Oct 27 2010

Catherynne M. Valente and Amal El-Mohtar reading “Damascus Divides the Lovers by Zero”


No, don’t just jump ahead and click on the video! Read this first:

As I mentioned in the comments the other day, the first time I’d encountered Catherynne M. Valente’s work was at a poetry reading at Readercon, 2009.

I try to catch at least part of the poetry “slan” (as Readercon calls it) every time I go to Readercon. I always hear something I enjoy. But this time I was totally blown away, and brought to tears, by “Damascus Divides the Lovers by Zero.”

Later, in the dealer’s room, I bought a copy of the 2008 Rhysling Anthology 2009 Rhysling Anthology, which had the poem in it, hoping I could get the poem autographed…

Later still, I discovered myself seated right beside Valente at our joint autographing session!

I did get her autograph, but El-Mohtar, alas, had left the convention. But I also bought from Valente a copy of Palimpsest.

Then other day, while looking up the exact spelling of Amal El-Mohtar’s name on the internet, I came across a YouTube video of that very reading.

I watched it, but I noticed something: the video failed to recapture my experience.

I fear that the problem is that the person who made the recording had not as good a seat as I had, and the words are not always clearly audible. It makes a difference.

Solution: Keep the text beside you as you watch the video!

So, I found the text online here: Lone Star Stories: Damascus Divides the Lovers by Zero by Amal El-Mohtar and Catherynne M. Valente. I suggest that you open in it a separate window, make that window half your screen, and put the video on the other half; then you can watch and read along… (Alternatively, print out the text.)

Last point: as I recall from the introduction they gave the reading, Valente and El-Mohtar had each independently written poems about Damascus (by intent or accident, I can’t recall which), and when they compared them, found that they paralleled each other, and fit together beautifully; and so they wove them into one poem for two voices.


Okay… now run the video.

The poem:

Lone Star Stories: Damascus Divides the Lovers by Zero by Amal El-Mohtar and Catherynne M. Valente.