Holiday Lit List — Trobairitz



Wherein we look at some of the local books that have been published this year and give you some ideas of what to get your book-loving friends and family for Hanukkah, Solstice, Festivus, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or just because it’s a day ending with “y”.

Don’t forget to support your local independent bookstores!

by Catherine Owen
Anvil Press

Many know of troubadours, traveling poet-musicians from various classes who, during the High Middle Ages, wrote and sang songs of courtly love. They sang of love for unattainable women, of something that was often in view but always out of reach.

Very few people know of the trobairitzes, aristocratic women who composed in the vernacular of Langue d’Oc and whose work was usually sung by employed singers. They were the first known female composers of Western secular music, writing about other troubadours and knights, about betrayal, disappointment, and social inequality.

For many years poet Catherine Owen has been studying the trobairitzes and the song forms they used, such as the canso and the tenso. While this might sound quite academic, this latest collection from Owen is anything but as she melds the lyric forms of the trobairitzes with her love of metal. She describes it as “a book of poems that puts troubadours and metalheads in a mosh pit of forms, tunes and beats and lets them go at it until blood or song results.”

She writes of the trobairitzes of whom we know so little, and as a trobairitz herself writes of love and loss, of memory and longing. She writes of her experiences playing bass with such acts as Inhuman, Helgrind and her current musical project Medea. Her cansos are populated by musicians and fans, groupies and gods of the metal music world. The meld of 21st century metalheads and 12th century lyric forms is intriguing and refreshing.

Plazer 3
Festival at Avignon, May 2006 

Love for the space in which we sang, its stage
the magical demarcation of tape on a common floor.

Love for Kim’s wiry bones, his platforms and all Sasha’s
80s spray-crazed hair.

For the roster of bands, rough local vermin to hewn
angels, love for this great chain of music!

And efficiency, each act blooming its hard flowers in
half hour sets, take down fast, sprung muscles

rafting amps across the span, stacking them like cubes
of air, everywhere cords veining across monitors, taped

against mics, and even when the next band yells —
“Anyone have a spare pedal?” loving the panic

of forgetting the essential and then the rescue
just before the first stunned plif from the smoke

machine as buddy grabs the missing gear from his truck
and all is once again fellowship.

Love for the way we play through pain.

Click to read our previous Holiday Lit List suggestions.