Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Wordplay Archive

Wordplay is on sabbatical for now, as I note below.* I will, however, continue to upload older shows to the Wordplay Archive at Most of 2008's and 2009's shows are now up, and many of 2007's, but there are raw recordings of many from 2006 as well, and I'll be editing those into podcasts in the coming weeks.

As of now, the shows below are available in the Archive.

(Note: Before 2008, shows were thirty minutes long; shows broadcast in
2008 and after are an hour long. Clicking on the date will take you to the .mp3 file for the specified show, clicking on "(production note)", where that's an option, will take you to the original Natures note about the show, where you'll often find information about the music used and other bits of incidental intelligence. The note, though, will also contain the original link to the program on the station's server; shows stayed on that server for only two weeks, so those links have long since been broken.)

Enjoy, and thanks for listening.


September 3, 2006, featured Laura Hope-Gill and Sebastian Matthews


February 11,2007 featured John Crutchfield

March 18, 2007 featured Laura Hope-Gill discussing her work with alchemy.

April 29, 2007 Laura Hope-Gill and I read and discussed the work of Robert Bly

May 27, 2007 featured Samuel Adams

June 10, 2007 featured Robert Bly reading at UNCA (production note)

June 17, 2007 featured Keith Flynn

July 1, 2007 featured Allan Wolf

October 14, 2007 featured Gary Hawkins

October 28, 2007 featured archival recordings of Walt Whitman, Alfred Tennyson, and other old masters

November 4, 2008 featured Buffalo poet Jessica Smith (production note)

November 11, 2007 featured recordings of William Matthews

November 18, 2007 featured Robert Morgan (production note)

December 2, 2007 featured Laura Hope-Gill

December 9, 2007 featured Nan Watkins presenting her translations of Yvan Goll (production note)

December 16, 2007 featured Mara Simmons

December 23, 2007 featured Laura Hope-Gill reading "A Child's Christmas in Wales"


January 13, 2008 featured Ed Dorn (production note)

January 20, 2008 featured Katherine Min

January 27, 2008 featured Gary Hawkins and Landon Godfrey

February 3, 2008 featured Sebastian Matthews and Dick Barnes

February 17, 2008, featured my April, 2006 reading for the publication of Natures

February 24, 2008 featured the very literate singer-songwriter Angela Faye Martin

March 2, 2008 featured Thomas Rain Crowe reading from Radiogenesis, and young poet Blaise Ellery

March 9, 2008 featured Chattanooga poet Chad Prevost (production note)

March 23, 2008 featured Jonathan Williams reading at Sylva's City Lights Books in May of 2005 (production note)

April 7, 2008 featured Galway Kinnell reading at Breadloaf in 2002

April 13, 2008 featured Laura Hope-Gill reading new work and pitching on the pledge drive show

May 25, 2008 featured Ross Gay in an interview with Joanna Cooper, and reading at Asheville's Malaprops Books (production note)

June 1, 2008 featured Coleman Barks performing at the Fine Arts Theater in April, 2008 (production note)

June 8, 2008 featured Wayne Caldwell, author of Cataloochee

June 15, 2008 featured archival recordings of Robert Creeley, including some recorded at Black Mountain College.

June 29, 2008 featured Nan Watkins presenting her translations of Yvan Goll - the extended edition (production note)

July 6, 2008 featured Landon Godfrey (production note)

July 13, 2008 featured Chall Gray

July 20, 2008 featured Jeffery Beam (production note)

August 3, 2008 featured Ken Rumble (production note)

August 10, 2008 Columbia, S.C., novelist Jenna McMahan visited Wordplay to discuss and read from her fun, insightful coming-of-age novel Calling Home . The show featured tunes by Van Halen and even Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" - probably the only time that song has been played at WPVM. What can I say? Are there any coming-of-age stories set after 1960 in which sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll don't play a major part? They certainly do in this one.

August 17, 2008 Long-time co-host Sebastian Matthews returned to host a show that featured recent work and recent reading.

August 24, 2008, featured Laura Hope-Gill (production note)

August 31, 2008, featured Glenis Redmond (production note)

September 7, 2008, featured Thomas Meyer (production note).

September 14, 2008 Asheville poet Pat Riviere-Seel dropped by to share recent work and read from her upcoming book, The Serial Killer's Daughter. A Little-Known Fact: Pat was on the original enormous Wordplay production team.

September 28, 2008 Sebastian Matthews again hosted.

October 5, 2008 Wordplay regular Rose McLarney returned to share recent work and discuss her adventures in and out of creative writing programs.

October 12, 2008 Lee Ann Brown returned to Wordplay to give us a look at her recent work. Another Little-Known Fact: Lee Ann was the "guest" on the demo of Wordplay submitted to WPVM's Programming Committee way back when (production note)

November 2, 2008 Lee Ann returned with British Columbia poet Peter Culley, who was completing a residency at Marshall's French Broad Institute of Time and the River.

