A Nature Poet in New England
We first met poet Wally Swist at The Mount – the home of Edith Wharton during our celebration of our new publication of Edith Wharton’s gothic tales – Ghosts.
It was one more incident proving that a coincidence is more than likely a synchronicity.
As with Poets of Nature, Poets of Spring and the poems of Peter Kane Dufault, BMA loves the sound of nature poetry. After all the studio is settled amidst the most beautiful woods in the Berkshires. Nature and the environment might be taboo in politics at the moment, seldom mentioned by any political candidate, but it is at the forefront of BMA’s agenda. We wonder what could be more important. Without Nature nothing could exist – jobs, economy, health care, education. It supports us all and if that isn’t enough it is beautiful to look at.
How well do we really know nature? In today’s world she might be somewhat of a stranger. She can be hard to access, hard to find, the enjoyment of a small percentage of second home owners, the least of most people’s concerns as they struggle to make a living. As Goethe states in his essay On Nature “we live within her but are strangers to her.” (see BMA’s video Goethe on Nature.)
Our nature poets become our emissaries in this instance, our heroes, bringing us closer to the most important element in our lives – the place where we come from and return to. Award winning poet Wally Swist is one of these and his long list of published anthologies, books, periodicals and radio appearances speak of a life dedicated to this cause. An expert in the art of the Haiku, his longer poems also describe a zen like perception of the moment:
“The trail flashes / with sluices of snowmelt. / Silver-green undersides / of hemloock lift in the wind.”
“When you cut down two stems of Queen Anne’s lace / In the Berkshire Hills to exhibit elegance and strength / in nature, you are drawn to the parasol that leans into the coolness of evening..”
BMA is honored to produce a recording of Mr. Swist’s selected works due out this April as we think him a part of the lineage of great nature poets. He mentored under the sage-like Robert Francis who himself was taught by the legendary Robert Frost. His poems however speak for themselves without the need of credentials.
Jason Slater Brown
“Nothing is more satisfying than a poet who can not only work musically and meaningfully with words but also recites effectively. Wally Swist’s poems will thrill you with their originality and potency, and his style of reading will add a dimension, allowing you to hear the poems almost as they were first conceived.”
Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul
“Wally Swist’s fine poems do justice to love and nature, and those
we hear on this recording are both well written and well read.”
“These poems are a beautifully perceptive reading of both the
natural world and ourselves as its necessary testament and witness.
If seeing is believing, then Wally Swist can make believers of us all.”
Berkshire Media Artists has always favored poetry above all else. It makes for fantastic audio as most poetry was meant to be read aloud. Poets of Nature is now our second best selling audio. We weren’t sure if the world still wanted classical nature poetry and we are happy it has been well received.
Following Poets of Nature we recorded the great poet Peter Kane Dufault, who I would like to call, although he might not agree, one of our living giants of nature poetry. That was proceeded by Poets of Spring about the two extraordinary Goodale Girls of the Berkshires soon to be released officially this Spring. Currently we are happy to be working with poet Wally Swist whose beautiful lyric poetry is in keeping with the the great works we’ve published so far.
Making trailers for these projects can be challenging but always educational and full of great discoveries. An example is our Poets of Spring trailer which was patiently waiting for two sisters the same age as the Goodales who also looked the part of two phenomenally gifted young writers. Before we had to go to LA casting, LA came to the Berkshires. Our friend Carrie’s daughters, the three of them just having just moved from the West Coast to the Berkshires, were such the obvious choice we didn’t even notice for almost half a year. Not only were they pitch perfect casting but they wrote poetry too and read prolifically. If the Goodale sisters weren’t reincarnated they might as well have been.
The book Can Poetry Save the Earth?: A Feild Guide to Nature Poems by John Felstiner is our mantra and our answer is Yes. We believe it can. As we see more trees being carted off than planted these days what better devise than poetry to plant a deeper sense of relationship with the Earth? BMA’s new Young Poets Series is part of this outlook as we see more young adults being drawn to poetic expression and reading and we salute their parents for encouraging them. BMA would not only like to be a part of that encouragement but also celebrate it and so the Young Poets Series – a virtual coffee house poetry reading for aspiring young poets – was born. Who could be more appropriate to kick off the series than the Goodale actors themselves, the amazing Case girls.
- Jason Brown BMA Studios
WAMC airs Ghosts’s Mr. Jones.
Click to listen.
Ghosts is on sale now at The Bookstore at The Mount, The Bookloft in Great Barrington, The Bookstore in Lenox or by contacting BMA Studios at 413-528-0253 – email@example.com
In the Mood for Ghosts
“‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ is the pointless question often addressed by those who are incapable of feeling ghostly influences…” – Edith Wharton
“Wharton explores in these narratives a repressed story about women who become unquiet ghosts because they cannot have a voice.” – Candace Waid
As fall arrives so will Ghosts, a new audio book compilation of Edith Wharton’s most frightening tales. Produced by BMA Studios and The Mount Press, Ghosts is the result of talented Berkshire narrators lending their craft, all of whom have felt the influence of Edith Wharton’s grand estate – The Mount.
