Monday, May 26, 2008

Now on NatureS ...

New posts about Wordplay now go up on the station blog and at NatureS; I've become the only one writing them, for now, and just want to simplify my blog life.

I've been exploring options for our permanent Archive, and will probably post a note here when it's up; it very much is in the works.


Monday, April 21, 2008

A Feast of Words

Hard to believe that we're now only a week away from Wordfest, the new Asheville poetry festival. It hits the stage - or one of its stages - this coming Thursday, April 24th, with a 7:00 performance by Patricia Smith and Rick Chess at UNCA's Humanities Lecture Hall. It should be an interesting event, given the distance between the writing & performance styles of the two featured poets; Patricia comes from the world of the slam, and Rick from the halls of the university.

That difference, of course, is precisely the point, a signal of the range of poets and poetries the festival means to include.

The whole thing grew out of a series of conversations over coffee at Malaprops, Asheville's great independent bookstore, following Wordplay shows early last year. Laura Hope-Gill, then a Wordplay host, and Jim Navé, of the Writing Salon, had fond memories of the first Asheville Poetry Festivals, held for a few years in the early 1990s - festivals that I had missed - had been, in fact, only vaguely aware of. Those festivals had grown out of the slam scene in Asheville, a scene in which I hadn't been involved, and had found, given the directions my own work was then taking, of little interest. Some poets of real energy and authentic voice, though, had emerged from that scene, including Laura herself, and her good friend (and also occasional Wordplay host) Glenis Redmond. The longer we talked, the more our conversation turned to creating a festival anew, one that would honor all the approaches to poetry we'd variously come to enjoy and understand, that had come to have place in our community. You won't find it anywhere in the festival materials now, but when we initially tried to define a statement of intent for the festival, the phase we came up with was "echo and reach"; we wanted to honor the history of the arts of language in these mountains, home through the centuries to Cherokee singers and to the poets of Black Mountain College, to ballad singers and to beats, slam masters and professors of writing. Over the months we talked with our friends and fellow poets, and gradually came up with a list of poets we believed covered, if not the full range of activity we might wish to honor, a pretty decent part of it.

Here's the schedule:


Thursday April 24 7:00 pm UNC-A Humanities Lecture Hall


Friday April 25 7:00 pm UNC-A Humanities Lecture Hall


Re-Opening the Green Door: a Retrospective of the 1990’s Performance Poetry Scene
Friday April 25 10:00 pm Malaprops Bookstore/café corner of Walnut and Haywood St.


Saturday April 26 2:00 pm The Fine Arts Theater 36 Biltmore Avenue


Saturday April 25 4:00 pm Malaprops Bookstore/café


Saturday April 26 7:00 pm UNC-A Humanities Lecture Hall


Saturday April 26 10:00 pm Bobo Gallery on Lexington Avenue


12:00 noon. 109 Roberts St. at corner of Clingman and Roberts by the river.


This History Isn’t Closed: A Protospective of The Black Mountain College Legacy: Sunday April 27 2:00 pm Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center


Sunday April 27 7:00 pm Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center, 56 Broadway in downtown Asheville.

There's more information over at the festival website.

Glenis, Rick, Navé and I will also be providing workshops in various approaches to poetry; mine will focus, as you might suspect, on writing about or from what we usually call "Nature". More on those workshops in another post.

Come out if you can to catch us all at work, doing what we love most to do, celebrating language of the mind, heart and imagination.

Thanks to Megan McKissack for creating the festival poster.


Cross-posted at NatureS.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

features Chattanooga poet Chad Prevost, author of Snapshots of the Vanishing World (out from Cherry Grove Press in 2006) and Chasing the Gods, a chapbook (Pudding House, 2007). It was a fun show, and Chad read several of his hilarious new mock-autobiographical prose pieces. It'll be available as online stream and podcast from the WPVM archive page through Sunday, tomorrow.

I'm still going through recordings for tomorrow's show, but it will feature Jonathan Williams, who passed on last Sunday night at the age of 79.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

All the hits ...

