Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Van Morrison feting

London's Lyric Theatre was the scene for a feting of Van Morrison, Poet Laureate. Titled "Van Morrison Presents an Evening of Words & Music," the Nov. 17 event celebrated the release of Lit Up Inside, a new book featuring the Irishman's song lyrics. The Telegraph has a write-up here.

A few of the evening's highlights: writer Edna O'Brien reciting the words to "Madame George" (all 454 of them); a presentation from senior lecturer and Van aficionado Dr. Eamonn Hughes (who contributed to Throwing Pennies not too long ago); an appearance by a real and proper Belfast poet, Michael Longley; conversations about music legends (Lightnin' Hopkins, Mahalia Jackson, Ray Charles); and a 60-minute concert from Surly Boorish Van's lesser-known brother: Slightly Less Surly Boorish Van.

I briefly covered the release of Lit Up Inside back in August. I will add this: Long before this book's release (and thanks to countless visits to lyric sites like SongMeanings), it became evident to me that Morrison's words are substantially more emotive and evocative when they are flying forth from his lips. They belong in the ether, in the infinite expanse between artist and audience. They feel impermanent that way—fragile, human, beautiful. Capturing his lyrics on a page or a computer screen only saps them of their power.

"If there was a point to the evening, and to the book," The Telegraph piece says, "it seemed to be to place Morrison among the literary figures of Ireland." The island boasts four Nobel Prize winners in literature, plus some pretty nifty non-winners named Joyce, Swift, Wilde, O'Brien, Synge, Russell, and Bowen. These are Morrison's superiors, not his equals. Theirs is a party he will never crash.

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