In 1819, the poet John Keats wrote six poems that would become known as the Great Odes. Some of them—“Ode to a Nightingale,” “To Autumn”—are among the most celebrated poems in the English language. Associate professor of English, Anahid Nersessian has gathered the odes to write a personal account of what they reveal in our troubled world – and hers. She explains why these poems still have so much to say to us, especially in a time of ongoing political crisis. Her Keats is an unflinching antagonist of modern life—of capitalism, of the British Empire, of the destruction of the planet—as well as a passionate idealist for whom every poem is a love poem. Her book, Keats’s Odes – A Lover’s Discourse emerges from Nersessian’s lifelong attachment to Keats’s poetry; but more, it “is a love story: between me and Keats, and not just Keats.” Drawing on experiences from her own life, Nersessian celebrates Keats even as she grieves him and counts her own losses—and Nersessian, like Keats, has a passionate awareness of the reality of human suffering, but also a willingness to explore the possibility that the world, at least, could still be saved. Anahid is a delightful guest, her animated enthusiasm for Keats is a mix of the poetic and personal, perfectly captured when she announces, “My ambition for the book was to make it sound like a New order album – Power, Corruption & Lies”.
As I was about to record my voice-over for this volume, the nice lady who runs the office downstairs below my loft came knocking at my door. “Hi Norman,” she said almost apologetically, “are you about to do some recording? You may want to wait for a while, we have some guys here about to install new equipment. They say there will be a lot of loud drilling and all kinds of banging and noises.” I’m still in isolation, the room I record in does not have adequate soundproofing, so I quickly recorded an intro and an outro, thinking I may be able to add my commentary later. As it happens, the drilling and hammering and banging went on for ages. I have no idea what they were installing. It’s kind of scary to think the nice lady from downstairs may have a penchant for building a dungeon or two!
Artwork by Charles Yamamoto “My god loves me, she will question you” 1989 6’ x 6’3” acrylic and gold flake paint on raw canvas. Courtesy of Norman B’s collection
Was Arik Kershenbaum’s intent in writing, The Zoologist’s Guide To The Galaxy to make the reader reconsider – everything? To look at our world from a new perspective? “Yes!” the zoologist, College Lecturer, and Fellow at Girton College, Cambridge responds rapidly. His new book will not only make you think, you’ll also find yourself wanting to share your discoveries. Kershenbaum has a quirky, yet delightful knack of setting up a question, answering it, then questioning what you’ve just learned. He is a gifted storyteller who uses colloquialisms and common-day language, while his studious research is paraded before us without a hint of laborious, long-winded academia. The book gallops along at an agreeable speed, yet never once do you feel the author is only giving you a précis of his knowledge. Arik says Scientists are confident that life exists elsewhere in the universe. However, while we often imagine that life on other planets is the stuff of science fiction, the time has come to abandon our fantasies of space invaders and movie monsters and instead place our expectations on a solid scientific footing. Short of aliens landing in New York City, how do we know what they are like? Could there be an alien planet with supersonic animals? A moon where creatures have a language composed of smells? Will aliens scream with fear, act honestly, or have technology? Kirksenbaum draws on his own expert understanding of life on Earth and Darwin’s theory of evolution, which applies throughout the universe to answer these questions and more. The Zoologist’s Guide To The Galaxy is an engrossing book. Arik Kershenbaum will open your eyes to the marvels of our planet and the universe beyond.
Katherine May, author of Wintering: The Power Of Rest And Retreat In Difficult Times returns to the program to talk about where we are now at the second anniversary of the Covid pandemic. Katherine wrote her book before she or we had any knowledge of Covid 19. The unlikely timeliness of her book was and still is remarkable. Katherine has insights into what we have all been going through in the last year, not least of all because she had written a personal narrative about the unexpected. In the conversation, Katherine shares her thoughts about coping and explores the ways we can repair ourselves when life knocks us down.
Over on Life Elsewhere Music Vol 225, talented Liverpool-based duo, King Hannah offers a remarkable cover of Bruse Springsteen’s State Trooper. Plus, sixty minutes of very cool new releases.
They look like they just stepped out of a photoshoot for ID magazine circa 1979 or it could be 2025. Their potent music, like their striking image, is an alluring reverent homage to a past they could have invented, perfectly and seamlessly blended into a brilliant foretaste of the future. Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle are King Hannah. Their moniker is clever, a deadpan kick in the shins of conformity and gender identity. Yet, Hannah nonchalantly says, “Oh, it’s a name I came up with ages ago, I thought it sounded good. So we used it”. That’s the thing about these two, everything is all matter-of-fact. There’s no pretensions, no deliberate persona they are eager to get across. When they are told that Crème Brûlée is an incredibly sexy song, they both sound surprised. Craig, between a chuckle or two, says, “Just look at us!” We did and we like what we see. The authenticity of King Hannah is right up front, their music does not mess about. “We’re determined to get it right”, says Hannah They genuinely enjoy making music together “We know when to finish a song without even looking at each other,” Hannah shares. There is so much going on in their debut EP, Tell Me You Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine, it’s almost impossible to grasp the depth of pure rock ’n’ roll spirituality that shines through on every track. There are so many ghosts channeling their voices through Hannah and Craig, they are harvesting the fruits to create vital music. Listen carefully to our conversation, then indulge in their music.
If you are going to write a crime thriller, what are the essential ingredients? Well, how about a big helping of murder, mix in a generous portion of blackmail, spice everything up with a layer of greed, add a dollop or two of 1979 Los Angeles, and sprinkle in a shiny El Camino. Pasadena-based writer, Chip Jacobs has perfected the recipe with his latest book, The Darkest Glare. Only there is one important ingredient Mr. Jacobs has no option but to admit to – his new crime thriller is true, all of it. The Darkest Glare reads like a grotesquely macabre fantasy it also has moments of absurd hilarity. Yet despite, Chip Jacobs’s undoubted ability to create a dark twisted tale, he readily agrees, even he could not have come up with such a bizarre cast of characters, or a plot with more twists and turns than a bowl of spaghetti. Mr. Jacobs tells the tale with a steady hand and crystal-clear eye. He spares no details yet he skillfully moves the story along at a feverish pace. Below the surface, this is a story of personal failure and hidden vulnerability. As the story unfolds Chip paints the complexity of real people instead of presenting two-dimensional villains. Like his book, Jacobs verve for explaining the details makes for a fascinating guest.
Just as we were putting this show together, news came in that the last surviving member of the original Wailers had passed. Jamaican-born Neville O’Riley Livingston also known as Bunny Livingston or Bunny Wailer was dead at the age of 73 just a couple of months short of his 74th birthday. Long considered a living legend, the Rastafarian singer-songwriter winner of a number of Grammy awards was named recently by Newsweek as one of the three most important musicians in world music. For a tribute, we take you back in time to circa 1981 to hear Bunny Wailer’s, Rise and Shine, a 12” platter on Solomonic Records. Rest In Peace, sir.