Sunday, December 23, 2007

Another birthday for Robert Bly

And his birthday seems as good a time as any to mention that he'll be back in Asheville on the 28th of March, this time performing with the musicians of Free Planet Radio. This Asheville world fusion group includes bassist Eliot Wadopian (just now back from his annual Solstice performances with the Paul Winter Consort, the group with whom, I believe, he won the first of his Grammys), percussionist River Guerguerian, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Rosser.

Bly will be reading from his love poetry in this performance; the program's being titled "Awakened Heart: An Evening of Love Poetry and World Music". It'll be held at the acoustically splendid Diana Wortham Theater downtown.

Marshall's fascinating Prama Institute is once again sponsoring this springtime foray by Bly down from the northern plains, his home country, into the southern Smokies. The Institute brought him down this past spring for his first Asheville reading, which proved to be a fine event, indeed. We featured significant portions of it on Wordplay in June.

More, of course, as we approach the occasion.


Thanks to the Diana Wortham page for this event for the image.

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Jessica's Bird-Book

Jessica Smith has reprinted her bird-book: it's $5 at jsspoet.etsy.c

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Some Steve Kimock

(Experimenting with Playlists, still looking for a way to get audio files onto Blogger)



Update: Sorry about the autostart "feature"; I'm looking through the Playlist FAQ in search of a way to disable it in Blogger. So far no luck, and there's no apparent switch in the HTML code.

Further update: Fixed; it's a switch in the code generator over at the Playlist site. Not sure that this app will resolve the issue I thought it might, though - at least until I upload the audio files I'd like to offer to another Internet host, so the Playlist search engine can find them; users can't directly upload audio to Playlist.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

If you want to drive Ron Silliman crazy ...

go read this consideration of Ed Dorn's late work by Dale Smith.

(As Ron says, "He’s ba-ack!" To which I should just say, of course!)

(And thanks, Ron, for the link.)

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Now on Wordplay: Nan Watkins translates Yvan Goll

This week on Wordplay, translator Nan Watkins shares her work on Alsatian poet Yvan Goll. Goll helped define Surrealism, and wrote some of the most enduring poetry to spring from that movement, though little of it has appeared in English. Nan's been working on Goll's last book, Das Traumkraut (she translates the title as The Dream Weed), and, after we review the basic contours of his work and the lineaments of his life, reads from her fresh, and often stunning, versions.

The show's rebroadcast streams Tuesday at 6:00 pm and Wednesday at 7:00 am - but the show is available 24/7 from the station archive page as both a stream and podcast.

Definitely worth a listen.

Update: The translations from Das Traumkraut that Watkins read during our interview are, sadly, for the most part not yet in print - though a few, as she mentions, appear in the new issue of the Asheville Poetry Review.

Watkins has published other translations of Goll, though, and of Claire Goll, including those in 10,000 Dawns (published in 2004), on which she collaborated with Thomas Rain Crowe.


The photo of Goll comes from Yes, there's a site for everything on this ole internet thingy.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Golden Compass

MSNBC's review this morning calls The Golden Compass "a breathtakingly exciting creation of a thrilling universe and its characters." And it's very good, a beautifully realized fantasy. Nicole Kidman "oozes old-school Hollywood glamour", indeed, but Dakota Blue Richards (seen in the photo above), who plays the protagonist, does a fabulous job with her role as well.

I haven't read the book, so won't comment on the controversy surrounding the portrayal of the sinister hegemonic entity against which Richards' character struggles. Film has massive power of suggestion and implication, though, and I'm not sure what would have been gained by explicit reference to that entity as "the church".

The animation of the personal "dæmons", or spirit animals, is wonderfully done; it occurred to me as I was leaving (disappointed that the movie wasn't going to last another three or four hours), that it probably wouldn't have been possible to produce this film until the last fews years' advances in computer animation. The dæmons were the first hint that we weren't simply in a period costume drama, and they were so beautifully brought to life that I quickly accepted them into the cosmological frame of things, just another dimension of the narrative.

This one's worth the trip to your local theater to see on the big screen. In fact, I hope the cast and crew are already filming the sequel; I'd hate to have to wait three years for the continuation of this particular adventure.


Update: Well, okay, I guess I will wade into one part of the debate over this film after all. Maria over at Crooked Timber, who has read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, on the first volume of which The Golden Compass is based, didn't much care for the film. She's particularly disturbed that the Magisterium is not specifically portrayed as religious, that the hegemony isn't explicitly a theocratic power; along the way she says this is important because
Life in a theocracy means everyone – not just members of the Communist party or the military junta – must live out the philosophy of the rulers every day of their lives. There is a peculiarity to a complete absence of the separation of church and state that doesn’t prevail in a communist or a fascist state. When there is no distinction between religious and secular power, it’s not enough to obey the rules, you have to believe in them, too.
The same requirement of belief, though, can obtain even in secular totalitarian states that have ostensibly eliminated religion. In such a state, the good citizen believes in the "new [insert name of preferred ideology here] man/woman", the "triumph of the proletariat", or some other historical apotheosis; if one fails at this, there are "re-education camps" to bring one around. The type of coercion of faith she sees as the primary theme of The Golden Compass, and His Dark Materials as a whole, certainly isn't limited to theocracies.

She does note, somewhat plaintively, that "public atheist Pullman says he isn’t perturbed at all by the complete excision of theocratic corruption in the film because all forms of totalitarianism are the same." Unhappily for Maria, the author is, I think, right in this belief.

Still, her post does make me think it might, perhaps, be worthwhile to read the series after all. No doubt I'll have plenty of time before the next volume shows up on the old silver screen.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Beowulf: What the lady said ...

The lady, in this case, being Jessica Smith (sorry, no direct link, as the blog of Jessica's you'd find this at is private) :

Yes, Beowulf in 3-D kicks ass

Saw Beowulf in 3-D (at an Imax theatre)... it was awesome. Yeah, ok, it's not Mulholland Drive, not "history-making film," but 3-D? Beowulf? It's exactly as cool as you think it will be, if not cooler. Plus, it made me want to go reread the book. Any movie that makes you want to go read or reread the book...
I had the same impulse after I saw it, and dug out my copy of Seamus Heaney's translation.

Photo: Ray Winstone as Beowulf and Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother in Beowulf.
Photo © Paramount Pictures.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

It's the birthday ...

of Joseph Conrad, born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski on December 3, 1857 in Polish Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire.

Some thirty-six of Conrad's works are available for free at Project Guttenberg, many as audio files as well as texts.

(Perhaps I'd someday finish Nostromo if I were listening to it ...)

Update: The complete works are available as free eBooks at the University of Adelaide's eBook site.

Photo of Conrad in 1916 by Alvin Langdon Coburn

Thanks to Silliman for the first link.

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