Monday, June 29, 2009


Regular readers of this blog will notice updates are scant these few days. I'm away. Witness the morning view from the back porch of the 1890s cottage where I'm staying.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

today's daily Al

Get your daily Al, an iGoogle gadget.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Arthur Miller on poetic film? say what?

Today I've been listening (downloaded it to my iPod) a two-part symposium on the poetic film that was hosted by the poet and avant-garde film-maker Willard Maas in 1953 at Cinema 16. It's up at UbuWeb here. (Ubu surely has more Maas than any collection.) Ubu hosts a collection of rare audio from the Anthology Film Archives and this is one of them. Arthur Miller and Dylan Thomas are part of the discussion--which is odd because neither seems familiar with avant-garde film, nor particular interested in the topic. For a better view of the Facebook posting/discussion, click on the image above.

Charlie Conway added this later: "I remember reading some diatribe by Thomas against Maya Deren I think... On the inverse, it's not uncommon for relatively progressive filmmakers to have rather narrow tolerances for experimental theater. Not to mention the other inverse--that is, of course, it being impossible for me to say the last time I heard ANY filmmaker even talk about Rae Armantrout or fill-in-the-blank... I've often found it strange how a person's involvement in an avant-X usually fails to translate to that person's faith in other avant's by, well, even the merest modicum of analogy... Samuel Beckett's obsession with Schubert comes to mind... Though Schubert might be considered 'news that stays news'."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

impersonal & impervious to the pain of others

Of late the Wallace Stevens I especially admire is anxiously stuck—stuck and yet writing about it. He is entangled in an idiom he had come to accept, and attempts, in the very words we read, to write his way into another. Or he is seeking to reformulate his argument in the process of making it. Or he suffers a crisis of direction until the poem either does or does not make a turn. Or he believes he has come to the end of the imagination, beyond which is blank wordlessness. Or he partly but insufficiently recognizes that the counterargument made against his poetics has made its way into the poem and gotten the better of him. Stevens was remarkably smart about these predicaments, and he continued to escape them.

Infamous for his capacity to “dodge the apprehension of severe pain in others,” as Mark Halliday put it in Stevens and the Interpersonal (1991), he nonetheless sought and slowly acquired methods for putting the pain of others in such a place that the poem can hardly look away even while the speaker is enacting some version of the dodge. This convergence, says Halliday, “produces not only fascination but also an instinctive . . . sense of imperiously required response.” It might be—or at any rate might be like—a function of desire, the anxiety modeled on sexual longing. Halliday contends this, as a means, in part, of finding a personal motive in Stevens for the simultaneous exploration of abnegation and responsiveness. “[T]he apprehension of suffering in others,” Halliday writes, “is like sexual desire for another person--a second kind of importuning of the self which generated great anxiety in Stevens.” “Transforming is what art does,” writes Susan Sontag in Regarding the Pain of Others, but art that depicts the calamitous “is much criticized if it seems ‘aesthetic’; that is, too much like art” (p. 76).

Few Stevens poems convey as much fear of the personal poetic dead end as “Mozart, 1935,” nor present as anxiously the risk of accusations of aestheticism in the face of crisis. Indeed, Halliday’s quoted comments are to be found in his reading of that poem, where he argues that Stevens refuses to explore “this besieging pain” felt by those assailing him from the streets of 1935, because he is more interested in “writing about the problem of writing about the street.”

This is the poem in which the speaker demands that a pianist sit at his piano and play a divertimento from Mozart. But a riotous mass clamors in the street outside, throws stones on the roof of the house where the pianist plays. "They" are also in the house, and carry down the stairs a body in rags. Play on, insists the speaker. Be thou the voice of the angry people, the speaker now demands.

Your reading of the poem's politics depends on whether you see the speaker and the pianist as sharing the same aesthetic space. I see the speaker as distinct from the figure in the poem. While the artist in the poem either plays or doesn't, the speaker's topic is the convergence of the aesthetic and anti-aesthetic, which produces, for him, an aesthetic category larger than Mozart and inclusive of "1935."

I think Mark Halliday wants the poem to be a poem of the 1935 street, or at least to attempt such. He laments that it's instead a poem about the problem of the poetry of the street of 1935.

