October 31, 2018
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Alicia Jo Rabins' Fruit Geode is a fierce and intimate poetry collection.
Fruit Geode is a book of poems about the psychedelic, underwater experience of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood. On a larger level, it’s about what it means to live in a body, especially a female body - how weird and surprising and silly and tragic and beautiful the whole experience is. Woven through are some of my other obsessions: herbal medicine, Jewish mysticism, ancient Sumerian goddesses, sea life, space travel.
I wrote this book after moving from New York City to Oregon, and it definitely has a trippy, witchy, West Coast vibe. I felt like everything I knew had been changed, and I was hungry for beauty, and there was often a sleeping baby or a screaming toddler I was trying to calm. So I listened to a lot of quiet, ambient, beautiful music. I’m also a musician, so all this ambient music ended up inspiring a live soundtrack I’m improvising (on violin with electronic pedals) along with the poems on my book tour!
Buckle in, it’s gonna be…..chill.
A Winged Victory for the Sullen: Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears
In writing about pregnancy, birth and early parenthood, I kept feeling that on one hand, I was more anchored in my specific body than ever – but on the other, I had this odd feeling that I could transcend your own personality, the limits of my own life, and imagine myself into some ancient world, or some future world. That’s probably why I’ve found myself listening to a ton of ambient music over the past few years. It matches the weird, dreamy vibe of the poems I’ve been writing, and when I get cabin fever or things get too hectic with little kids, it chills us all out. This is one of my favorite tracks.
Garth Stevenson: The Southern Sea
In addition to being a writer, I’m a musician, and about halfway through writing this book, I decided I wanted to compose a live soundtrack on violin and electronic pedals, an abstract, ambient environment to perform along with the poems from Fruit Geode. (Video excerpt here!) This track has been a talisman for me in the process of writing the live soundtrack - I love the way Garth Stevenson combines processed electronic sounds with the unmistakable sound of a stringed instrument, and I listened to it a lot while editing the book, too.
Brian Eno: An Ending (Ascent)
This is another ambient, vibey track which sort of changes the air around me, makes it feel charged and holy, stretches time out, and matches the feeling of Fruit Geode. (I also listened to it a lot while writing and revising). I’m obsessed with plants as well as astrophysics right now – the earthiest, and the farthest from earth – so the book is full of medicinal herbs, and visits to other planets. I feel like this track is halfway between the secret music of plants talking to each other, and the music of the sphere.
Laura Gibson: Wintering
I love all of Laura Gibson’s albums, but somehow I got super obsessed with this very early one (If You Come To Greet Me) and played it nonstop over the two years I was writing Fruit Geode. This is one of my favorite songs off the album. I love how slow it is, and how sparse and simple. It’s cozy but also melancholy, perfect for making cookies with a two-year-old on a snow day.
Brian Eno: Music for Airports 1/1
Am I allowed to include Eno twice? This is a classic I listened to over and over and over while writing, editing, and just basically living the years this book is about. Another track that matches the weird, isolated, cozy, agonizing months with a baby – and, equally well, the weird, isolated, cozy, agonizing practice of writing. Fruit Geode contains a lot of poems about outer space, underwater life, inner universes and faraway planets, and this album is basically the perfect soundtrack.
Nick Drake – Which Will
I listened to the album this is from, Pink Moon, a lot during the years I was writing this book. As an artist I admire this album so much - the mix of technique and effortlessness, intimacy but also hiddenness, simplicity and complexity. And the album name is so beautiful - it’s a poem in itself!
After the kids’ bedtime, while I worked on these poems upstairs, my husband (Aaron Hartman) was often downstairs recording this album all by himself, track by track, instrument by instrument, for his solo project Marine Layer. I think this is his version of finding some quiet among the chaos. I could often hear these beautiful songs seeping up as I sat at the kitchen table, editing, so they are definitely embedded in the DNA of Fruit Geode. It’s so beautiful, like Mazzy Star on cough syrup.
Leonard Cohen – Going Home
One of the themes of this book is leaving my youth behind at last, truly becoming a for real, one hundred percent adult, and the unexpected sadness involved with that. It felt like a kind of death. This song is from the last years of Leonard Cohen’s life; he’s singing about saying goodbye to life itself, and I love it so much, it was such good company during this transition. The line “A manual for living with defeat” is one of my favorites; I tried and failed to work that into a poem about a hundred times. We played this song as we drove across the Verrazano Bridge, moving out of New York, leaving this city I loved, setting off for the west coast with our baby in the backseat. So very bittersweet, so very real.
Alicia Jo Rabins and Fruit Geode links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
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