LOVE – Poems for Vintage Song Titles

Notes on “LOVE, Poems for Vintage Song Titles”



After spending years on Dinner in Oslo, I had to elude the Nazis and look for something engaging in an emotional, loving way.  I began to play and think on my favorite vintage songs by Sinatra and later artists who saw the gold in these songs. 

            The word, “vintage” refers to quality, lastingness, from a certain era or time.  Vintage wine comes from old vines from a specific district, and a banner season earns the name, vintage. Music that represents a certain span of time, like vintage wine begets the name. The popular music of the late 1930s and the decade of the 1940s  is the vine, the wine, these lovely songs.

            Cole Porter, Sammy Cahn, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern were among my favorites. Porter’s lyrics charmed me the most.  I loved the way the words curled around the end of a line and lingered on a note or the space of a rest. The lyrics meet the ear like poems.

            This was my first real meeting with poetry. (And later, in school, “The Highwayman,” a ballad).  Here lay words and music you could carry in your head, hum along and sing the words until you carried them in your heart and brain. But the problem turned out to be I knew them so well, I couldn’t get the words out of my head when it came to the realization of this book.

It was a struggle to understand what to do with these songs. 

            A fresh approach appeared when I thought about the titles.  Just the titles. I would speak to the titles and make poems.  The first poem sets up the rest.  Confession:  the first poem does not bear the title of a song but it does introduces the rest of the poems.  The first six poems are poems addressed to the title. Then, feeling a little braver, I made up “lyrics” to  “That’s All,” but this time I took the rhythm and meter of the actual song and hung it on the memory of a high school first love.

 I did something similar with “My Old Flame,” using the first two lines of the actual song and moved it into a slightly sarcastic tone.  With “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” one of my all time favorites.  I went crazy and made it humorous.  These songs, in music industry parlance, have become “standards.”  Another word could be classic.  They stand as well today as they have for decades. I hope for readers young or old or in between that they touch a torch, a buried feeling, or a bittersweet memory of first love, quiet love, lost love, as they do for me.

            I found some old pictures of my parents and that became a beginning for the cover.  These songs were a big part of their lives as they waded through World War II at home and watched relatives go off to war.  The larger picture is my parents when they were young and in love just before they married.  The second picture, their twenty-fifth anniversary.

            If you are new to these songs, welcome.  If they stir memories for you, welcome.


“Shirley Rickett has lifted these songs from the air and made them her own in poems as blissful as that first kiss. You’ll hum along to new words set to old tunes. And if memories don’t come flooding back, then you’ve never been in love, my friend.”
Deborah Kroman
Winner of Boulevard’s 2007 Emerging Poets Contest
“Shirley Rickett’s latest chapbook embodies homage to popular songs, evoking memories of their powerful role as they accompany us through the decades. Relying on leaders to access their own memories while reacting to the poems, her technique provide an instinctive counterpoint with the reader’s own nostalgic favorites.”
David Ray
Author of Music of Time: Selected & New Poems