I don’t disagree about Halliday's description of the self-referentiality here but rather with his assumption that the more the poem obsesses over its own problem of representation the less responsive to others’ pain it is. As Sontag suggests, art that regards the pain of others is rarely so straightforward as our expectations of it. Even works of direct-gaze documentary mode—or perhaps especially them—will be assailed for daring to “transform” the atrocity conveyed. The involution is not so much a turning away as a necessary examination of poetic means.

The poem after all admits into its lines the sound of the stones upon the roof. And potentially unites such sounds with the arpeggios of the pianist. In general I want a poem of the sound of the stones, but for I concede that we require the poet, and accept that the poet transforms. Here where the personal (distinct from Halliday's "impersonal") comes in through the back door.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

breaking through the clutter

Scott Karambis writes a terrific blog, "Artificial Simplicity," which I read regularly. Today he gives ten reasons why teaching is great training for marketing--and, as you'll see, he means specifically for the sort of really innovative marketing Scott does and prefers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"2002" after the invasion

Back in October 2003 the Writers House hosted a weekend-long gathering called "Poet-invasion Poetics." On Friday night we went around the room (Arts Cafe at KWH) and most participants read and/or talked. We recorded this session. The next night we held a giant group reading. Among the seminar participants: Rod Smith, Mark McMorris, Ron Silliman, Michael Fried, Erica Hunt, Tracie Morris, Saskia Hamilton, Tim Carmody, Jo Park, Jessica Lowenthal, Kathy Lou Schultz.

Recently Jenny Lesser went back to Fanny Howe's Friday night reading. Jenny listened to the recording and segmented the two poems. They are: "Far and Near" and the poem called "2002". Of course we've added these to PennSound's Fanny Howe page.

SL Writers House

Well, ahem, we're going to take another crack at Second Life.

I made an avatar about a year ago, hoping to find decent poetry readings and other poetics events (lectures, etc.). While I found the medium relatively interesting, I found the content pretty miserable (and worse).

Well, we're back. We're working with some folks at Penn on an SL Writers House and hope to host a poetry seminar there in the autumn. Stay tuned.

Here are two views.

The first (above) is from the stairs leading down from the second floor to the first, looking at the Arts Cafe. The second is from outside - the front of the building. Not bad, huh?

Monday, June 22, 2009

imago and the Marshall Plan

I just finished reading Eleanor Cook's Reader’s Guide to Wallace Stevens (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. xiv, 354. $24.95 paperback). New readers of Stevens must own this book, the ideal guide for starting out into the sometimes abstractly allusive, sometimes philosophically argumentative, sometimes indirectly referential verse of this essential American modernist.

Most of the poems are annotated here, presented in order of publication, book by book through Stevens’s career; a readable index of title directs you, alternatively, by the poem. Cook’s succinct summaries and annotations are confidently expert. If you are reading “Prelude to Objects” and come across the reference there to the S. S. Normandie, you will know from Cook that it was a famous French transatlantic passenger liner (136). Of course, even an inexperienced Googler would have that annotation in a quarter of a minute. In the same poem, if coming upon the “Ideas of Order”-like phrase “foamed from the sea” you take “foamed,” as in the idiom “foamed up,” to mean arising sea-like out of the sea, you could proceed through the verse satisfactorily. But having Cook’s guide by your side, you would also learn that this is certainly a reference to Aphrodite, whose name, etymologically, means “born of the foam” (136). You are still left with the problem of reconciling such a mythological idiom with Stevens’s famous “guerilla I,” the poem’s stealthy and aggressive subjectivity, but with Cook’s help you are several steps further along than you would otherwise be.

Long admired for her attention to syntactical word-play, Cook has a fine way here of describing meter as an aspect of form. This one sentence on section 1 of “Peter Quince at the Clavier” does the critical work of many another commentator’s full page: “Tetrameter tercets with occasional rhyme, a clavier interrupted by bass violins playing pizzicati” (74). A masterfully wrought eight-word sentence on the first three stanzas of “The Idea of Order at Key West”—“Their argument is tight, their rhythm is ocean-like” (94)—again precisely describes the rhetoric and form but also presents the poem’s main tension between rationally organized content of human experience and oceanic feelings about the power of the muse.

