Ann Arbor singer-pianist Hannah Baiardi makes jazz her own on "Straight From the Soul"

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Hannah Baiardi

This story originally ran July 27, 2021. We're rerunning it because March 22, 2022, is the one-year anniversary of the album's release. Her latest single, "Lot Lot," is available here.

Hannah Baiardi has been writing and performing music since age 3, so it’s no surprise that her first full-length album, Straight From the Soul, is a polished and thoughtful work.

Although a listener might categorize the music as contemporary jazz, Baiardi clearly draws on other influences as diverse as R&B and new age, and it all comes through on the album. The University of Michigan grad (BFA ’18, jazz studies) offers smooth, heartfelt vocals and evocative piano playing, which combine for a distinctive and memorable sound. She’s backed by an excellent supporting cast, including Karen Tomalis on drums on most tracks and Marion Hayden or Ryan King on bass.

Baiardi writes much of her own material. The album features five original compositions, ranging from the wistful yet hopeful “Who Can Relate” and “Distant Land” to the joyful “Let Go” and “Feel It.” The album concludes with “Transit,” an outstanding instrumental showcase.

The album also features two pop favorites from old movies—an introspective take on “Windmills of Your Mind” from The Thomas Crown Affair and “The Summer Knows” from Summer of ’42, which makes for ideal listening in the summer of ’21.

Baiardi recently agreed to answer a few questions via email.

Jennifer Huang reconceptualizes home in their new poetry collection, "Return Flight"

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Jennifer Huang and their new poetry collection, Return Flight

Poems in Jennifer Huang’s Return Flight map the ways that a person can depart and return to themself, though sometimes that self is no longer the same. Huang holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program, and their collection won the Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry in 2021 judged by Jos Charles. 

Some of Huang’s lines suggest disillusionment, given that “This is not what I imagined.” Other lines show a separation from oneself and the effect of external influence when, “The distance between me and I grew / So you could love me as you’ve / always imagined.”

Return Flight plays with desire and how to get what is wanted and what is the cost.

Another poem, “Departure,” describes a meal at which “We would / choke down our food to get seconds though there was always plenty,” and when faced with delicacies, the father would "tell me, Chew slowly and feel what you are eating.” That advice to process slowly and notice could be extrapolated to a number of situations in these poems. 

The search for self continues even as that evolves in Return Flight. The poem “How to Love a Rock” teaches us, “How you / worry now, let it go.” As the self is reclaimed, uncertainty remains when, “Unborrowed from rocks and salt and dirt and root, where I go from / here, I don’t know.” It could be anywhere, which fits with what Huang writes in the acknowledgments: “This collection is, in part, a search for home—and the realization that home is not a destination but a journey.” 

Huang was a resident of Michigan and now spends their time in Michigan, Maryland, and other places. I interviewed them about Return Flight.  

When the Draft Is Done: Author and U-M professor Peter Ho Davies on "The Art of Revision"

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Peter Ho Davies and his book The Art of Revision

Author photo by Lynne Raughley

How do authors go about the revision process?

In novelist and U-M professor Peter Ho Davies‘ new nonfiction book, The Art of Revision: The Last Word, he observes, "As a teacher of writing, I’ve often been struck by the sense that revision is an overlooked, underaddressed, even invisible aspect of our work: the ‘elephant in the workshop,’ if you will."

Davies goes on to discuss approaches to revision, the need for it, and a number of examples. 

Theories of writing, such as “write what you know,” do not lend themselves to revision well, Davies says, because writing instead serves as an act of discovery. The medium of typewriter or word processor changes the process from painstaking typing to countless drafts as new versions are saved over the previous one on a hard drive, useful in some ways and less deliberate in others. An author’s questions become, “What’s changed?” and “How do I know when a story is done?”

