‘Tis the season for literary bloggers to write about the best things they read this year. But in my case, much of my most interesting reading is out loud, in nightly Skype calls with Rachel Rawlins. Usually I’m the reader, but sometimes she is able to get an electronic version of whatever it is we’re reading and we take turns. I thought it might be fun to record us talking about what we liked and didn’t like this year (though Rachel had her doubts that anyone else would care). Here are the main books we talked about:
“What I love more than anything in life,” Will says at one point, “is to have interesting conversations.” I couldn’t agree more. This conversation was definitely a high point of my two weeks in the U.K.
On my visit to the U.K. last spring, I arranged to meet with the novelist and philosopher Will Buckingham in a restaurant near the Birmingham train station on my way from Aberystwyth to London. I’m a long-time reader of his blog ThinkBuddha (and more recently of his personal blog) and a fan of his first novel, Cargo Fever. So knowing that he was a guy with wide-ranging interests and a gift for translating abstruse ideas into ordinary language, I figured he had to be pretty interesting to chat with. I wasn’t disappointed.
In this first half of our conversation, I got Will talking about the philosophy in the Moomin books of Tove Jannson; the ancient Chinese Daoist text Zhuangzi (actually, I’ve spared you most of that — Will and I share a great fondness for the work, but I realize most listeners won’t have read it); the pervasive sense of loss in the Western philosophical tradition; teaching and writing; Martin Heidegger; why existentialism is no longer popular; Emmanuel Levinas; and parallels between Indian and Greek philosophy.
The Woodrat Podcast returns from summer vacation with its first ever video episode (but don’t worry, this will remain mostly an audio show). I wanted to do a bit of a show-and-tell with some poetry books published as reversible, upside-down or tête-bêche books, including, most recently, Triplicity by Kristen McHenry and Paper Covers Rock by Chella Courington, forthcoming from Indigo Ink Press.
Even though my friend the poet and novelist Marly Youmans lives just five hours away from me in upstate New York, we went all the way to Wales to record this podcast. How’s that for dedication? We start out at a tea house on the grounds of Powis Castle, where we’re joined by another novelist and blogger, Clare Dudman. Then we go to Ty Isaf, the stately Clive Hicks-Jenkins residence near Aberystwyth, where we talk about such topics as the ghosts of Cooperstown, New York; whether children are an inspiration or a hindrance for a busy writer; women leaving the world for the woods; and how writing in rhyme resembles surfing. We are serenaded by rooks.
Marly’s latest book of poems is The Throne of Psyche and her latest novel is Val/Orson. She blogs at The Palace at 2:00 a.m. and tweets about raspberries and radishes.
Brew yourself a nice cuppa and join Fiona Robyn, Kaspalita and me for a conversation about writing, religion, spirituality, science, small stones and more. We met on May 7 in Aberystwyth, Wales; Fiona and Kaspa subsequetly tied the knot on June 18th, and starting on July 1 they will again curate a month-long river of stones, with contributions from around the world.
The conclusion of our May 5 walk around Clive’s neighborhood in rural Wales, near Aberystwyth. (It should stand on its own, but do listen to Part 1 if you haven’t already.) I’m grateful to Clive for taking the time to show me around in the midst of frantic preparations for the launch of his retrospective exhibition just two days later (for more about which, see the series of posts on his Artlog). We’re also lucky he’s such a great communicator, because as the naive quality of my couple of questions about his painting demonstrate, my general knowledge of art is woefully inadequate. Nevertheless, somehow this walking conversation with Clive has turned into one of my most satisfying podcasts to date, I think. Give a listen.
Join me for a walk with the Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins and his dog Jack. Clive and his partner Peter Wakelin live a few miles from Aberystwyth in a beautiful old place called Ty Isaf, which I’d been reading about on his Artlog for a couple years now, and was lucky enough to visit — and even stay three nights in — earlier this month.
I thought it would be fun to record a tour of Clive’s neighborhood for the podcast, allowing us to hear how a major artist relates to, and finds inspiration in, the land and people around him. For those unfamiliar with his work, it’s worth mentioning that specific places have always featured prominently in his paintings. Even elements which I had assumed to be fanciful, such as castles beside the sea, turn out to have been common features of the local and regional landscape. (For more on the sense of place in Clive’s work, see the essay by Andrew Green, “The Place of Place,” in the new monograph simply entitled Clive Hicks-Jenkins, from the British art publisher Lund Humphries in cooperation with Grey Mare Press.)
Be sure to check back next weekend for the conclusion of our walking conversation, in which I prompt Clive to talk about his journey from the theater world to art, what he looks for in painting, and more.
Theme music: “Le grand sequoia,” by Innvivo (Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence).
William Trowbridge was the last of the four poets Kristin Berkey-Abbott and I read for National Poetry Month (here are my review and hers). We called him up last Monday to talk about Fool and foolishness, humorous versus serious poetry, and why the Midwest produces so many poets, among other things, and got him to read some poems from Ship of Fool, too. Check out his website for a bio and links to all his books.
Poet, playwright, translator and teacher Ren Powell returns to the Woodrat Podcast to talk about her new collection of poetry (and North American debut) Mercy Island, religion in Norway, her shifting perspective on poetry animation, and other topics. She’s the third author in Via Negativa’s informal Poetry Month book club.