Some of the poems in Blackhawk Manuscript were recorded years before the book was published. In 1992, my cassette-only album titled Metro 9 (produced by Dave Magill) was the first recorded instance of these poems set to music. The masters were later re-released on CD as November, It's Good to See You Again.
In 2001, just before the book came out, I recorded One Man Dancing, a CD that included four poems from the manuscript in a musical setting. Considering the popular appeal of poetry, I was surprised by how well it was received. In the months that followed, I did a few gigs in Austin with some of the studio band. I know many of my esteemed colleagues (including Chet) think I should have stayed with that format, but that's a conversation we've already had.
One Man Dancing was produced by the one and only Stephen Bruton, and the studio band included Nick Connolly, Yoggi Musgrove, Brannen Temple, Micheal Longoria, and Lisa Tingle. There is a video of the band doing one of the poems, "Silver Dollar Coup," at the One Man Dancing Release Party at the Saxon Pub in beautiful Austin, Texas, in the summer of 2001, and you can see it on YouTube here.
Now, about the Blackhawk Manuscript: These eighty-eight poems are what is often referred to by American Modern scholars as "Language Poetry." If you're not familiar with the term, there's an informative page about the Language Poets in Wikipedia and I recommend it before you delve into this book.
One more word about the poems: Blackhawk Manuscript is specific and concise verse written in longhand in my personal journals during thirty years on the road. It was later put into print on an Underwood typewriter and, much later, digitized on a Macintosh Plus, thanks to Clora Caddell.
This is certainly not the moon in June nor is it traditional in any way, but it's my experience in verse. One reviewer called it "verbal impressionism." Some days I'm okay with that. I understand Blackhawk might not be for everyone but I will say these poems have made a lot of friends over the years. I always enjoy performing them.
If you are inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt, my suggestion would be to read it aloud and listen with an open mind. Think of it as a collection of photographs of something you've never seen. If you're stumped by the language, remind yourself that words transfer meaning in two ways: by denotation (the dictionary definition), and by connotation (where the meaning is suggested or implied), resulting in two distinct and equally-valid dimensions.
A disparaging critic once suggested changing the title of the famous poetry textbook Sound and Sense to Sound OR Sense. I'd say, for a Language Poet, Sound IS Sense.
I'll let you take it from there and close by saying that I'm sure Blackhawk Manuscript will always be one of my proudest achievements.
All poetry is meant to be heard; some of my recordings that include poems from Blackhawk Manuscript are still available. Click on the cover above or the link below to take a closer look or to purchase.
November, It's Good to See You Again by Fred Argir
One Man Dancing by Fredy Argir
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Secret Lives of Musicians
Secret Lives is the only novel I've published using a pen name. (My middle name is Emmett and my mother's middle name was Orlaine. Hence, Emmett Orlaine.) But this is not a book about music. It's a collection of stories about musicians from different eras who find themselves in international, desperate, and often life-threatening situations and how they improvise and think on their feet to survive. It's a cultural time capsule, it's funny, and it's available for all eBook formats anywhere in the world—and only $4.99.
For more about Secret Lives, check out the BOOKS section.