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One of the great sadnesses of the current economic downturn has been the disappearance of bookshops from our high streets. Granted, as far as human stories go a lost job or a repossessed house rates far higher in terms of personal pain and anguish, but in terms of general everyday impressions I miss the bookshops. In retrospect, of course, the rise of the Kindle allied to the credit crunch and too many overinflated players in the market led to the disappearance of the likes of Books Etc. and Borders. Heavens, even Waterstones have had to tighten their belts and drop their apostrophe, like some mid-60s American poet.  I have a hard enough time filling in web forms as an O’Neill (A-Z, 1-9 only, please) without corporate behemoths giving up the fight as well.

What’s the point of this? Sorry, I meant to say Whats the point of this?

I mention this because I went hunting in Wimbledon for a book of poetry yesterday only to find that the Waterstone’s or waterstones there had curtailed this section to one small corner’s worth of books, most of which were The 100 Best This or The Nation’s Favourite That. Of Walt Whitman there was not a jot, but, as luck would have it, the Cancer Research shop down the road had an anthology of American poetry for the princely sum of £1, replete with Whitman, cummings and so on, and I deposited my loose change into their collection box, exuding happiness at a search successfully concluded.

I could easily go straight to Project Gutenberg online – in fact, I probably still will – but I would still prefer to have the product in my hands, and, while Whitman might not be to everybody’s taste (he is certainly not always to mine), he writes some lines which are simply begging to be set to music. I Hear And Am Elated is my only setting of his words thus far, but I am homing in on another very quickly indeed. The anthology also contained a very amusing poem about a parrot who knew Shakespeare, which had me giggling out loud as I sipped my post-purchase coffee. In fact, here it is if you fancy a read.

Walt Whitman – I Hear, And Am Elated

I spent yesterday morning tidying up some administrative odds and ends, updating the blog as you may have seen, tweeting my latest tweet and updating my website with potential performances. Despite rather than because of this I also felt brighter than I have done for a while, although that might have to do with the clear diary ahead or the cold caller I sent away with a flea in his ear. PPI refund for my credit card indeed. They will have to come up with something better than that. Even so, it is very satisfying to have the caller hang up in frustration, a case of man bites dog, maybe.

Onwards with the instrumental work today, and hunting for the right slice of Whitman. Some of his writing about music is too indulgent, some too specific, but there are passages which are just right, and the tricky bit is going to be panning for that gold, but I know that the correct section will leap off the page at some point.