The book is littered with many other marvelous condensations. When the “firecat” of “Earthy Anecdote” is said to be found in “[m]inor Indian legends tell[ing] of a cougar or mountain lion who brings either helpful or destructive fire”—and we learn that while recent tellings use the very term “firecat” “but the relevant Smithsonian historical volumes on the American Indian do not record the word” (31)—we easily imagine hours of research done in the service of this modest qualification. It’s a valuable nuance. If Stevens did invent the word “firecat” for this bit of modernist ethnography, we know he nonetheless got his folklore just right.

These are specific advantages resulting from the guidebook format, its special constraints, which Professor Cook has mastered. The book has more conventional virtues as well—such as the finest introductory close reading of “The Man with the Blue Guitar” that has been published. This reviewer happens to agree with Cook’s assessment that “Blue Guitar” is “a pivotal, crucial series, richer than it may appear” (113), a work “packed with thought as Stevens positioned himself for the last quarter of his life” (17). Doubters of such a claim will still need to reckon with this assessment.

Evenhandedness—-giving each poem its proportionate due—-is impossible in such a project, and readers must anticipate that some significant poems are too briefly annotated. “Imago,” arguably an important poem, is presented here in 4 ½ lines, while “How Now, O, Brightener…,” a lesser work commended by few, is given four times the space. In the former poem, the line “Who can pick up the weight of Britain” is said to echo Job 38 and to refer to postwar Marshall Plan reconstruction, but nothing about Stevens’ use of imago, the Freudian concept of representations presented by the unconscious to the ego. Is there a psychoanalytic aspect to postwar language used to “say to the French here is France again”? Yes, surely. Readers will have to piece together that connection on their own.

Even when, as rarely is the case, the interpretive commentary fails to engage the poem sufficiently, or seems imbalanced, Eleanor Cook’s Reader’s Guide is otherwise an excellent companion to the more traditional bibliography prepared by J. M. Edelstein many years ago. Readers who work straight through the book—to be sure, it was designed to enable other approaches—will receive the best first lesson in the whole arc of Stevens’s work. Although this book would seem to provide an atomized, poem-by-poem experience, its reader's greatest reward is the sense he or she gets of the overall shape of the Stevensean project.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

much more than night

I'm beginning to put together my fall '09 course, Representations of the Holocaust. I'm not a big fan of Wiesel's Night (not for lack of trying to admire it) but I still insist that the students read the original non-Oprah edition. Don't know if that less puffed-up version is available in sufficient quantities. Night, to me, is on one end of a spectrum of representations; Lanzmann's Shoah is on the other. My students and will watch all 9.5 hours of Shoah in one sitting on a Sunday. They complain bitterly and this itself becomes a major topic for discussion. If you look at the reading schedule, you can see that I'm convinced that Primo Levi is the one--the writer through which I feel the problems of representing this genocide can be most compellingly addressed. We also view a sampling of survivor testimonies from the great Yale video archive. Here are the links I provide the students.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Oppen at 100, in 23 minutes

Tom Devaney organized a celebration of George Oppen's 100th birthday - and the event happened at the Writers House in April '08. Soon after, we set up a special PennSound page with links to audio recordings of the presenters (myself included). Now we've released a PennSound podcast featuring a 23-minute excerpt from that event.

The photo was taken that night - George Economou, Michael Heller, Tom Devaney and Tom Mandel, listening to Ron Silliman present on Oppen.

"in" or "and"? - it makes a difference

Give me in any day.

I have just finished reading a collection of essays given the title Wallace Stevens across the Atlantic, edited by Bart Eeckhout and Edward Ragg, published by Palgrave Macmillan. The many pleasures I derived from this book do not always have to do with its topic, which seems capacious but is in fact fairly well and even narrowly defined: Wallace Stevens in Europe.

The connection is rich but in several ways it’s a not-so-supreme fiction, since of course Stevens never visited Europe, never went further abroad than Cuba. Once Europe must be identified as the Europe of Stevens’ imagination, anything goes. To be sure, I’m mostly glad of this. My favorite passages generally explore the terra incognita of the subject. Frank Kermode claims, doubtless a fact, that it was he who introduced Stevens to the Swiss. George Lensing elegantly rehearses the old but nonetheless accurate generalization that Stevens “survived on postcards,” and offers a brief but good reading of “A Dish of Peaches in Russia,” an under-read poem. Robert Rehder describes “mastery of the syntax of doubt” in “Description without Place,” making one doubt the relevance of “Place” beyond the many name-dropped references in that end-of-war poem, such that “without” (does it indicate dislocation or evacuation?) becomes the key term. J. Hillis Miller gives, along the way, a personal recollection of Stevens’s important reading at Harvard in 1950, and, as a bonus, a quite moving evocation of the “Danes in Denmark” passage testifying to Stevens’s unironic sense of the power of the indigene truly living the local life (“And knew each other well”).