Set on 49 acres, The Mount is the very definition of turn of the century elegance and style. Yet there lurks a dark side. And if one visits The Mount on Friday evenings, the dark side can be discovered by taking an entertaining ghost tour hosted by The Mount staff. For those who have lived at The Mount during its function as a residence for Shakespeare & Company the house could exhibit a chilling character. Actors have reported footsteps at night when no one was around. One occupant, alone one night in the empty mansion heard the clamor of a soiree on the lower floor. This was confirmed by other members of the company who had evidently experienced the phenomena as well.
There have also been reports of ghosts as visible as the ones in Wharton’s stories even ghosts who had questions of their own for the living occupants. Whether or not one believes in these accounts Wharton’s “feeling of ghostly influences” stems from an intense and difficult past.
R.W.B. Lewis describes Edith’s symptoms of a “haunting fear” of “some dark indefinable menace” that stemmed from an attack of typhoid fever. He writes in his biography of Edith Wharton “It was worse when she came at the end of her daily walk through the afternoon dusk; there, on the threshold of the house, she was sure, the horror was preparing to spring upon her, and no one, not even her father, could protect her. She could not sleep at night unless a light was on and a nursemaid in the room with her. Her conscious mind seems never to have grasped the cause of what she would describe as a ‘choking agony of terror.’” (from Edith Wharton: A Biography.)
Not being an enthusiast of the macabre myself Ms. Wharton has turned me around. Editing an audio requires that one listens to the story at least six times and I wasn’t looking forward to dwelling too long in that shady realm. I discovered the same charm that went into the construction of The Mount also went into the construction of the tales and I began to look forward to walking the ancient dark halls, secret passageways and moonlit gardens that fill her ghost tales.
The thrill was amplified by the exceptional talent of the narrators whose intelligence and ability made this a highly entertaining project to work on. I am honored to help put these stories on a recording to be enjoyed by Wharton fans as well as explorers of dark places.
Each story is complimented by a musical introduction by a composer that Edith herself might have listened to in her day. Performed by Sarah Edelstein for BMA Studios , the haunting melodies of Johann Sebastian Bach, Alexander Scriabin, Arnold Schoenberg, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel float in and out of the chapters along side the phantoms that dwell there in.
Like the narration, the music was a production unto itself. The selections took weeks to finalize and the approach and execution of even one thirty second intro could take an entire afternoon. But whose counting? Working with skilled performers rendering classical masterpieces one can lose track of the hours. In some ways I felt that was apropos. I’m guessing Ghosts lose sense of time as well.
Jason Slater Brown
The audio edition of Ghosts is due out at the end of October 2011. Look for it in local bookstores, Amazon and Audible.com.
Alison Larkin’s (Mr. Jones) audio book of The English American is number two on Audible.com’s top ten author-narrated audio books of all time. TV and film includes Conan O’Brien, Comic Relief and James Cameron productions. She co-starred with Annette Bening in the NPR/Firesign Theater production of The Wonderful World of Oz. Audio includes The Disney Fairie Collection series , the Swallows and Amazon series, the Magic or Madness series and The Adventures of Charlie & Moon.
Jonathan Epstein’s (Kerfol) theatre experience includes Broadway/National Tour: The Merchant of Venice (w F. Murray Abraham), Dirty Dancing, Man of la Mancha, A Meeting by the River, London: Faust. Regional: ART, The Shakespeare Theatre, Intiman, Berkshire Theatre Festival and twenty seasons with Shakespeare & Company. TV and film:Law and Order and Something Borrowed. Audio: The Aspern Papers, The Siege of London, Poets of Nature and Edith Wharton on Audio.
Corinna May (The Looking Glass), in addition to twenty seasons with Shakespeare & Company, appeared in the National Tour of The Graduate (w Lorraine Bracco, Kelly McGillis) Regional (selected): Berkshire Theatre Festival, Syracuse Stage, Capitol Rep., Rep. Theater of St. Louis, Studio Arena Theatre. Film: Split Ends (lead); Rain Without Thunder; A Secret Little War. Television: Bourbon Street (pilot); Law & Order, PBS: Evening at the Pops.
Jim Frangione (The Eyes) is the winner of two Audiofile Golden Earphone Awards and has been nominated for two Audies for best narrator. He is known as the voice for the popularThe Black Dagger Brotherhood series as well as the Chet and Bernie series. Jim performed on Broadway in David Mamet’s The Old Neighborhood; Off Broadway, at the Atlantic Theater Company and Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. TV and Film includes Law and Order, The Unit, The Spanish Prisoner and many others. He is a founder of Berkshire Playwrights Lab.
