Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Longleaf Laureate of Loneliness

There are only two appropriate themes for poetry worthy of the name: tragedy and love. Of these two, tragedy is the more noble; however, its characteristic sense of loss can be overwhelming, so that an admixture of love can contribute a redemptive quality that grants tragedy the right to ascend from mere despair to something we may actually wish to recall, a dreamlike nostalgia, a bruise we must rub, extracting some small measure of pleasure from all our injury and hurt. 

Singer-songwriter Abigail Dowd is that kind of poet. When she sings of a beautiful day outside, she hasn't forgotten the shadows that remain within; the metaphorical imagery of reaching for the light and retreating to the darkness pervade her lyrics. Does one emerge to shine like a diamond, or retreat into the shadows to be left alone like a miner in the dark? No easy answers are forthcoming; it's left ambiguous as to which is preferable. 

In One Moment at a Time she initially comforts us that, "we are all one, together in this life" but it rings hollow, fails to convince as she continues on to describe a moment of complete existential crisis where there is a lack of place from the past, meaning in the present, and purpose for the future, where we are bound in and to time, leaving the listener with the impression that perhaps indeed, upon a good hard look, we are after all alone in this life.

Similarly Apple Trees offers an initial hope that love forms the greatest of bonds with the power to dispel the loneliness. Yet, its double edge is revealed as we're soon reminded that it likewise holds the risk of an even greater loss, that the warmth love provides can turn into a frigidity of solitude that can taint or even repaint the past, can make one question if that love was a mere illusion, a parlor trick of a desperate longing, that one was in fact alone all along.

Yet somehow there is a strong thread of redemption woven throughout her stories. That even in the depths of loneliness, the sympathy expressed in poetic verse recommends to us that perhaps we are not entirely alone after all, that someone understands, at the very least Abigail understands. Moreover, despite all the lament of loneliness there is a concurrent theme of the need for freedom, to strike out on one's own, to voluntarily take up the lonesome road. I think this is a sentiment quite familiar to all artists. Great art is made in solitary confinement, one has need to be alone with one's thoughts and feelings, to cradle that solitude in one's loving embrace, to seek higher ground from the flood of noise that threatens to carry away the monuments of human culture, the poetic foundation of language itself, the river of Lethe that would wash away any and everything worthy of remembrance in this world.


Contributed by Patrick Webb

1 comment:

  1. You picked a very talented multi demensional artist to write about and did a good job doing it.