Some Sundays Wordplay is the high point of my week - we'll have a guest whose work provides unexpected pleasures, or who's really on and leads us into great conversations or a happenstance collaboration. There are many ways it can exhilarate and delight.

So it was great to learn tonight at the monthly WPVM staff meeting that in the latest reporting period, Wordplay's podcasts got over 5000 hits, which makes it one of the station's most popular downloads.

It seems that some folks out there in cyber-radioland enjoy the show, too. Thanks.

We've got some fine programs coming up, including readings and interviews with poet and translator Coleman Barks, and poets Ross Gay and Jonathan Williams. Sebastian and I are both working with our former co-host Laura Hope-Gill to produce the upcoming Asheville Wordfest 2008 poetry festival, and we'll be recording many of the readings and performances it'll bring to town for future shows.

So, keep coming back, whoever you are; we'll certainly try to make it worth your time.


Up this week: Thomas Rain Crowe, reading from his recent collection Radiogenesis, and Blaise Ellery, a young poet from Black Mountain whom Thomas said "stole the show". See what you think; it's available as a stream or, of course, podcast, from the station archive page (just scroll down).

Cross-posted at NatureS.

Friday, February 22, 2008

NatureS on the air, now, actually

Well, last week’s show with Lori Hovitz was permanently lost in the aether, but the show from the week before, in which I give my first reading of NatureS, to the delight, amusement, and/or consternation and utter bafflement of an audience at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, back in April, 2006, is now actually up, ready to be streamed or podcast from the WPVM Archive page. Enjoy.

This week (2:00 Sunday) we’re hosting the very literate singer/songwriter Angela Faye Martin, who’s said she’s bringing her guitar.

(We do like to mix things up.)


Cross-posted at NatureS.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wordplay, Mercury retrograde edition, part 2

Today's show with Lori Horvitz was really fun, had a great spontaneous flow, and Lori read some material from her memoir-in-progress that included really well-observed scenes and stories of some wonderful encounters - I especially enjoyed those that included her father. Unfortunately, if you didn't hear it live, you never will. Once again the WPVM archiving system failed to record the show, and neither Sebastian nor I, sadly, had brought a blank CD to use in the low-tech, but mostly reliable, back-up system. So it's gone, sound waves dissipated into the atmosphere.

My apologies to Lori; we'll have her back on the show and do it all again just as soon as her schedule and the show's permit.

After the show I poked around and found another issue: the automated FTP upload for last week's show had also gone awry, and the show never uploaded to the site from which it podcasts and streams. In fact, it's impossible to tell now when the last show uploaded. So we'll be talking again to WPVM's beleaguered manager about how we can fix the latest round of glitches, and make as certain as possible that they won't occur in the future.

At least until Mercury once again goes retrograde.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

This week on Wordplay: Natures

This week’s show, still available via stream or podcast from the WPVM archive page, features my debut reading of NatureS from April, 2006. The reading took place at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, and I talked a bit about the Black Mountain poets, especially Creeley, and my sense of their relevance to my own work. I also wanted to speak to the poetics that informs the work, and so spent probably too much time talking about parataxis, as practiced particularly by Robin Blaser, and about Novalis, whose Encyclopedia explores the identity of the character each of us calls “I” in a way that remains useful some two hundred years, now, further on.

Listening to the recording for the first time just ten or twelve days ago, I realized that I had seriously mangled my recapitulation of Creeley’s accounting of the argument between Wittgenstein and Russell. Wittgenstein refused to agree with Russell’s assertion that there was no rhinoceros in the room, and Russell, so the story goes, tried to prove to him empirically that, in fact, no such creature was around; he looked under tables and chairs, and so on. My telling scrambles Wittgenstein’s position, and so obscures the import of the whole argument - and, sadly, likewise obscures the humor of the situation as legend tells us it unfolded. When Creeley told the story, he managed to keep that humor. My apologies to Bob’s spirit, and to any who might listen to this version, for getting things scrambled in my jangled brain that night.

