With Bruce Springsteen in the country at present (although, sadly, I’m not going to one of his concerts) I thought it would be good to feature an excellent and thoughtful interview with Springsteen. The interviewer is Marc Maron, and the audio was released 2nd January 2017.
This is a YouTube recording of the audio.
“…Two Jersey guys hanging out, talking about dads, depression, fear, fulfillment and the future. Bruce tells Marc how and why he constructed "Bruce Springsteen" and what he's learned about the struggle we all go through to become who we really are.”
The downloadable podcast can be found here.
I hadn’t heard of English-born Irish poet Michael Longley until I listened to a recent On Being podcast. What a fascinating and wise conversation (aired 3rd November 2016). At once, both insightful and poetic. I was captivated. All the more so as I drove and listened and watched the sun rise in the East. Again I’m so very grateful for the gifts of poets and poetry in my life.
“To reassert the liveliness of ordinary things, precisely in the face of what is hardest and most broken in life and society — this has been Michael Longley’s gift to Northern Ireland as one of its foremost living poets. He is a voice for all of us now, wise and winsome about the force of words in a society that has moved away from sectarianism in living memory. A profound conversation before an adoring crowd at The MAC Belfast.”
Longley (b. 27th July 1939), it turns out, has written more than 20 books of poetry, including Collected Poems, Gorse Fires, and his most recent collection, The Stairwell. He was the professor of poetry for Ireland from 2007 to 2010 and is the winner of the Whitbread Poetry Prize, the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Hawthornden Prize, and the Griffen Prize. In 2015 he was honored with the Freedom of the City of Belfast. In relation to religion, an atheist, he describes himself as a "sentimental" disbeliever.
You’ll find the conversation here. See also the video recording, and listen to Longley reading several of his poems.
Pre-Ordered and looking forward to reading it. A collection of essays by one of my favourite living poets, American Mary Oliver – Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver. Due for release in October 2016.
“In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.” So begins Upstream, a collection of essays in which beloved poet Mary Oliver reflects on her willingness, as a young child and as an adult, to lose herself within the beauty and mysteries of both the natural world and the world of literature. Emphasizing the significance of her childhood “friend” Walt Whitman, through whose work she first understood that a poem is a temple, “a place to enter, and in which to feel,” and who encouraged her to vanish into the world of her writing, Oliver meditates on the forces that allowed her to create a life for herself out of work and love. As she writes, “I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.”
Upstream follows Oliver as she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, her boundless curiosity for the flora and fauna that surround her, and the responsibility she has inherited from Shelley, Wordsworth, Emerson, Poe, and Frost, the great thinkers and writers of the past, to live thoughtfully, intelligently, and to observe with passion. Throughout this collection, Oliver positions not just herself upstream but us as well as she encourages us all to keep moving, to lose ourselves in the awe of the unknown, and to give power and time to the creative and whimsical urges that live within us.”
Sam Huntis a New Zealand poet I’ve heard many times in person and have so appreciated his particular giftedness every time. There’s something about the spoken poem that gets into the deep places of my life; that bumps up against my ways of seeing and engaging the world; bumps up against other ways of seeing and naming. It enlarges my experiences of life. I’m grateful for Sam, for Baxter before him, and for the many poets I’ve both read and heard. Poets like Bud Osborn, Clive James, Seamus Heaney, John O’Donohue, David Malouf, Rumi, Hafiz, Hone Tuwhare, Denise Levertov, Mary Oliver, Federico Garcia Lorca, Brian Turner, Robert Lax, Lawrence Ferlinghettim Allen Ginsberg, Glenn Colquhoun, Rowan Williams, Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, Kevin Hart, Leonard Cohen, Adrienne Rich, E.E. Cummings, Stanley Kunitz, Sharon Olds, Marie Howe. And on my fridge is Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem Kindness – a daily reminder of what’s important and needful in life. These, and more besides, are the poets who nourish my soul.
But, today is Sam Hunt’s day. In fact on Monday (July 4th) it was his 70th birthday. Happy birthday Sam. I’m grateful you’re amongst us.
“Sam Hunt CNZM, QSM is unique among New Zealand poets in his ability to recite not only his own poems but those of Yeats, Baxter, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and Dylan Thomas, to name just a few, in pubs from Kaipara to Bottle Creek and hold audiences spell-bound.
His latest book of poems, Salt River Songs, is being launched on July 4th to mark his 70th birthday. Death is a recurring theme but it’s far from a gloomy collection. A poem dedicated to his friend, the late documentary photographer, Glenn Jowitt begins:
Death called by the other day –
No one was home at the time,
A note. “Sorry I missed you’,
Stuck under the front door mat.
Sam Hunt recently sat down with Sunday Morning’s Wallace Chapman and talked about his life and influences and the poems that tumble out of him. He knows more than 1000 poems off by heart – a girlfriend once took it upon herself to count them, and a professor of psychology has dedicated a chapter in a textbook to the poet’s prodigious memory.” You'll find the interview here.
His latest book of poetry is out – Salt River Songs. It was launched on his birthday. You’ll likely also enjoy this 5 minute video clip from TV3. It screen on Monday 4th July 2016.
“Ukrainian sculptor, blacksmith, and designer Alexander Milov has produced a large wire-frame sculpture that features the forms of children that glow when day turns to night. The outer sculpture is two adults sitting back to back while the inner sculpture displays the two children touching hands through the metal wires.