Tod Randolph (The Lady’s Maid’s Bell) has been acting professionally since she graduated from the Juilliard School in 1988. She has performed in fifteen seasons at Shakespeare & Company and The Mount. New York & Regional productions include: Trinity Rep, Milwaukee Rep, Syracuse Stage, Portland Stage, Theatre Row Theatre, Holderness Group, Stageworks/Hudson. Productions with BMA Audio include Autre Temps, Edith Wharton on Audio Vol.1.
Sarah Edelstein studied piano with her parents and in Europe. She has been playing and teaching piano for over thirty years. Her recordings include Poets of Nature, Poets of Spring, Edith Wharton on Audio Vol.1,
Mr. Jones Audio sample read by Alison Larkin
When little Beatrice sang not only her part in the school musical but everyone else's in our living room on Sunday, who had any idea she would be singing for 110,000+ (last count) vimeo viewers within the week?
At the time Ben Hillman was calling for nine year old singers for his new video venture and I knew only one. That's all I needed to know. In two days my pal Carrie brought over her charming daughters and Bea Athene fearlessly brought it to the mic at BMA Studios. Knowing Mr. Hillman's work I knew he was going to do something great with it, he seems incapable of doing otherwise, and he didn't disappoint.
The overwhelming response speaks volumes about the need for a bigger evolutionary voice in our culture. 70% of US biology teachers are now afraid to teach it in the classroom according to Alternet. That's got to change.
Well, now they can play this.
When critically acclaimed author and psychologist Carol Gilligan visited BMA Studios to see how the audio of her book would be handled we were pretty pumped up. She was all smiles and enthusiasm and left the studio pretty excited herself due in no small part to narrator Normi Noel’s intelligently smooth delivery. Known mainly by her book In a Different Voice which Harvard University Press called “the little book that started a revolution” she was named by Time magazine as one of the top 25 most influential people in 1996. BMA’s current production of the audio edition of her book The Birth of Pleasure puts us once again in a psychological framework although not far from the classics we love. Edith Wharton, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Marcel Proust, Charlotte Bronte, Sophocles and Shakespeare to name just a few are all referenced as she examines how the stories we embrace as children can either bring us further from our authentic self or closer.
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, the audio edition of The Birth of Pleasure is scheduled for a February release.
The pictures say it all except that it was one of the best times I’ve had during my stay on this planet. So many fantastic people in one amazing setting. Heaven on Earth. Thanks all for being there and missed those who could not make it.
My favorite part of production is working with talent. When two of them are brought together its twice the thrill. That would be the case when Ben Hillman (Hillman and Company) and Jim Frangione (Berkshire Playwrights Lab, Recorded Books) recorded a voice over for another insanely brilliant Hillman animated film. With four ears scrutinizing his every syllable, Mr. Frangione delivered quality cooly and quickly.
“In the following essay I shall attempt to show how we can read the myths and legends of the eleventh and twelfth centuries as the collective dreams of the mid-term crisis of the Christian era. As an example of this we will apply C.G. Jung’s method of dream interpretations to the important work to Chretien de Troyes’ version of the Grail legend.” – From the introduction to The Holy Grail: Healing the Sexual Wound in the Western Psyche.
BMA is looking forward to the publication of the audio edition of The Holy Grail: Healing the Sexual Wound in the Western Psyche by renowned Jungian psychologist Roger J. Woolger. This would not be Mr. Woolger’s first foray into audio. He has published several with the Sounds True label who also records and distributes Eckhart Tolle among others. With degrees from Oxford and London Universities as well as the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Roger has developed a practice of spiritual psychotherapy he terms Deep Memory Process which he teaches in Europe and the U.S.
Roger’s eloquent and clear narration is the perfect vehicle for Jungian thought as well as any classical or philosophical text. Comprehensive ideas are rendered accessible and his heartfelt delivery is as enjoyable to listen to as any welcomed guest.
The Troubadors, The Cult of the Lady, The Psychological Significance of Chivalry and Perceval the Hero.
This is Roger discussing the recent and monumental publication of Jung’s Red Book. There are five of these videos and worth watching.
Video Trailer: Poets of Nature vol.2 – The Extraordinary Goodale Girls of New England (in production)May 4th, 2010
Their verses brought nature into the homes of a nation.
Read by Normi Noel and Tara Franklin.
The Goodale girls inform us how to observe and think as one mind with nature like Zen masters. In this time of environmental disasters their message brings wisdom. The words of fellow New England poet Walt Whitman describe their transcendent vision: “We are nature, long have we been absent but now we return.”
This audio is an attempt to share their words that once brought joy to a nation and in doing so bring awareness of our beautiful natural habitat.
Normi Noel is an actress and director with Shakespeare and Company and other regional theaters. Her current project with BMA Audio is Carol Gilligan’s The Birth of Pleasure.
Tara Franklin performs leading roles regionally and in New York as well as Berkshire Theatre Festival. She can be heard on the BMA Audio label as the voice of Emily Dickinson on Poets of Nature and as Edith Wharton on Edith Wharton on Audio Vol. 1.