Subway Moon, saxophonist’s Roy Nathanson’s very engaging collection of poetry, begins in German. You will be taken a back by it at first if you don’t understand the language, but don’t fret; Nathanson’s accessible verse is forthcoming, Or as Jeff Friedman notes in the Introduction to this collection: Roy Nathanson “scores silence with words and words with silence.” This is an obvious music connection meaning. Nathanson’s poetry is music, in other words; and I suspect, his music is poetry.
Nathanson’s biggest strength as musician-poet is he takes the word seriously which is not always the case with musicians who write verse. One of the gems from the collection, “sound system” is evidence of Nathanson’s attention to craft: …Mud and shit fly/through the walls/of the day/spitting the plaster and odd bits of brain cells/ onto the mixing board.” Throughout, Nathanson is not afraid of the personal either and the political, the music of life, and the times that he is living. “extra: bombs over lebanon again” captures this sentiment when he shouts quietly the following: “Truth is nothing shines today.”
And then there is the epic, “father’s day” which brings this fine collection to an end: “…my father was not a great man, not even necessarily a good man…” Nathanson writes. This is the honestly of Nathanson’s work again that he expresses proudly in “subway moon,” a book that is a journey into music and the vision of a man.