BY Andrew Durbin in Opinion | 12 MAY 23

Editor's Picks: Rainer Diana Hamilton's Unscented Stanzas

A forthcoming release from fantasy video game franchise The Legend of Zelda and a Bettye LaVette throwback remix also make this week's highlights

BY Andrew Durbin in Opinion | 12 MAY 23

Editor’s Picks is a fortnightly column in which a frieze editor shares their recommendations for what to watch, read and listen to.

Rainer Diana Hamilton, ‘Trance Essay for Remembering Smells’ (2023)

Every new poem by Rainer Diana Hamilton – a frequent contributor to frieze, and the author of The Gospel According To (2023), a pamphlet forthcoming this month from Belladonna* – is a gift in which poetry is made new again. No exception here for this long poem, which was published by Prelude earlier this year. Poetry doesn’t benefit from being paraphrased, so I won’t attempt to do so with ‘Trance Essay for Remembering Smells’ – except to say that Hamilton opens with the narrator chopping onions only to realize they have lost their sense of smell, which they attempt to recover through memory.

‘Trance Essay for Remembering Smells’ (2023)
Rainer Diana Hamilton

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (2023)

I first played Nintendo’s fantasy adventure The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) during the UK’s COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. At a time of great fear and personal loneliness, I found solace in the open-world game in which you play Link, the champion of the kingdom of Hyrule, who must save its Princess Zelda from the annihilating evil of Calamity Ganon. It is a totally transportive adventure, like nothing I had experienced before in video games, and it provided me with both an escape from reality and a melancholy meditation on time and loss that was painfully consonant with the real world.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, 2023. Courtesy: Nintendo

While the pandemic is officially behind us, the sequel to Breath of the Wild – forthcoming this week from Nintendo – will undoubtedly offer plenty of the fun of the previous game, with gorgeous new landscapes to explore, and probably more than a few occasions to reflect on the perpetual crises that neither love nor the sword can end. Familiar yet irresistible stuff.

Bettye LaVette, LaVette (2023)

Bettye LaVette, ‘Doin’ the Best That I Can’ (Walter Gibbons 12” mix) (1978)

Some songs can swallow you whole. Walter Gibbons’s 11-minute remix of Bettye LaVette’s ‘Doin’ the Best That I Can’ from 1978 has been one of those tracks for me this spring, especially as I look forward to LaVette’s self-titled album, set for release on June 16 via Jay Vee Records. I first read about the remix in Peter Shapiro’s ‘secret history’ of disco, Turn the Beat Around (2005), where he praises the freewheeling experimentations of Gibbons, a devoutly Christian man who ducked out of the New York scene for several years after releasing this track. (He would return with some ground-breaking collaborations in the mid-1980s before dying of AIDS in 1994.)

Shapiro wrote: ‘Slowing [‘Doin’ the Best That I Can’] to an absolute crawl and stripping it like an abandoned car and leaving the remains scattered across 11 minutes, Gibbons somehow made it funkier and more danceable.’ And more of something to inhabit than to simply listen to. It’s like I’ve been living inside this song for weeks, and I don’t think I’ll ever leave.

Andrew Durbin is the editor-in-chief of frieze. His book The Wonderful World That Almost Was is forthcoming from FSG in 2025.