Forty-Four Ambitions for the Piano (1990, 1992)
This charming work should appeal to musicians as much as to readers of poetry…More books like this would widen poetry’s audience.
-Throughout the history of Western music composers have joined poets in setting existing poems to music. The profoundly gifted poet, Lola Haskins, has accomplisted a splendid reversal by writing about the piano and its interpreters… Haskins is a first-rate poet, and Forty-Four Ambitions is recommended for delightful reading and a modest gift to a fellow teacher of piano.
American Music Teacher
-I first saw this exquisite book as a Ravenna mosaic, the impact of the carefullyset, dazzling, tesserae much more than the sum of their parts. On re-reading I learned to appreciate it as a single piece of music, playing through the pages like the Bach sarabande that runs across the seven chapter titles. A magician of metaphor, Haskins composes these forty-four compact poems…so the whole book becomes a glowing metaphor for the relationship of art and life.
Beloit Poetry Journal
-The reader is continually delighted by juxtapositions that are audacious yet fitting…Patterns of Haskins’ pieces continue to resonate after closing the book. (Forty-Four Ambitions) is no small achievement.
-Already I find myself looking at scores in a new and fresh way. Thank you!
Nelita True, Chair Piano Department, Eastman School of Music
-A unique book!
American College of Musicians
Forty-Four Ambitions for the Piano was published by the University Press of Florida in 1990. Betony Press (P.O. Box 18, LaCrosse FL 32658) published a second edition. The chapter titles of the book play a Bach Sarabande.
To Play Pianissimo
Does not mean silence,
the absence of moon in the day sky
Does not mean barely to speak,
the way a child’s whisper
makes only warm air
on his mother’s right ear.
To play pianissimo
is to carry sweet words
to the old woman in the last dark row
who cannot hear anything else,
and to lay them across her lap like a shawl.
He was born with the fingerpads of the blind.
By eight he could tell if someone
had been at the piano before him,
and how long before, and who.
Beginning Fur Elise one November afternoon,
he burst into storms of tears
because his sister had banged
her tuneless anger the night before,
and he felt the bruises still on the keys.
He was born with the ears of a dog.
He could hear his mother’s skin decay,
the soft give as her cheeks sagged just barely more.
Sometimes his face would cloud
because the moan of needles becoming
earth seemed so incomparably sad.
Or brighten. He had heard
the sun come out on the beating feathers
of birds, miles away.
He was born with his life in his hands.
Toddling, he learned the little bells
of Grieg. Then he mastered Mozart’s
speech, its ache of clean and brittle
song. Then he learned to follow Bach,
crossing water from calm to flood,
up and down the stepping-stones
of the keys. He would dream
of his piano as if it were flesh.
In a room with a strange instrument
he would walk by it once or twice
brushing it, as if by accident,
with his leg, his sleeve.