Sunday, January 4, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 82 - I Asked the Ash-Tree / 2009 Blog Improvement Project - 1

On New Year's Eve, my husband and I joined along with millions of Russians - as well as residents of former Soviet-bloc countries - to watch The Irony of Fate, a film made in 1975 and which has been broadcast on Russian television every New Year's Eve since then. Of course, we were watching our version on YouTube, thanks to a wonderful fellow by the online name of GalaBiR who has a giant cache of subtitled Russian films (yippee!)

The Irony of Fate is very dear to Russians, as dear as It's a Wonderful Life is to North Americans. I discovered this film through one of my favorite actors, Konstantin Khabensky, who stars in the 30-years-later sequel, The Irony of Fate 2.

It was so much fun to watch this film on the same special night as the story's twisty-turny plot. It's a fabulous combination of farce (which I love) and a very heart-tugging romance (which I love even more.) Peppered throughout the film are songs sung by the characters to one another, not in the sense that a musical will stop the action in a stylized manner, but in a real-time event because the characters are musical and enjoy playing the guitar and singing.

These songs are all poems by well-known Russian poets set to music, including the work of Boris Pasternak, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Marina Tsvetaeva and Bella Akhmadulina. All of the song lyrics function the same way as a song in a musical, or an aria in an opera - giving the audience a window into the hidden emotions of the characters.

I was especially taken by this song, set to a poem by Vladimir Kirshon. For the Poetry Train today, I'd like to share it with you.

I Asked the Ash-Tree (Ja sprosil u jasenja)

I asked the ash-tree:
Where is my loved one?
The ash-tree didn't answer me
It just shook its head

I asked the poplar:
Where is my loved one?
The poplar threw its autumn leaves
All over me

I asked autumn:
Where is my loved one?
Autumn answered
With a pouring rain

I asked the rain:
Where is my loved one?
The rain shed its tears
Outside my window

I asked the half-moon:
Where is my loved one?
The half-moon hid behind a cloud
And didn't answer me

I asked the cloud:
Where is my loved one?
The cloud disappeared
In the blue of the sky

My only true friend
Where is my loved one?
Tell me where she went
Do you know where she is?

My only friend
My only true friend answered me:
She who was your loved one
She who was your loved one
She who was your loved one
Is now my wife

I asked the ash-tree
I asked autumn
I asked the poplar

- Vladimir Kirshon

- arranged for the Russian film The Irony of Fate (Ironiya sudby) by Mikael Tariverdiev

Ride the Poetry Train! Your ticket aboard is creativity. Got a poem? Some prose? A painting? Anything goes.

You can listen to the I Asked the Ash-Tree song in this clip from the 1975 film.

The clip shows a Russian couple - Nadya and Zhenya - who have been brought together by a twist of fate on New Year's Eve, throwing their current relationships to existing fiances into chaos as they develop a powerful attraction for one another. Nadya goes to retrieve her fiance's photo which Zhenya, the new love interest, tossed out the window. She then goes to the train station to buy a ticket so the man in her apartment will return to his own life in Moscow. The song plays as she walks through Leningrad (these days, returned to St. Petersburg), trying to sort out her feelings. By the end we discover Zhenya has been singing the song to Nadya's mother, who didn't know who he was when she entered her daughter's apartment.

Setting Goals — What Is Your Blog For?

Kim over at Sophisticated Dorkiness is beginning a:

"year-long challenge that will consist of twice-monthly activities to improve your blog. Every first and third Monday of the month I’ll post an activity here at Sophisticated Dorkiness that will be related in some way to making your blog better. Each participant should spend the next two weeks focusing on that aspect of their blog. Possible topics include goals setting, writing better content, building community with readers, getting more readers and blog layout and design.

If you choose to participate in this project, there is no obligation to participate in every challenge, and you can customize each challenge so it makes sense for your particular blog and goals. Think of the design as similar to Weekly Geeks — participate when it makes sense for you. This is a group effort, because getting better is always easier when you have a support system, but the ultimate commitment remains with you — how do you want your blog to be better by the time we get to December 31, 2009?"

- Kim, a master’s student in the University of Wisconsin, Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication

The first challenge is deceptively simple.

What is your blog for?

No time like the present is my second-ever blog post. Here's what I'd realized by this second post:

Yesterday when I set up my blog on a complete whim, I recognized my own Mrs. Putoffsky. She'd been hanging around so long she'd taken up residency. It was time to enroll her in the witness protection program.

Everyone's heard the phrase 'live each day as if it's your last.' If you're tossed out of the regular current of life and thrown gasping onto the bank, it's often hard to see your temporary vantage point for what it is. But it's a gift.

There's often a few cherished goals and desires permanently circling, waiting for the okay to land. I just got my clearance from the tower for my blog. I hadn't expected to get it from Dad, who's computer phobic.

Dad likes to make sure I'm safely launched and on my way. His recent detour onto his unexpected final journey gave me the push I needed to climb aboard the blog I've been yearning to sail.

