Thursday, August 29, 2019

CRC BLOG Analysis on "THE HEART'S NECESSITIES: LIFE IN POETRY by Jane Tyson Clement and Becca Stevens

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by Jane Tyson Clement and Becca Stevens
“Seasonal Interlude Amongst Two Artists”

The heart’s necessities
include the interlude
of frost-constricted peace
on which the sun can brood
--Excerpt from Jane Tyson Clement’s poem “Winter”,
--Excerpt From Becca Stevens’s song “Tillery”

This is the mark of a great artist:  that she can write something as if she’s speaking directly to you at a particular moment, and yet, with the same line, speak just as clearly to you in a different moment.
--Becca Stevens, excerpt from Prelude, The Heart’s Necessities: Life In Poetry

          Jazz musician, singer, and songwriter Becca Stevens was grieving the loss of her dear friend and music collaborator Kenya Tillery (Right), who had succumbed to breast cancer on March 7, 2008. 
     She also experienced writer’s block:  she couldn’t find the words to honor Kenya through her own music and lyrics.  Becca came across an unopened book on her own library shelf – the poetry collection No One Can Stem the Tide that her father gave her for Christmas of 2007.  She opened the book and immediately found the two poems “Winter” and “February Thaw” side by side and incorporated phrases from those two poems to complete her eulogy song for Kenya titled “Tillery”.

Not only did they capture the season of loss so perfectly, but they did so with exactly the right rhythm and number of syllables to fit the melody I had already written.
--Becca, The Heart’s Necessities: Life In Poetry

     With the approval and permission from Jane’s original publishers Plough Publishing House and family, Becca has thus far recorded five songs using phrases from Jane’s own poetry: “Tillery”, “105”, “For You the Night is Still”, “Response to Criticism”, and “I Am No Artist”.  The song “Tillery” has been recorded on four different albums in four different settings and is now a band name.  All of the writing for the music and lyrics was done in numerous Brooklyn apartments Becca has lived throughout the past eleven years. And she plans on writing more music and lyrics, using lines from Jane’s own poetry.
Jane Tyson Clement (1917-2000) grew up in Manhattan, New York and always had a love for poetry.  She graduated from Horace Mann High School in 1935 and was awarded the high school’s top poetry prize.  She attended Smith College where she majored in literature and poetry.  She was awarded the Mary Augusta Jordon Prize for her poem “Strange Dominion” which was deemed the “best original literary work” of her 1939 Smith College graduating class.

     Even though she lived a life of privilege she was discouraged by the modern day Christian church’s tolerance of war, nationalism, racism, injustice, and inequality and felt those very things were in direct contradiction to Jesus Christ’s teachings of love and peace and the gospel.  

     She found respite on the ocean when she would vacation in Bay Head, New Jersey.  There she would walk the ocean’s shores and meditate and write poetry. 
     Becca also found solace in the ocean where she would vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina.  When she read Jane’s poems about her experiences with the ocean she felt another connection with Jane.
     Soon Becca was not only incorporating Jane’s poems into her own music but writing conversation pieces in response to Jane’s poems and how those poems affected her life.  
All of this, along with photographs, is detailed in THE HEART’S NECESSITIES:  LIFE IN POETRY by Jane Tyson Clement and Becca Stevens; Edited by Veery Huleatt; jacket cover photo by Tabor Chichakly; and published by Plough Publishing House on April 22, 2019.
          Becca felt another connection to Jane with her poem “Into the Dark Which Is Not Dark” specifically when Jane writes these lines:  Into the dark which is not dark/ but only the light we cannot see,/ reluctantly I let you go.

       In The Heart’s Necessities: A Life In Poetry Becca writes about those lines, and her response could also be a description of her relationship with Jane:  Deciding that your creation is complete means it’s no longer in your control.  That can be unsettling, but if you want your hard work to live on beyond yourself, you have to share it.  Only then is it free to move through others, to grow, inspire and live a life of its own.  

          The Heart’s Necessities: Life In Poetry is a 182-page masterpiece of a communion between two artists, both women, both in love with poetry and the belief in its eternal power.  Jane communicates with Becca through her poetry and Becca responds by writing artistic pieces to Jane’s poetry, thus the living language between two women, across two realms of reality, and two time frames, continues – forming its own art form – that will continue
to live on as each page is read.       
          Communications between Jane and Becca continue about the similarities and differences of their relationships with their husbands:  Jane’s Bob (Right Top) and Becca’s Nate (Right Bottom), one of the similarities being that both do not believe in hasty love.

and know the hasty blossom
as swiftly will decay,
while other flowers are waiting
to grace a forward day.
--Jane “TO R.A.C. XVI”

Jane warns that hasty love, love that is rushed or clinging, will not last, while love that is patient and steadfast even through ups and downs or “necessary evils” has the strength to “grace a forward day.”
--Becca, The Heart’s Necessities: Life In Poetry       

The climax of The Heart’s Necessities:  Life In Poetry is when in the Fall of 1952 Jane and her husband Bob listen to a talk by prominent Philadelphia Quaker Florrie Potts about her visit to the Bruderhof, a Christian pacifist movement founded in Germany in 1920 by Eberhard and Emmy Arnold (Left); a movement Jane, her husband Bob, and their seven children embraced.   As a result Jane wrote some of her best poetry, which could be deemed spiritual by other Christian believers.  Becca finds all of Jane's poems, both secular and spiritual, to be inclusive to all people. 

       Every so often I come across a poem like “Out Of A Difficult And Troubled Season”, where Jane’s faith is apparent, but not in a way that seems exclusive, or that pushes away a non-Christian reader.
--Becca, The Heart’s Necessities: Life In Poetry

       To read “Out Of A Difficult And Troubled Season” click on the link below to order The Heart’s Necessities: Life In Poetry

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