Yet as we read this book about Stevens’s Europe, Stevens in Europe, the Europeans’ Stevens, we must remember that the “Danes in Denmark” notion was never about Denmark, nor even about Europe at large. It’s about fully occupying any place but one’s own place, and Europe is a site chosen by way of analogy rather than a cultural or geographic context. Miller, for instance, is right to wonder why Stevens landed on Denmark to make this fabulous place-unspecific point about place.

What does it mean to speak of this particular poet “in” Europe? His actual readership there? His effect on the poetics community? His relationships with individual contacts and correspondents there? Stevens in Europe; Stevens and Europe. “In” is critically a more effective term than “and,” in this regard, but it also requires higher standards of evidence and scholarship. “And” has always produced in Stevens criticism pairings suggestive at best, indulgent at worst: “Stevens and Zukofsky” (a real connection, and generative in terms of contemporary poetics); “Stevens and Heidegger” (a connection made by Stevens through a tiny bit of reading; otherwise a theoretical parallelism, and perhaps a troubling one and too dependent on the acuity of the critic). Miller’s essay here is titled “Stevens in Connecticut (and Denmark),” but the locatedness of the preposition is more persuasive than the collection-befitting conjunction.

Once the subordinating, situating in of the first section of essays gives way to the parallelistic and of part two—a portion of the book titled “transatlantic conversation”—the critical essayist is untethered, for both ill and good. Here we get the delightful piece of Krzysztof Ziarek once again considering, indeed, Stevens and Heidegger. Yes, Heidegger was definitively German, but the essay’s large concept, the “foreignness of poetry,” turns out to have only tangential connection to Stevens’s sense of Europe, a limitation that fortunately does not thwart Ziarek’s revisionist reading of an important late poem, “Of Mere Being.” Again, though, “mere being” is an existential condition more fundamental, more culturally unspecific, than can be obtained by the category “European.”

Across the Atlantic for Stevens were Anatole and Paule Vidal, his French art dealers (father and daughter), their aesthetic-mercantile eyes on the depressed and then war-torn republics; alas, the Vidals are seen only glancingly here. Barbara Church is briefly mentioned (her postcards from a postwar driving trip are sources for several cantos in “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven”), but she and her husband were crucial to the development of Stevens’s view of twentieth-century Europe: Henry and Barbara Church, exiled in Princeton, gave him his clearest sense of the failure of the interwar modernist small press and salon.The Churches introduced Stevens to Jean Wahl, a French poet, detained by the Nazis in a Vichy camp; Wahl corresponded with Stevens and sent him a sheaf of poems in typescript, which we know Stevens read. Pitts Sanborn, Stevens’ Harvard classmate who was a writer and art critic and (as it turns out) fascist fellow traveler living in Germany through the 1930s, was another significant contact in the heart of Europe. Hardly did I lament the particular absence of Sanborn in Wallace Stevens across the Atlantic (he is a character perhaps best forgotten), nor rue the merely brief mention of Wahl by Edward Ragg in his otherwise good essay on Picasso and Cezanne. But I did generally miss a solid touching down upon the European ground of Stevens’s time. (I hasten to note that Mark Ford’s telling of Stevens’s connection to Nicholas Moore of the Fortune Press presents a plausible counter to my qualm.)

Above at right: Jean Wahl presents at a 1943 conference at Mount Holyoke College, where Stevens also gave a paper.

Through Paule Vidal, Stevens came in contact with the life and work of the Breton painter Pierre Tal Coat, a lyrical abstractionist, from whom the poet came to a particular understanding of the fate of the European artist at the moment, as Serge Guilbaut has put it, when New York stole the idea of modern art from Paris. Because he continued stubbornly to buy French works of art—in part out of a fetishizing of the Postcard Imagination—our American poet was working against the trend, the “American Century,” flowing mightily toward him rather than away. These were the sort of actual European forms and movements and Stevens knowledge of which tends to undermine the now infamously dislocated and oblivious but always powerfully contradictory notion of poetry as a description without (a sense of) place.

