Posted by: aprilcatherine2011 | February 22, 2012

I’m taking part in Readings @ Rao’s

Anybody in the Pioneer Valley who wants to hear me and several other writers read our poetry aloud should come to Rao’s Coffee in Amherst, this Friday, February 24th.  The show starts at eight p.m.  I’m not sure what time I’ll go on, but it’s an hour-long show and we each have about fifteen minutes to read.

I’m planning to do “The Parking Ticket Scholar,” “Wallpaper,” “Trenchcoat,” and possibly other work never before seen or heard by anybody but me.

Posted by: aprilcatherine2011 | January 30, 2012

Lilacs, memory, roots, desire/ Eggs, ham, water, fire

I would like to take responsibility for one-ninth of this poem, created via communal composition with the encouragement and leadership of C.S.E. Cooney.  Also, I did the first footnote.

Green Eggs and Wasteland

–April Grant, Bachelor

Posted by: aprilcatherine2011 | January 21, 2012

Song: “Mercy Wheeler”

I sang this one at Arisia last weekend, and it’s high time I made the lyrics public.  The tune is original; as soon as I can afford a microphone, I’ll edit this to include an audio version.  In the meantime, here are the words.

Historical note: All the characters in this song are fictional, but it’s based on an actual superstition.  See here for the case which inspired the song, and other revenant and vampire beliefs of New England.

Mercy Wheeler

Now Mercy Wheeler’s in the grave; they buried her today.
And God knows what her folks will do, left up there on the hill,
Or how the girls will all get on, with Mercy and their mother gone.
The twins stayed home to tend her all the time that she was ill.

Chorus:
And she said, “Oh, I’m cold,
It’s so cold in the night.”
Head to toe, pale as bone,
Clothes and skin, ashy white.
She said, “Oh, I’m cold,
It’s so cold in the night,”
She said, “Let me get warm,
Hold me tight.”

They say she’s coming in at night to see the girls alone,
A white sheet wrapped around her, as they laid her in the clay.
The twins and little Callie said she came and tried to get in bed.
Elias and their father woke, and so she went away.

Chorus

Now all the Wheeler girls are gone–Amanda, Callie, Grace.
Elias and his dad are seeing Mercy every night.
She wants them with her in the ground, so up she comes, without a sound,
And walks home to the Wheeler place by pale and starry light.

Chorus

Elias dug her coffin up when he began to fail,
And though she had been buried through the summer and the fall,
The lid was cracked, and underneath, there Mercy lay with gaping teeth.
There she lay, white, plump, and warm, and not decayed at all.

Elias took a hammer and a rusty railway spike,
And when he drove it through her heart, she gave a little scream.
We burned her up.  It took all day.  I thought she’d never burn away.
I waited till the ashes cooled, and threw them in a stream.

[To tune of chorus]
She comes to my bed in the night just the same,
As though she had never been touched by a flame.
[Chorus]

 

Posted by: aprilcatherine2011 | January 11, 2012

Poem: “Wallpaper”

“Wallpaper” appeared in Strange Horizons on September 26, 2011.  Inspired by Greek myths and by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s most famous story.

Posted by: aprilcatherine2011 | January 11, 2012

Poem: “Trenchcoat”

I’ve been remiss in linking to my published poems.  “Trenchcoat” appeared on August 29, 2011, in Strange Horizons.  Inspired by a rainy season, an old raincoat, and countless black and white movies with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre.

Armor for Main Street,

Armor to face the world in, day by day.

A borrowed shape to fold your heart away,

More powerful than I have worn before.

A tough hide, used to smoking every night,

That’s heard a lot of bad jazz in its time.

I’ll be appearing at Boston SF&F con Arisia, Jan. 13-16.  Here’s my weekend schedule, for my convenience as well as everybody else’s.  I’m glad that they didn’t put me on any fiendishly early panels, despite my being naive enough not to specify one way or the other.

Fantasy Before Fantasy, SF Before SF.  Griffin.  Saturday, 11:30 a.m.  *The Odyssey,* *A Midsummer Night’s Dream,* *Frankenstein,* *Gulliver’s Travels,* and *Journey to the West.* A look at classic works of world literature that, while not written as science fiction and fantasy, have been co-opted in the 20th and 21st centuries by speculative fiction readers and used as inspiration by the writers.  Hildy Silverman (mod), Esther Friesner, Tim Lieder, Sonya Taaffe, April Grant, Gareth Hinds.  [I plan to talk a lot about ballads, nineteenth-century medievalists in general and William Morris in particular, and The Golden Ass.]

