Autumn 2000

On the blues poetry of Beverly Matherne
     by M.L. Liebler

Le blues braillant / The Blues Crying: Blues Poetry
Beverly Matherne
Cross-Cultural Communications, Merrick, NY

This new CD of bilingual blues poems set to music with the excellent musical accompaniment of Canada’s Karel Allard (fiddle) and Andre Muise (slide guitar) brings the mysteries of Cajun country Louisiana to life in haunting melodies, words and images.

The pieces of poetry and music included on this CD run the gamut from a touching and potent historical tribute to legendary civil rights activist Rosa Park to a highly humorous “Sellin My Snow Blowin Machine,” where the poet from the deep south decides she’s had enough of the snow and harsh winter life in Michigan’s high northern country and is ready to return to her native Louisiana . Each poem uses the traditional blues form, which features the repetition of key lines of verse and words for emphasis.

Ms. Matherne’s performance style is unique and engaging. She is an excellent performance poet always able to properly inflect the right sounds and tones of each word with careful precision. This poet knows well her Louisiana south, her Cajun culture and the depth of her own art and pain.

In her poem “Mama Walk Like the Wind Dance,” the reader/listener is quickly haunted by the mysterious blues music carefully inter-twined with the imagery of loss in lines like “My Mama used to walk like the wind dance, / through the sugarcane…/ Yeah, like the wind in the cane. / My daddy, he don’ smell nothin / but Picayune and Jax …/ Um hmm…cigarettes and jax.” Near the end of this piece, the music and wind sounds build together to create a lonely sense of time’s relentless forward movement in the life of the narrator, and the poet concludes with “Come back home, Mama, like the wind dance / through the sugarcane.”

I find the repetition of lines like these combined with the brooding melody to be sharp, striking and deeply moving. While this poem and poems like “When a Man Get Cancer” and the title piece “The Blues Cryin” deal with serious subject matter, I did not find the poems to be melancholy and over the edge emotionally.

From the eight poems on this CD, I developed a clear sense that Ms. Matherne is a capable and dimensional poet who is able to transport her readers/listeners to the deep Cajun south with her unique images and phrasings, and she is also able to bring them back home with some good food for thought. A good example of this styling is evident in the beautiful imagery in her title poem, “ When snow covers the streets, / the meadows, / and the night is still…/ I hear the blues cryin’, / all the way to spring. / Yeah, I hear the blues cryin’, / all the way to spring.”

In the coldness of a gray winter or in the darkness of the death and disease or through the loneliness of youth past, Beverly Matherne’s poetry and her performances on The Blues Cryin give us all hope and fresh insights through the musicality of her words.

Some of the pieces on the CD might be a little too long in length, because they are recited in both French and English, but the time spent in the company of these poems and this music is well worth it. Ms. Matherne’s new CD is a welcome addition to the new contemporary culture of spoken word art.

M. L. Liebler is the author of several books of poetry including the new release from LA’s Tebot Bach Press Written In Rain: New & Selected Poems 1985-200 and a forthcoming book from The Adastra Press. In addition, he has recorded many CD’s of poetry and music with The Magic Poetry Band including the new Paper Ghost Rain Dance on Blue Boundary Records. He is the Director of Detroit’s YMCA National Writer’s Voice Project, and he has taught creative writing & Labor Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit since 1980.




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