The following interview of Tony Barnstone and Genuine Brandish by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).
Biographical Information—Tony Barnstone
The band Genuine Brandish is the songwriting team of John Clinebell and Ariana Hall, who adapted Tony Barnstone’s poems into song and co-wrote the lyrics with him.
Tony Barnstone is The Albert Upton Professor of English at Whittier College and the author of thirteen books. His books of poetry include Tongue of War: From Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki, winner of the John Ciardi Prize in Poetry (BKMK Press); The Golem of Los Angeles, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award in Poetry (Red Hen Press); Sad Jazz: Sonnets (Sheep Meadow Press); and Impure: Poems by Tony Barnstone (University of Florida Press). He earned his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and is also a distinguished translator of Chinese poetry and literary prose, including The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry (edited and translated with Chou Ping, Anchor Books), The Art of Writing: Teachings of the Chinese Masters (translated with Chou Ping, Shambhala), Laughing Lost in the Mountains: Poems of Wang Wei (translated with Willis Barnstone and Xu Haixin, University Press of New England), River Merchant’s Wife by Ming Di (translated from the Chinese by Tony Barnstone, Neil Aitken, Afaa Weaver, Katie Farris & Sylvia Burn with the author, Marick Press), and Chinese Erotic Poems (Everyman). He is also an editor of several world literature literary textbooks. Among his awards are the Pushcart Prize in Poetry, a fellowship from the California Arts Council, the Poets Prize, a fellowship from the National Endowment from the Arts, and many others. Recently, he has been doing multimedia work, working with artist Dorothy Tunnell to make a poetry graphic novel, with artist Alexandra Eldridge to make a poetry deck of cards, and with singer-songwriters John Clinebell and Ariana Hall to put out a CD of original music based on his book of WWII poems, Tongue of War (album titled Tokyo Burning). His selected poems Bestia en el Apartamento: Antología poética (1999-2012) will appear in a bilingual Spanish-English edition with Ediciones El Tucán de Virginia (Mexico City) in 2013, with translations by Mariano Zaro. His anthology Monstrous Verse, edited with Michelle Mitchell-Foust, will appear in 2014 with Everyman Press.
Son of a regional folk troubadour in rural Illinois, John Clinebell grew up around participatory crowds and tight vocal harmonies. It’s probably not surprising that John quickly fell head-over-heels in love with writing songs while attending college. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2005, John’s become a featured Koffeehouse artist, opened shows for major label pop acts like Toad The Wet Sprocket and Rhett Miller (of the Old ‘97s), and worked with producers Andrew Bush (Jimmy Webb, Peter Case, Bob Dylan), Jared Kotler (of platinum-selling Marcy Playground), Luke Tozour (who’s engineered Katy Perry) and Ronan Chris Murphy (King Crimson). He’s also recorded at Westlake Studios and AfterMaster Recording Studio. John has received ASCAPlus Awards for his contributions to the local scene. He was commissioned to translate poet Tony Barnstone’s prize-winning book Tongue of War into an album of folk songs. The album is now available on Spotify and CDBaby. Videos for John’s songs “The End” and “Hold On” have been featured on Yahoo! Music. His most recent studio album, Make It Land, was spun on 150+ college radio stations in 2010. In the spirit of service, John volunteers with The Art of Elysium, a non-profit whose goal is to help children who are battling serious medical conditions by providing them with entertainment and creative workshops. He also leads the Agape Road Show at Fireside Convalescent Hospital, spready joy in the form of music to seniors who are in transitional housing after receiving medical treatments.
Ariana Hall is an artist with local Los Angeles and increasing international acclaim. Recent achievements include having been discovered by Jonathan Karp, one of Hollywoods biggest Music Supervisors, to play the role of herself while performing her original music in a scene with Paul Rudd and Chris O’Dowd in Judd Apatow’s next big movie, “This Is 40.” While the scene did not make the final cut, there may be glimpses in the DVD Extras. Ariana was also the subject of the pilot episode of the new web TV series, “The Major Lift,” which features performances by and interviews from a musical artist each episode. Ariana has worked on her original music with: two-time Grammy Award winning producer Ted Greenberg (Shadows of Mowtown), as well as celebrity music producer/Academy Award winner Ric Wake (J-Lo). She has recorded with notable producer Richard Perry (Beatles, Babs, Elton John). She received a standing ovation after each of 5 years playing the Main Stage of the Florida Folk Festival, the first year as she was releasing a 5 song CD, which received a 5 star review from Maverick Music Magazine in England. She headlined the Festival in 2011 before playing two other local festivals that summer. In early 2012 she began headlining to a packed room at the #1 venue for independent singer/songwriters in Southern California, The Hotel Cafe (Hollywood). Graduating cum laude from the University of Miami Jazz School, Ariana has toured all over the world as a professional singer including Hong Kong, Australia, Europe & Canada. She gave a private concert for renowned author Eckhart Tolle and has given performances for the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle and at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Her studio music credits include commercials, voiceovers, and back-up vocals on major label releases. She recorded for Adam Lambert at Capitol Records and appeared on Rod Stewart’s latest album (released October 2010), backing him up on the song “Bye Bye, Blackbird.” Ariana has also appeared on the Wayne Brady and Craig Kilborn Shows in the past, performing with singing legend Engelbert Humperdinck.
I looked around the scene, and saw the men,
some dead, some twisting on the tables, smell
of antiseptic, smell of blood, and then
I looked outside where more waited. I tell
you I knew nothing of the Philippines,
of mangoes, houses on stilts, nipa huts,
the smell of copra in the air, gangrene
and amputations, lice, the surgeon‘s cuts
I had to sew back up, of carabao,
the glisten of the small steel instruments
catching the glint of lantern light, red pile
of gauze. But still I never cried
until one day when (I did not see how)
my hand was grabbed as I passed by, intent,
by a young man who gave me half a smile
and held me with his hands and eyes—then died.
U.S. Navy Nurse, the Philippines, 1942