We don’t offer feature our own work on Wordplay, but we had a week with no guest on board, and I’d been having difficulties cleaning up a noisy recording of Jonathan Williams that I wanted to air, … so there it is. Enjoy. We’ll hopefully be able to include the Williams reading in a future show.

Update: Coming up Sunday (or Monday via on-demand stream and podcast), Lori Horvitz.

Cross-posted at NatureS.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

This week: Ed Dorn

Thanks to Donald Allen's 1960 New American Poetry, Ed Dorn is still primarily known as a Black Mountain College poet. After his years at the college, though, he went on to become one of the foremost poets of the American West, in all its dimensions. This week's Wordplay features Dorn reading two works that helped to define that legacy: Idaho Out and Recollections of Gran Apacheria.

The Idaho Out opened a 1962 reading, probably in Albuquerque (Robert Creeley, who'd been his Examiner at Black Mountain, introduces him, and Creeley was then, I believe, still teaching in New Mexico). Dorn followed it with an equally spirited take on "From Gloucester Out", but I decided to save that poem for another show so that I could fit the second reading, from April 19, 1974, in Buffalo, into our hour. This reading was one of the first to which I lugged my trusty Uher reel-to-reel; I set up on Dorn's right, fairly close to the front of the room, and held the single mic in my hand (no mic stands in those days, so I could travel light) for the duration. I also managed to shoot several photos of Dorn as he read; I've posted them over at Facebook (that's the public link), and will probably upload them to Flickr also.

Before he read Recollections that night, he read a few short selections from the later books of Gunslinger, whose conclusion hadn't yet been published. I omitted those from the show in order to include all of Recollections - or all I had; back in those days of reel-to-reels, I always had to keep my fingers crossed that one five inch tape would make it all the way through a reading. That night it didn't, not quite: the end of the tape slipped through the capstan and across the heads just before Dorn spoke the last few words of the final poem. I supplied those for the show.

The readings are both now available online, the 1962 reading at the Slought Foundation, and the 1974 reading at PennSound; I uploaded it a few years ago to The Factory School site, and it somehow made its way across Philadelphia to PennSound. Ah, the wonders of the internet.

The music I played to open the show was "Apache", by The Shadows; I found it at YouTube. That's also where I found Vaughn Monroe's version of "Ghost Riders in the Sky", which led into the break. Leading into Recollections, and then out of the show, are short sections of two cuts from the Peter Kater/R. Carlos Nakai collaboration Natives, as haunting, and haunted, as the West which they echo.



Photo: Ed Dorn reading in Buffalo, April 19, 1974.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A new year for Wordplay ...

Behind the scenes ... er, no, I should use a less visual metaphor. How about "off-mic?" As, something that happens in a radio studio that the audience never hears. If you've listened to Wordplay, you know that it's been a half-hour show for that past two and a half seasons. For the last several months, though, I've been gently nudging the powers that be at WPVM, Wordplay's home, to let us go to a longer format, one that would allow us to play more of pre-recorded events, and to entice our live authors into stretching out, telling us more about what they're up to. And now all the off-mic activity is about to be audible indeed.

Beginning Sunday, January 13th, Wordplay will be moving two hours up on the station program schedule, to 2:00 PM, and going to a full hour format. Woohoo!

Sebastian and I have already been recording additional material with some of the guests we've had on the show this fall, and booking new guests who'll fit much more comfortably into the hour format. The show should be a bit more spontaneous, and we plan to enrich and vary its sonic collage more than we've had the simple time to to this point. We believe you'll find the shows even more interesting, more engaging, than the ones we've produced so far.


There have been several requests for a replay of the early November show which featured the work of William Matthews, Sebastian's father and my friend during my last year in Chapel Hill; this week it's available again from the station's archive page as a stream or podcast.

This coming Sunday we'll take a look back at a few of the fine moments from 2007 with a show that features poems by a diverse crew, including Robert Bly, Fred Chappell, Cathy Smith Bowers, Matthews, and Matthew Dickman.

And let me be the thousandth person so far to wish you a Happy New Year. Onward!


Radio image from Travel Talk Radio Network's site.

Cross-posted at NatureS