Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #1556) Both Sides Now
Rows and flows of angel's hair And icecream castles in the air And feathered canyons everywhere I've looked at clouds that way But now they only block the sun They rain and they snow on everyone So many things I would have done But clouds got in my way. I've looked at clouds from both sides now From up and down, but still somehow It's cloud illusions I recall I really don't know clouds at all. Moon and Junes and Ferris wheels That dizzy dancing way you feel As every fairy tale comes real I've looked at love that way. But now it's just another show You leave them laughing when you go And if you care, don't let them know Don't give yourself away. I've looked at love from both sides now From give and take, but still somehow It's love's illusions I recall I really don't know love at all. Tears and fears and feeling proud To say "I love you" right out loud Dreams and schemes and circus crowds I've looked at life that way But now old friends are acting strange They shake their heads, they say I've changed Well something's lost, but something's gained In living every day. I've looked at life from both sides now From win and lose, but still somehow It's life's illusions I recall I really don't know life at all.
Every time someone I know claims that song lyrics aren't really poetry, I have the urge to sit them down and make them listen to a Joni Mitchell album to prove to them how wrong they are. Any Joni Mitchell album. But of all the songs in all her albums this is the one I would pick if I really had to make a case for it. 'Both sides, now' has everything -- a superbly executed rhyme pattern (don't miss the internal rhymes in the first, fourth and seventh stanzas that pick up the tempo of the song so effectively), a repeating structure that brings out the deeper allegories, some incredibly vivid phrases (what better description of a cloud bank than "feathered canyons everywhere"), a gorgeous refrain (to really know how gorgeous, listen to the song and feel the breath catch in your throat as the pause before "at all" stretches forever and ever) and an emotional range that goes from the almost joking (Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels) to the achingly lonesome ("if you care, don't let them know"). But most of all, this is a song that even read aloud has a voice all its own. It's the voice of a generation that grew up too quickly, the voice of cynicism, the voice of tiredness. But it is also the voice of hope - of the spirit's struggle to reclaim lost wonder, of an acceptance of one's own limitations that is both humility and joy. It is at once the voice of our defeat and the voice of our renewal. So if you really don't know Joni Mitchell's music at all (except for a few allusions on Minstrels you might recall) - do yourself a favour and go out and buy this album* and listen to Both Sides. Now. Aseem. *There are actually two albums - there's Clouds (1970) and Both Sides, Now (2000) - the versions of the song on both are pretty different and make for an interesting contrast. (and no, the guys at Reprise Records are not paying me for these blatant plugs!)