Podcast: Buddy Rich’s Teeth and the Corruption of Reality

Ron Slate on The Virtual Memories Show

Virtual Memories: Ron Slate – Buddy Rich’s Teeth and the Corruption of Reality

“It’s said that the sources of writing are mysterious, but the sources of not writing are pathological.”

slatecoversRon Slate spent more than two decades in the corporate world before returning to poetry and writing an award-winning collection praised by the likes of Robert Pinsky. We talk about his roots in poetry, how those “lost” years weren’t so lost, what it’s like to be the guy who sees things late, and how his life was forever changed the day he saw Buddy Rich’s teeth.

“Poetry is always battling invention over assertion, over statement. That’s the tug-of-war. I love poets whose work suggests that tension. I look for that battle between ‘words can do so much’ and ‘words are ineffectual.'”

We also explore why he bailed on his Ph.D., how Ted Leonsis asked him the greatest job interview question ever, what it’s like to get poetry-stalked by Louise Glück, and why he’s trying his hand at fiction. Plus, he reads us a poem from his second book!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

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About our Guest

Ron Slate was born in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1950. He earned his Masters degree in creative writing from Stanford University in 1973 and did his doctoral work in American literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He started a poetry magazine, The Chowder Review, in 1973 which was published through 1988. In 1978, he left academia and was hired as a corporate speechwriter, beginning his business career in communications and marketing. From 1994-2001 he was vice president of global communications for EMC Corporation. More recently he was chief operating officer of a biotech/life sciences start-up and co-founded a social network for family caregivers. Since 2007 he has been reviewing poetry and prose at his popular homepage called On the Seawall. He lives in Milton, MA.

His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Slate, and many other magazines and sites. The Incentive of the Maggot, his first book of poems, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2005. The collection was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle poetry prize and the Lenore Marshall Prize of the Academy of American Poets. The collection won the Breadloaf Writers Conference Bakeless Poetry Prize and the Larry Levis Reading Prize of Virginia Commonwealth University. The Great Wave, his second book, was published by Houghton in April 2009.

Credits: This episode’s music is Poet by Sly and the Family Stone. The conversation was recorded in Mr. Slate’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Slate by me.

Cinc0-fer de Mayo

In honor of “Drink Corona (or whatever Mexican beer you choose) Day,” I thought I’d go find some well-regarded Mexican authors whom I’ve never read a word of. Only having thought up this idea this morning, I decided to dive into the “canonical appendixes” of Harold Bloom’s Western Canon, since the lists of authors and books are broken up by nationality.

Except for Latin America, which is lumped together. So I had to spend a few minutes checking out the nationality of all the authors he listed, only to discover that he only has two Mexican authors on his list and I’ve actually read a book by one of them (Aura, by Carlos Fuentes)! Grr!

Bloom’s list did manage to yield a Mexican 0-fer author for me: Octavio Paz.

For the sake of bulking up this post, here’s the full list of Bloom’s canonical authors of Latin America (in the sequence he lists them), with 0-fer annotations:

  1. Rubén Darío (Nicaragua): 0-fer
  2. Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina): I’ve even read his long novel!
  3. Alejo Carpentier (Cuba): 0-fer
  4. Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Cuba): 0-fer
  5. Severo Sarduy (Cuba): 0-fer
  6. Reinaldo Arenas (Cuba): 0-fer. Haven’t even seen that movie about him.
  7. Pablo Neruda (Chile): We read one of his poems at our wedding.
  8. Nicolás Guillén (Cuba): 0-fer
  9. Octavio Paz (Mexico): 0-fer
  10. César Vallejo (Peru): 0-fer
  11. Miguel Angel Asturias (Guatemala): 0-fer
  12. José Lezama Lima (Cuba): 0-fer (but his wife is awesome)
  13. Julio Cortázar (Argentina): I tried reading Hopscotch, but didn’t get far.
  14. Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombia): Read One Hundred Years of Solitude and some short stories
  15. Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru): 0-fer
  16. Carlos Fuentes (Mexico): The aforementioned Aura.
  17. Carlos Drummond de Andrade (Brazil): Wh0-fer?

Looks like Bloom really digs Cuban writers, huh? Now go get messed up on Tecate!


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