I’ll Follow You: A Chat with Francesca Kritikos about Poetry

Today I’m in conversation with the brilliant poet and editor Francesca Kritikos. 

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

She is the author of the chapbooks It Felt Like Worship (published by Sad Spell Press in 2017) and Animals Don’t Go to Hell (published by Bottlecap Press in 2021) as well as the forthcoming full-length collection Exercise in Desire (which will be published by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in early 2022). Her poetry has also appeared in the Des Pair Quarterly, Ghost City Review, and Witch Craft Mag. She completed the undergraduate creative writing program at the University of East Anglia in the UK in 2017. 

On a recent cool and rainy October morning we got to go deep on resisting the compulsive productivity of capitalism by writing in bed; how when you’re a girl, you can get away with saying less; how the linguistic conventions of medical editing have informed the evolution of her style as a poet; and making sure poetry is accessible to everyone, especially outside of an academic context.

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I’ll Follow You: A Conversation with Tim Clarke, the Translator of IN MAY

Today I’m truly delighted to be in conversation with musician, actor, and translator Tim Clarke.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

As an actor, Tim has performed throughout Europe, North America, and the UK, including close to 1,000 appearances on London’s West End stages. He’s had leading roles in productions including Jesus Christ Superstar, Blood Brothers, The Buddy Holly Story, Dusty—The Musical, The Glenn Miller Story, and The Demon Headmaster. Tim’s television roles have included Sir Richard Byngham in The Spanish Armada, fireman Mick Foster in Emmerdale, and Detective Inspector Goodman in Canary Wharf, as well as numerous TV commercials.

As a musician, he’s written and recorded the albums Life Changes and To Love and Be Loved and was the winner of the Netherlands International Song Festival and a finalist at the Isle of Wight Song Festival.

A highly competent German and French speaker, Tim has also translated into English the German musicals A Touch of Colour and Scrooge—A Christmas Tale as well as project managed the critically acclaimed musical theater piece In May, which features all original music by Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy. Which is what brought us together.

In the spring of 2017, I wrote a long, loving post here on my blog about the recording of In May that appeared as a bonus disk on the 2016 Divine Comedy album Foreverland. In the years since, it’s become one of the most highly trafficked pieces on my site. Fans of Neil Hannon are nothing if not devoted to his music. Tim himself found and read the piece and reached out to me about it, and the rest, as you’ll soon hear, is history. I was so excited that he was willing to spend a solid 90 minutes talking me through the ins and outs of his extremely varied career, as well as the creation of this breathtaking set of songs, which have meant so much to me over the past few years.

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“Traveling with the Ghost of Someone He Admires”–A Conversation About Music Books with Brian Cremins

Today I’m welcoming back to the show my first repeat guest–who also happens to be the human I’m sheltering in place with–the writer, musician, and scholar Brian Cremins.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Brian’s joining me today for a recorded version of an ongoing conversation we’ve been having basically since we first met a little over a decade ago, all about our favorite books about music.

Because we’re both writers and both musicians, it turns out we have a lot of thoughts about the intersection of those two disciplines!

We both chose a small stack of books that are important to us individually, though of course there’s a lot of overlap between our lists, and of course there were dozens of other books that came to mind during the course of this conversation.

In talking about those books, we also discuss the way music critics listen to music versus the way musicians listen to music; how descriptive language can mystify what a musician is actually doing in a way that might not be helpful; how the best books can feel more like traveling companions rather than destination points; and spending time imagining what certain albums sounded like in the days before everything was instantly available to us online. Plus, Brian finally goes on the record with his comparison between the Hall and Oates song “I Can’t Go for That” and Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place.”

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“I Have Something I’d Like to Say, But How Do I Best Say It?”–A Chat with Yuval Taylor

I’m delighted today to be in conversation with my very good friend and former colleague Yuval Taylor.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Yuval is the coauthor of the books Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop and Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Antioch Review, and the Oxford American, among other publications. His most recent book, as a solo author, is Zora and Langston: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal, which was a finalist for the 2019 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Biography. It’s a deeply researched look at the six-year-long friendship, and eventual bitter falling out, between Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. The book, which will be released in paperback in July 2020, has been praised by NPR as having “a vivid anecdotal style,” by the Wall Street Journal as “compelling, concise and scrupulously researched,” and by the New York Times Book Review as “a highly readable account of one of the most compelling and consequential relationships in black literary history.”