The Moral Aesthetics of Steampunk.  Douglas.  Saturday, 11:30 p.m.  From the program: Steampunk is frequently realized as an idealized, shiny version of the Victorian era, with quite a few of the nasty bits missing or obscured. The real Victorian age was a mix of great wealth and progress with poverty, workhouses, and more. What does it say about us when the latter are left out?  April Grant (mod), James Cambias, Margaret Ronald, Israel Peskowitz, JoSelle Vanderhooft.  [Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get hold of and read Steam-Powered in time for the con, but it's not my task to talk about it anyway.  Look at all those names.  My job is to ask some thought-provoking questions, then sit back and let everybody have at it, with perhaps some intervening to keep order if it comes to blows.]

Traditional Stories, Modern Audiences.  Douglas.  Sunday, 10:00 a.m.  When retelling a traditional story for a modern audience, what are some of the changes that may have to be made? What compromises come up between authenticity and modern thinking?  Vikki Ciafone (mod), Meredith Schwartz, April Grant, Alexander Jablokov, Bob Kuhn.  [Blah blah Tatterhood, blah blah A___a C____r, blah blah Robin McKinley, A Dark Horn Blowing, Fire and Hemlock.  Only I'll try to be a little more entertaining and eloquent than that.]

Speculative Poetry Slam.  Quincy.  Sunday, 2:30 p.m.  Elayna Jade Smolowitz, Shira Lipkin, JoSelle Vanderhooft, Sonya Taaffe, April Grant, Julia Rios, Erik Amundsen.  [WOO I GET TO READ ALOUD AGAIN!  There seems to be an underworld theme, thus far, so I'm going to read "Wallpaper" and something else to be determined later.]

Food Communicating Culture in Literature.  Douglas.  Sunday, 5:30 p.m.  Trisha Wooldridge (mod), Greer Gilman, Stephanie Clarkson, April Grant, Tchipakkan.  How do writers communicate things about their cultures and characters via the food they use? What can you discern about cultures based on if they get their food in pill form or if they are vegetarian/vegan, omnivores, or carnivores? How does the anatomy and physiology of your aliens or magical creatures dictate their food requirements? What about the terrain? Does the diversity of food culture–and what it communicates–on Earth get shown in literature?  [Too many options!  Must prepare some notes.]

Ethics of Science Fiction.  Douglas.  Sunday, 10:00 p.m.  As science is perceived in the future (through science fiction) how are ethics, lifestyles, and philosophies perceived? What social organizations would we like, and why? How can we achieve them? How has the idea of a utopia or dystopia changed as science fiction evolves? Will the concept of “we” change? Are “right” and “wrong” eternal concepts, or have they changed over time?  Meredith Schwartz, Grant Carrington, Justine Graykin, April Grant, Steve Kanaras.  [Damn it, I meant to reread A Canticle For Leibowitz before Arisia.]

Among The Ruins.  Douglas.  Monday, 11:30 a.m.  In many works of fantasy, characters come across the ruins of “The Elder Race” or “Those Who Came Before.” How did they get there? How do they influence the characters? Let’s talk about the archaeology of fantasy — why aren’t some stories about finding out who these elders were, and why they had better architecture and tech than Our Heroes?  Vikki Ciafone (mod), John Costello, Shira Lipkin, April Grant.  [Again, too many options.  I'll probably focus on the way antiquity and ancient ruins happen quickly--something on the lines of "We did this before, it's traditional.]

Baby Vamps: The New World of Teen Vampires.  Griffin.  Monday, 1:00 p.m.  Ed Fuqua, Elayna Jade Smolowitz, Hildy Silverman, April Grant.  [None of us are named as mod, perhaps because it'll be a circle discussion instead of a panel, so I expect a lot of participation and much fun at the expense of Twilight.  If I have any brain left by then, I'll talk about My Friend the Vampire and its sequels, a book series by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg that I enjoyed as a kid.  Actually, I think Tony (the human) and Rudolph (the jaded vampire kid) are preadolescents, but so what?  They're still fun, gross, and gritty.]

