Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Spinanes' "Lines and Lines"/Imagery Warmups

Teaching an introduction to creative writing class, I wanted to try to get my students to begin probing their sensory worlds, to get a scent for the unsaid, for how much of our experience defies words, and how writing is (at least in part) the hunt for those ineffables (Eliot called it raiding the unspeakable). To coax the real into language...

Anyway, I asked them to write down the first smell that induced a memory for them. I asked them to write down a tactile experience that was memorable to them. I asked them to name a certain object that someone was wearing (it was a "zipper pull") and then we talked about how many things and events that surround us for which we don't know the words. I asked them to write an experience that they would advise someone not to try. Later, we played with those experiences as definitions of Poetry: "Poetry is not being the first one to fall asleep at a party," was one of them.

When I introduced the idea of tactile experiences, a line came to me from The Spinanes' song, "Lines and Lines"--"feel the stick of/legs leaving vinyl." All those "l's" sticking on our tongue! Thank you, Rebecca Gates.

"Lines and Lines" by The Spinanes

Listen closely for tires in the driveway
The voice in the stairwell, the steps in the hallway
Feel the warming come up through the floor
The click as the tape flips it`s intrinsic how he feels sick
Tell you I love you there`s no one else I`m thinking of
And all the hands that clasp mine are no match for your burning touch

Now I`m out back praying
Movement paved with me
A taste of me not on my knees
Fevered pitch that`s rising
From somewhere deep inside
It has a name I cannot place
All the time I waste
New mistakes I`ve made

Feel the stick of legs leaving vinyl
The sweat of closeness, the waves of nausea
Tell you I miss you there`s no one else I`m dreaming of
And all the lips that kiss me are no match for your fever touch

Now alone outside
The peace that comes with quiet
Blur lines of wires black in twilight
All the threats I take
And friends that I evade
Are penned up and in stillness wait
The ache is this my close
In ways he`ll never know

All your lines


Chaerephon said...

Most excellent! I never feel like Gates really gets her due, and yet her songs are some of the most enduring and evocative of the early-to-mid-1990s. Her later, Tortoise-fied work was great, too; but there's nothing like those early singles and Manos for some contemplation that does not fear the rock.

I saw the Spinanes back in 1993 or so and though Gates is mostly a rhythm player, her chording was so complex that I found her easily rivaling S.M. for indie guitar godhead. I also saw her play for free at the Chicago Cultural Center 4-5 years ago. She seemed kind of forlorn, but she did a beautiful cover of "I Say a Little Prayer" that still stays with me.

Philip Metres said...

Chaerephon (if that be your real name), where is thy Socrates? BTW, thanks for the tuneage (what a truckload of songs!), though I'm still trying to figure out how to upload/rip, at least I can listen. I've owed you a thank-you, and to your whole generous family. And where is our Rebecca Gates now, anyway?

Chaerephon said...

No problem on the tunes, I got more to get to ye. Like Pollard's music publishing company: Needmore Songs! I figure -- get one of your students to be yr file manager. Those youngins know more about digital music than we do, I reckon.

And thank you for the Johnston disc! Believe it or not I never owned much of his stuff, save for the Casper songs on the Kids soundtrack and one 7" on Seminal Twang. So it's good to have the originals of his cheery darkness.

...are two sites about/by Gates. Neither is updated very frequently. Strangest find on her MySpace: Hank Shocklee is in her friends section. Like, Public Enemy. That Hank Shocklee. ?!!?!?!?!

Philip Metres said...

Glad to hear that the Daniel Johnston stuff wasn't already had. One of my fave quotes of his from the movie: his mother called him an "unprofitable servant" of the Lord when he was a teenager and not cleaning up his stuff, and he retorted that he was an "unserviceable prophet." That just about captures the rest of his life.

Anonymous said...

One friendly correction on the lyrics -- I believe the line is:

"Now I'm out back praying
Make me brave, give me
A taste of me not on my knees"

A great image of obsessive passion. "Lines and Lines" is my favorite Spinanes song.