The Words Have Just Crawled Down My Sleeve and Come Out On the Page

Joan Baez? Phillip L. Berman? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: An artist who is crafting a powerful song, poem, or story may feel a lack of control. The mind and body are simply operating as a channel for the emergence of the work. A songwriter once made this point by saying something like:

The lyrics moved down my arm and came out on the page.

Would you please help me to find out precisely what was said and who said it?

Quote Investigator: The activist singer-songwriter Joan Baez wrote a statement of this type in the 1985 book “The Courage of Conviction” which contained essays from a variety of influential figures. The editor Phillip L. Berman explained the blueprint for the collection: 1

I invited prominent men and women from all walks of life to answer the questions “What do you believe?” and “How, emphasizing your occupation(s), have you put those beliefs into action?”

The essay by Joan Baez discussed her motivations and her inspirations: 2

For me, there is no separation between my spiritual and metaphysical beliefs and my ideological and political beliefs. When I’m trying to decide what direction to take in my life, for example, I go to a Quaker meeting and wait for direction—or perhaps it would be better to say search for direction.
. . .

Whether it is political action or artistic creation, it must be the same process. It seems to me that of those songs that have been any good, I have not had much to do with the writing of them. The words have just crawled down my sleeve and come out on the page.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Words Have Just Crawled Down My Sleeve and Come Out On the Page

Notes:

  1. 1985, The Courage of Conviction, Edited by Phillip L. Berman, Section: Introduction, Start Page xiii, Quote Page xiv, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1985, The Courage of Conviction, Edited by Phillip L. Berman, Section: Joan Baez (born 1941), Start Page 14, Quote Page 16, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. (Verified with scans)