Category Archives: Poetry

Maya Yianni and Suddenly I See

Some nice jazz and lyrics from a young English music student named Maya Yianni can be heard here.

Speaking of lyrics, I can’t seem to crack the profiling in the latest KT Tunstall hit, “Suddenly I See”:

Her face is a map of the world
is a map of the world
You can see she’s a beautiful girl
She’s a beautiful girl
And everything around her is a silver pool of light
People who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palm

Suddenly I see
— Suddenly I see
This is what I want to be
Suddenly I see
— Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me
— Suddenly I see
This is what I want to be
Suddenly I see
— Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me

And I feel like walking the world
Like walking the world
And you can hear she’s a beautiful girl
She’s a beautiful girl

She fills up ever corner like she’s born in black and white
Makes you feel warmer when you’re trying to remember
What ya’heard
She likes to leave you hanging on a word

Suddenly I see
— Suddenly I see
This is what I want to be
Suddenly I see
— Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me
— Suddenly I see
This is what I want to be
Suddenly I see
— Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me

And she’s taller than most
And she’s looking at me
I can see her eyes looking from a page in a magazine
She makes me feel like I could be a tower
Big strong tower, yeah
She got the power to be
The power to give
The power to see
Yeah, yeah…

A real toe-tapper, but who is the source for the description? What’s really in the image she sees? According to Wikipedia, the Scottish Tunstall was “inspired by New York singer and poetess Patti Smith…”


This incredibly harsh critique of Mel Gibson’s latest movie is actually quite insightful:

The message? The end is near and the savior has come. Gibson’s efforts at authenticity of location and language might, for some viewers, mask his blatantly colonial message that the Maya needed saving because they were rotten at the core. Using the decline of Classic urbanism as his backdrop, Gibson communicates that there was absolutely nothing redeemable about Maya culture, especially elite culture which is depicted as a disgusting feast of blood and excess.

Before anyone thinks I have forgotten my Metamusel this morning, I am not a compulsively politically correct type who sees the Maya as the epitome of goodness and light. I know the Maya practiced brutal violence upon one another, and I have studied child sacrifice during the Classic period. But in “Apocalypto,” no mention is made of the achievements in science and art, the profound spirituality and connection to agricultural cycles, or the engineering feats of Maya cities. Instead, Gibson replays, in glorious big-budget technicolor, an offensive and racist notion that Maya people were brutal to one another long before the arrival of Europeans and thus they deserve, in fact they needed, rescue. This same idea was used for 500 years to justify the subjugation of Maya people and it has been thoroughly deconstructed and rejected by Maya intellectuals and community leaders throughout the Maya area today. In fact, Maya intellectuals have demonstrated convincingly that such ideas were manipulated by the Guatemalan army to justify the genocidal civil war of the 1970-1990s.

The Nation provides an even starker contrast:

Ancient Maya culture was extraordinary, as the rest of the world now recognizes. The Maya invented one of the few original systems of phonetic writing (we are familiar with the Chinese system and the one that culminated in Latin script). They worked with the concept of zero long before it was known in Europe. They were superb astronomers. Their art and architecture are now known and studied throughout the world. It is also true that they were warriors and that they engaged in human sacrifice, although not on the grand scale of the Mexica. Their ability to manage large-scale military and civic works was impressive. Maya literature has a long and grand history, from the ancient words incised in stone through the Pop Wuj (Popol Vuh) and the postinvasion books of Chilam Balam to the eighteenth-century poems (“Kay Nicte”–Flower Song–and others) to contemporary works, including brilliant poetry by Briceida Cuevas Cob in Yucatecan Maya and Humberto Ak’abal in Ki’che and Miguel Angel May May’s delightful fables.

Culture doesn’t sell tickets. Violence does. Gibson has made what he calls “a chase movie.” As we saw his Scot disemboweled and his Jesus battered into bloody meat, we will now see a young Maya running through the jungle to escape having his still beating heart torn from his chest.

Ouch. With so much interesting material to choose from that might reveal new understanding of Maya culture and depict the complexity of a civilization in decline, it seems a shame he focused on basic violence. Sounds like it should have been an Itchy & Scratchy short on the Simpsons instead of a full length feature movie. Of course since his career was jumpstarted by a particularly violent episode, maybe that’s the filter he sees everything through:

The night before an audition, he got into a fight, and his face was badly beaten, an accident that won him the role.

Don’t think I need to see his violent fantasies anytime soon, if ever, especially at they seem to miss the fundamental fact that it was the post-decline lack of cohesion in the Maya empire that made it impossible to “conquer”. Gibson apparently prefers to skew facts to excite his audience and feed historic prejudices, rather than try to really understand things as they are/were. Then again, he’s trying to make big money, not win a nobel prize…

Wonder if anyone will do a comparison with another film in theaters now that seems to suffer from a somewhat similar problem:

Brazil’s state tourism body applauded U.S. film critics Tuesday for trashing a horror movie in which tourists get slaughtered in the country and said it was taking measures to offset any damage to its image abroad. […president of the tourism body Embratur] Pires said, “I prefer to think about what The New York Times said and what real tourists say, not the movie.”

Yellow Bird

by Marilyn Keith, Alan Bergman, and Norman Luboff

Yellow bird, up high in banana tree,
Yellow bird, you sit all alone like me.
Did your lady friend,
Leave the nest again?
That is very sad,
Makes me feel so bad.
You can fly away,
In the sky away,
You more lucky than me.

I also had a pretty gal,
She not with me today.
They all the same,
The pretty gal.
Make’em the nest,
Then they fly away.

Yellow bird, up high in banana tree,
Yellow bird, you sit all alone like me.
Better fly away,
In the sky away.
Picker coming soon,
Pick from night to noon.
Black and yellow you,
Like banana too,
They may pick you some day.

Wish that I was a yellow bird,
I fly away with you.
But I am not
A yellow bird,
So here I sit,
Nothing else to do.

On a mostly unrelated note (it’s two for one day), Peopeomoxmox (Yellow Bird) was a chief of the Walla Walla tribe in the American northwest who met a tragic end after carrying a white flag to negotiate with settlers in 1855. He was taken prisoner, shot and then apparently mutilated by Americans:

That morning a raging battle with the Indians began, and it continued for several days. According to the stories of the soldiers, Peopeomoxmox and his companions began to shout encouragement to the Indians, and Colonel Kelly ordered them bound. As soldiers attempted to bind their hands, one of the Indians, indignant about being tied up like a dog, pulled out a knife. The man was shot, as were Peopeopmoxmox and the rest of the hostage Indians.

After the death of the regal old Walla Walla chief, the volunteers horribly violated his body. He was scalped, and his ears and hands were cut off. According to one account, “They skinned him from head to foot, and made razor-straps out of his skin.”

Peopeomoxmox had every reason in the world to treat the Americans with bitterness, but despite his own experiences, and to the day of this death, he remained a peaceful chief.

Anyone know a Yellow Bird story with a positive ending?