Johann Sebastian Bach
Truly loved music, yet
Managed to wed twice
And father a gang.
The kids took their tonics,
Eschewed bad harmonics,
Bach said Bohemian
Life could go hang!

Frederick Chopin was
Never a well man. His
Love for Maria
Was only a yearn.
George Sand, who helped slightly
Did not take him lightly—
His heart’s now in Warsaw,
Interred in an urn.

Billings was willing to
Structure the music that
Brahmins in Boston
Thought of as chorales.
Sam Adams enjoyed him,
The churches employed him;
His odd appearance
Kept William from gals.

Mozart’s enchanting style
Revved up the royalty—
Even old Handel
Thought Wolfie the best.
He played without stopping
When he was bar hopping;
Caught double pneumonia;
Was then.laid to rest.

Magical trumpeter
Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke
Captured notes no one
Had ever dreamt of;
Through this world he hurried,
Creatively flurried;
Didn’t have time for
Conventional love.

John Cage had a wife with
A long Russian name; but
Cared for each random
Vibration much more.
Lured into emptiness,
He made a rhythmic mess,
His wife got lost, for
She thought him a bore.



A former Wilbur Fellow and six-time Pushcart nominee, Sally Cook is a regular contributor to National Review, and has appeared in venues as varied as Chronicles, Lighten Up On Line, and TRINACRIA. Also a painter, her present works in the style known as Magic Realism are represented in national collections such as the N.S.D.A.R. Museum in Washington, D.C. and The Burchfield-Penney, Buffalo, NY.

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9 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    These double-dactyl poems (sometimes called “Higgeldy Piggeldy” pieces) are by nature comic. One real difficulty is that the name of one’s subject has to be made to fit somehow into the dactylic meter. I like the way Sally Cook has deftly arranged this, as in “Mozart’s enchanting style” and “Billings was willing to”.

    One thing about dactyls: they are so hard-hitting and forceful that they can easily override the expected natural stress in some words. The only place where this doesn’t quite work here is in the last item on John Cage. I’d revise the first four lines of it as follows:

    Cage had a wife with a
    Long Russian name but he
    Cared for each random
    Vibration much more.

  2. Julian D. Woodruff

    Good laughs rule over bios, Ms. Cook:
    ‘Though you’ve played rather loose with the facts,
    It’s unlikely a reader will look
    At these poems as scholarly tracts.

    Please do us some more. I’ll try to get a couple of my recent composer poems posted as well.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Poets, like the Muses themselves, are not obliged to be truthful.

  3. James A. Tweedie

    With Muse-inspired poetic diction
    A poet’s facts may well be fiction.
    And critics find, when they redact,
    That fiction is, quite often, fact.

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Dear Mr. Tweedie,
      I fear you and Mr. Salemi sense a critical slant in my response to Ms. Cook’s poems, and a prescriptive subtext about poetry in general. Not at all!

      • James A. Tweedie

        Julian, My post was prompted by Mr. Salemi’s wry comment and was intended as a generically humorous reflection on the frequent admixture of fact and fiction in my own poetry, as well as in the poetry of others. Since it was not written as a direct response to your comment there is no need for it to be viewed as a “critical slant” on anything you said. If it has any “slant” at all, it was not intended in any way to be a “critical” one and most certainly not in any way associated with the negative sense of that word. All the best and nothing but the best from me to you.

  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Sally, these engaging little poetic insights capture the essence of each composer with wonder and wit. I love them. ❤️

  5. C.B. Anderson


    I once read that the reason Bach had so many children was that his organ had no stops.

    John Cage was a frequent visitor at Wesleyan University when I was there. One time he put microphones beneath the seats of wooden chairs just so he could amplify the creaks. Better was when he brought conch shells with the pointy end sawed off, inviting us to use them like brass instruments. Having played the trumpet in high school, I was quite good at it. All in all, I think the man was on the wrong track. No one will remember him in a hundred years, or even ten years.


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