Saturday, July 15, 2006

The back door: folk music and daily news

As part of a project I've been invited to work on, I've been evaluating many of the larger news sites on the web. The emphasis on immediacy is continual: a report was published 9 minutes ago, or forty two seconds ago, and another is coming right a long, and then a comment on it, and then a blog entry with six comments.
I know the strengths of the internet include its power of immediacy, and its power of connection.

Writing as I do about folk music, being immersed daily in traditions which are at once timeless and timely, I wonder if the power of poetic reflection isn't being lost, or at least overlooked, in the internet debate. I wouldn't say it's the wrong venue; folk music of all sorts, music of all sorts flourishes on the net. So does poetry. Sometimes, though, you have to seek out the history. And the perspective, which folk music often gives. In the days before blogs and the internet, it was the daily news. Now, sometimes, it's the daily poetry.

I was thinking about all this last Saturday when I was at the film and music series at the University of Vermont's campus in Burlington . The Cathie Ryan band were the musicians of the evening, offering music both irish and American to a casual and interested audience of all ages, who later saw Jim Sheridan's film "In America." Immigration, immigrants, and emigration are much in the news these days. Ryan is first generation Irish American; one of the songs she offered that evening was "The Back Door," a piece she had first written and recorded more than a decade ago, and which, she commented, was sadly still relevant.

She's right. In her song Ryan includes the longing of the immigrant for the home and family left behind as well as the courage to stay for half a chance in a new country. It is a perspective, through song and poetry, that's not always illuminated in the rush to commentary on the internet. Perhaps song and poetry are the best way to frame it, then.
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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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