Not actually, mind you; he didn’t drive all the way over from Scaly Mountain to sit down in the studio this past Sunday. But he didn’t have to, since I’d recorded several of his readings in recent years, and had sat down with him in another studio back in 2006 to talk about (among other things) his translation of the classic Chinese text daode jing.
Tom’s a terrific poet, of course, so it was great fun to revisit the occasions I’d recorded. Those readings included one from September 30, 2005 at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, in which he gave, I thought, a really good overview of his work, from the poems collected in At Dusk Iridescent, to the long poem Coromandel (on line at the link), to his translation of the dao, which was then unpublished. He came back to the Center in March, 2006, though, after the dao‘s publication by Flood Editions, to present the text in full, so I used that recording for the show, as well as a snip from that interview we’d done the same day, rather than the excerpts from the previous fall.
When Hillsborough poet Jeffery Beam visited Asheville in July, he brought along several tapes featuring readings by, or interviews with, Jonathan Williams. One of those tapes, from a midsummer, 1994, reading at The Literary Institute, Muker, Swansdale, Yorkshire, also included a brief reading by Tom; I opened the show with it, since Tom hadn’t featured its material in the 2005 foray back into his earlier work.
Since we were beginning the show in Yorkshire, I used Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Greensleeves” for the show’s opening theme, and honored the multivoiced Coromadel from 2005 with “Taboehgan” by the Balinese Gamelan Semar Pegulingan (recorded in 1941, and available on Music for the Gods from the Library of Congress). Tom had said he loved Bollywood soundtracks, but I didn’t have any handy, so I closed with Ali Akbar Khan‘s “Blessings of the Heart, Part 2″, from 1993′s Garden of Dreams. Khan has composed for film scores throughout his long career, after all.
Oh, you might notice that the show that’s now available from the WPVM archive is several minutes longer than Worplay’s hour, so I should confess that it’s not the show that aired. If you happened to be listening live, you had an experience that the station’s rickety archiving system failed to record. When I came back to the station Sunday evening to re-produce the show, I included a little more of the music than I could squeeze into our live slot.
(The show will be up through Sunday the 14th, and then migrate over to the new Wordplay Archive, where you’ll find it here.)
Photo of Tom by Reuben Cox.
Cross-posted at Natures.