A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Sylvie Simmons *updated*

Q1: When did you start writing and who influenced you the most?

Sylvie: . I had two obsessions, from the moment I came out of the egg it seems, and they were writing and music. When I was little I sang and tapdanced onstage and offstage I played a recorder, I started writing stories pretty much as soon as I started school. I can’t think of one particular person or book that influenced me as a writer because I read so much, all sorts of stuff, starting with fairy tales. My inner-goth preferred Grimm to Hans Christian Anderson. I can be more specific about the first music I heard that really meant something to me: Bessie Smith singing St Louis Blues, my dad’s favourite record. And then while I was still a little kid there came the Beatles. Between Bessie Smith and John Lennon, it’s all I needed.

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Sylvie: Again nothing specific. I can’t remember thinking “I want to be a writer”, because I had never met anyone who was a writer by profession, and because I was always writing, all sorts of stuff, for no reason other than that I liked to write. There was a time in my teens when I wanted to be a singer-songwriter because I loved singing and I had a guitar and I guess I looked the part. Most of the songs I wrote were minor-key dirges – about lost love before I’d had any love to lose – and none of the songs were worth remembering without embarrassment. Anyway, stage-fright put paid to that idea. So I became a music journalist. My influences as a music journalist? Hard to say. Probably a mishmash of the largely-male (they were mostly men back then) rock writers in Sounds, N.M.E, and Melody Maker, the three UK music magazines I’d devour every week. When I moved to L.A in 1977 I became  Sounds’ correspondent. Left to my own devices out there I suppose I started to find a style and approach of my own. I hope so. Also, I got over my stage fright and became a singer-songwriter, but that was several decades later.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?

Sylvie: In the beginning it was Sounds magazine in the UK, for making me their correspondent in 1977 and giving me all sorts of brilliant assignments, like going on the road with Black Sabbath, or The Clash, and a weekly column. This led to assignments from other magazines in the US and Europe, which meant I was writing nonstop, and picking things up as I went.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?

Sylvie: I was born and raised in inner-city London and I entered my teens when London was the best place in the world to be for someone who loved music. I lived in France for a while, which certainly influenced my writing the Serge Gainsbourg biography: A Fistful of Gitanes.

But work-wise, the USA is where things really took off for me as a writer and also later as a musician.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

Two things tie for first place: I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen – the biography that I wrote with Cohen’s co-operation – was my first big best-seller, with almost 30 translations at last count. The other is my debut album of original songs Sylvie (Light In The Attic Records). When the turquoise vinyl turned up in the post, I admit I cried when I saw it.

Q6: What are your favorite activities to relax?

Sylvie: Playing old LPs on an equally old portable record player. Playing my ukulele, or piano, or my new love, a tenor guitar. Or walking for miles and miles going nowhere in particular, thinking thoughts, maybe stopping for a latte or a beer. Or going to the movies. I still love movies, and it’s just not the same on TV. It’s like watching a concert on Zoom.

Q7: What is a favorite line/ stanza/lyric from your writing?

Sylvie: I’ll leave that for someone else to decide.

Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?

Sylvie: I love to rock out – for years I was the correspondent for Kerrang! – but ever since my dad and St Louis Blues I’ve always been drawn to slow, melancholy music. I can go on endless jags of listening to everything by Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake, Scott Walker, or Joni Mitchell’s Blue. The songs that keep bringing me back again and again are those in which you can hear the humanness of the singer and the honesty of the delivery. For that reason I love listening to music like old Blues or early Beatles, anything where the little mistakes are left in. I truly dislike auto tune and those polished productions that iron out all the human-ness.

Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc that you would like to promote?

Sylvie: I recently got back from playing at the Calgary Folk Festival in Canada, and now I have a few things coming up in San Francisco. I’ll be doing a speaking event at Litquake with fellow veteran rock critics including Ben Fong-Torres and Greil Marcus on October 21st ’22. Also a music event at the Lost Church on November 6th ’22 as part of the S.F Leonard Cohen festival. There’s info on my website. You can find my first two albums on my Bandcamp page. I’ve also added some new music and outtakes. I’m hoping to record a new album next year.

On the writing side, I still write regularly for the UK magazine MOJO. My last book was Face It,  a collaboration with Debbie Harry. But I’m happy to say that there’s now an updated US edition of my Leonard Cohen biography  I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen.

