Tag Archives: Janis Joplin

William Matthews’ Janis Joplin

February’s Music post: William Matthews’ “The Penalty for Bigamy is Two Wives

William Matthews’ prose poem “The Penalty for Bigamy is Two Wives” has so many great descriptions of music it almost makes you forget how hard it can be to describe music. Joplin’s voice breaks out “in hives of feeling.” Music, in the words of the speaker’s friend, “throws you back into your body, like organic food or heroin.” Then there’s the image of the pain in his friend’s singing voice “like the silhouette of a dog baying at the moon, almost liver-shaped, a bell hung from a rope of its own pure yearning.” And then, back to Janis again, her voice running up and down the body “like a fire that has learned to live on itself” and then, there comes the amazing description of listening to dead Janis sing as being “Grief’s beautiful blowjob.” Now that is one hell of a line. Continue reading

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