In this sampling from Christopher Shipman
, we find woods. Lucifer shows. Grandpa's dead. Love's gone bad. The speakers in these poems are driven by voice and the need to tell a story. Each poem hinges on its speaker's quiet epistimological revelation, a defeat that is still somehow hopeful. I forget exactly what the saying is about country music, something like every country song must have a dog, a truck, a train, an ex, and a prison. And, well, most of that's ripped off from blues, anyway. And a similar thing could be said of a certain type of Southern poem...What keeps Shipman's work from being facile, however, is his ability to take these tropes and turn them in on themselves through his playful figurative and syntactical constructs. In this way, Shipman's work reminds me of Barry Hannah's fictions.
"A Natural History" is a compiled text based on journal entries from two different visits to northern Nevada's Black Rock Desert combined with margin notes from my copies of William Fox's The Void, The Grid and The Sign and Sessions Wheeler's Nevada's Black Rock Desert. At some point in my process of arranging, editing, and composing the text toward its finished form (whenever that may occur), the idea of arranging the piece for a three-part vocal performance came to me. I recruited two students of mine whose voices I liked, and we got together to try it out. The "live" performance of the piece worked okay, but sounded a little like church. In production, as I was working to combine various takes, I came to like the mechanical quality that the multi-vocal production brought to the piece. I decided to pursue that mechanical quality, which seemed a little futuristic, but not out of place with the expansive time scale I'd always imagined for "A Natural History." After a couple of long sessions of concentrated work on the audio, this version resulted. I like it, and hope you will.