For me, this blog began when I knew my dad's life was facing its final curtain. My writing took on a life-or-death quality, and I reached for life with everything inside of me.

Writers are constantly searching for time to get their stories out of their heads and onto the paper - or the screen. Successful writers make the time.

My blog was my first step toward making time for my writing.

For the Blog Improvement Challenge, I need to further define my blog's purpose. I've noticed that my arts-oriented posts put me in a category that encompasses more than writing. And I think that is a much more accurate depiction of who I am.

My group blog missmakeamovie focuses on film, television and pop culture. The dialogue with my fellow missmakeamovie bloggers fills me with joy. It's like oxygen to me.

The ballet performances I review show the heart beating inside of me.

The art work I've featured feeds my muse and excites my spirit.

Wordless Wednesday has given me a focus for my own photography as well as an enormous gallery of talent to visit.

The Poetry Train reawakened my soul in a way only a future poem can reveal.

The writers' network that my fellow bloggers have built between us encourages me beyond measure. The book reviews I've done for writers in my writers' group and for my blog friends have filled me with admiration and inspiration.

So to answer the question - what is my blog for?

A Piece of My Mind is a blog that celebrates the arts, encourages the creative, cheers the artist on and revels in the wonder of life.

The hard part for me is to set goals. I'm not a list-maker. I'm not a plotter. Goal-setting has the shadow of the list marring any possible attraction for me. But I set myself onto this challenge knowing I'd be pushing myself out of my comfort zones.

So my first goal for my blog is to showcase art work on my sidebar each month. I'm very image-oriented, and looking at the art feeds me in very important ways. I hope you'll enjoy my Sidebar Gallery - this month features the work of John Atkinson Grimshaw, Claude Monet, Arthur Lismer, Maud Lewis, Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, Carl Larsson, Cicely Mary Barker, Cornelius Krieghoff and Maxfield Parrish.


Ire said...

Loved the poem! Thanks for sharing.

Louise said...

I got to go and check Kim's blog very soon, because I am also participating in the Blog Improvement Project and your post inspired me a lot! Thanks for writing that and SEE YOU through the year :-) Can't wait.

Amy Ruttan said...

I loved the Grimshaw art piece in your sidebar.

I love fairies.

Kelly Boyce said...

That sounds like a good idea. I'll make sure I check that out.

anthonynorth said...

Those were great words. Many thanks.

Eva said...

Ironiya Sudbi! Lublu etot film. :D (I hate trying to type Russian in the Roman alphabet, so sorry if that's not correct).

I found your blog from the Blog Improvement Project, but I'm definitely going to have to stay awhile. :)

Anonymous said...

"A Piece of My Mind is a blog that celebrates the arts, encourages the creative, cheers the artist on and revels in the wonder of life."

I love that blog description, it's so specific without being limited. Awesome :)

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

Cathy said...

Love the inclusion of art. Grimshaw and Monet have always been favorites, and you've introduced me to some wonderful new artists. I've done something similar with art on my book blog where I feature one work of art per month that has a book-related theme.

Anonymous said...

wow - this looks like a fascinating place.

Unknown said...

Julia, I found your discussion of your blog's purpose fascinating. I really enjoy discovering the arts through your blog. I've never been to a ballet or thought much about film or art. So, this is a little window to another world for me.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post!
Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I am so glad I read this post - for two reasons - one, I love poetry yet havent read any for some time, being caught up with contemporary writing - and two, I found it interesting to read why you had started to blog in the first place, since you do it so well.

Thomma Lyn said...

Your blog is so rich, such a feast for the eyes and mind, and your passion for the arts shines through in every post. Good luck with the Blog Improvement project -- though your blog is already super fabulous. :)

The Irony of Fate sounds like a must-check-out film. How neat that in the film the characters sing and play music for each other in the context of the story! And I enjoyed the poem, "I Asked the Ash Tree."

Jeeves said...

Such a wonderful and thoughtful post. Thanks a lot. Nice poetry

Heather D said...

Past Present and Future Your Blog Is one that a blogger would aspire to grow to. I would like to say I have taken part in this first improvement project but have not made a single post since the new year. HeHe, Maybe that's the improvement. Doing a daily family focus at the moment to get our year going. Happy blogging 2009

Sherri B. said...

I loved the poem you shared...I don't think I've ever seen a Russian movie. You've piqued my interest!

gautami tripathy said...

That was a great poem to share. Thanks!

frenzied entropies

Beth F said...

I like the integration of art and dance with your writing. I too participate in Wordless Wednesday, so our paths should cross several times throughout the year.

Sherrie said...

Love your post! All your blogs sound very interesting. I'll be checking them out through out the year. Love the art piece you have on your sidebar. It's Beautiful! Have a great week!


RuthDFW said...

I love your sidebar gallery. I must admit I am not familar with Monet's winter works. Thanks!

Tumblewords: said...

I'm so pleased to find your fine blog - The shared poem is wonderful and your post is full of delightful information...

Unknown said...

The sidebar gallery is a great idea! I'm working on my goals post right now.