Davies proposes that "a draft might be seen as an experiment designed to test a hypothesis.” This perspective on writing reveals to the writer what they are thinking and then also guides revision. That hypothesis may or may not prove right as the writer proceeds. Davies says, "You make a choice, pursue it, discover it was wrong, and … go back to the previous draft. Is this wasted time, wasted endeavor? I’d rather call it a successful experiment."

In "Alien Miss," Ann Arbor poet Carlina Duan explores the multiple identities Chinese Americans inhabit

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Poet Carlina Duan with her book Alien Miss

Carlina Duan’s new poetry collection, Alien Miss, delves into the history and experiences of Chinese people, particularly how immigrants and their families face or have faced marginalization in the United States and also how they find success. Poems go back to the Chinese Exclusion Act barring entry to the U.S. for Chinese laborers and are later contrasted by cozy family meals while growing up in America.

The contrast stands out, as one line reads, “I pledge allegiance.  to history, who eats me.” 

These disparities between experiences pepper the poems. Family with its relationships and histories figures strongly into the experience, as in the poem “Love Potion”:

Welcome to "Paradise": Jennifer Metsker's new book of poems explores a bipolar mind

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Jennifer Metsker and her book Hypergraphia and Other Failed Attempts at Paradise

In Hypergraphia and Other Failed Attempts at Paradise, Jennifer Metsker’s poems articulate a bipolar person's thoughts as they unravel. The poems show the mind making associations outside of rules as obsessions, fears, and beliefs take hold. 

One of the poems, “Beta Waves Are Not Part of the Ocean and We Prefer the Ocean,” brings us to a psychiatric ward. People living there take on feline qualities and have cleaning duties, noting, “There’s no escape / from being a tidy cat.”

Amidst the mind’s chaotic adventures, the outlook remains bleak because: 

On the Ball: The AFC Ann Arbor Soccer Club Thinks Globally, Acts Locally

WRITTEN WORD PULP LIFE INTERVIEW

AFC Ann Arbor collage

Clockwise from top left: AFC Ann Arbor's Emily Eitzman takes on a defender; AFC's women's coach, Boyzzz Khumalo; Eitzman reads from her recently published book, Grandpa’s Advice; AFC chair Bilal Saeed. Photos courtesy of AFC Ann Arbor.

On January 1, AFC Ann Arbor announced the first signing for its 2022 women's team: Emily Eitzman, a University of Michigan college student who made her debut in 2019 with the semi-pro soccer club as a 17-year-old student at Saline High School.

But Eitzman never stopped working with AFC Ann Arbor despite her two-year playing gap for the team.

And AFC never stopped working for Ann Arbor and the greater Washtenaw community.

On the Corner: A new book about Zingerman’s Deli details the Ann Arbor institution's satisfying history

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Micheline Maynard and her book Satisfaction Guaranteed

If you live in Ann Arbor long enough, you will inevitably be asked about three things: University of Michigan football, the Art Fairs, and Zingerman’s Deli.

Since 1982, people have flocked to Zingerman’s for top-of-the-line sandwiches and outstanding customer service. The story of how the business grew from a 1978 idea hatched between restaurant colleagues Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw into a nationally known business is covered in Micheline Maynard's new book, Satisfaction Guaranteed: How Zingerman’s Built a Corner Deli into a Global Food Community.

Maynard is a longtime journalist, educator, and frequent guest on both radio and TV. Her career includes writing as a columnist at The Washington Post, a contributor to The TakeoutMedium, and The Ann Arbor Observer, and as the author of The End of Detroit and The Selling of the American Economy: How Foreign Companies Are Remaking the American Dream

The genesis for the book began before the COVID pandemic.

Talk, Talk, Talk: Zach Damon's "Ann Arbor Tonight" puts a local spin on the late-night TV chat format

FILM & VIDEO INTERVIEW

Zach Damon sits behind his desk on the set of the show his hosts, Ann Arbor Tonight. He's wearing a suit and tie, has a bit smile, and his black hair is slicked back. On his desk is a microphone, a coffee mug, pen and paper, and some University of Michigan football memorabilia.