If anyone would like to purchase a signed copy  – of the book or my albums,vinyl or cd – they can contact me directly through my website at the link(s) below.

Bonus: Any funny or strange stories you’d like let us know during your creative journey?

Sylvie: Too many to mention. It’s been 45 years of strange and wonderful occurences, and I hope it never stops.

Links:

Website: https://www.sylviesimmons.com/

Contact: https://www.sylviesimmons.com/contact

Bandcamp: https://sylviesimmons.bandcamp.com/album/sylvie

I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/2p98h7vf

Poems Inspired by Prince “A Purple Showcase” from Emma Lee

Seven Seven Bleeker Street

(Written by Prince, sung by Jill Jones)

It wasn't even an A-side.
A simple beat thickened by bass,
a swirling guitar melody,
an alto female voice building towards the third verse
before falling in the final refrain.
The lyrics a generic afterthought
based on long vowels and feminine rhymes
so the lines drift into the melancholy
of a long-lost first love, a first home.
Even the number is expressed as two digits
to avoid the masculine tee in the middle.
News and social media speculate 
over the cause of death of the song's writer.
I sit in my car on a frosty street
lined with birches, white bark visible,
sunlight creeping over the rooftops,
about to run my first errand of the day
when the song sneaks unbidden into my head.

A Syncopated Cha Cha
2 dancers, one of whom is deaf, dance a cha cha to Prince's "Raspberry Beret"

Raspberry is the colour of the subversive.
She's a glittery, gum-chewing, bohemian mystery
whose easing into character as a brash New Yorker
was helped when a broken hearing aid left
her unable to gauge how loud her voice was.
Her syncopated steps: swivel, check, replace,
side, belie a quiet control under the impression
of casualness: the outfit that took several hours
to throw together, wild waves still governed
by a tide. Some shades of raspberry are blue,
a reminder of their undertone of tartness.
An excellent teacher knows he is a catalyst
cheering from the sidelines as his pupil shines.
Unseen hairpins keep the beret in place. 
Some things are practised not until the dancer
gets it right, but until she can't get it wrong.

Purple Lights over the Mediterranean

How many teens can tell a tale 
of a rocky relationship with dad,
rebellion tempered by the need 
for food, shelter or money?

A tale of a passion for something 
misunderstood by someone 
who wants you to follow their template?
Of sneakily rehearsing, playing, writing
while pretending to be someone else?

How many teens compare their life
to being in a warzone,
navigating choppy waters,
or desperately bailing out 
knowing the flimsy boat will sink?

How many teens have been cast adrift
by parents who want to do their best?
How many, caught somewhere
between childhood and adulthood,
have been pushed out to sink or swim?

Whose stories do we listen to?
The famous man with a guitar-lined basement
or the teen enthusiast drifting
on a prayer in the Mediterranean?



Bio: Emma Lee’s publications include “The Significance of a Dress” (Arachne, 2020) and "Ghosts in the Desert" (IDP, 2015). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” (Five Leaves, 2015), was Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib, reviews for magazines and blogs at https://emmalee1.wordpress.com. 

More From Emma: 3 poems from Emma Lee

Poem: Tracing a Love Song by Emma Lee

A Quicksilver Trilling by David L O’Nan : Poetry & Writing style lyrics inspired by Dylan

photo by David L O’Nan
Once upon a time we met the platinum blonde 
- with a letter in hand and a Loro Piana Handbag.
She was quiet and frantic at the same time (the obstacles of running from beautiful to damnit!)
You popped bubbles in the hot flames, 
in flamenco streets with bleeding trains that lead you
 from the whistles to the cheating rainfalls.
Now, she’s as quiet the storm swept flower.
Now, she’s an atomic bomb in my heart of desire.
She’s as damaged as the ignorant meal to the fiery belly of a carnivore.
"Meeting the vagrants are as easy as meeting you" she’d laugh to herself.
Maybe, she’s just a little deaf when this city shakes in a quicksilver trilling.
A little blind when the joy with from a celebration to a thronging.