November 9, 2008 This show featured a reading Peter Culley gave in Marshall a few days before, and some archival recordings of the modernist great, Ezra Pound (production note)

November 16, 2008 Sebastian Matthews, Landon Godfrey, Laura Hope-Gill, Glenis Redmond and I celebrated the women of Black Mountain College, including poet Denise Levertov.

November 23, 2008 Bob and Arlene Winkler dropped by to discuss their RiverSculpture project, and to introduce the Asheville reading by poet Mark Strand that they'd sponsored (production note)

December 14, 2008 North Carolina Poet-Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer, featured in a reading from early 2008 at the Asheville Art Museum (production note)

December 21, 2008 The extraordinary Robert Bly reading -... er, performing would be more accurate - at the Diana Wortham Theater with the Asheville world-music trio Free Planet Radio, and discussing his translations of Hafez, his trip to Iran with Coleman Barks, and other wonders. (production note)

December 28, 2008 Laura Hope-Gill, Sebastian Matthews, and Glenis Redmond dropped in for a lively show featuring their own work, the upcoming WordFest, and Sebastian's new plan for his magazine Rivendell (production note)


January 11, 2009 Tim Peeler surprised me by bringing the one-of-a-kind mythographer Ted Pope along, and we had a hoot talking about ancient Egypt, Antarctica, and baseball (production note)

February 15, 2009 featured Jargonaut Thomas Meyer reading his elegy for Jonathan Williams, part of which has now been published as Kintsugi (production note)

March 1, 2009 Asheville Novelist Wayne Caldwell returned to share parts of Cataloochee and his unpublished new novel, Requiem By Fire, which should appear in 2010.

March 8, 2009 Hendersonville storyteller Karen Eve Bayne graced the show with her stories and stories about her stories, and made a pitch, too, for the Do Tell Festival of poetry and stories coming up on July 11th in Hendersonville.

March 22, 2009 featured Hickory poet Scott Owens.

March 29, 2009 New Hampshire poet Mimi White, down south to flyfish in the Davidson River, dropped by the studio to share her work, and to talk about poets, dogs, and other complex life forms.

April 5, 2009 Landon Godfrey, Gary Hawkins, Steve and I all weighed into a discussion of "nature" and what that term might mean for poetry, and read some "nature" poems by poets from Wordsworth to Frank O'Hara.

April 19, 2009, our Easter show, featured a reading by the late Sage of Scaly Mountain, Jonathan Williams, from 1981 (production note)

April 26, 2009 Performance poet Patricia Smith visited the studio last spring to talk about her work with Glenis Redmond, Sebastian Matthews, and me, just a few hours before her reading at Wordfest 2008 (production note)

May 17, 2009 The last show for Wordplay at its old home featured great Canadian/New American poet Robin Blaser reading in 1965 and 2004, and discussing his work in a BBC interview from 1994 (production note)

As always, more to come ...


*11 September, 2009, update: Wordplay begins its fifth season this Sunday with a program featuring Black Mountain poet Charles Olson and Charles Boer, Olson's student, friend, and, after Olson's death in 1970, his executor. The program's now at, and airs at 6:00 PM.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

"We had to destroy the town ..."

One of the most memorable chunks of language to surface from slimy pit of the Vietnam War was the statement attributed to an anonymous U.S. Air Force Major by AP war correspondent Peter Arnett after the destruction of Ben Tre, a town of 65,000 people: "it became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it" - or, as it's usually paraphrased "we had to destroy the town in order to save it." Well, folks, the management of the Mountain Area Information Network, license-holder for WPVM, ought to issue a like statement after the actions of its Executive Director, Wally Bowen, last week.

The station had been bleeding volunteers, and the original programming they produced, ever since Bowen's heavy-handed intrusion into station management last fall, and Bowen effectively eliminated the rest of WPVM's original schedule last week by forcing all volunteers to re-apply, and then denying the applications of all those whom he deemed undesirable for whatever reason. Those undesirables included virtually all of the station's remaining on-air hosts.

One of the shows so canceled, sadly, was Wordplay. I'd anticipated Bowen would take this step at some point, given that he'd included me as one of nine (later ten) volunteers he'd "disinvited" from the station a few months ago. All the ten, curiously, had been among the group that had actually kept the station on the air after the station manager had resigned last September, or had been among the volunteers who had had the temerity to approach MAIN's feckless board with a plan to reorganize the station and structure its relationship with its parent organization during the winter. Funny about that. I figured I had till Asheville Wordfest, the poetry festival that grew out of Wordplay (but which Bowen now touts as "an outreach project of the Mountain Area Information Network" on its Facebook page) had become history, since he'd probably not want to blow a hole in the festival's ranks until after it was over. For whatever reason, that proved to be exactly right.

I'd planned to take a sabbatical this summer, in any case, to travel and do some recording for future shows, so I'll begin it a little earlier than I'd planned. I've offered apologies to guests whom I had already booked, and regrets that we won't get to do those live shows just yet.

While it's too soon to say more, I believe there's a very good chance that Wordplay will once again bring poetry "to the airwaves and the ether" in the near future, and I certainly look forward to it.

Thanks, as always, for listening.