Milov’s sculpture titled Love depicts a scene of conflict with hope and innocence rising from within.
“It demonstrates a conflict between a man and a woman as well as the outer and inner expression of human nature,” said Milov. “The figures of the protagonists are made in the form of big metal cages, where their inner selves are captivated. Their inner selves are executed in the form of transparent children, who are holding out their hands through the grating. As it’s getting dark (night falls) the children start to shine. This shining is a symbol of purity and sincerity that brings people together and gives a chance of making up when the dark time arrives.”
The giant sculpture was produced for Burning Man, 2015…
Text by Kate Sierzputowski is a freelance journalist and copywriter based in Chicago. From here.
For fans of US author David Foster Wallace (21/02/62 to 12/09/08). I highly recommend this site, which collects a number of interviews with Wallace, but also has a number of audio recordings about Wallace, including Geoff Ward’s BBC audio documentary on DFW. I’d heard a number of the recordings over the years, but its nice to have them collected on one site.
Finally, DFW fans will enjoy this round-table conversation, which Melbourne’s Wheeler Institute staged and recorded 2nd September 2015. The title of the conversation was: No Relation: The Impact, Imitators and Legacy of David Foster Wallace. You’ll find the recording here.
“Is there any figure in the recent history of American literature who has generated as much cringe-inducing veneration – or as much dismay – as the late David Foster Wallace? During his lifetime, the author of Infinite Jest, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and many celebrated essays and articles was a cult figure of soaring intellect, dizzying creative ambition and slightly questionable fashion sense. Many were frustrated by his work (New Yorker literary critic James Wood placed his work in the derogatory category of ‘hysterical realism’) while others saw him as a genius. His status as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century has only grown since his death in 2008.
In this special event, DFW acolytes Sam Cooney, Ronnie Scott, Melinda Houston and Steph Harmon explore Foster Wallace’s legacy for writers and artists. They discuss his impact on popular culture, the scourge of lesser imitators and how the film The End of the Tourcelebrates the work of this extraordinary writer.”
The trailer for the film can be seen here on YouTube. You can also listen to David Foster Wallace deliver his very thoughtful and thought-provoking Kenyon Commencement address, delivered in 2005. For more on education I recommend reading or listening to In Defence of a Liberal Educationby Fareed Zakaria.
My favorite Michael Leunig illustration – the most evocative for me – is his The Garden Gate. It accompanies his poem How to Get There:
Go to the end of the path until you get to the gate. Go through the gate and head straight out towards the horizon. Keep going towards the horizon. Sit down and have a rest every now and again, But keep on going, just keep on with it. Keep on going as far as you can. That’s how you get there.
However, in my mind I now also want to link the illustration to the following poem by Victoria Safford. I heard it read by Parker J. Palmer and it just so resonated for me.
The Gates of Hope
“Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope—
Not the prudent gates of Optimism,
Which are somewhat narrower.
Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,
Which creak on shrill and angry hinges
(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through)
Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna’ be all right.”
But a different, sometimes lonely place,
The place of truth-telling,
About your own soul first of all and its condition.
The place of resistance and defiance,
The piece of ground from which you see the world
Both as it is and as it could be
As it will be;
The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,
But the joy of the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
Telling people what we are seeing
Asking people what they see.”
Victoria Safford, the minister of White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, in Mahtomedi, Minnesota (www.unitarian.org/whitebear), is the author of Walking Toward Morning.
I’ve long found Brian Eno (Eno, is an English musician, composer, record producer, singer (early Roxy Music), and visual artist) a fascinating and insightful character. His little book A Year with Swollen Appendices (pub. 2007) stares down from the shelf at me as I write this post.
“…Eno spoke at length about his definition of art and culture, and its continued importance in an era increasingly focused on STEM values—science, technology, education, and math—where it can sometimes feel as though the goal of our education leaders and politicians is simply to train a new generation of C++ programmers. I listened to it, appropriately enough, driving up Interstate 280 through Silicon Valley after a visit to the Computer History Museum, and it struck me that Eno had made an essential point about the role of art in both creating and making sense of social transformation. ‘We’re going to be in a world of ultrafast change,’ he said. ‘It’s really accelerating at the moment and will continue to. And we’re going to have to somehow stay coherent. What are we going to be doing? I think we’re going to be even more full-time artists than we are now.’…”
~ Steven Johnson, from here. Youtube excerpts from the conversation via the link to the left.
I’m certain I need more artists to help me make sense of this world that I inhabit; and more help to ‘read’ and enter more fully into artistic expression. A good starting point for me, aside from just spending time with literature, poetry, film, paintings etc. was this little book by Ossian Ward, Ways of Looking: How to Experience Contemporary Art (pub. 2014).
“…My faith is that art becomes an increasingly important testing ground, free of control and ideology, in which we can examine ourselves and our needs, desires and dreams. It has to be released from both the institutionalizing effects of the museum and from the commodifying effects of the market, while still recognising the critical importance of both – the first for appraisal and the second for nourishment. Art is a basic human need, a basic human activity. It is what makes us human and offers us the tools to become ourselves. In a time when we are driven mad by the lure of false desires and the promise of objects of consumption, art can be a free and open space of experiment and experience. Art can release us from the need to possess objects of power and allow us to enter the field in which the power of objects frees us.”