So you missed the thrills of the small crowd now.  
That city took your bravery and your crown.
It’s hard to be superficial in your walk.  
The thrills of a million helicopters circling down.
Your heartbeats a quilted bundle of wires. 
In the Hollywood hideaways the public does watch.
Hurry up to snap a picture of her durable nucleus falling apart. 
Behind the bars, to the many
 alcohols and elixirs falling straight down the cold rocks. 
Her beautiful monuments show some cracks
and the drinking of the sweet fruit tree has become a little thick in the dust cloud social ball.
Maybe she’s just a little deaf when this city shakes in a quicksilver trilling.
Maybe she’s a little thirsty when the water is sealed from the dams to a willing thirst.
This blessing is just a disguised curse when she’s dressed up for another Judy Garland downward spiral.


I’m starting to rethink this shadow looking at his shoes, playing little Mr. Socialite wearing a poor man’s Bruno Maglis blues.   
I’m standing here holding your golden cup.  
The feathers of your golden goose,
and a shriveled-up ticket to the sacrifices you make at Tiffanys.   
My culture lies behind the ropes holding the inside of my head.   
To play lover and not to play dead.  
So you can play elegant and hip for the artsy coffeeshops.   
They can spell your name in the drink and your heart melts, and you finally feel like a somebody.   
So you tip those baristas and joke about the rats.   
They don’t know art, don’t have MFA’s and haven’t been bought their gardens to thrive.    
I just watch the fakeness leave your timid hazel eyes. And you try to just to the restroom and cry, I hear you in there weeping like a saturnine coyote.

There are a couple of genuine fools, walking around pretending to be the rules of cool.
They folded under the pressures of rebellion, but they are beginning to wonder my darling.
They are wondering exactly how many canvases you have put your brush to.   Since you tell them all
 you’re so smart and like a branch.
I’m just this poetic clown stuck with oversized t-shirts and the smile of 
a stripped screw.  
Don’t worry he’ll pay for this free meal at this simpering Italian Restaurant.  Then he’ll
 be on his way back to the job of being a wonderful muse when the art professors aren’t calling you.
Never to share a true linen of a sunrise together. Tell me exactly what art is when you don’t know the 
art that is natural weather. 

Oh, maybe she’s a little deaf when the city shakes and is shrilling.  A little quicksilver trilling.

The sunrise is a little overbearing.  
Can’t see the canvas from the golden glare that I’m wearing.
Operation, a colorful tornado on a disco floor.   Weak legs are dancing.
Drunk and the quick pills are mixing.  And you’re a drunk and grinding against pistons of strangers
 trying to keep from pissing.  
They want to call you up for a night of glistening, and introduce you
to a hypodermic waterbed.   
You forgot me behind the trees. A little dirty when you have to sit and 
plead.  You have nothing you really need, but everything you want is in the halos of that river.

Well, the birds wake up a little earlier than you. And they seem sick without the worms to chew.
There isn’t a masterpiece for them to view.  You went right into the darkness with your colors and your 
strength.  Frail bones fail frail forests.  Simple supernatural spells bring crumbles to a magic mountain, 
the journeys are hard to walk when the valleys and the lakes are droughts and scrawny to swim in.
Oh, maybe she’s a little deaf when the animals stopped howling. 
The wind is full of heat and rain is even melting. Around the curves the body is sealing.
The city is shaking to a quicksilver trilling. 


From the windows, we used to see the clarity of the glass.   Now it’s a little oily and overcast.
It’s a holocaust, razor sharp raindrops with teeth that bite, just like a brand-new disease. 
The queen must hide from the flee. Our humanity isn’t built anymore on heartbeats.  Sometimes
 humanity is built from cardboard signs.   Hold a little higher and ask for a prayer.  Ask for a shave of cool air to save you from a Tinseltown cataclysm.
So what does the wonder girl do, when she goes from the pretender to blue to the shrew?
Does she realize her hair wasn’t always so cute? Does she realize the geniuses are all crooks?
Does she feel the jazzy palm trees have always been a little plastic and fake?
Much like the hypnotized starlets in the platinum blonde deconstruction game.
Oh, maybe she’s a little deaf from the chess game that keeps yelling checkmate!
Maybe she’s been blinded by the hysterical cut-throat authority waifs. Maybe she’s just part
 of this jealousy, 
vanish haze they thrown on you to make you a product.
A little pill sick when the city keeps shaking tiny slits of cracks in this quicksilver trilling.
Now, she’s as naked as a blurry mirror.  Now she’s feeling as pitiful as a stuttering preacher.