Photo courtesy of Zach Damon.

At age 6, Zach Damon discovered his love of public speaking.

The future Ann Arbor Tonight host-producer was an ambassador for March of Dimes and spoke at different events in the early ‘90s, including the National Athletic Awards at Detroit’s Fox Theatre.

“I remember being in the audience because it was a pre-taped show and seeing the great energy and the great camaraderie of the business in general,” said Damon, who was born with cerebral palsy and grew up in Ann Arbor. “Everyone was so encouraging, and they’d say, ‘Zach, you can do anything you want to do, and if you want to work in media one day, then you can do that.’”

Damon also became inspired watching TV sportscaster Greg Gumbel and author-journalist Mitch Albom serve as hosts of the awards show. In that moment, he found his purpose.

“I remember seeing one of the broadcasters on stage doing his thing, getting the cues during the show, and then presenting," he said. "I remember at one point looking at the stage and saying to myself as a 5 or 6-year-old … I’d really like to be that person … and that’s where I felt most comfortable.”

Damon carried that dream with him throughout his teen years. By his junior year at Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School, he aspired to host a late-night talk show. 

“I was talking to some buddies of mine who were in the film and video club, and I said, ‘It would be really neat to have a late-night show in Ann Arbor and call it Ann Arbor Tonight,” said Damon, who’s inspired by The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live. “I was sitting on my bed, and they were like, ‘Yeah, whatever, Zach.’ I always have these very big ideas, but I really felt that they were possible if you just put the action toward it.”

Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes: Chef and U-M alum Abra Berens offers recipes and social context for them in her new book, "Grist"

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Abra Berens and her book Grist

When you start paying closer attention to a food or beverage, you notice more details among different types or brands. Experts who focus on wine or coffee, for example, are able to discuss the nuances and tasting notes of unique varieties.

But those aren’t the only foods and drinks that foodies and cooks can get to know on a deep level.

Abra Berens, a chef, author, former farmer, and U-M alum, brings this level of attention to beans, grains, legumes, and seeds in her new cookbook and guide, Grist. She writes about how her interest in grains took root:

Utah poet laureate and U-M grad Paisley Rekdal considers the implications of cultural appropriation in literature in "Appropriate: A Provocation"

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Paisley Rekdal and her book Appropriate

Paisley Rekdal examines cultural appropriation in literature in her new nonfiction book, Appropriate: A Provocation. However, this collection is not essays, as one might expect. 

Instead, Appropriate consists of letters addressed to a student who is a new writer, and this structure offers a different, more conversational, and inquisitive tone. This recipient is not based on any specific person but inspired by many students and colleagues. The letters refer to the student as X. 

Early on, the first letter defines the subject of cultural appropriation as being about identity. It is also, “an evolving conversation we must have around privilege and aesthetic fashion in literary practice.” Rekdal’s examples of the issue—both positive and negative, including hoaxes in which authors pretend to have another identity—demonstrate how important attention to the topic is.

Rekdal offers ways to understand, analyze, and navigate cultural appropriation. Rekdal asks many questions and also offers a list of them for evaluating one’s own work to let the reader consider what their answers are, too. She includes her own experiences from teaching, participating in conversations, and writing appropriative works herself. 

You might be wondering whether cultural appropriation should just be off-limits, but Rekdal brings a more nuanced view, one that acknowledges some literature as effective and other literature as harmful. She writes to X, “When we write books that appropriate the experiences and identities of other people, X, we enter into the system in which we all participate but over which we individually have very little control.” This issue is so risky that Rekdal anticipates this question of “Do you opt-out?” The matter cannot be distilled so simply, though, because Rekdal offers instances when authors successfully write other identities than their own.

The question then becomes about what factors contribute to literature that engages in cultural appropriation working or not working. The answer changes, in part, based on the current moment in history and politics, notes Rekdal: