mercoledì 3 giugno 2020

Interview with Nancy Pontius


Hi Nancy,
Thanks for granting me this interview! First of all, I would like to ask you about the beginning of your path as a musician. How and when did you start singing and making music? What instrument(s) did you first pick up?

Hello Maurizio. Thank you for this opportunity. I remember when I found you on Last.fm over a decade ago. We had a lot of fun on there. There were a lot of independent musicians on there.
I started learning piano as a kid. I always sang because my mother always sang and came from a very musical family. I used to cringe when she would sing loudly in the grocery store, but now I am so glad she did it. We also camped a lot in the 60s and 70s with family friends and she and her friends played guitar and sang around the campfire, so did all the kids. They sang a lot of folk back then, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, etc. My mother’s mother, my grandmother was a great musician, a pianist. She went to Indiana University at age 16. Her father actually had died in the pandemic in 1918 being a doctor in WW1. He died in France while caring for others. Her mother took in boarders in Bloomington. They lived across the street from Hoagy Carmichael and they were family friends. My grandma was a few grades behind him. You know, he wrote some great songs. Well, it was the Depression and my grandma could not afford the rehearsal fees for music school. So she went into English and French. Later she taught French and English. She did sit in for some bands during her time there. It has always been a great music school.
I should have stayed with piano because I could actually read music for piano. Many years later when I took up guitar, I never really learned to play well. It was mostly for putting songs together. My friend John Munoz actually gave me my first guitar and gave me a little lesson on basic chords so I could learn to put songs together. I had all these songs in my head and in previous bands would have to sing them out while others put them together with instruments.
Before all that, when I was a teen, I was in a lot of musical theater plays. It was a group called the Southern Arizona Light Opera Company.  I was a late grower and often played people’s kid sisters and such. I was learning a lot of dance then and took voice lessons from a great teacher, Rosemary Henderson. She taught me operatic singing but also jazz and blues. She really wanted me to go into music. I almost did go to Indiana university for music, but ended up at UCLA for theater. Then a very tragic event happened while I was there in Los Angeles. I won’t go into it but I dropped out a while and lived in Venice Beach there. There I was in a band, Cheshire Moon. The main musician was Kevin Maxwell but he had been changing his name so many times that I am not sure what his name is now. He was a gifted songwriter and he would help write out songs I had in my head. This was when I was 19 or so.
Then I went back to school in Arizona in Creative Writing. Around then was when my friend gave me the guitar. I started to write some songs.
Later on in my 20s, early 90s, I joined Barely Bipedal. It was a good time for independent musicians putting out cassette tapes. They would get around. I still could not play guitar very well. I just liked to put songs together. But also there were many songwriters in Barely Bipedal and we sang in multiple harmonies. I heavily relied on other musicians to fill out my own songs, in Barely Bipedal, and later Project Bluebird. People were kind about it. I was primarily a vocalist but had these songs in my head. I also used to be in a drum group. We used to play in the park and at street fairs. For a time I also helped someone make ceramic drums. They have a very nice sound.

Could you tell us a bit about Barely Bipedal? Who were the members and how did you fall in with them?

Barely Bipedal was originally Jon Mount and James Jordan. They both had come out of punk bands and then were playing folk, country and gospel with an experimental edge. Then I ran into Jon. I had been away awhile. He and I knew each other back in grade school. He asked me to come sing with them. Then others joined, Eric Baldoni, Eric Royer, Kira Geddes, and a guy named Pig Boy. We did a lot of recordings on cassette tapes which were distributed through Toxic Ranch Records. We played in laundry mats, soup kitchens, fundraisers, peace fairs and a lot of backyard punk shows. There is a recent recording now on Bandcamp with James and Jon, the original Barely Bipedal actually [https://compactdiscrecords.bandcamp.com/album/all-summer-been-lightnin].


I would also like to ask you about your collaborative project ‘Project Bluebird/Earth Folk’. It’s always good to see people working together and joining their talents to create something really authentic. How and when did the project start and how did it develop along the years? Why did you originally choose to call it ‘Project Bluebird’?

Project Bluebird partially started out on that old site StumbleUpon. In the early years it was a great site, a good global community. We felt a sense of bringing down the borders, at least intellectually, for a little while there. And the algorithms were at first in our hands, before they streamlined it and sold out to eBay and only gave the algorithms to paying customers. But before that we could do a lot of activism, and we could support independent artists. And it was a lot of sharing of philosophy, art, music, inspiration, science, wonder, in a spirit of global friendship, all this during the Bush era. But that changed quickly, as most things do. But during that earlier time I was communicating with people around the world and we wrote some songs together. I also got involved with some of Mad Pride (Creatively Maladjusted here) and I wrote songs with people in Mad Pride some. Then some friends added onto some songs. Again, the songs were a lot better when people added on. I was very grateful for their help. Some songs are solo but really they were better when others added on. And it was more collaboration and a variety of styles. Also some musicians who were in Barely Bipedal added on to some. There are many I don’t have online that I would have liked to redo. For a while Project Bluebird got around the internet. Then when I was not so well, I took it down offline numerous times and tried to change the name. I am leaving what I have up now for good, sort of as back up because I tend to lose things in this digital age. So there are some on YouTube [see playlist below] and SoundCloud [https://soundcloud.com/user-361366447]
The name Project Bluebird came out of a series of synchronicities. Also bluebirds are beautiful. But I like Earth Folk too because all the writers are from all over the earth. And it is sort of folk music and we are all folks.

I loved your drum piece dedicated to Leonard Peltier I found on YouTube, simple and yet so evocative! How does music connect with activism in your view?
I know you think some music really has a ‘healing quality’. Does that apply to most music as a general concept or do you think some kind of music might be particularly helpful in the most difficult times?

Thank you about the drum piece. I really need to work on staying with the basic heartbeat. That is actually the hardest one to play with other drummers. I remember an elder drummer trying to teach me this and I am still learning. I tend to like to fly off. But really I need to come back to the earth heartbeat. Anyone in a drum group playing that beat has to keep it all together. Well, it seems simple on the surface but it is really the most challenging.
As for activism, Barely Bipedal was very intertwined with activism. James wrote a song during the second Gulf War that got around, “I’m Iraq in my mind (I just can’t Kuwait).
In the second generation Bush years many of us in Project Bluebird had been writing in response. A lot of those songs I would record very quickly and poorly and post them right away. A lot of them needed to be re-recorded.
Now mostly what is left online are the better recordings. And even then, some of my solo ones need some work. But I am just leaving them there before I lose them all.
Yes about healing music. I do really benefit from healers doing music. It can be all kinds of music and it can be protest at the same time, and there many facets to healing, sometimes outrage, catharsis, sometimes relaxing the limbic system so one can respond instead of reacting in a way that is not helpful. Right now I am appreciating Esperanza Spalding, “12 Little Spells” you can hear most of this album on YouTube. Some try to compare her to Bjork but really she is in her own category. There is a lot of jazz and soul, poetry, and art that heals in her work, just beautiful. My words don’t do her justice. She is a bass player. Also, well, Joy Harjo, our Poet Laureate here, she was my professor in college and is still an inspiration. Her poetry is wise guidance and she also puts poems to music and sings and plays saxophone. She is a real healer. I think Poet laureates are more important than politicians right now really. All the poets, musicians, artists...healers. Oh, you know, I really like that healing tone music too, like singing bowls etc., there is so much grief right now, we need the healing. 

Well, thanks again! Is there anything else you want to add?

I want to thank my friend Daniel Brudno for helping me with this music project. None of this could have been accomplished without him. He is also a musician and has studied flamenco. I was sick a lot and he helped me with everything, sort of as my manager and helped with getting everything together. I am forever grateful to Dan.


Earth Folk playlist on YT (it looks like a single video, but it plays all the videos in a row):


venerdì 10 aprile 2020

La mia poesia "Dubh Linn" nell'antologia "Il Viaggio"


“ Il Viaggio nasce da un'attenta selezione di opere di autori contemporanei ed è frutto di esperienze ed emozioni singolari e fortemente private. La necessità di intraprendere un percorso itinerante porta gli autori alla ricerca di nuove forme di sentimento che rendono questa raccolta l'esempio delle innumerevoli interpretazioni che l'animo umano può regalare all'esperienza del viaggio.  

La raccolta contiene la mia poesia “Dubh Linn”apsv


martedì 24 marzo 2020

Dante Alighieri Has A Good Word For Everyone


On occasion of the Dantedì (a special day dedicated to the “father of the Italian language”) on March 25, I wish to share one of his best passages as an involontary stand-up comedian. As you’ll see, our good old Dante has a good word for everybody!

De Vulgari Eloquentia, Dante Alighieri, transl. by Steven Botterill, Cambridge University Press, 1996, Chs. XI-XIV [I have made a few minimal edits].

Amid the cacophony of the many varieties of Italian speech, let us hunt for the most respectable and illustrious vernacular that exists in Italy [...]
Accordingly, since the Romans believe that they should always receive preferential treatment, I shall begin […] with them; and I do so by declaring that they should not be taken into account in any didactic work about effective use of the vernacular. For what the Romans speak is not so much a vernacular as a vile jargon, the ugliest of all the languages spoken in Italy; and this should come as no surprise, for they also stand out among all Italians for the ugliness of their manners and their outward appearance. They say things like 'Messure, quinto dici?' [Sir, what do you say?]
After these let us prune away the inhabitants of the Marches of Ancona, who say 'Chignamente state siate' [be as you are]; and along with them we throw out the people of Spoleto. Nor should I fail to mention that a number of poems have been composed in derision of these three peoples; I have seen one of these, constructed in perfect accordance with the rules, written by a Florentine of the name of Castra. It began like this: ‘Una fermana scopai da Cascioli, cita cita se'n gìa'n grande aina’. [I met a woman from Fermo near Cascioli; she hurried briskly away, in great haste]
After these let us root out the Milanese, the people of Bergamo, and their neighbours; I recall that somebody has written a derisive song about them too: ‘Enter l'ora del vesper, ciò fu del mes d'ochiover’. [Around the hour of vespers, it was in the month of October]
After these let us pass through our sieve the people of Aquileia and Istria, who belch forth 'Ces fas-to?' [What are you up to?] with a brutal intonation. And along with theirs I reject all languages spoken in the mountains and the countryside, by people like those of Casentino and Fratta, whose pronounced accent is always at such odds with that of city-dwellers. As for the Sardinians, who are not Italian but may be associated with Italians for our purposes, out they must go, because they alone seem to lack a vernacular of their own, instead imitating gramatica as apes do humans: for they say 'domus nova' [new house] and 'dominus meus' [my master].
[…] let us [now] turn our attention to the language of Sicily, since the Sicilian vernacular seems to hold itself in higher regard than any other, first because all poetry written by Italians is called 'Sicilian', and then because we do indeed find that many learned natives of that island have written serious poetry [...] [However,] if by Sicilian vernacular we mean what is spoken by the average inhabitants of the island [...] then this is far from worthy of the honour of heading the list, because it cannot be pronounced without a certain drawl, as in this case: ‘Tragemi d'este focora se t'este a bolontate’. [Get me out of this fire, if you would be so kind] [...]
The people of Apulia, to continue, whether through their own native crudity or through the proximity of their neighbours (the Romans and the people of the Marches), use many gross barbarisms: they say ‘Bòlzera che chiangesse lo quatraro’. [I would like the boy to cry] [...]
After this, we come to the Tuscans, who, rendered senseless by some aberration of their own, seem to lay claim to the honour of possessing the illustrious vernacular. [...] Now, since the Tuscans are the most notorious victims of this mental intoxication, it seems both appropriate and useful to examine the vernaculars of the cities of Tuscany one by one, and thus to burst the bubble of their pride. When the Florentines speak, they say things like: 'Manichiamo, introcque che noi non facciamo altro' [Let's eat, since there's nothing else to do]. The Pisans: 'Bene andonno li fatti de Fiorensa per Pisa' [The business at Florence went well for Pisa]. The people of Lucca: 'Fo voto a Dio ke ingrassarra eie lo comuno de Lucca' [I swear to God, the city of Lucca is really in the pink]. The Sienese: 'Onche renegata avess'io Siena. Chée chesto?' [If only I'd left Siena for good! What's up now?]. The people of Arezzo: 'Vuo' tu venire ovelle?' [Do you want to go somewhere?].
I have no intention of dealing with Perugia, Orvieto, Viterbo, or Città di Castello, because of their inhabitants' affinity with the Romans and the people of Spoleto. [...]
If there is anyone who thinks that what I have just said about the Tuscans could not be applied to the Genoese, let him consider only that if, through forgetfulness, the people of Genoa lost the use of the letter z, they would either have to fall silent for ever or invent a new language for themselves. For z forms the greater part of their vernacular, and it is, of course, a letter that cannot be pronounced without considerable harshness.
[…] [As for] the language of Romagna, […] I say that in this part of Italy are found two vernaculars which stand in direct opposition to each other because of certain contradictory features. One of them is so womanish, because of the softness of its vocabulary and pronunciation, that a man who speaks it, even if in a suitably virile manner, still ends up being mistaken for a woman. This is spoken by everybody in Romagna, especially the people of Forlì, whose city, despite being near the edge of the region, none the less seems to be the focal point of the whole province: they say 'deuscì' [God, yes!] when they wish to say 'yes'; and to seduce someone they say 'oclo meo' [My eye] and 'corada mea' [My heart]. […] There is also another vernacular, as I said, so hirsute and shaggy in its vocabulary and accent that, because of its brutal harshness, it not only destroys the femininity of any woman who speaks it, but, reader, would make you think her a man.
This is the speech of all those who say 'magarà' [If only], such as the citizens of Brescia, Verona and Vicenza; and the Paduans also speak like this, when they cruelly cut short all the participles ending in tus and the nouns in tas, saying 'mercò' [traded] and 'bontè' [goodness]. Along with these I will mention the people of Treviso, who, like those of Brescia and their neighbours, abbreviate their words by pronouncing consonantal u as f, saying 'nof' for 'nove' [nine] and 'vif' for 'vivo' [alive]. This I denounce as the height of barbarism.
Nor can the Venetians be considered worthy of the honour due to the vernacular for which we are searching; and if any of them, transfixed by error, be tempted to take pride in his speech, let him remember if he ever said ‘Per le plaghe di Dio tu no verras’. [By God's wounds, you won't come]


