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Between the Covers Podcast

Tin House Live : Katie Holten on The Language of Trees

In Early Medieval Ireland there was a language called Ogham that was sometimes referred to as the “Celtic Tree Alphabet'” because its letters each corresponded to and depicted a different tree. At one point Ireland, now one of the most deforested countries in Europe, was largely covered in forest, its culture deeply entwined with the life of trees. Irish visual artist Katie Holten has created a new contemporary tree alphabet, gathered the voices, thoughts, poems, and meditations of some of the great thinkers about trees and the natural world, and translated their writings into “tree.” A book of image and a book of text, the wisdom of Ursula K. Le Guin and Richard Powers, Ross Gay and Robert Macfarlane, Amitav Ghosh, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Ada Limón, and many more, is transformed into tree language as they each, in their own way, evoke the complex beings that are trees, and argue, as Richard Powers does, that “this is not our world with trees in it. It’s a world of trees, where humans have just arrived.”

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Today’s conversation was recorded at Powell’s Books in downtown Portland before a live audience.