Those who know my poetry know how much time I spend with my ear to the words, tuning and re-tuning, trying to make them sound just right. Poetry IS music, to me. Well, what a delight it is to have a friend on the other end, who then strolls in between the words I’ve laid down, lifting pure music out of what he finds there.
David Biedenbender is such a friend. I’m excited to announce his newest piece, Severance, commissioned by the United States Navy Band, was inspired by my recent book of poems by the same name, and borrows titles of mine and some thematic inspiration. David’s 3-movement concerto premiered Friday, 1/10/20 in Fairfax, Virginia.
David and I met as part of the “Poet as Muse” project, spearheaded by flutist Joanna White and clarinetist Kennen White of Central Michigan University, which paired poets with composers. For that project, David selected my poem “Staying the Night” from Our Sudden Museum, and composed an incredibly haunting piece inspired by the elegy about my sister.
Following “Staying the Night,” David contacted me to collaborate on a piece he was composing about the horror of the school shootings, particularly through the eyes and hearts of parents of young children. For that piece, I wrote what became a two-section poem called “Shell and Wing.” David’s composition, Shell and Wing, in response to the poem is utterly breathtaking, and has been performed several times around the country already. I was thrilled to be in the audience at the premiere in Pittsburgh, in July 2017.
Recently, I was also lucky enough to be in the audience to see his piece “What is Written on the Leaves” performed, which borrows its title from another poem of mine from Our Sudden Museum. The first movement of this gorgeous wind ensemble was inspired by the poem’s theme of letting go, and is a beautiful tribute to Biedenbender’s mentor, John Williamson. You can read and hear the poem here.
Stay tuned! This Biedenbender/Fanning, composer-poet friendship is flourishing, and, as I’ve told David many times, it is such an honor for me to see my words resonate further out into the world–in the vehicle of his incredible music, a lot of which you can listen to on his website.
In addition to David’s pieces, composer Jay Batzner wrote two magnificent scores for my poem ““May Our Young Find Music in All Our Broken Instruments” and “Flute” (also from Our Sudden Museum). And I was recently commissioned by the Yara Ensemble at Central Michigan University to write three poems about toxic masculinity / racism, which will be premiere this Spring at CMU, before being performed in New York and elsewhere. Composer Evan Ware is currently writing music for those three poems, and I can’t wait to see (and hear!) what he makes of the words!
Here’s to ART in all its forms-spreading its bright threads, choking out the darkness.