Our Daily Prince: Music to Move Forward With and Tanya Olsen’s Poem “54 Prince”

Apr 28th, 2016 in Music, Poetry


Since it’s Throwback Thursday, we will continue to obsess the loss of Prince.

There are various ways to make it through. On the music front, for those who love Prince’s music, we encourage you to check out Unknown Mortal Orchestra who recently Princed-up the Soho stage in Santa Barbara.  Their most recent album, Multi-Love, seems at times primarily an homage to Prince (though you will hear other influences), and their concerts repeatedly reminded of his Prince-ness. To get a feel check out below the song and Prince-influenced video for Ur Life One Night. UMO are well worth your time, and particularly when grasping for ways to move forward.

For something completely different and to help take your mind off more morose matters, check out Tawnya Olsen’s great poem 54 Prince below.  Featured in the Best American Poetry of 2015 collection, Olsen writes therein about the poem: “‘54 Prince‘ began as a high five to scientists for coming up with such an awesome term as “Goldilocks planet.” I thought the phrase gave us narrative-craving humans an immediate idea of what the planets were like but still kept them mysterious…. Why Prince? I wondered what else all these ‘good enough’ planets would need to survive. Wouldn’t life be easier if each planet had its own Prince–brilliant, a little off, possibly extraterrestrial anyway?”

We imagine Prince inhabiting heaven and holding up at least 54 planets. “There’s worries now the fish sing but there won’t be worries long.” Amen.

54 Prince

There exist 54 Goldilocks planets
54 planets not too hot
54 planets not too cold
54 planets where the living
is juuuuuust right
in that particular planetary zone

54 planets like Earth
but not Earth Similar
not the same 54 planets close
but different Different
except for Prince

Assless Pants Prince
High-Heel Boots Prince
Purple Rain Prince
Paisley Park Prince
I Would Die For You Prince
Ejaculating Guitar Prince
Jehovah’s Witness Prince
Needs A New Hip Prince
Wrote Slave On His Face Prince
Took An Unpronounceable Symbol For His Name Prince
Chka Chka Chka Ahh Prince

 54 planets each with a Prince
and every Prince
exactly the same
as the one we know on Earth
54 lace 54 canes
54 planets 54 Prince

These 54 Prince swallow 54 worries
The 54 worries become 54 songs
54 songs made of 54 bars 54 bars
using 54 chords 54 downbeats
where they pick up the worries
54 off-beats to lay the worries down again
54 worried skank-beat Prince
birth 54 worrisome funk-drenched songs

Once an Earth year the Prince
gather around Lake Minnetonka
When the cherry moon smiles
they thrust under their heads
Under the water the Prince sick up
the old worries Under the water
worry sacks rise empty again

It takes a worried man the Prince say
to sing a worried song
while beneath the surface of Lake Minnetonka
the perch in the shoals
and the gobies in their holes
nibble at the worries
our skimmed from the top worries
scraped from the bottom worries
spooned from the middle good enough worries
There’s worries now the fish sing
but there won’t be worries long”

Tanya Olson lives in Silver Spring, MD.  54 Prince was originally published in The Awl.  If you like Prince-themed poetry, support the author by buying her first book, Boyishly, which was published by YesYes Books in 2013 and won an American Book Award in 2014.

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