The conversation continues: two videopoems

This entry is part 29 of 29 in the series Conversari


Back in 2011 and 2012, Rachel Rawlins and I had a public dialogue in poems and photos between this blog and hers. Usually I would write a poem, and she would respond with a photo that commented on the text in some way. We called it Conversari. Recently two new videopoems have extended this exercise in ekphrastic call-and-response.

Back on February 27, the Saturday after my 50th birthday, Rachel and a bunch of other friends surprised me with a videopoetry-themed party in the upstairs room of a nearby pub in London. Our friends Marc Neys and Katrijn Clemer came over from Belgium for the weekend, and Marc—AKA Swoon—acted as VJ at the party with a whole program of videopoems by different masters of the art, including two new ones of his own using texts I’d written. One of them adapted the poem “Hit the Lights” from the Conversari series, with a voiceover contributed by Rachel, which significantly changed how I heard the poem. (I didn’t even recognize it as my own at first, which is always a pleasure.) Marc incorporated some great footage of brown bears, a choice which gains in significance as the film proceeds. It was a terrific videopoem all around, I thought:

Watch on Vimeo.

On my birthday itself, we had gone to the old resort town of Southwold on the East Anglian coast, and were blessed with unseasonably warm and mild weather. We stayed in a grand old hotel associated with Adnams brewery, one of my favorite British brewers. I’ve shared some of my still photos from that trip, but I also shot some video footage, including a couple of great, unscripted moments from Rachel, one in our hotel room and one on the beach. The other day I finally thought of a way to use it, tweaking another poem from the Conversari series (mainly adding a couple of lines to make a better fit with the imagery). Here’s the result:

Watch on Vimeo.

In good light

This entry is part 59 of 91 in the series Toward Noon: 3verses


On a maple’s pale bark,
a zigzag ladder—old tooth-marks
from a wandering snail?

Green islands of moss
beckon across a fluttering sea
of brown leaves.

This cloud-filtered sunlight
is perfect, says the photographer
as her cheeks slowly turn red.

2013 in photos: Touched by a Rachel

I took a lot of photos this year, most of them during the two months I spent in the UK. I never did get around to sharing them all, so let me try to make up for lost time with a few gargantuan posts. One benefit of taking a look back is seeing patterns that one might not notice otherwise.

Holding up a beech

Here’s Rachel laying her hand on beech trees in Hebden Bridge, Continue reading “2013 in photos: Touched by a Rachel”

Warrior poets, shape-shifters and other unlikely characters: a year of reading aloud

Woodrot Padcost 47: books read aloud in 2013 [MP3, 25 MB]
Duration: 27:50

‘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:

Other books mentioned in passing:

A very hagfishy Valentine’s Day

hagfish 1

For Valentine’s Day, my love designed and knitted me an Atlantic hagfish, A.K.A. slime eel — Myxine glutinosa. Apparently, she was the first on Ravelry to do so. While to the uninitiated this might seem like a less than subtle suggestion that I am a slime-ball and a bottom-feeder, in fact it was a highly romantic gesture, a response to my “Ten Simple Songs” (8-9, if you’re in a hurry). I was initially going to hold off posting that poem until Valentine’s Day, but then I thought, what if she doesn’t like it? Perhaps slime eel references don’t belong in a serious love poem. I guess I needn’t have worried.

hagfish 2

Hagfish purposely tie themselves in knots to remove excess mucus. Thankfully, this plush, knitted hagfish is not mucilaginous in the slightest. (See additional photos on the project page at Ravelry.)

I don’t own many works of art, and none that please me quite so much as this. Folks, don’t ever let anyone tell you that poetry doesn’t pay! Also, heed the wise words of Robert Fulghum (often wrongfully attributed to Dr. Seuss):

We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.
Robert Fulghum, True Love



We hadn’t planned our Adirondacks camping trip to coincide with the peak of fall color — in fact, my hiking buddy Lucy and I hadn’t really thought about it at all, because we see the fall foliage display every year, and we knew that if we didn’t catch it at its peak there, we’d certainly see it here. We just wanted to show Rachel one of our favorite places. (It also didn’t hurt that another blogger friend happened to live less than two hours away.) Hell, we were even foolish enough to think the campgrounds would be virtually deserted, as they had been the last time we’d visited the Adirondacks in October. No such luck.

Instead, we found ourselves hopping from campsite to campsite as spots became open in what had otherwise been a fully booked campground in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. (Thank you, rainy weather!) The cold rain might have made hiking and camping less than optimal, but it did nothing to diminish the autumn colors. And our British visitor seemed suitably wowed — that’s her arm in the photo above, gesturing in inarticulate appreciation at the drops of water dangling from the ends of shed white pine needles ornamenting a balsam fir bough. Though I did bring my own camera along, I had a hard time seeing things afresh. There’s just nothing like seeing something for the first time, as Rachel’s Adirondacks photo set attests. Go look, and prepare to be wowed yourself.

Mindful of the mindset

Twisted rib:

The best cup of coffee I’ve ever had remains the one I drank in southern Tanzania after spending one of the least pleasant nights of my life (so far, as Homer Simpson would qualify) at a large warehouse-like structure near the Tazara railway station in Mbozi. After sleepless hours of giant fearless rats, lying over my rucksack to mitigate attention from fearless (if not giant) thieves, accompanied by a naked man with floor-length dreads dancing round a fire reciting verse in a mellifluous voice in at least four different languages (I only recognised the Shakespeare) all night – well, almost any fluid would probably have tasted like the nectar of the gods.