Now her art is less of a picture that hangs above bountiful nouveau vanity mirrors.
Her art is the magnetism that pulls the moon through her evening veins.   
Her art is when the clouds move in and pulls the curtains of stars over her delicate frame.
Maybe she grew tired of her ears constantly ringing.  Loud masochisms and feminine leeches
luring and lingering.  A city shook to pieces in a quicksilver trilling.  

 

*a version of this poem appears in the Lothlorien Poetry Journal from Strider Marcus Jones* 

Current bio for Fevers of the Mind’s David L O’Nan editor/writing contributor to blog. 

Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan Anthology available today! 

Available Now: Before I Turn Into Gold Inspired by Leonard Cohen Anthology by David L O’Nan & Contributors w/art by Geoffrey Wren 

Bare Bones Writings Issue 1 is out on Paperback and Kindle






Poetry Lyrics by John Dickinson

Photo from pixabay

This is the Earth speaking

No, my spirit is not broken
but it has been sorely tried
you have camped upon my skin
and lit larger and larger fires
no, my spirit is not broken
but you have caused me pain
you have poured shit into my seas
and caused acid
in my rain

No, my spirit is not broken
is that what you require?
how many Chernobyls do you want
for your funeral pyre?
no, my spirit is not broken
I can live through all your mess
I just will not look so nice
and I will bite
and not caress

No, my spirit is not broken
but it swings from light to dark
that is the price you pay
because you had to make your mark
no, my spirit is not broken
but can you say the same?
my fire will stay alight
but there’s a flicker
in your flame

No, my spirit is not broken
but you have spoilt my gift
my bounty was for everyone
once you were all rich
no, my spirit is not broken
I still hold out my hands
to those who would live with me
and who would love
all my lands


Cinderella

“Look,” said Cinderella
“sisters that was me
I was the stranger at the ball
don’t laugh, oh please
you must believe
this is important for us all     
I know we are enemies
fighting for our lives
and all is fair in love at war
but what are we fighting for
but the prince up on his hill
and the grapes of wrath that dangle there”  
     
 “Who is the fairest of the fair?  
till twelve last night it was me
but it was all illusion
I was no different from before
just that my body was done up
like a department store
I know we are competitors
fighting for the prince
but the prince is not worth fighting for
he is illusion too
he is not what he seems
he really is a beggar
pretending to be king”            

“The state is in disrepair
the ship is sinking fast
the prince spends cash on baubles
while many people starve
last night pumpkins turned to coaches
and rags to silk and lace
and because of that I could see
and I saw the other face
our world is not beautiful
and sisters nor are we
we are but dreamers all at sea
we cannot be beautiful
if that’s our only aim
we must be bold and brave
and refuse to play the game.

What did Cinderella see?  
Why did she run away?  
She nearly got what every woman is supposed to want!


Mr Christ


Mr. Christ was a man
and he had a hard time
He travelled through rough country
just to ease
his mind

He gathered lots of followers
and they all leaned on him
he gathered lots of enemies
and they all leaned
on him

He gathered in his harvest
and there were lots of thorns
Mr. Christ
his harvest
was not so very
good

Now what I hear of Mr. Christ
is very strange indeed
I hear he is alive and well
that the last laugh was his
that all the blood he shed
was to make me free
I don’t believe that’s what he said
I don’t see how
that could be

All alone
yes, all alone
all alone was he
all alone
yes, all alone
he tried to change man’s destiny
did he fail
oh, did he fail
did he win or lose?
well I think that’s up to me
and it’s up
to you


What Did I know?


