775: A Case Study of Beethoven's Nine Symphonies

775: A Case Study of Beethoven's Nine Symphonies

775: A Case Study of Beethoven's Nine Symphonies


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

It’s hard for me to write while music is playing. It's not that I don’t love music, it’s maybe that I love it too much. It takes over, it’s all there is, one minute I’m finding a song and the next minute I’m singing full throated in the kitchen so loudly even the neighbors can hear me. Music and poetry are inextricably linked. What we do in a poem is make room for all the music on the page–the harmony, the melody, the bridge, and so on–but we have language and form to make that happen, not a full orchestra.

Today’s poem honors one of the greatest composers of all time, and it also honors the relationship between music and poetry.

A Case Study of Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies
by Keisha Cassel

What if I told you not a single war happens dramatically.

Not the wars in your home
nor the wars on your body
we’re all capable of violence

of destroying everyone in our path for pure pleasure
of dismantling our bodies limb by limb until they’re less shameful
a vessel someone would be willing to hold

Brutality ravages slowly, it is aided by proximity,
not a single war happens dramatically.

Tongues are heavy
and mine keeps tripping over the language of being alive

this is the part where I gnaw on my tongue
until it falls from my mouth

III Eroica
The state sang her war songs
and lying dormant in her belly was an aria
that rang out
like a Tec through the air
leaving the town square
bathed in the blood of her enemies.
What did you expect?

Don’t speak ill/ of the dead there/ were no ide/ologies to/ reject no/ memories/to repress/
always the/ sun and nev/er the moon/ only hurt/ people, hurt/ people Don’t/ speak ill of / the

V Transfigurative Transformation
I am a statement of contempt content with ugliness
I am a site of loss
I am a site of abundance
I am a study of how institutions wreak havoc
I am stagnant
I am of the state

VI Anti-Pastoral
You want me to be gentle
to grab these men by the collar
dragging them through the mud, until
they’re something worth looking at
speak softer
wear yellows
lure them with a smile
let them eat from your hand

3 men told me I was hard to love,
war is quantifying victimhood.
On the day of our reconciliation I left my body 6 times in hopes of forgetting,
war is quantifying victimhood.
“Send help” scribbled 10 times on the back of a receipt,
war is quantifying victimhood.
10 years 5 therapist, I still feel sick,
war is quantifying victimhood.

God forgives. I don’t. My body is not a temple.

IV Ode to Joy
Oh, what a time to be alive!
After years of waiting to be pulled to earth’s core
while drinking water laced with lead
Did you ever imagine you’d feel so bright?
that the sun would kiss you
instead of igniting the match.
The future is bright! because you’re finally committed to the process of living
may you feel more; may you cry
you will find a life that is extraordinarily ordinary
you now have permission to run through that field of flowers.

"A Study of Beethoven's Nine Symphonies" by Keisha Cassel. Used by permission of the poet.