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League of Inveterate Poets

The out-of-context contextuality of a foolish sage

Eric Whiteacre “Sleep” – 2000 Voice Virtual Choir

By on April 12, 2011

One of the things I love most about music is how it is often birthed out of human collaboration. My favorite moments in my band The Bulltown Strutters, whether at rehearsals or on stage, come when musical magic happens as band members weave something that is bigger (and more wonderful!) than the sum of its parts.

Composer Eric Whiteacre took musical collaboration to a new level, enabled by technology and the Internet. Over several months, 2000+ vocalists from 58 countries recorded their individual parts to Whiteacre’s mesmerizing piece “Sleep.” Whiteacre and his team assembled their recordings, uploaded to YouTube, into a seamless choral performance, which you can hear in the video below.

Chris Anderson, the curator of TED, put it well: “For anyone who wants to believe in the humanizing possibilities of a connected world, here is your anthem.”

Is this the future of music?

Alan Helm’s Afternoon of Glory: Conclusion (Monti GrandSLAM Story Video)

By on April 8, 2011

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally finished my multi-part story of high school band geekdom that began as an audio podcast (Alan Helm’s Afternoon of Glory, Part 1) that never got finished because I started intensive chemo for my cancer.

Last night I got to finally put an ending on this story, and in front of a live audience! As one of eight winners of StorySLAM storytelling evenings put on by The Monti, a NC Triangle-local organization, I competed last night in the 2011 Monti GrandSLAM. Though wasn’t crowned GrandSLAMPion in the end, I had a great time delivering this story to a sold out crowd of 350 at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro, NC. Enjoy…and “go for legend!”

Listen to the audio version of this story from the beginning

BONUS! Here is a photo from my high school year book of the stage band in this story. That’s me, second from right, standing holding my bone. Trombone, that is. Unfortunately, Alan Helm (not his real name), the “hero” of my story, is not in this photo.

Afternoon at Fickle Creek Farm, Efland NC

By on April 3, 2011

This afternoon Karyn and I decided to see where some of our food comes from. We did not make a trip to the supermarket.

Instead, we drove out to Efland, North Carolina, home to Fickle Creek Farm, a bio-sustainable project that “strives to provide farm fresh, healthy products to its customers through careful environmental stewardship, sustainable practices, and humane animal treatment” (from their website.) For much of our two years here in Durham we have bought most of our meat and all of our eggs from Fickle Creek at the Durham Farmers Market. Karyn has had a number of conversations with Ben and Noah, the owners, and found them to be very personable and engaging. We decided to take advantage of an invitation to come out and see dinner walking around.

Upon arriving, we were greeted by the owners’ six-year-old foster child, Daryl, who was very eager to show us a foot from a chicken that had been killed that afternoon. He led us over to co-owner Ben, who greeted Karyn like an old friend. Even though he was in the middle of washing and sorting the thousand eggs they process on a daily basis, Ben took plenty of time to explain the farm’s unique characteristics with us. Later, we went on our own walking tour, with Daryl as our self-appointed guide.

We were so encouraged to see how clean the farm was (for a farm!), and it was immediately obvious how well-cared-for the animals are. Ben and Noah and their staff have worked hard to utilize the best sustainable techniques. They even reclaimed land from a high-voltage power line right-of-way, turning it into free range chicken grazing areas.

Perhaps more stunning than the farm, though, were Ben’s stories of how he and Noah had raised 13 difficult-to-place foster children while maintaining this busy farm.

We’re so glad to have this kind of connection with these kind of people who make some of our food.

Slideshow below has some iPhone photos I took during our visit. Mouseover for controls.

Fickle Creek Farm also operates an on-site bed and breakfast.
Fickle Creek Farm on Facebook

Death Cab for Cutie: No Sunlight (Acoustic) in a Cab

By on April 2, 2011

Oh Death Cab, how ironic of you.

The Secret Life of the Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: Queen Recluse

By on March 13, 2011

The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson

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This essay is part of a series on the dreamscape aspects of Jerome Charyn’s novel, the Secret Life of Emily Dickinson. Read the introduction to this series. Click the series name above to see all the entries.

* * * * * * *

To shut our eyes is Travel.” – Emily Dickinson, 1870.

“…if memory serves, & if it does not, then I will let Imagination run to folly.” The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson (17).

(numbers in parentheses refer to pages in the novel)

* * * * * * *

Queen Recluse

As part five opens, Emily returns from more eye treatments in Boston to find her beloved “Confederate,” the Newfoundland dog Carlo lying near death in her room, Emily–as she is wont to do in times of great crisis–slips into a vivid dream. She sees herself astride a youthful Carlo soaring above the rooftops of snow-covered Amherst. “Riding him was like going away to live with a man and sitting on my own trousseau,” she says, but then adds, “Whoever I was marrying couldn’t break into my dream” (244-5). Only Carlo had ever been her true intimate, and the man who might take that place isn’t even on the horizon.

Following Carlo’s death, Emily becomes a “hermit in [her] father’s house” (245). Though the behavior terrifies and disgusts her, she seems powerless in its grip. “Daisy had become her own Haunted House,” she thinks. She only makes appearances when absolutely forced to, and then has strength to do so only because she imagines herself clad in her “full armor of feathers” (250).

SnakeOne visit in particular both intrigues and unsettles her. One day Mr. Sam Bowles, who had dubbed her “Queen Recluse,” entices her down the stairs to the parlor. His comparison of her to “that narrow fellah in the grass,” an allusion to one of her poems, startles Emily. She sees both Sam and herself as snake-like “unsolid creatures, zero at the bone” (251). But when Sam comes right out and states that the verse was a “snake poem,” Emily bristles, and utters one of the most memorable lines in the book: “Verses do not have a subject, I should think, but a kind of shudder, as if the whole world were born again with the flash of an eye” (252).

I believe that quotation to be original to Mr. Charyn (not borrowed from one of her poems or letters), but it is so authentically in Emily’s own voice that it is hard to believe she never said or wrote it. In any event, it is perhaps the finest one line tutorial on how we should approach a poem ever written.

(more…)

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