OPWC Hosts Kelly Mulhollan

By Ginny Masullo

The Never Ending Conversation

The old brown hen and the old blue sky,

Between the two we live and die — The broken cartwheel on the hill.

As if, in the presence of the sea,

We dried our nets and mended sail

And talked of never-ending things, from Continual Conversation with a Silent Man

— Wallace Stevens

Kelly Mulhollan of Still on the Hill continues his rich musical conversation with poetry this Tuesday at the Ozark Poets and Writers monthly reading. In 2005, Mulhollan released his CD “Never Ending Conversation,” which is poetry sung to music. Twenty years in the making, “Never Ending Conversation” takes the listener on an ethereal journey through three poems by Langston Hughes, two by William Blake, one each by Wallace Stevens, W.H. Auden, e.e. cummings and Mulhollan himself, plus verses from the Book of Jeremiah and a funeral chant from the Pygmies of Gabon.

The tradition of setting music to poetry strives to be the perfect combination of music and literature. Mulhollan shows an almost supernatural sensitivity to the individual words he sets to music. Haunting arrangements of acoustic instruments including guitar, mandolin, pump organ, violin and acoustic bass encircle the poems.

Of all the CDs Still on the Hill has produced, “Never Ending Conversation” has proven to be the most enduring and the most requested. There is not a frail cut on the album. It can be played over and over and each listening reveals new and deeper layers. Mulhollan considers this work to be the most fulfilling and substantial of his extensive musical life. He continues his search for poetry to set to music and will be performing new songs that will be on the next CD at the Tuesday reading.

Since the release of “Never Ending Conversation,” Mulhollan has been especially attracted to songs of ethnic origin.

“These songs from another culture and another time are a shortcut to looking at the world in a different way,” Mulhollan said.

Striving to be musically subservient to the poetry, Mulhollan will sing and accompany himself to poems such as the Native American song “The Twin Liars:”

“Feast on wit and beauty and the pendants of bone / Fill the earthen bowl, fill the jar of stone / Trust not time nor strength. / They are twin liars.”

Do trust, however, that this is a night of music and poetry that would be worth wading through high water to attend. An open mic with a 4-minute time limit for each reader will precede and follow Mulhollan who will read at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street in Fayetteville. Visit www.ozarkwriters.wordpress.com for more information.

Categories: Features