Clara

Cattle die,
kinsmen die
you yourself die;
I know one thing
which never dies:
the judgment of a dead (wo)man’s life.
Hávamál

Maybe it’s the fact I’m dead
that modified my legacy as pioneering
pianist, to that of wife;
appendix to my Robert,
sidekicked from the pedestal
my audience placed me on.

Maybe it’s only afterwards
you’re diminished into wife and woman
not colleague of the music marbled men.
I was the first to learn to
play from memory, to let the music
flow from sense to muscles,
from brainwaves into to fingertips.

All those men I helped are
part of history, but I am most
remembered as an almost widow
after Robert was asylumed.
But I composed, performed, and worked
with men I called by first name
and who called me Clara in return.

Maybe it’s best, you never know alive
how history is written, how you’re erased
to serve a purpose not your own.
Maybe it’s in the mirror glass of time
a sidekick is defined.

Clara Schumann - One of the best pianists the world has ever seen

Clara Schumann – One of the best pianists the world has ever seen

Rommy want’s us to write about sidekicks at toads, and though the prompt starts from the concept of superheros and sidekicks, I think it’s often history that defines who’s the hero and who’s the sidekick. This is inspired by the idea of Carol Ann Duffy’s book the World’s wife, and the history of Clara Schumann, the wife of renowned composer Robert Schumann. She was a pianist, composer and inspired many other composers in addition to her husband. She was celebrated during her lifetime but more or less erased from music history….

You tell me if she was any less composer than her contemporary composers…


September 23, 2016

24 responses to “Clara

  1. This nearly broke my heart, Bjorn. I can feel her pain in your words, reaching out and asking why… I can feel my shame in the because, since I had no idea who she was before your poem told me… So much emotion… And the last two lines squeeze the heart and shake the soul.

  2. This is amazing. Perfectly within the spirit of the prompt and so beautifully expressed. I wonder about the unsung heroes too, knowing that societal preconceptions relegate them to afterthoughts far too often.

  3. I like your portrayal of Mrs. Shamann, Bjorn. I had never thought of her, hadn’t known of Robert being married. Nothing. In the States we have a saying, “Behind every man is a great woman.” That surely does apply here.
    BTW, there people who play an instrument without lessons, some don’t even read music. Called ‘playing by ear.’ Ironically one of our granddaughters is totally deaf in one ear, yet she plays piano exceptionally ‘by ear.’ I took class piano in college, learning notes came the very first.
    ..

    • I think in “classical” music this was a totally new concept when Clara was born in 1819… but she was more than a woman behind him… they were two equals… collaborators…together they took a you Johannes Brahms under their wings as well… all this was well known when she was alive…

  4. Maybe it’s best, you never know alive
    how history is written, how you’re erased
    to serve a purpose not your own.

    Phew! That is such a telling statement. I did not know the history of Clara and feel very edified by your poem and post. Thanks.

    • Luckily Clara is now getting reestablished both for her piano playing and composing… how much she had to do with Robert Schumann’s composing or Johannes Brahms I guess we will never know… But I guess she could have been a female Mozart really.

  5. Havamal. Have a mall. Have ’em all. … What a cool name!

    Damn. What a great opening:
    “Maybe it’s the fact I’m dead
    that modified my legacy” … I LOVE ghost poetry. Nothing better than a good haunting. Plus, “legacy” has “ace leg(s)” in it. I love the idea of modifying legs. Going somewhere different? Doing something different? Lots of possibilities …

    I also like that the title is an almost-anagram of “a lark,” which is only missing “on” to complete the expression. “On the ex.” I don’t know why that just popping into my head. Anyway, I’m scattered. Getting back on track …

    “pi/e-o-nearing” … Very cool word to let hang out there by itself.

    LOVE this line: “appendix to my Robert” … As if she’s his appendix, which so often ends up being removed. Also, “a-pen dicks.” Sorry. It had to be said. 🙂

    You’d think a side-kick would really hurt! Maybe break some rib-bones (ribbons?) or something. … How gorgeous is that imagery … ribbons for her ribs. A trade. Or that are bones are made of ribbons. My brain is swirling with the loveliness of that image.

    I really like reading this aloud: “(k)not colleague of the music marbled men”

    “I was the first to learn to
    play from memory, to let the music” … I love these line breaks! “I was the first to learn to play.” That makes me so happy. 🙂 Also the idea of (blood)letting the music. “Blue-D(e)-letting” is also in there. That’s our little ocean/lake beauty.

    “from brainwaves into to fingertips” … I really like the waves (water and hands) hiding in this. Also the idea of a wave via the brain (instead of the full hand) turning into a wave of JUST fingertips. Not a full hand-wave. Just a little flutter of the tips.

    “All those men I helped are” (“… help dare”)

    This is what I call a wrap-around line: “part of history, but I am most” … because you can begin reading at the punctuating and then go back to the beginning of the line to create this: “but I am mo(i)st part of history”

    “But I composed, performed, and worked” … Tee hee. I love picturing her as a crass comedienne (“I composed butt” or “I butt-com/posed”), burlesque dancer, stripper, and/or prostitute. Especially if she was a widow. She’d then be open for all sorts of other options … the bills would have to be taken care of somehow.

    I love this line: “Maybe it’s best, you never know alive”

    Here, I see “Maybe it’s [s]in — the mirror glass” … Hmmm, thought-provoking.

    My eyes get twitchy, you know; so at the end, I see “a sidekick is fed-in/ed” … education, in learning, in teaching herself … Also, maybe she’s a FED.

  6. History does have a way of writing its own story – often greatly morphed from fact. Like all of man’s manuscripts – including “sacred” writings – the author is seldom without an agenda … and even that, is periodically rewritten.

  7. I find it chilling and scary to be do involved, do giving in your lifetime and then to be just dumped into nothingness, perhaps though the times and mores and the status of women are issues which confined this. But speaking from a modern perspective I cry shame. And applause your poem. Thanks for the video enjoyed the music immensely. My own private chamber music. The princess in me loves you for this.

    Much love…

  8. Oh, this is wonderful, Bjorn, Let’s have more of these forgotten and unappreciated women! As you kn ow, I particularly enjoy the way you play with words and this is a fabulous example:
    ‘appendix to my Robert,
    sidekicked from the pedestal
    my audience placed me on’
    as is ‘music-marbled men’!

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