Thursday, September 28, 2006

Agnes Walsh and Anita Best to perform in Iceland

From October 31 to November 4, Agnes Walsh and Anita Best will be in Iceland representing Rattling Books. Their performance schedule will be posted here sometime in October when it has been finalized.

Agnes Walsh

Agnes Walsh is the author of In the Old Country of My Heart, a collection of poems produced as a single Audio CD (58 minutes) by Rattling Books in 2003. The poems on the CD are complemented by the pump organ music of George Morgan and two unaccompanied ballads sung by Simone Savard-Walsh. Agnes also narrated two stories for Rattling Books in the collection of short stories entitled In the Chambers of the Sea by Susan Rendell.

As a writer, Agnes was recently honoured by the City of St. John’s when it made her the City’s first Poet Laureate, a position Agnes will hold for several years. In the spring of 2007 Brick Books will publish a new collection of poems by Agnes. Brick is one of Canada’s premier Poetry publishing houses. Agnes Walsh is also the founder of the Tramore Theatre Troupe on the Cape Shore of Placentia Bay, an effort dedicated to preserving and presenting the oral history of that area.

AudioFile Magazine in the U.S. said of In the Old Country of My Heart:

The tones and timbre of Agnes Walsh's voice seem to emanate from the heart of North America--from the most ancient parts of the continent. She reads her poetry with maturity, wisdom, and assurance. Like so many good poets, Walsh draws from her native soil, in this case the Placentia Bay area of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula, to discover universal and personal truths. In her final selection, "Oderin," Walsh laments, "There is not enough time to understand all I need to know." Isn't that always the way it is? A number of musical selections for voice and pump organ round out this haunting volume of contemporary poetry. B.P. © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine [Published: APR/MAY 05] 

Agnes Walsh has long had a special interest in Iceland and Icelandic writing, particularly that of Nobel Prize-winning author Halldór Laxness for whom she wrote a poem, When I married Halldór Laxness, included on Agnes’ Rattling Books CD. Along with Stan Dragland, Agnes also adapted a novel by Halldór Laxness for the theatre. Their play, The Atom Station, was performed at the LSPU Hall in 2004.

Anita Best

Anita Best is the voice on Rattling Books release of Merrybegot by Mary Dalton. She was accompanied on that recording by Patrick Boyle on trumpet. Anita also read two of the stories in the Susan Rendell collection In the Chambers of the Sea released by Rattling Books. As a narrator, Anita is known for her exquisite voice which she is best known for using as a singer of unaccompanied traditional Newfoundland songs.

Patrick Kavanagh, author of Gaff Topsails had this to say about Anita’s reading of Merrybegot in his review of the Rattling Books audio edition in Books in Canada:

Non-Newfoundlanders will benefit from Best’s dulcet tones and clear enunciation. Uncharacteristically for many rural natives of the island (and for its urban comedians), she pronounces her dental fricatives. Despite the wealth of localisms – one short verse includes the words ‘cuffers’, ‘gommils’, ‘omadhauns’, ‘bosthoons’, ‘ownshooks’, and ‘nunny-fudgers’ – it is hardly necessary to have the book in front of the eye in order to apprehend each syllable.
As with the printed version, neither is a glossary needed, for context combined with Best’s melodic intonation conveys the broad meaning of unfamiliar terms. Thus this CD can function somewhat like a language learning resource (and at the same time it achieves that rare feat of providing accurate pronunciation for archaisms). 

Although Best’s delivery is accessible to all listeners, by no means has it been ‘flattened’. She is equipped with a distinctive and natural Newfoundland lilt; she doesn’t need to lay it on. When she describes a firearm – ‘She had me shoulder beat all to pieces’ – Best scorns the authority of the printed page and pronounces the verb properly: ‘She had me shoulder bet all to pieces’.
Furthermore, although no ear would ever mistake her voice for that of a male, its robustness sustains credibly those monologues that originate in the speech of men – stories about fishing, construction work, or the loss of a beloved wife.
As a singer Anita “has been recorded on any number of albums and has two complete works to her credit, The Color of Amber, with Pamela Morgan, and Crosshanded. It is Crosshanded, Best's accapella rendition of twelve traditional Newfoundland songs, which has established her as one of the leaders in Newfoundland music. Anita Best's beautiful singing and careful interpretation has enriched and extended an art form she has devoted her life to preserving.” (from

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

When I Married Halldór Laxness, a poem by Agnes Walsh

When I Married Halldór Laxness
(for Sam B.)