I tried to be quiet
to stay out of sight           
I’d melt into the background
to hide my light
it was not what I wanted
but it was all I could do
because I never thought I could do anything
right

So I was surprised when I stepped out of line      
but what did I know?  
how could I tell?
because I’d never bothered
to get to know myself
well

I tried to learn
what was going on           
so much was said
could I believe?
could I be brave?
could I belong?
for I never thought there was space
for me

So I was surprised when I stepped into the light   
but what did I know?  
how could I tell?
because I’d never bothered
to get to know myself
well

My me was buried under dos and don’ts    
musts and mustn’ts
duties and rules
but somehow my me
kept breaking through
despite my efforts my head didn’t know
what to do

So I was surprised when I listened to my me          
my me knew
and my me could tell
I was finally getting to know myself
well
 
So what do I know?         
surprise
after surprise
this seems a good way
to live my life

Whatever I do
I try to be true                
for I believe
if I can be true to me
I can also
be true
to you

Slave

I am a slave
but who do I serve?
who owns me and brands me?
who decides on my worth?
It’s hard to rebel
when the master has gone
for without my chains
I feel I’m no-one

I am an innocent
I have done no wrong
I am a victim
my life it is cursed
I follow my orders
I do what I’m told
my only reward
is to keep my head low

Now you come and tell me
to raise up my head
that the master is gone
that the master is dead
you tell me to look
for the answer within
to open my eyes
and to spread my wings

A bird may live
in a cage all its life
but still
in its heart
is the whole
of the sky



Bio from John Dickinson:  When I found myself on a foundation course at an art school I was also fortunate enough to experience my first serious relationship.  And it was this girlfriend who suggested that I should attempt poetry and I followed her advice even though I knew very little about poems.  But the words flowed forth, thanks to Rachel, written down in my sketchbooks which were shown to my fellow students.  One of whom, Tony, who I am pleased to say is still a friend of mine today, asked me if he could make songs of some of my efforts.

I continued to write and a little over ten years later, having progressed sufficiently in playing the guitar and singing, I began to write my own songs.  And, I believe, that some of them work as poetry.  I hope you agree.

I have recently moved to Ceredigion in Wales with my partner and continue to work on my writing, sculpting and drawing.





Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan Anthology available today!

Kindle & Paperback Links:

U.S. : https://tinyurl.com/2p938cy8

Canada: https://tinyurl.com/2p9cnc2c

India: https://tinyurl.com/5ebda55a kindle only for now. Paperback should be there soon

U.K. : https://tinyurl.com/yc7sk3n8

France: https://tinyurl.com/2kahcd9v

Germany (Deutschland): https://tinyurl.com/fj24ed4s

Japan: https://tinyurl.com/33unzy8y Kindle only for now. Hopefully paperback sometime soon

Australia: https://tinyurl.com/3c6kdhxe Kindle only for now. Not sure on paperback here

Brazil: https://tinyurl.com/2p98w62w Kindle only for now. Not sure on paperback status

Italy: https://tinyurl.com/mryn59us

Netherlands: https://tinyurl.com/yrvzekh8

Mexico: https://tinyurl.com/6pf5jnc6

Poland: https://tinyurl.com/2p8h5b5p possibly kindle only so far

Sweden: https://tinyurl.com/yckjd7jn possibly kindle only so far

Spain: https://tinyurl.com/4pe777f2

United Arab Emirates: https://tinyurl.com/ne6m3j73 Paperback

Featuring the following:

Art/photos by Tony Aiken, Geoffrey Wren, David L O’Nan

Featured Poetry from Elizabeth Cusack
several pieces from me David L O'Nan (including debut poetry)
Ron Whitehead  (U.S. Beat Poet Laureate)
John Guzlowski
Ivor Daniel
Lynn White
James Schwartz
Robert Frede Kenter
Thasia Anne Lunger
Christian Garduno
R.M. Engelhardt
Peter Hague
Spriha Kant
Beth Mulcahy
Matthew Freeman
Kushal Poddar
Carrie Anne Golden
Joe Kidd
Troy Jackson
Mark Andrew Heathcote
w v sutra
Owen Bullock
F.E. Clark
Ethan McGuire
Ian Richardson
Doreen Stock
Peter Lilly
Dan Carpenter
Jude Neale
Clive Gresswell
Derek Smith
Tim Troglen
Billy Watson
Maid Corbic
Brenda E. Nwafor
Kathryn Sadakierski
Sadie Maskery
Jeremy Limn

Current bio for Fevers of the Mind’s David L O’Nan editor/writing contributor to blog. 

Available Now: Before I Turn Into Gold Inspired by Leonard Cohen Anthology by David L O’Nan & Contributors w/art by Geoffrey Wren 

The return & revised version of “New Disease Streets” by David L O’Nan Poetry and stories 

Poetry from David L O’Nan in the Famous Poetry Outlaws are Painting Walls and Whispers