Credit Where Credit Is Due

I allowed my laziness to overwhelm my desire to write this morning, hence no early-day blog post. This post, begun shortly before 10:00 a.m., will serve as a stand-in for what would have been a much earlier post.

The fact that I went to breakfast with my church’s “men’s breakfast group” this morning could be used as an excuse, but that would have been a lie. Normally, by the time I left for breakfast, I would have long-since finished writing my post. No, this morning, I was just lazy. Instead of writing, I read an array of Facebook posts, including this one:

If someone is falling behind in life, you don’t have to remind them. Believe me, they already know. If someone is unhealthy, they know. If someone is failing at work, they know. If someone is struggling in their relationships, with money, with self-image… they know. It’s what consumes their thoughts each day. What you need to do for those who are struggling is not to reprimand, but encourage. Tell them what’s good about their lives, show them the potential that you see. Love them where they are. When we can’t see clearly for ourselves, we need others to speak greatness over us. People don’t need you to tell them what’s wrong with their lives, they already know. They need you to reassure them that they can still make it right.

Those are the words of a young (29-year-old) woman by the name of Brianna Wiest. She is a writer, a poet, a thinker. And, I think, wise beyond her years. She is the bestselling author of 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think, The Mountain Is You, When You’re Ready, This Is How You Heal, and two poetry collections, Salt Water and Ceremony. No matter how old I get, I will never be as young and productive a writer as is Brianna Wiest. There might have been a time when I would have been bitter about that unchangeable reality. But not now. I have grown old; simultaneously, I have grown appreciative of people who, in their youth, already have outshone me despite my lengthy head start.

In addition to reading the words of Brianna Wiest, I read the words of David Legan, a sometimes-follower of my blog. He commented on yesterday’s post, noting tangentially his disagreement with my words about anger while expressing his appreciation of Bill Morrissey’s lyrics and music. Those lyrics, he suggested, lure one into a sense of comfort until they strike, hard, at one’s heart with their powerful insight into our insignificance. Bill Morrissey’s lyrics remind me of Greg Brown’s lyrics. Both of them were exceptionally skillful storytellers; Brown still is, but Morrissey died young, at age 59.

Emotion, delivered in the form of poetry and lyrics and narrative prose so profound it embraces one with a hug like that of a grizzly bear, is the driving force of knowledge. We learn almost as much from moving, powerful language as we do from experience; maybe even more. Emotion is the foundation for thought—we cannot think until, first, we feel.

Does the final sentence of the paragraph above seem especially arrogant? As if I were asserting as fact what is only my opinion? I make such pronouncements with the expectation that they will trigger appreciation in some people as if I had expressed a profound insight. And I understand—and expect—that some people will dismiss my words as evidence of undeserved hubris. Either is fine with me. I doubt most of what I express as certainty. At the same time, though, I think it’s entirely possible that my words may carry with them, for some people, an intensity of insight rarely encountered in these environs.


Writing during the hour before noon feels oddly inappropriate. I feel like I’m using someone else’s time to produce words that rightfully belong to someone else. Strange, I know.


A good friend of mine writes poetry. It is a relatively recent activity for her, I think, but her writing is exceptionally good, as if she has been practicing and refining it for years and years. Her poetry conveys emotions as well as any I have heard or read. A recent poem is, like several others, remarkably good. I think it’s time for her to begin compiling her work with the idea that she is to create a chapbook. I will happily help.


A mail delivery person, a stand-in for our regular carrier, just drove by at high speed and whirled around in the cul-de-sac, slowing just enough and he changed directions to throw mail into my mailbox before roaring away at even higher speed. I automatically assumed he had thrown an explosive device into the mailbox; either it had a timer set to go off just seconds after his vehicle was at a safe distance or he wanted leave the vicinity before he detonated the bomb. It has not yet exploded, so I will now take the risk of checking the mailbox. If I do not publish a post tomorrow, Friday, you can assume my first assumption was right.


James Johnston Stewart and John Francis Peppard wrote the song Armed with a Broken Heart. John Gorka is the only artist I have heard perform it. Until I attempted to verify that John Gorka had written the lyrics and tune for the song, I was deeply impressed with John Gorka’s superb song-writing skills. Now, Gorka may well be an exceptional songwriter, but not the writer of that song with which I am so impressed. Gorka does a superb job of performing the song, but he seems to get all the credit for it. Stewart and Peppard deserve a LOT more than they get. So it seems with many songwriters. They do not get recognition for their work; the performers always seem to get the credit. That has bothered me for years. I remember being incensed when I learned that all the accolades I had thrown at Arlo Guthrie for City of New Orleans should have been shared with the songwriter, Steve Goodman. Maybe I’m the guilty party. Maybe everyone but me knows who wrote all those wonderful songs that the non-writing performers get so much credit for. But I doubt it.


It’s damn near noon. I can’t have a morning blog post get published after noon, so here’s where I draw the line. Enough.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Credit Where Credit Is Due

  1. Thanks, David,for the heads-up about the Brown/Morrissey CD. How could I have missed it? Well, I did. But now I know. And I learned about Ferron; I listened to the Brown/Morrissey version and to a performance by Ferron and was impressed by both. Keep on educating me, my friend! I enjoy learning about such stuff!

    As for anger, it has always been readily available at my side; too available. I agree that anger has its place and it, in fact, vital from time to time. That having been said, in my view righteous indignation, like any other anger, is an outgrowth of fear. We were afraid that Pearl Harbor was just the first attack of what could come to our shores and march inland. We were (and are) afraid that the rights of people we love (or our own) might be trampled and our freedoms curtailed, so we stood up/stand up with a legitimate angry response. I’d rather feel anger (which is, at its core, driven by fear) than feel only the fear that serves as its support.

  2. davidlegan says:

    Another Greg Brown fan…right here in HSV. Imagine that. He and Morrissey did a CD together. You tube the song Ain’t Life a Brook. It is plaintive enough before you look up the songwriting credits and find that it was written by an LGBTQ legend named Ferron. Knowing that it was written from one gay woman to another lends an air of sadness. Of Brown’s work, I like Kate’s Guitar a lot. Written about Kate Wolf, the mother of California folk music, for whom a folk festival is still held annually. “Sometimes it sounds like more than two hands are playing Kate’s guitar.”

    Regarding anger…like all emotions, it has a purpose. Yes, it makes us do stupid stuff…sometimes. But the point is that it DOES make us do something. Think Pearl Harbor. Was it not national anger that prompted us to ration gas and sugar, to convert auto factories into the arsenal of democracy? To begin the revolution of women’s rights and contributions with Rosie the Riveter? Sometimes I RELISH my anger. I enjoy (after the sparks stop flying) the feeling of rising up in righteous indignation if I know that i am right. I had a validation experience of that feeling just this week. Of course, my anger has gotten my ass whipped a time or two. And I’ve hurt a person or two. All in all, I’ll take getting angry over being fearful any day. And, you know, it is often one or the other.

  3. Patty Dacus says:

    Awwww… :). “I think, therefore I am.”

I wish you would tell me what you think about this post...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.