NationalSawdust+ presents: Paul Muldoon’s “Against the Grain” featuring Sjón, Michael Wood, and Christine Tobin Trio
In association with London Review of Books
7pm doors • 8pm show
To ring in St. Patrick’s Day, iconoclastic Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon returns to Williamsburg with a new installment of Against the Grain. Icelandic novelist, poet, and lyricist Sjón; literary and film critic Michael Wood; and Irish vocalist and composer Christine Tobin, joined by Jim Ridl on piano and Phil Robson on guitar, headline an equally celebratory and cerebral evening of word and song.
A prolific writer and frequent collaborator of Bjork’s, the “Icelandic fabulist Sjón, heralded as an heir to Kafka and Borges” (The New York Times) has had his work translated into more than 35 languages. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in Lars von Trier’s Dancer In The Dark. He’ll be joined by Wood, a long-time London Review of Books contributor, who takes the opportunity afforded by St. Patrick’s Day to reassess Martin Scorsese’s latest effort, The Irishman. The bill will be rounded out by Dublin-born singer Tobin, a leader in the UK contemporary music scene, with “a voice that can move from pure, pastoral-edged folk whimsy to big angry blues mama in a single phrase” (Time Out).
Now in its second season, Paul Muldoon’s literary-music series, presented in association with London Review of Books, features pairings of cutting-edge poets, prose fiction writers, multi-media practitioners, mirth-merchants, political commentators, and musical performers — all of them dedicated to making art that is equal to the contrariness and complexity of our moment. Each edition of Against the Grain, curated by Muldoon, includes collaborative work and a one-on-one conversation on a provocative topic. The first season featured artists such as Laurie Anderson, Jennifer Egan, Min-Jin Lee, Tracy K. Smith, and Sō Percussion.
Paul Muldoon was born in County Armagh in 1951. He now lives in New York. A former radio and television producer for the BBC in Belfast, he has taught at Princeton University for thirty years. He is the author of twelve collections of poetry including Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), for which he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, as well as Selected Poems 1968-2014 (2016). Roger Rosenblatt, writing recently in The New York Times Book Review, described Paul Muldoon as “one of the great poets of the past hundred years, who can be everything in his poems – word-playful, lyrical, hilarious, melancholy. And angry. Only Yeats before him could write with such measured fury.”
Photo of Paul Muldoon by Gary Doak
Born in Reykjavik in 1962, Sjón is a celebrated Icelandic novelist. He won the Nordic Council’s Literary Prize for his novel The Blue Fox (the Nordic countries’ equivalent of the Man Booker Prize) and the novel From The Mouth Of The Whale was shortlisted for both the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. His novel Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was was awarded every Icelandic literature prize, among them the 2013 Icelandic Literary Prize. His latest published work is the definite edition of the trilogy CoDex 1962.
Also a poet, librettist, and lyricist, Sjón has published nine poetry collections, written four opera librettos, and lyrics for various artists. In 2001 he was nominated for an Oscar for his lyrics in the film Dancer In The Dark. Sjón is the president of the Icelandic PEN Centre and former chairman of the board of Reykjavik, UNESCO city of Literature. His novels have been published in thirty five languages.
Photo of Sjón by Jóhann Páll Valdimarsson
Michael Wood studied French and German at Cambridge University, and has taught at Columbia University and at the University of Exeter in the UK. He has written books on Vladimir Nabokov, Luis Buñuel, Franz Kafka, and Gabriel García Márquez, as well as The Road to Delphi, a study of the ancient and continuing allure of oracles. Among his other books are America in the Movies and Children of Silence. A member of the American Philosophical Society and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books, and writes frequently for other journals, too. At Princeton he teaches mainly contemporary fiction, modern poetry, and the theory and history of criticism. Recent titles include Literature and the Taste of Knowledge, Yeats and Violence, and On Empson.
Christine Tobin is based between New York City and London. The Irish born vocalist and composer is renowned for her unique rich voice and original compositional style. With eleven highly acclaimed CDs under her own name and four major awards under her belt, Christine is treasured in the UK and beyond as one of the leading lights on the contemporary scene. Her authentic sound was described by The Guardian as ‘Tobin’s 24 carat voice’ while praising her both for the poetry of her compositions and the warmth of her golden voice. Her style, although rooted in jazz, is eclectic and draws on a broad range of influences. The Irish Times called it “music that veers from grungy, post-industrial grooves to wispy romanticism to abstracted contemporary classical.” MOJO Music Magazine said: “Christine Tobin really transcends glib genre-fication. Her expressive range acknowledges finely acquired folk, jazz and 20th-century classical influences, which already sets her apart. And everything is shot through with an unmistakable refinement, free-spirited earthiness and giddy romanticism, this singer-songwriter is in a field of one.” She has led various projects and in 2012, Sailing to Byzantium, her settings of WB Yeats poems, won a British Composer Award. The following year she won a Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh Festival for her show A Thousand Kisses Deep, her imaginative versions of Cohen classics. And in 2014 she won Jazz Vocalist of the Year at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards. Earlier in her career Christine won Best Vocalist at the 2008 BBC Jazz Awards.
The London Review of Books is Europe’s leading magazine of culture and ideas. Published twice a month, it provides a space for some of the world’s best writers to explore a wide variety of subjects in exhilarating detail – from art and politics to science and technology via history and philosophy, not to mention poetry and fiction. In the age of the long read, the LRB remains the pre-eminent exponent of the intellectual essay, admired internationally for its fearlessness, its range and its elegance.
NationalSawdust+ is a lively performance and conversation series in which luminaries from across disciplines share their passion for music and explore ideas and issues, making surprising connections. Curated by Elena Park with Associate Producer Jeff Tang, the series taps artists and thinkers from theater, film and visual art, literature, science and beyond, to create insightful programs that reflect their own interests. Whether through live performances, conversations, or readings, each program has its own alchemy, engaging the audience in new and unexpected ways. Often topical, and always imaginative, NationalSawdust+ is an ideal space for those with curiosity, adventure, and vision.
photo credit: Brigitte Lacombe