Whew!  And I think that’s quite enough for one weekend!  See you there!

Posted by: aprilcatherine2011 | November 14, 2011

CD: “Buckskin Heroes,” 2011

High time for a formal announcement: I’ve finished a CD, “Buckskin Heroes: Songs of America’s Wars Afloat.” It’s my Best of the Best selection of songs, ballads, and poems from wars in the Americas involving naval actions. Beginning in the French and Indian War and ending with the Civil War, the CD offers fifteen tracks of my unaccompanied voice.

I’ll be offering the CD for sale soon–watch this space for sales announcements. In the meantime, here are the first three songs, as a taster, with their liner notes. Click on the link to hear each song at archive.org.

1. Bold General Wolfe
Brigadier-General James Wolfe led the British expedition which ultimately succeeded in taking Canada from the French in the Seven Years’ War. Wolfe was only thirty-two when he was killed in the 1759 amphibious assault on Quebec. I’ve seen the suggestion that he suffered from tuberculosis and that his military daring was enhanced by the urge to die as a hero in battle. My version of the song comes from the Copper Family.

2. Hot Stuff
Wolfe is “the hero that goes to Quebec” and this song was written by one of his soldiers, Ned Botwood, of the 47th Grenadiers. The song seems to have been written in 1759, between the British seizure of Cape Breton and Wolfe’s assault on Quebec. It first appeared in print in 1774, in the New York Gazetteer. Despite his gloating, Botwood never made it into Quebec. He was killed in the first attack on the city, and probably scalped by the Indian soldiers whom he mocks in the song. I learned this song from George Ward, musician and historian. There is a fifth verse which both he and I omit. Look it up online if you want to lose a little faith in humanity.

3. Battle of the Kegs
The tune is “Yankee Doodle” but the words were written by Francis Hopkinson, author, songwriter, and signer of the Declaration of Independence. The kegs in question were floating explosive devices used by the American rebel army in 1778. The attempt to blow up British warships in the Delaware River was a failure for the Americans (most of the kegs floated past their targets). Still, Hopkinson found some laughs in the earnest British attempt to neutralize the threat.

*

I’ll be back soon with the lyrics to all three songs.

Posted by: aprilcatherine2011 | July 18, 2011

Upcoming publications: “Wallpaper”, “Trenchcoat”

I’m delighted to report that Strange Horizons has bought two of my poems.  “Wallpaper” and “Trenchcoat” will appear later in the year; watch this space for details.  I’ll link to them when they go live.

Posted by: aprilcatherine2011 | June 16, 2011

The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear

Welcome to my blog.  I’m a singer, storyteller, writer and occasional historian as well.  I’ve started this blog because I’m working on a soon-to-be-released CD, Buckskin Heroes, featuring songs and poems from America’s history of naval warfare.  In the next few days, I’ll start posting the lyrics for all tracks on the CD, including my sources and notes on the songs.  There’ll also be regular updates on my performances, public appearances, and work in public history, plus photos and illustrations of what fascinates me.

A little about myself: I’m a history major, delighted to be working in my favorite field, public history.  During 2011, I’ll be working as an interpreter at Hancock Shaker Village, in Pittsfield, MA.  I graduated from UMass Amherst in 2011 with a degree in history.  My bio on the cover of Buckskin Heroes says it best:

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed singing songs, telling stories and reciting poems.  I sing New England and Old World ballads, comedy songs, nineteenth-century parlor and stage music, and songs of war, peace, and good company.  To date, I have performed in venues as diverse as the Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival, Historic Deerfield, the Glenfarg Folk Club in Scotland, Storrowton Village of West Springfield, MA, and Chester on Track, the historic railway celebration of Chester, MA.  I majored in history at UMass Amherst.  My one-woman show, “The Soldiers’ Muse,” gives the audience a whirlwind tour of soldiers’ songs and poems of the Civil War.

I’m also a poet and songwriter, with a good number of original ballads and filksongs under my belt.  When I start performing one of my own songs, I’ll post the lyrics here so people can learn them.

I also perform with singer and pianist Faye Ringel as a duo called the Midnight Belles, bringing supernatural horror, gorgeous harmony, and Gothic poetry to audiences all over New England in riveting live performances.  Watch this space for more on our adventures!

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