giovedì 20 febbraio 2020

Intervista ad Alessandro Lanucara

Ciao Alessandro, grazie per l’intervista e complimenti per aver vinto il primo premio del concorso "Stanza Svelata" organizzato da Leisure Spot! Come ti è venuta in mente l'idea per la poesia “Mondo” ?

Ma grazie a chi ha apprezzato il mio spartito! Ultimamente rifletto spesso sul ruolo del poeta. E poi, sul poeta che slitta su un mondo che, imperterrito, gira e lo rigira. E ancora, sulle mie spudorate solitudini. E ricordo bene che un giorno mi trovavo nella sala d’attesa del mio dentista ed evidentemente lo stato d’apprensione e titubanza, che mi portavo dietro in quegli interminabili minuti che precedevano il mio turno di martirio, ha assecondato a dovere la mia frizzante vena (tutta bollicine). Credo, inoltre, d’aver piluccato alcune briciole di Platone, nei giorni precedenti la devastante estrazione dentale, e un paio di sassetti della caverna del suo mito devono essermi rimasti addosso, tra i fili del maglione o nel risvolto d’un calzino, o chissà dove. Comunque conservo alcuni dei miei foglietti volanti e credo d’aver qui con me anche quello incriminato, contenente la cellula impazzita da cui è nata la mia memorabile prima classificata…il tempo di scovarlo…eccolo! Ci ritrovo una manciata di tratti confusi: la parola “mondo”, campeggiante su in alto e ripetuta più e più volte, il termine “isolotto”, qualche caverna sparsa qua e là (con scriventi annessi), da ognuna delle quali emana diffusa invidia per il vicinato e, in coda, il ricordo del mondo, “grande e tondeggiante”. Insomma, per farla breve, generalmente butto giù un paio di frasette, piuttosto sconnesse (lo faccio in tram, dal fruttivendolo, in trincea, dappertutto!) e poi cerco, pazientemente (nei successivi giorni, anni o secoli), d’attutirne l’impudica oscenità.