And stay tuned for more.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Celebrating Robin Blaser (updated)

On May 7th Robin Blaser, one of the last major figures among those who came to public notice via Don Allen's New American Poetry, passed away in Vancouver, just shy of 84. Though he will forever be associated with Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer as a primary figure in the renaissance of San Francisco poetry in the late forties and early fifties, he also recognized affinities between their work and that of Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, and the other Black Mountain poets. His 1987 lectures on Olson are a rich resource for Olson's poetics, and his own. He and Creeley were friends from the sixties till Creeley's death in 2005. He taught at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC, for many years, and also occasionally at Naropa's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

(An earlier post on his passing is here.)

I never successfully recorded Robin myself; both times I tried, my usually trusty Uher developed problems. Thankfully, the great Penn Sound audio archive has hours of readings and lectures in his voice, so I put together this week's Wordplay from three of its recordings. The first finds him reading in Vancouver in 1965; the second, discussing his work, and that of his fellows, in a BBC interview with Iain Sinclair from 1994; the third, reading at Milwaukee's Woodland Pattern Bookstore in 2004.

In Vancouver he read "The Moth Poem", an early exploration of serial form; it's a great poem, but the recording, given that it was made on analogue tape over forty years ago (probably by Fred Wah, though he's not credited), had some hiss that I removed for better audibility. In Milwaukee, Blaser began his reading with the introductory section of his extended poem on Dante, then switched to shorter poems, and then returned to the "Great Companions" piece on Dante, saying he hadn't "prepared anything else". I brought the two pieces together for the show. It's a powerful reading.

Music for the show by Bach (the Allegro and Adagio from the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 2 in E Major, performed by the Camerata Romana, conducted by Eugene Duvier); the Kronos Quartet, playing Jimi Hendrix' "Purple Haze"; and Olivier Messiaen, "Praise Eternity" from the Quartet for the End of Time, performed by the Orchestre de l'Opera Bastille, Myung-Whun Chung conductor. The Quartet was one of Robin's favorite pieces of music in the mid-seventies, when I had the good fortune to be at least a peripheral* participant in the continual commotion that was Vancouver poetry scene - at the epicenter of which, I believe most then there would say, stood Robin Blaser.


* I actually lived most of the time not in Vancouver, but in Alert Bay, a fishing village a day's journey north. Anyone curious can glean a little of what I was up to from this post from a few years ago.

Uncredited photo from a collection of shots from Blaser's Berkeley years over at the EPC.

Update, 23 May, 2009: And it turns out that this was the last Wordplay - for awhile, at least. See the story here.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Political Animals

Way back in January 2008, in the midst of the presidential campaign, I put a link away in a draft post thinking I'd get to it in a few days ... And now that political season is long past, we're through the dismal Bush years (even if Dick "Darth" Cheney is still on the airwaves defending torture at every opportunity, working on that long-range plan to save himself and his buddies from the extended jail time they deserve), and the hook of the story is way out of date. It's a good story, though, by NY Times science writer Natalie Angier, a reminder that politics - the disposition to make fundamental decisions in groups - is, after all, something we share with lots of other members of the animal, er, kingdom. So check it out. We're always, after all, in a political season.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Another Scorpio becomes an astrologer...

Jessica Smith, since the beginning of her Saturn return, has become more than a little interested in astrology. She's got a nice post up on the secrets of the Scorpio heart over at looktouch.

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A Wordfest Wordplay

Wordfest was still underway, and I had to record the 3:00 o'clock reading at Malaprops, so last Sunday I replayed a show featuring Wordfest director Laura Hope-Gill. Recorded in August of 2008, it featured Sebastian Matthews as host (he'd just returned from a summer spent mostly in the northeast) and Abby Wendle, then an intern for Wordplay, now a student at the Columbia University School of Journalism (congratulations, Abby). It was a fun show, with lots of sometimes goofy spontaneous banter, and some fine work from Laura, as well.


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Friday, May 08, 2009

Robin Blaser, 1925-2009

Sad news last night via the Buffalo Poetics list that Robin Blaser had passed away. He was one of the last great figures of the generation that pioneered the "New American Poetry" in the 1950s, and after. His collected poems, The Holy Forest, is a major achievement, and his readings and talks on poetry, many of them happily preserved by his long-time friend Robert Creeley, reveal a profound critical intelligence and a vision of amazing breadth.

Simon Fraser University, where he taught for much of his life, routinely taped lectures back in the seventies so they'd be available to students who had missed class, etc.; a few years back I tried to find out if the university had preserved any of the tapes of Robin's lectures on mythology, a signal moment in my own education. I never reached anyone who knew anything about them, and fear they were probably taped over long ago. Luckily, Warren Tallman did record some of Blaser's informal talks; transcriptions of parts of them are included in Miriam Nichols' Even on Sunday.

Blaser also literally preserved (as in, in boxes, in his basement) much of Jack Spicer's work, and his Collected Books of Jack Spicer, published in 1975, opened Spicer's work to a new generation of poets.

Adios, amigo.


Photo of Blaser by Kenneth Tarrant, from 1993.
There are some fine photos of Blaser during his Berkeley years here.

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