Looking at Nina Simone’s statue in downtown Tryon, I recite the end of Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem, “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” which reads, “for here there is no place / that does not see you. You must change your life.” Rilke wrote the poem while staring, entranced, at a headless statue from Auguste Rodin that dazzled him to the point of imperative transformation. Now, almost exactly one hundred years later, I am standing in front of the eight-foot bronze statue of Nina Simone.
I find most of the music I really love through books or stories about it online; I found Nina Simone through Joyce Maynard’s book Where Love Goes. As with everything Maynard writes, the book isn’t great but parts of it are. It was a review copy sent to the paper where I worked; I ripped out the pages I liked and kept them. They’re in a box somewhere. Maynard’s main character loves Nina Simone, and since I loved the character, I went looking for what she loved.
(I found Leonard Cohen through fanfiction, read him as a poet before I heard him sing.)
The first time I heard Sinnerman I listened to it on repeat for four days. Then I watched the documentary about her life, I watched her interviews, I watched every performance I could find. We find the words we need when we need them and oh, we are going to the devil and he is waiting.