Corrupted into Song
By Alvin Feinman
As though all things shone perfectly,
Perfected in self-discrepancy:
The widow wedded to her grief,
The hangman haloed in remorse—
I should not rearrange a leaf,
No more than wish to lighten stones
Or still the sea where it still roars—
Here every grief requires its grief,
Here every longing thing is lit
Like darkness at an altar.
As long as truest night is long,
Let no discordant wing
Corrupt these sorrows into song.
“Here every grief requires its grief” is an invitation to sit with sorrow rather than be too quick to, as Feinman puts it, “corrupt it into song.” We live in an artistic era where singer/songwriters may be too quick to turn their tragedy into art, when they would be better off letting their sorrow inform a longer and healthier journey through grief.
I suggest there is difference in substance between the haunting lyrics of Leonard Cohen for example – and those written in the turn-it-into-cash heartaches-for-money songs by many “pop” artists. So many modern pop songs will be forgotten before the next album for they were sorrows corrupted into song well before their time to mature into art.
For all the pop art that the machinery churns out, not much appears to have an enduring quality that informs and enlightens our humanity – or our spiritual journey.
Shane McCrae, Poetry Editor with Imagejournal.org writes:
“Corrupted into Song collects all of Feinman’s poems, but the best are almost all to be found in his first book, Preambles and Other Poems, originally published in 1964 and reprinted in Corrupted into Song as revised as expanded by Feinman around 1990. His poems sound like no others, though there is a bit of Hart Crane’s lyric density in them. They are manifestly artifacts of serious thinking. They lead the reader’s mind and sometimes bewilder it.”
These are the final stanzas of “True Night,” from which Corrupted into Song takes its title.