In quale misura la tua formazione classica ha influito sulla tua scrittura?

Credo, ahimè, poco o niente. Ricordo gli anni dei miei studi con tormento, fragile, insicuro, distratto, disadattato, passivo com’ero (e come sono?). Ciò che apprendevo lo traducevo in quel tanto che bastasse a “sbrigar la pratica”, senza amore per l’apprendimento, per la lettura, per l’arte, per la vita. Le mie indocili passioni le ho sviluppate solo in seguito, per mio conto, forse per scampare alle mie noie abissali e alimentare le mie voluttuose fantasie.

Quanto contano l’ispirazione e il lavoro di limatura nelle tue opere?

L’ispirazione è tutto. Non fui ispirato? Non scrissi un rigo, per anni ed anni (mai forzarsi!). Lo fui? Scrissi a valanga, persino dal dentista, fino a un attimo prima di finir sotto i suoi impietosi ferri. Per quanto riguarda invece il lavoro di limatura, alcune volte (pochine) è nullo, altre (tante e tante) è frenetico e si protrae per giorni e giorni. Però, più tempo passa dalla prima stesura, meno intervengo sui miei scritti. Perché, una volta ultimati, mi sentirei di tradirli se li manipolassi eccessivamente. Posso rimetterci lo zampino, su una mia vecchia bagattella, persino, in certi casi, ad anni di distanza ma, se la canna della mia pistola è ormai palesemente fredda, le variazioni saranno davvero minime, e marginali.

Ci sono autori contemporanei o meno che hanno inciso significativamente sulla tua scrittura?

Tutto ciò che leggo probabilmente incide, dal “compagno di banco”, che sbircio su un’antologia o in rete, al “classico”, che assaporo stravaccato in poltrona. Amo attaccarmi a un’immagine, o anche a una sola parola, letta qua e là, e farci proliferare attorno un mio nuovo scioglilingua: è uno dei miei passatempi preferiti. Ma, se parliamo d’influssi significativi, non posso che citare De André e Garcia Lorca, Bob Dylan e Baudelaire, Vasco e Leopardi, Paolo Conte e Pessoa. Fino ad arrivare, di coppia in coppia, a quella che mi sta facendo compagnia in quest’ultimo tratto, formata da  Gaber e Whitman. La prossima sarà magari composta da un rapper e un aedo ventenne, chissà!

Puoi raccontarci come sono nati i libri di poesia che hai pubblicato finora?

Non posso lamentarmi, da qualche anno scrivo a ritmi da catena di montaggio (più scrivo, più ne ho voglia). E mi diverto poi a distribuire il mio materiale in varie raccolte, più o meno degne, omogenee, sensate. Inviandole, sconsideratamente, in branchi famelici, a vari editori e concorsi, proprio un paio delle più arruffate hanno avuto, come dire, buon esito e son diventate qualcosa in più d’una cartella in una fossile pennetta (o catasta di cartacce nel cassetto dei ricordi). Tutto qui. Certo, ultimamente mi son fatto furbo, son diventato più cauto e selettivo riguardo l’organizzazione dei miei parti letterari, cerco di dare il più possibile criterio, compattezza alle mie scorribande (che un qual dio me la mandi buona!). Ma un paio d’anni fa, dopo ere di scritture volutamente clandestine, affossate, estranee a sé stesse, essendomi infine deciso ad affacciarmi al “mondo”, era giusto che andasse così, che cioè fiondassi a destra e a manca le mie cartacce, con l’incoscienza d’un poppante birbantello e la fremente speranza di vederne qualcuna accettata, e pubblicata. Perché l’approvazione d’una giuria o redazione mi desse il coraggio d’andar avanti nel propormi a qualcuno che non fosse la specchiera di casa mia. Fermo restando che si scrive perché si scrive, al di là d’un possibile editore, premiatore, lettore. Mondo.

Link a eventuale sito web, canali sociali, pagine promozionali:

Non ho link, siti web, canali sociali, pagine promozionali da inserire: vivo tuttora sul mio isolotto, in caverna (la prima a sinistra), a cellulare moribondo, invidioso di tutto e tutti.