We’re Back! Episode 18: “When Nothing in the Form of Everything Is at Stake”

May 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Papers for the Border #18: When Nothing in the Form of Everything Is at Stake

(Click here to listen to the podcast.) Please note that all credits appear after the playlist below.

This is the second PftB poetry episode (see #13 for the first). Alhough PftB usually incorporates poetry to some extent in almost every episode, this one is comprised exclusively of poetry — which isn’t to say there isn’t plenty of music. The poetry here ranges from stark spoken-word performances by the original poets to some pretty outlandish sung interpretations of poems set to music.

There were no Papers for the Borders episodes in 2013 and there’s no good reason for that. There’s no bad reason, either. I was inspired by all the poetry action going on during this past month (April) and decided it would be a good time for PftB to get back on course. But then I thought I should wait until the end of the month so that the podcast didn’t get swallowed up amid all the other fine work being done. My plan was for it to hit on April 30, but we all know how that goes.

I’m only going to put the song titles in the actual playlist below. The full information is too convoluted to fit reasonably in citation format within the playlist, so I’ll put that in the text that follows it.


Episode 18 Playlist

  1. (00:00) “Just When I Thought” / “Kitchen (Intro)” / “Just When I Thought”
  2. (01:08) “Let’s Sit Right Down / The Passing”
  3. (05:09) “In a Landscape V”
  4. (07:46) “Route Doubt”
  5. (08:51) “Live on the Internet: A Diary (April 16)”
  6. (12:18) “TV”
  7. (15:31) “In a Landscape VI”
  8. (18:36) “Today”
  9. (20:52) “In a Landscape IV”
  10. (23:41) “Poem for Gretchen Ruth”
  11. (27:30) “Comes Through in the Call Hold”
  12. (40:27) “On the Way to Elsewhere and Here”
  13. (43:56) “Try to Remember”
  14. (47:17) “In a Landscape XII”
  15. (51:19) “Sweet and Low (the bill has been paid)”
  16. (56:35) “Martyrs”
  17. (61:21) “Ask Me If You Know”
  18. (64:26) “Human Weather Words”
  19. (69:00) “From ‘Decade Zero'”
  20. (71:32) “Laundry, Food, and School Epigrams”
  21. (74:24) “Just When I Thought”
  22. (74:31) “On Stage”
  23. (79:18) “In a Landscape XIII”

This episode focuses largely on the work of four poets: Paul Haines, Karen Alkalay-Gut, John Gallaher, and Becca Klaver, with a few other poets thrown in (Bernadette Mayer, Clark Coolidge, Steve Dalachinsky, and Anne-James Chaton) to round out the episode and provide contrast.

Tracks 1, 4, 12, 17, and 21 come from the album Darn It! (American Clavé, 1993). Darn It! is a tribute to the work of the late Canadian poet, lyricist and music journalist Paul Haines (1933-2003). Haines doesn’t perform on any of the tracks on the album, but all the tracks contain his poems set to music. Paul Haines was best known for the libretto he wrote in his collaboration with jazz composer Carla Bley, Escalator Over the Hill. A posthumous collection of his writing, Secret Carnival Workers (Coach House Press), was published in 2007, but unfortunately has gone out of print.

Tracks 1 and 21 feature a very short poem (made shorter by yours truly in track 1 through careful editing) by Haines read by Michel Contat, a French writer and film director.  Derek Bailey plays guitar and recites Haines’ poem on track 4.  Track 12 features Mary Margaret O’Hara’s vocals, ex-Magic Band member Gary Lucas on dobro, and Steve Swallow on bass. John Tchicai doubles up on sax and vocals, reciting Haines’ poem on track 17.

Further attention to Haines is paid in this podcast episode: tracks 2, 10, and 18 come from the album A Beautiful Western Saddle by Curlew (Cuneiform Records, 1993, remastered and re-released in 2010). Curlew consists of Pippin Barnett on drums, bandleader George Cartwright on alto and tenor sax, Tom Cora on cello, Ann Rupel on bass, and Davey Williams on guitar. Non-member Amy Denio (an old friend of Papers for the Border) contributes vocals, and the entire album consists of songs set to poems by Haines. Finally, track 8 is from the album Hallelujah Anyway – Remembering Tom Cora (Tzadik, 1999). Cora, part of the Curlew recording, died in 1998, and Hallelujah Anyway is a heartfelt tribute to the cellist — not unlike Darn It!, some of the songs are interpretations of Cora’s compositions, but others are recordings made by or with Cora himself. In this case, vocalist/guitarist Chris Cochrane sings Haines’ poem “Today,” and, to the best of my knowledge, is also the pianist.


Tracks 1, 6, 13, and 16 come from the album Thin Lips (released in 2003 on the Pookh label), by poet Karen Alkalay-Gut, working with musicians Ishay Sommer and Roy Yarkoni (two members of an avant-garde “progressive rock” band Ahvak, who have, like Curlew, recorded for the Cuneiform label). Alkalay-Gut was born in London, moved to Rochester, NY at an early age, and now lives in Tel Aviv, where she is a retired professor of English from Tel Aviv University. She has published numerous books of poetry in English and Hebrew, translated works of many other writers, and released several other CDs besides Thin Lips.

The tracks titled “In a Landscape…” are poems written and recorded by John Gallaher, author of In a Landscape (obviously the textual source of these tracks and due to be published in October 2014 by BOA Editions). John’s previous books include The Little Book of Guesses  (Four Way Books, 2007), Map of the Folded World (University of Akron Press, 2009). With G. C. Waldrep, he co-authored Your Father on the Train of Ghosts (BOA Editions, 2011).

Tracks 5 and 19 are two works by poet Becca Klaver. The first is, as the title implies, a poetic diary entry recorded as a video and placed, temporarily, on YouTube. The second is a portion of her poem in progress, “Decade Zero,” recorded exclusively for this podcast. Becca’s previous books include Nonstop Pop! (Bloof, 2013), Merrily, Merrily (Lame House Press, 2013), and LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010).

Track 11 features Clark Coolidge reciting his own poetry over Thurston Moore’s guitar playing. It comes from the eponymous album by Coolidge, Moore, and Anne Waldman (Fast Speaking Music, 2013).

Track 15 comes from the album The Bill Has Been Paid (Dark Tree Records, 2013) by double-bassist Joelle Leandre in collaboration with poet Steve Dalachinsky.

Track 20 is from the album Rattle up a Deer (So You’re a Poet / Farfalla Press, 2004). The CD documents a poetry reading by Anne Waldman and Bernadette Mayer. This track features a series of epigrams written and read by Mayer.

Track 22 is from the combination book + CD Decade (Raster-Noton, 2012). The book is by poet Anne-James Chaton, who also performs on the accompanying CD, which includes a distillation of sections of the book, along with Andy Moor, guitarist from The Ex, and musician Alva Noto (pseudonym of Carsten Nicolai).

Many of the recordings in this episode are interconnected to an extent: Coolidge and Mayer have worked together, co-authoring The Cave (Adventures in Poetry, 2008); both Alkalay-Gut’s collaborators and Curlew have recorded for the Cuneiform label; Amy Denio has worked with Derek Bailey (see the first episode of Papers for the Border). All of these poets and musicians have, to paraphrase Paul Haines, a stake in nothing in the form of everything. So sit right down, and make sure your papers are in order.




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