Ghost Rider – A Poem by Brandon White

Another recently unearthed free verse poem, written a few months after my father’s passing. I was inspired to write about the comfort we find in art during times of uncertainty and pain. I’m happy it’s found a place.


Ghost Rider:

You’ve been the ghost
in the seat next to me

for more miles
than I can count.

Your voice rises
from the speakers

to illuminate
the road ahead,

to make yourself known
once more.

God knows
I could use the company.

We’ve never had much use
for conversation,

so let’s fill the air
with a song once more

and build a fire
by the roadside.

I’ll stretch this body out
and turn my eyes

to the western stars.


-Brandon White

Bob Dylan: The Master & The Mystery

Photo by Richard Mcall via pixabay

In my time as a writer and consumer of poetry and songs, I’ve found few artists as polarizing to my fellow lovers of music and literature as Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan. From those who simply can’t find their way beyond the nasal vocal delivery to those who speak of him as a kind of prophet, the truth is few artists in popular music have had the kind of cultural impact as Dylan. I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said better by many writers over Dylan’s seven-decade career, and this IS NOT a career retrospective – this is, as all things I will present to you in this space, about the craft and the mystery of art, and few have gotten as close to the heart of that mystery as Bob Dylan.

As a young songwriter, hearing Dylan for the first time was like God himself pulling back the curtain of creation and saying, “See, this is how it all works.” I was blown away, terrified, and determined to understand how someone could find themselves in such command of their craft. How the hell did he write like that? These fantastic images that flowed from his pen were like nothing I’d heard before, and they set my imagination on fire. Clearly, he was tapped into the source – there could be no other explanation. Later I’d find out that the source he was tapped into was a tremendous knowledge of folk and blues music, a bit of theft, poetry, and a lot of amphetamine. Still, plenty of artists had enjoyed their share of these and other things, but none of them returned from their trips with a message like this.

So what as artists of the social media age do we have left to learn from Dylan?

First, not to let the opinions of others dictate how you approach your work or determine what success and failure are to you. Is the act of creation enough? Is the act of creation and sharing it with others enough? Or does it need two thousand likes and to fill your inbox with hundreds of followers curious about your skin-care routine?
If your answer is the latter – please take some time to rethink your approach.

Second, the bravery to follow one’s muse wherever it leads. Dylan, throughout his career, has been a chameleon. From Woody Guthrie clone, to protest singer, to rock ‘n’ roll cool guy, to a country artist, to evangelical preacher riding a slow train promising fire and brimstone, to bluesman, to doing his best Frank Sinatra impression, nothing has stood between Dylan and his vision. Tastemakers be damned. Carve it into your heart and bravely step into this cynical world to leave a mark that is uniquely yours. Bob would have it no other way.

A couple of years back, I attended a Dylan concert at the Brady Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma. From the sparse stage set-up to the minimal, warm lighting, the room was ready to recieve the message.

Dylan took the stage with his incredible band and delivered not a single song in its original format. The audience of mostly general music fans were left stunned. What was this? Why is he changing the arrangements? What is he doing? The endings of several songs were met with an uncomfortable silence, followed by almost reluctant applause.

Dylan was showing us the raw truth of his craft. That there on his stage, in his mid-seventies, night after night, he was not there to deliver the hits. No, he had come to conjure spirits, to throw the curve, and call wild audibles all in an attempt to find that elusive moment where creativity, heart, and muse align. He was, in his way, pulling back the curtain and saying, “See, this is how it all works.”

The Child – A Poem by Brandon White

This free verse piece was written around the same time as the bulk of the poems that make up my debut book, The Year that Stole the Light Away. I stumbled onto it this morning, and after seeing it with fresh eyes, I thought it would be nice to give it a home. A piece about the child that lives in us all: I hope you enjoy it.


The Child:

She remembers me from years ago,
but I can’t say the same.
She says her mind is troubled.

She tells me her mother ran off
with her stepfather.
They’re traveling the country in an RV.

She tells me she deserved more
when her father died.
Now that bastard gets it all!

She leaps from her chair
and loudly re-enacts an argument,
jabbing her finger into a phantom chest.

Her eyes fill with tears,
and at sixty years old, a lost child
cries out for her mother.


-Brandon White

The Musings of a Future Yelper – A Poem by Brandon White

I hadn’t thought about this free verse poem in a while. Before the pandemic, one of my favorite places to write was a restaurant booth or in a coffeehouse somewhere- surrounded by lives being lived and the hustle of the day. The electric air thick with poetry.

Please, come back.


The Musings of a Future Yelper:

They’ve never been able to
maintain a restaurant at this location,
and many have tried.

It’s not a bad spot, either.
Downtown, right on the avenue,
the best bars within walking distance.

I’ve sampled every establishment
that attempts to put roots down here.
They’ve all been decent enough.

For whatever reason,
the people won’t come.
Sushi, Burgers, Piano Bar, it makes no difference.

I’ve sampled cuisine
from four different countries
and sat in the same shitty booth each time.

Outside, the rain falls steadily.
It’ll be this way for the next several days, and I’m sad
my daughter might not get her last train ride of the season.

Three men enter the restaurant
and sit directly
in my line of sight.

Above me, a TV plays sports highlights
and when they watch, it feels like
they’re staring.

