friday feast: a case of joni

“I am a painter first, and a musician second.” ~ Joni Mitchell

Last Friday, writer2b featured Suzanne Vega’s song, “A Small Blue Thing.”

I had never heard it before, but I loved the lyrics, so I used them as one of my writing prompts this week. Focusing on blue made me think of Joni Mitchell, whom I consider to be the finest female singer-songwriter of our time, and it made me want to see more of her art.

I was happy to find a collection of her work online. Here are two pieces I especially like, with a song to go with them. Joni’s comment:

“This and the next drawing are of the kitchen table I had in Laurel Canyon, one done in the day and the other at night. It was a delicious room; the windows were big and the trees were quite a bit below so it was literally like living in a tree house. I’ve always been drawn to color; I had a bright blue salad bowl, a purple candlestick and very vivid hand-embroidered place mats. Everything was folk-artish as a matter of fact, so I guess my aesthetics were still quite related to folk music.”

 “Table Laurel Canyon I,” Felt pen on paper, 1969


by Joni Mitchell

Come to the dinner gong
The table is laden high
Fat bellies and hungry little ones
Tuck your napkins in
And take your share
Some get the gravy
And some get the gristle
Some get the marrow bone
And some get nothing
Though there’s plenty to spare

(Rest here.)

“Table Laurel Canyon II,” Felt pen on paper, 1969

Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten the wine. “A Case of You” is my favorite song from Blue (1971), supposedly written about Joni’s affair with Leonard Cohen. Like the rest of the album, it is personal, poetic, confessional, real and true. It always slays me.



Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
And I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid

I remember that time you told me you said
‘Love is like touching souls’
Surely you touched mine
‘Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet . . .

(Complete lyrics here, video here.)

   “Taming the Tiger,” Oil on canvas, 1997


Joni’s official website features song lyrics, a gallery of paintings, and a great timeline of her life and accomplishments.

For the full palette of today’s poems, check in with Kelly Fineman at Writing and Ruminating.

To read any of the 2008 Poetry Friday posts you may have missed on this blog, click here.

Don something blue, and have a great weekend!!


15 thoughts on “friday feast: a case of joni

  1. TadMack says: 🙂
    Wow — that first picture of her looks like an illustration of a knitting pattern. What an amazing dress! And I love her dulcimer/harp thing.
    Can’t say that I’ve ever heard any Joni Mitchell (man, poetry Friday is bringing out all of my musical deficits — from Bob Dylan to ABBA to Joni Mitchell) but I like her lyrics, and thanks for sharing them, and her artwork.


  2. My DH loves Joni Mitchell. I love her writing, but her voice, not so much. I didn’t know she painted. However, I know many musicians who do. The paintings are beautiful. Thanks for sharing again.


  3. Re: TadMack says: 🙂
    My jaw is dropping that you haven’t heard any Joni Mitchell. Maybe it’s just my age showing — not realizing the whole “younger generation” has indeed grown up to an entirely different musical canon. I’m guessing, though,that you might have heard one of her songs somewhere, sometime, maybe a cover, and you didn’t realize she was the composer.
    She played the dulcimer on “A Case of You.” And I agree; that is some dress!


  4. Your DH has excellent taste!
    Joni calls music her “day job,” and to this day, painting is her main passion.
    Funny you should mention her voice, which has changed considerably over the years (much lower now than before). She denies it’s because she started smoking at age 9.


  5. I *love* Joni Mitchell. “A Case of You” is probably my favorite song of hers, but I also love “Little Green” and “River.”
    In one of my favorite movies, “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” there’s a little tip of the hat to Joni, just shortly before Jamie and Nina break into “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.” 🙂
    I like Suzanne Vega, too.
    Fabulous post, Jama!


  6. Yes yes yes! I also love “Little Green” and “River.” I didn’t realize before that LG was written about Joni’s illegimate daughter, whom she gave up for adoption when she was 19.
    I’ll have to rent “Truly, Madly, Deeply.”


  7. I’m with Sara: write some biographies! I always learn so much when I come here. So she’s really a visual artist too? Did she really start smoking at age 9? Is that song really about Leonard Cohen? On and on…
    Wonderful post. Hard to believe this line of thought started with such a small blue thing. 🙂


  8. What a great post! I love “A Case of You” (and that whole album) and it’s so great to see her art work here.
    Jules, getting caught up on blog-reading in the early Sunday morning hours 🙂


  9. P.S. Thanks for linking to writer2b’s post. I LOVE Vega, but I don’t seem to recall that song. Will go read.


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