left for dead but still moving.


Hungry so hungry we're nothing but hunger

and there's a danger even in water

chocolate can kill you when you've been starved.


Sing oh we sing and we sing to the morning.

We didn't think that it was coming, we didn't think it was ever coming back


Weak oh so weak we are weak but still willing

on hands and knees out of the stinking building

into the yard sunlight shot through barbed wire.


Run, yes we run, we run into the future.

Memory runs faster tells us it's futile,

the past is a tumour corrupting our lives.


Sing oh we sing and we sing to the morning.

We didn't think that it was coming, we didn't think it was ever coming back....."





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