William Carlos Williams' Paterson: Episode 17 ("beat hell out of it, beautiful thing") is the inspiration for the title. However, my composition is really inspired by the small upstate town of Hudson, New York.
This little town on the banks of the Hudson River about a two hour train ride from New York City, is presently at 7000 people, but despite its small size Hudson has led a very out-sized life. From it's founding by Quakers in the late 17th century, a center of whaling activity, almost becoming the capitol of New York State (missed it by one vote), the 8th largest city in the US by 1790 (the 4th largest in NY as late as 1820), and famous in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century, as THE notorious center of vice, especially gambling and prostitution, in the Northeast. Described very colorfully in Bruce Edward Hall's book, Diamond Street: The Story of the Little Town with the Big Red Light District, those rackets were mostly broken up in 1951 after surprise raids of Hudson whorehouses by then-Attorney General Thomas Dewey and the State Police netted many people including several local policemen. After a serious decline in the 60s and 70s, Hudson, which boasts the "finest dictionary of American architecture in New York State," underwent a major revival with the renovation of many houses and buildings and now boasts a wonderfully active arts scene, many antique shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
Beautiful thing (she has no actual name, just this honorific), the protagonist of the William Carlos Williams' poem, is a woman "first beat up then molested in the course of a three-day drunken debauch." Despite her difficult life, she does possess a spirit which cannot be taken away from her and while reading the poem, I thought of many similarities between "Beautiful Thing" and an imagined prostitute early in Hudson's history. Proposing the idea to Joy, we worked together on a possible "story" of a young woman without many opportunities or choices, who despite having to sell herself is "waiting for a wonderful moment" that will lead her to her dream of the "great glittering world down the mighty river."