The Poetry In Music: Dolly Parton

Yesterday, I participated in The Poetry In Music at Bound To Be Read Books.  A huge thank you is in order to Franklin Abbott, the Godfather of the Atlanta Queer Lit Scene, for taking the time to invite all the poets for the event.  Another huge thank you is in order for Jef & Jeff for hosting Poetry In The Music at their bookstore; they do a fantastic job to support the Atlanta literary community!  I was thrilled to participate in the event with fellow poets Collin KelleyJanet MetzgerRupert FikeBryan BorlandTheresa DavisJef BlockerTaryn CrenshawCrystal Monds and the women of Esoteric LorePoets.  We were asked to discuss one of our favorite singers and share a song by him/her.  I don’t think anyone who has spent more than two minutes with me will be surprised that I discussed Dolly Rebecca Parton.

I began with a quote:

You can’t tell me that people are any way other than what they are supposed to be.  I don’t think gay people are trying to just be different just to make other people miserable.  I think people are being who they are, and I think they should be who they are.  I think we should be a little more tolerant, a little more accepting and understanding of not just the gays but other people, minorities.  We just don’t have enough love to live in this world.
~ Dolly Parton, from an interview with Larry King (Nov. 2010)

I immediately thought of Dolly’s “Shattered Image”  when Franklin asked me to participate in The Poetry In Music.  The message in the song is one that many should abide by, and I appreciate Dolly’s honesty about what inspired “Shattered Image.”   The mantra of the song is that you shouldn’t judge other people.  Dolly, as usual, has amazing lines in the song:

You gather your stones by stooping so low.
You shatter my image with the stones you throw. 

and

If you live in a glass house don’t throw stones.
Don’t shatter my image ’til you look at your own.

and

Don’t open my closet if your own’s full of trash.
Stay out of my closet if your own’s full of trash.

I recall an interview Dolly conducted when promoting her  2002 album Halo & Horns that her life was a bit difficult after move to Nashville.  Dolly moved the day after her high school graduation.  At her graduation ceremony each senior announced what they wanted to do with their lives.  Dolly announced before everyone in the audience that she was going to move to Nashville and become a country music singer.  As the story goes, one that Dolly backs, everyone in the audience laughed at her.  I digress.  Life was tough after her move to Nashville.  Dolly admitted that she would take food from trays that were left in hotel hallways for pickup.  She said people in Nashville were talking about her; some of the things being said were not true and some were.  Dolly’s thought on it all:  “Just because they were true didn’t mean I wanted people talking about it.”  Then she wrote “Shattered Image.”

However, I did not share “Shattered Image.”  Recently, I was hospitalized for three days due to a nasty case of cellulitis.  This experience brought “Light Of A Clear Blue Morning” back into my life.  Dolly had a bitter career breakup with Porter Wagner– a breakup that had to be settled in court.  Dolly stated that after the judge ruled on the case she drove home and pulled up in her driveway as the sun was rising.  She went inside and wrote ” Light Of A Clear Blue Morning.”

It’s been a long dark night 
And I’ve been a waitin’ for the morning 
It’s been a long hard fight 
But I see a brand new day a dawning

I’ve been looking for the sunshine 
‘Cause I ain’t seen it in so long 
But everything’s gonna work out just fine 
Everything’s gonna be all right 
That’s been all wrong

‘Cause I can see the light of a clear blue morning 
I can see the light of a brand new day 
I can see the light of a clear blue morning 
And everything’s gonna be all right 
It’s gonna be okay

It’s been a long long time 
Since I’ve known the taste of freedom 
And those clinging vines 
That had me bound, well I don’t need ‘em

‘Cause I am strong and I can prove it 
And I got my dreams to see me through 
It’s just a mountain, I can move it 
And with faith enough there’s nothing I can’t do

And I can see the light of a clear blue morning 
And I can see the light of brand new day 
I can see the light of a clear blue morning 
And everything’s gonna be all right 
It’s gonna be okay

I can see the light of a clear blue morning 
I can see the light of a brand new day 
Yes I can see the light of a clear blue morning 
And everything’s gonna be all right 
Everything’s gonna be all right 
Everything’s gonna be all right

It’s gonna be okay

‘Cause I can see the light of a clear blue morning 
I can see the light of a clear blue morning 
Yes I can see the light of a clear blue morning 
Everything’s gonna be all right 
It’s gonna be okay

I can see the light 
I can see the light

It’s gonna be all right 
It’s gonna be all right

“Light Of A Clear Blue Morning,” first appeared on Dolly’s 1977 album titled New Harvest…First Gathering, which went to#1 on the country chart and #71 on the pop chart. My favorite arrangement of “Light Of A Clear Blue Morning” is on Dolly’s 2003 album titled For God and Country.I can list more reasons than you would care to know as to why I love Dolly so much. Topping my list is the fact that Dolly is an amazing songwriter who stands true to herself. Dolly has never taken her eyes off her goals and dreams.  Porter Wagner and others in the music industry told Dolly that she would never be famous if she kept writing songs about her mountain roots.  Dolly didn’t listen.  Dolly followed her gut.  Look at the legacy that is Dolly.  Who from her senior class is laughing now?