Maybe they are?
I’ve reached that elusive point in life
where it makes no difference.

The burger and fries
are too salty—
what a shame.

My waitress asks how everything tastes,
and I lie to make her feel better.
She smiles her crooked smile and fixes her peroxide-blonde hair.

I ask for my ticket
and she’s out of sight again.
I begin to review my latest poem.

I’m writing about food a lot lately.
I’ll be yelping before
you know it.

Outside, the rain pours on,
gathering into puddles
and flowing down the drain.

Like all the wasted minutes
in a life.


-Brandon White

The above poem, “The Musings of a Future Yelper, ” appears in my debut poetry collection, The Year that Stole the Light Away (Raw Earth Ink). Click the cover to purchase a copy!

The Best Songwriter You’ve Never Heard


When I began posting a few weeks back, I mentioned that I would share not only my poetry and updates regarding new releases but the work that inspires me.

After listing my favorite poetry collections of 2020 in a previous post, I thought it would be interesting to share some choice selections from other mediums. So, today we’re talking music. More specifically, Fionn Regan’s, The End of History.

Released in 2006, I stumbled onto this album after reading a short review in American Songwriter magazine. Regan, an Irish songwriter, was likely included in the magazine due to his association with the Nashville based label, Lost Highway. Upon first listen, I knew I’d found something extraordinary.

For me, it was all there, the apparent mastery of his instrument, the simple but effective vocal delivery, the ambiguous lyrics. It felt both modern and from another time altogether. I could close my eyes and picture the Irish countryside or a dense forest. It oozed with mystery and captured my imagination as few things had before.

I remember thinking to myself, ‘How am I the only person I know listening to this?’ I still don’t have an acceptable answer to that question. This album obviously stood head and shoulders above most of the music I’d discovered, and, at least stateside, it was seemingly met with indifference. My friends would suffer many drunken ramblings concerning this injustice. God Bless them for their patience.

The album received considerable praise overseas, being awarded the Mercury Prize for Best Album released in the United Kingdom by a British or Irish act. I have no idea how far Regan’s influence reaches across the pond, but I do know he’s been able to release a steady stream of brilliant albums since The End of History.

So, as I stand at the brink of rambling, I will close by saying, If you haven’t heard this album and enjoy singer/songwriter/folk music, do yourself the enormous favor of getting on your streaming platform of choice and right the scales of justice.

Fourteen years later, I’m still listening and still unable to wipe the smile from my face. Enjoy.

Realization – A Poem by Brandon White

A recent free verse poem.


Realization:

I've often wondered why
you entered my orbit.

A test?

A threat?

Perhaps both?

You now exist
as a ghost, a memory,

something tragic.
That's it, isn't it?

Something tragic
to haunt the mind,

the heart,

the poem.


-Brandon White

Jagged – A Poem by Brandon White

I hope you’ve all had a great week! I’m a bit under the weather this morning, but nothing some rest and meds won’t fix. Here’s a newer, free verse poem that I thought you might enjoy.


Jagged:

I love you
in fifteen-second bursts
that feel like dreams
to those of us who
remember how

Do you know
that kind of longing?
The kind
That sets souls
to searching

the pages of books
and unfamiliar hands?
Those of us who do
almost always return
empty-handed

Just as I am now, here,
in the long shadow
of your love


-Brandon White

My Favorite Poetry Collections of 2020

In a year of incredible uncertainty, one of the few things that brought peace was the reading and writing of poetry. I released my first book of poems, The Year that Stole the Light Away, completed the manuscript for its follow-up (coming soon), and read everything I could get my hands on.

I decided to compile a list of my 10 favorite reads of 2020 as I believe they would be greatly enjoyed by anyone who appreciates the craft. I’ll provide the cover art with links to purchase. I won’t try and explain these collections, as I don’t believe in such things. They stand on their own, ready for you to discover what makes each uniquely powerful. Please note, not all of these were released in 2020 and they appear in no particular order! Enjoy!

Click to Purchase!

Lean Against This Late Hour – Garous Abdolmalekian

Click to Purchase!

For the Love of Endings – Ben Purkert

Click to Purchase!

Expulsion – Emily Perkovich

Click to Purchase!

Homie – Danez Smith

Click to Purchase!

Fallen Star Rising – Tara Caribou

Click to Purchase!

Be With – Forrest Gander

Click to Purchase!

Night Sky With Exit Wounds – Ocean Vuong

Click to Purchase!

Martyrs of a Certain Belief – Anthony Desmond

Click to Purchase!

The Branch Will Not Break – James Wright

Click to Purchase!

How Beautiful the Beloved – Gregory Orr

Promises – A Poem by Brandon White

A free verse poem born from hard lessons.

Promises:

Remember this moment
when the old life
calls to you again.

Remember your brokenness,
and the promises
you made in the dark.

Remember the final breath
and the frantic heartbeat
under your hand.

Remember how quickly
a life, with all its complexity,
can vanish.


-Brandon White

The poem above, “Promises,” appears in my debut poetry collection, The Year that Stole the Light Away (Raw Earth Ink). Click the cover to purchase a copy!

Sunrise – A Poem by Brandon White

A short, free verse poem that arrived this morning.


Sunrise:

In a perfect world,
we would regard every
firey morning sky as miraculous,

and every promise made
would be holy


-Brandon White

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