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