Happy Birthday, Dolly!


I love Dolly Parton for many reasons — she’s funny, has the voice of angel, writes some damn sad but true songs, and, well, I could continue to make a list.  But, I will say this: I think I love Dolly most of all because she got to where she is today by doing it her way.  In an interview, Dolly once said that Porter Wagoner pulled her aside and told she’d never make it in the business if she kept writing songs about her Tennessee mountain home– she needed to what everyone else was doing.  Dolly didn’t listen.  She followed her heart and passion.
So yeah! Who doesn’t know the name Dolly Parton?

Curveball: Guest Judges Emma Bolden and Duane Gordon

As mentioned in the Project Verse Curveball assignment, there are two guest judges this week. One guest judge is completing the standard weekly guest judge responsibility of critiquing each poem. The second guest judge is an expert in all things Dolly Parton, and he is going to judge each poem’s worthiness of being labeled a Dolly tribute poem.

Emma Bolden is the author of three chapbooks of poetry: How to Recognize a Lady, published as part of Edge by Edge, the third in Toadlily Press’ Quartet Series; The Mariner’s Wife, from Finishing Line Press; and The Sad Epistles, from Dancing Girl Press. Her manuscript, Malificae, was named a semi-finalist for the Perugia Press Prize and the Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s First Book Prize; poems from the manuscript were also named a distinguished entry in the Campbell Corner Poetry Prize competition. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals including Prairie Schooner, the Indiana Review, The Greensboro Review, Feminist Studies, Verse, Guernica, and Redivider, as well as on Linebreak.com. Emma is a visiting assistant professor of English at Georgetown College, where she also serves as the poetry editor of the Georgetown Review. Once, she dyed her hair red just to be like Jolene. Click here to visit her blog.

T. Duane Gordon has spent more than a dozen years with the hobby of being editor and publisher of Dollymania.net: The Online Dolly Parton Newsmagazine, the oldest continually operating online resource dedicated to Dolly Parton and the Internet’s only regularly updated website about her. Content from the site has been used as source material for Country Music Television, CNN’s Larry King Live, the U.S. Library of Congress and even Dolly’s current official tour book. Three years ago, Dolly joked during a public appearance at Dollywood: “I’m sure anybody wants to know anything about me you can ask Duane. I have to call him to see what I’m gonna do next!” Duane’s formal training is in the field of journalism, and his first career was as an award-winning newspaper reporter, photographer and editor. His second career found him in the sector of nonprofit administration, where his present “day job” is executive director and CEO of the Middletown Community Foundation, a multimillion-dollar grantmaking agency. Click here to visit Dollymania.

Project Verse: CURVEBALL!

CURVEBALL ASSIGNMENT

Competitors, did you really think you were going to get a week off?

You see a picture of country music legend Dolly Parton, because she is the focus of your curveball assignment. If you don’t know anything about Dolly, well, I think that is about to change.

You are writing a poem paying tribute to Dolly for your curveball assignment. You are free to explore any part of Dolly’s life in your poem: Dolly the Singer / Dolly the Songwriter / Dolly the Actress / Dolly the Entrepreneur.

You have 75 lines or less to write your Dolly Tribute poem.

No form constraints, but there are restrictions.

RESTRICTIONS:
You must use lyrics from at least two songs written by Dolly.
Lyrics from “I Will Always Love You,” “Jolene,” and “Coat of Many Colors” are off limits.
Using Dolly lyrics in the poem’s title or as an epigraph won’t suffice.
At the bottom of your poem you need to identify the songs used.

There are two guest judges for the curveball assignment. One guest judge is critiquing the poetics of your work, and she happens to be a Dolly fan as well. The second guest judge is an expert of all things Dolly, and he will judge your poem on its worthiness to be called a Dolly tribute poem. Tune in Wednesday to find out their identities!

By the way, competitors, I am working on a project with the first guest judge mentioned. We’re in search of 50 poems paying tribute to Dolly. The winner of the curve ball assignment will have his/her poem be part of the 50 poem project.

Make it work, and make it work well.