Biographical Poetry posted October 1, 2023

This work has reached the exceptional level
Woman of Heart and Mind

Joni Mitchell

by Debbie D'Arcy

Her work, of course, has touched us all,
her songs a joy to last.
Her poetry would sway, enthrall
with mem'ries richly cast.
In Canada her life would start
but illness set her back.
Her Love for music and for art
would set her path on track.
Then off to USA she'd part
to venture Both sides now.
With folk songs etched within her heart,
she knew she'd thrive somehow.
Her style was pure and O so true
and sparked new dreams For free.
Her following with women grew -
an age less bound, they'd see.
She'd sing and share her frank belief:
I  don't know where I stand
and All I want (more fun than grief)
to find the perfect man!
And Blue would show her deeper side,
a sadness darkly raw.
With honesty she'd never hide
the beauty she still saw.
But Joni also rued the blot
her Dreamland sadly bore,
with Yellow Taxi ably shot
in satire to its core.
Then ever more she sensed the strain
of social ills and wrong.
In River she'd feel lonely pain
that echoed through her song.
But in romance her heart would soar
and words would wildly Shine.
In Case of You she yearned for more
of that sweet holy wine.
And Woodstock too she blithely praised 
a time to love, her plea -
to leave the smog, be stunned, amazed
and let one's soul fly free.
This theme would chime in many ways -
Help me would be her phrase.
This Lucky girl with starlit gaze
would shun prosaic days.
No clouds would shade her proud ascent,
her legacy so vast,
but lasting love, 'twas never meant -
she'd claim: Wild things run Fast!
And California'd be her gift
of constancy she'd own.
This flight tonight would fire and lift
her dreams of coming home.



Title description: "Woman of Heart and Mind" 1972

Roberta Joan Anderson (later assuming her first husband's name of Mitchell) was born in Alberta, Canada in 1943. She contracted polio at age 9 requiring hospitalisation. Always drawn to the arts, she struggled in school and, even in her art studies later, became disillusioned with the emphasis on technical skill over free-class creativity. Her musical acumen grew and she was performing at gigs in Canada, determined to be a folk singer. In 1965 she gave birth to a baby girl, subsequently given up for adoption. (In the late 1997, mother and daughter were reunited for the first time following the daughter's search. That reconciliation wasn't to last). She left Canada for the USA shortly after the adoption and continued her impressive musical, singing, song-writing (and much, much more) career.

Stanza 1 - Among her numerous accolades and awards, in 2002 she received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award with the citation describing her as " one of the most important female recording artists of the rock era" and a powerful influence on all artists who embrace diversity, imagination and integrity."

Stanza 2 - Love 1982 in which she compares a child's more simple love to that of herself as a woman as she "began to see through a glass darkly."

Stanza 3 - Both Sides Now 1969. There are a lot of sides to everything (love and life) but this was inspired by a line she read in a book called Henderson the Rain King when the author was flying to Africa and he said that, in an age when people could look up and down to clouds, they shouldn't be afraid to die. Clouds feature strongly in her lyrics.

Stanza 4 - For Free 1970. This song is about a New York street musician who "played real good for free."

Stanza 5 - I Don't Know where I Stand 1969 and All I Want 1971. These songs are about conflicting emotions. In the second, there is a likely consensus that her ideal man is too good to exist but it would be fun looking for him.

Stanza 6 - Blue 1971 An ode to darkness and beauty that comes from surrendering to it. She is at her most vulnerable with more honesty, strikingly expressed.

Stanza 7 - Dreamland 1975 and Big Yellow Taxi 1969. The latter was written following her 2 day visit to Honolulu where she saw the legendary landmark Pink Palace on Waikiki Beach and a tree museum that actually charged for entry!

Stanza 8 - River 1971. This is a poignant song of loneliness at Christmas. As a confessional artist, her ability to expose her deepest feelings to her audience so that they in turn could relate to them was one of her greatest skills. It also made her a particularly powerful advocate against environmental issues, wars and famine ("Ethiopia") etc.

Stanza 9 - Shine 2007 This is actually reminiscent of that Sunday School song of letting God's light shine. It was written when she was quite unwell and delirious but, is, essentially, a plea for light to shine on both the good and bad of the world. In the context of my verse, I'm referring to her shining words.
A Case of You 1971 This encompasses love in all it's complexities and disguises: "In my blood like holy wine, so bitter and so sweet." The poignancy in her lyric Oh Canada ( first words of the Canadian national anthem) reflect a love gone wrong, a kind of homesickness).

Stanza 10 - Woodstock 1969 - the festival that she never attended, left behind and heart-broken. When she then watched it on television and read about it, she was overawed by the love she saw among the people there. She felt it would never happen again. It was a unique 3 days and she felt very sorry for herself for missing them.

Stanza 11 - Help Me 1973 and Lucky Girl 1985. I think her success and doomed choices in relationships could be summed up in her lyrics: "I never loved a man I trusted/As far as I could throw my shoe." But my guess is she craved excitement too much!

Stanza 12 - Wild Things Run Fast 1982 There's more evidence here of reticent liaisons.

Stanza 13 - California 1971 and This Flight Tonight 1971. These songs resonate with going home and halting the journey. "Turn this crazy bird around/I shouldn't have got on this flight tonight."

In 2015 Joni suffered a brain aneurysm rupture which required intensive physiotherapy to help her walk again. Despite this, she has continued making guest appearances with live performances and recording up until the present day.

"I really believe that individuality, the maintenance of individuality, is so necessary to what we would call a true or lasting love, that people who say 'I love you' and then begin to do a Pygmalion number on you are wrong, you know. Love has to encompass all the things that a person is."

Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.

© Copyright 2024. Debbie D'Arcy All rights reserved.
Debbie D'Arcy has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.