Conversations with the Wind brings together the celebrated jazz saxophonist Andy Sheppard with the world-renowned poet Alice Oswald. Andy is famous and multiply awarded for his inventive collaborations with artists in other musical genres and other media. Alice has won every major award in England for poetry -some more than once- and is generally considered one of the great poets in English of her time. She is often compared with Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, to name just two of her most prominent forbears.

 

The form of the evening is quite musical in character. Alice recites (without text) a sequence of four poems, like four musical preludes. This presentation is interwoven with four contrasting preludes, in which Andy improvises to four 10-minute sections of silent film. The film, made by me, observes the intimate progress of the wind through nature. At strategic moments the poet and musician establish a conversation with each other.

 

Both performers are profoundly musical in their nature, so the fusion of saxophones (enhanced by sampling), words and film creates a coherent and moving experience. It is so moving that it provoked members of the Totnes audience to give Conversations with the Wind a standing ovation, and moved

some of them to tears.

 

PLEA TO THE WIND

 

Describe the Wind,
                                Wind!

Say something marked by discomfort
That wanders many cities and harbours,
Not knowing the language.

Be much travelled.
Start with nothing but the hair blown sideways
And say:
                Gentle

                       South-easterly
                                       Drift
                       With Rain.
Say: Downdraught.
 
Unglue the fog from the woods from the waist up
And speak disparagingly of leaves.
Be an old man blowing a shell.
Blow over the glumness of a girl
Looking up at the air in her red hood
And say:
                                Suddenly
                                                Violent
                                                      Short-lived
                                                Gust.
Then come down glittering
With a pair of ducks to rooftop.
 
Go on. Be North-easterly.
Be enough chill to ripple a pool.
Be a rumour of  winter.
Whip the green cloth off the hills
And keep on quietly
Lifting the skirts of women not wanting to be startled
And pushing the clouds like towers of clean linen
Till you get to the
                                Thin
                                      Cry
                                That
                                      Suffers
                      On seas.
 
 
 
 
 
Ignore it.
 
Say Snow.
 
Say Ditto.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Wait for five days
In which everything fades except aging.
 
Then try to describe being followed by heavy rain.
Describe voices and silverings,
Say:
                Strong
                  Wet
          Southwester
From December to March.
 
Describe everything leaning.
Bring a tray of cool air to the back door.
Speak increasingly rustlingly.
Say something winged
On the branch of the heart.
Say:
                Song.
Because you know these things.
You are both Breath
                And Breath
And your mouth mentions me
Just at the point where I end. 

 

 

© 2012, Alice Oswald

Geoff Dunlop

ARTIST CURATOR