I watched the froth go down and the yellow liquid rise to meet it. I twisted the glass around and it tipped over and spilled on his arthritic knee. I looked to the side and didn’t apologize. His beautiful bony fingers flicked off the foam in separate particles as if it was incidental lint he had finally noticed.

The decision is yours now.
He rubbed the liquid into his pant leg. I sighed. Either decision I make will kill something.

And so, you want to hang in this ether land forever?

And if I pulled your hair?
And if I scalded your mouth?
And if I made a teepee of birch billets with you in the centre?

Look at me.

He went away.

Next night the phone rang.
I’ll meet you at Glacier and First Point. You must be exact.
I’ll be there for three evenings.

For three nights I wore myself ragged but couldn’t find where.

Friday evening the doorbell rang. He handed me two books by Aksel Sandemose. I put my fingers exactly where his warm fingerprints still lingered on the top book and closed the door. I read and waited.

(There was a tidal wave and a woman went from window to window with a candle in her hand as her house floated out the bay. They rescued her in St. Lawrence.)

When you are ready, if ever, light your own candle.
Two years later, my hand shook as I held the match. His hair had
 greyed around the temples and he crippled shyly.

Five years later, two babies look hauntingly like him. He is chopping wood in the backyard. He stops.

Look at me. I fooled you years ago. Glacier is in Iceland and I tore out all the pages where it was written in that book. Do you regret that we called the babies Abstract and Zero? Come feel Aunt Hilda and Didymus under my fingernails.
His gentle laugh ripped the night sky, and I got pregnant again.

This poem is from the collection In the Old Country of My Heart written and read by Agnes Walsh.  The audiobook recording was produced by Rattling Books in Newfoundland.  The author's reading was recorded in the church in Patrick's Cove.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Down to the Dirt, unabridged audio edition

Down to the Dirt by Joel Thomas Hynes now in Audio: The book that was written out loud finally is out loud!

Rattling Books celebrates its third birthday with the audio release of Down to the Dirt by Joel Thomas Hynes. Narrated by the author Joel Thomas Hynes, Sherry White and Jonny Harris, (all previous crew on Mary Walsh’s TV show Hatching, Matching and Dispatching) the book that was written out loud is finally out, loud! With pitch perfect dialogue and thinking out loud that never misses a beat Down to the Dirt should have been an audio book from the get-go. Finally, you can hear it from the horse’s mouth.

Becoming well known where ever he goes for his riveting and provocative live readings, Canadian author Joel Thomas Hynes is a born writer and performer. Hynes wrote Down to the Dirt because he was sick of telling it. In the best way possible Down to the Dirt is a rebellious child of Newfoundland’s oral tradition, kicking the arse out of romantic myths of bucolic outport Newfoundland life and creating contemporary fiction for the modern ear.

"I kind of wrote this book out loud, on it's feet and I guess it kind of
comes from the oral tradition," Hynes says about the creation of Down to the

It's a very autobiographical book. These are stories that people got
sick of me tellin' and embellishin' on and then I finally actually wrote down
these stories from my life. About the time I nearly set Calvert on fire, or when
I got my skin off some fucking woman when I was 13, shit like that. A lot of the
novel was developed through readings, and if it didn't really work or go over
well on an audience then I could do on-the-spot editing, stuff like that,
re-work it, you know. So that's what I find gives it that kind of quality when
people say it kind of jumps off the page at you, in a sense, right? Because it's
more like a transcription than an actual piece of writing."
- Joel Thomas Hynes in an interview with Jon Symons of The Uniter

Down to the Dirt by Joel Thomas Hynes, Unabridged Audio Edition 2006 Rattling Books
(Print edition published in Canada by HarperCollins, 2005, Carroll & Graf in the U.S. 2005)
ISBN 0-9737586-2-7, a single MP3 CD or Digital Download, 6 ½ hours duration

Joel Thomas Hynes, irresistibly saucy author of Down to the Dirt, winner of the Percy Janes First Novel Award, also co-wrote the acclaimed stageplay The Devil You Don’t Know and his recent play Say Nothing Saw Wood, won the Best Dramatic Script Award at the 2005 NL Arts and Letters. Also an actor, Hynes has performed leading roles in numerous stageplays, films and television productions, and recently received the prestigious Golden Sheaf Award for Best Actor at the Yorkton Film Festival. He was a series regular and contributing writer for the CBC’s Hatching, Matching and Dispatching. His new novel, Right Away Monday, is due for release in spring, 2007 by HarperCollins in Canada. Hynes lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.