In our wide-ranging chat, Yuval and I discuss the secret to being incredibly prolific as a writer, the joy as a writer and researcher in finding out everything you can about a subject and then distilling it, how the process of doing in-depth historical research can sometimes feel like being surprised by the twists and turns in a really great novel, the pleasures of following a set of characters through a distinct period of time and exploring their relationship dynamics, the challenge of writing about love when sex isn’t involved, the dangers of driving to Bushwick in the 1980s, and discovering a fuller picture of someone after they die if you’ve only ever known them while they’re sick.

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“Respect What It Is That’s Going On Inside Of You”–A Chat with Erin the Psychic Witch

I’ve been hesitant to talk too much on my podcast about the coronavirus situation.

Sure, I’ve alluded to it here and there over the past few weeks, mostly in my initial greetings to my guests, checking in on how everyone’s doing. But my strength as a writer and thinker has never been of-the-moment analysis of current events, and there’s obviously more than enough punditry floating around in the ether right now.

But, as so many of us are about to head into our second full month of sheltering in place, it also felt unrealistic to not acknowledge the new reality that we’re all living through right now.

So, in my attempt to bridge the gap between not wanting to add to the noise about this topic but then also not wanting to ignore its presence in our lives either, I thought that a conversation with my brilliant friend Erin the Psychic Witch might be unique and helpful.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Erin is a gifted psychic teacher and healer with two decades of experience in the healing arts. With a substantial and wide-ranging background in bodywork, natural skin care, holistic and functional nutrition models, energy healing, and psychic development, she brings physical and energetic modalities together to create a practical path toward healing. Her work is nothing less than facilitating the healing, liberation, and multidimensional maturation of all beings, with the ultimate goal of full creative expression. She teaches and offers various containers for healing work online through her website erinthepsychicwitch.com

Today, we’re digging deep to discuss deprogramming from the go-go-go, the exciting aspects of the failure of our leadership, connecting to our bodies by preparing food for ourselves, facing our collective addiction to struggle, why creative solutions can’t move through our space if we’re constantly in Doing mode, and why people who say “don’t give into the fear” don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.

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“No, But We’ve Seen It Done”–A Chat with Paul and Angie Lowe about Jesus Christ Superstar

So, if you’re reading this during the week that I’m originally posting it, you’ll probably know that it’s Easter week.

Why am I releasing this particular podcast episode for Easter Week? Because, for most of my life, and the lives of many of my musical theater affiliated friends, this week means one big thing.

No, not multiple trips to church. No, not chocolate egg anticipation. No, not a viewing of The Ten Commandments.

It’s time to listen to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack.

I was born in February of 1979. Later that summer, my father, Terry Felus, who would have been just shy of 30 years old, conducted the pit and played the Hammond organ for a community theater production of the show. For the rest of his life, he considered that one of his crowning achievements in his long career as a musician. I grew up listening to him tell stories about that show, and listening to his cassette recording of the production until it very literally fell apart. 

I’ve seen multiple performances of Jesus Christ Superstar over the years, both touring companies and local shows. But even though I have no conscious memories of the version that my dad conducted, it will always be the definitive production in my heart, the one that all others are compared against.

So today I wanted to chat with the directors of that production, Paul and Angie Lowe.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Paul and Angie are essentially family to me. They were also teachers for many decades at Lake Central High School in St. John, Indiana. During the weekdays, Paul taught speech and Angie taught French, and then on afternoons and weekends, they were heads of the theater program, known as the Lake Central Theatre Guild. As you’ll hear them elaborate in the course of the episode, they expanded LCTG’s program in the early 1970s to include former graduates and members of the local theater scene in their summer community theater productions. Nearly a quarter century after they first directed it in 1979, they revived Jesus Christ Superstar in the summer of 2003 as one of the final productions in the old high school theater. Today, many years now after their retirement from teaching, they retain the LCTG initials by way of their new company, L’arc en Ciel Theatre Group, a dinner theater based out of Great Oaks Banquet Hall in Cedar Lake, Indiana.

In our wide-ranging conversation on Jesus Christ Superstar, we discuss their creative workaround for using microphones with cords in the days before community theater companies could afford wireless mics, the challenge of holding a follow spot steady while you’re sobbing your eyes out, how a key member of the pit band was in a terrible motorcycle accident on his way to the theater but played the whole show anyway, the controversy about the 1979 production in several local churches, and how the skills that one techie developed behind the scenes eventually landed him in a nuclear submarine in the navy.

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