Feeling somewhat bereft of delineative particulars, I was greeted with the super-confident gesture implicit in Massimo Bacigalupo’s perfectly relevant and useful account of carrying Stevens’s American English over into Italian. Nothing could be more circumstantial or illuminative. Renato Poggioli, to translate the poems in 1954, queries the poet by mail word by word, seeking a culturally specific sense-making for a nation quite unlike the poet’s, balancing that with the untranslatable Americanness upon which Stevens, or at any rate the verse, insists. Bacigalupo (seen at right), a translator of Stevens himself, gives us essentially a memoiristic account of linguistic reckoning across the Atlantic. This, to me, is Stevens in Europe truly—at the level of the word.

Jews to whom nothing untoward happened (not)

Lisa New's memoir, Jacob's Cane, will be published in the fall by Perseus Books. I read it this past weekend in proofs and found it to be dazzling. I was asked to write a jacket blurb and here it is:

Elisa New’s brilliant memoir prefers convergences to chronology. That “history is a random business, made out of wanderings, guesses, and old glue” is the major idea—and also method—of the book, and its themes converge, surprisingly and pleasurably and emotionally—every which way. One moment we happily tear at Lithuanian rye jagged with caraway, its crust so tough it tugs the bones in the jaw, the next moment our guide is asking a man on the tractor to point out the spot where they’d shot the Jews. The Jews, of course, of New’s convention-defying family. These people are real, troubling every stereotype. Here is the gorgeously written, marvelously structured memoir of a person who’d been made as a child to understand why her whole clan comported themselves as though they were persons to whom nothing untoward had ever happened. But something most certainly did happen…

You can hear recordings of Lisa reading from the memoir - linked here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

we are living in diminished Times

Just before I picked up my Sunday New York Times, I read this status update from Robert Archambeau: "Every time I pick up the NY Times in its new, shrunken version, I feel like some kind of giant. Today I'm intensifying the feeling by replacing my usual coffee with espresso from a tiny cup. In fact, I think I'll just commit to the role and make Godzilla noises as I walk around."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

all poets were truly welcome

I met Dan Saxon through Penn - through the Writers House; he graduated from Penn in 1960. His son Jon was my student years ago, and his daughter Jerilyn and her husband Brian are members of the Writers House Board. Dan has shown interest in what we do at the Writers House for years - attends all our New York events and has been to the House itself many times. It was perhaps during our second or third meeting that Dan mentioned he'd had a connection to the avant-garde poetry scene of the early '60s in New York. Finally, a few weeks ago, I arranged for Dan to come to my office, which doubles as a recording studio, and we talked for an hour or so. A new PennSound podcast is a somewhat edited portion of that longer conversation.

As you'll hear in the podcast, Dan happened upon Le Metro, where Lower East Side poets and other artists gathered, and began to publish a crude but innovative and now really valuable irregular magazine, Poets of Le Metro. Daniel Kane, in All Poets Welcome, his book about the Lower East scene, describes the importance of Dan's magazine. Below is a passage (click on the image for a larger view).

survivor goes on

Visitor Liliane Willens was heading into a basement auditorium to listen to a Holocaust survivor talk about her wartime experiences when she heard a noise that sounded like a roof falling in. The audience in the crowded auditorium was told to stay put and that there had been a shooting but that people were safe where they were, she said. Eventually, the Holocaust survivor went on with her presentation.--from the Washington Poet's first news article about the June 10 shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Friday, June 12, 2009

conserves our cardinal nobilities, thank goodness

Not long ago I re-read John Hollander's short piece on Wallace Stevens for the magazine of the Academy of American Poets. Hollander's Stevens is culturally conservative - a conservator of "our cardinal nobilities," etc. In essayistically surveying the uses of Stevens after 1975 about a year ago, I wrote a few paragraphs in protest against such a view. I won't quote or summarize that protest here, but I will provide a link to a PDF of the Hollander piece.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

big mug vodka maker

Readers of this blog might remember that I've admired Tony Green's poem-object "Big Mug Vodka Maker" from afar - from Philly to Auckland, to be specific. And as I've also mentioned recently here, Tony Green visited Philly, first time in 20 years, and gave a presentation at the Writers House. We did an interview for the PennSound podcast series. He read some poems, and he also read several of his poem-objects. He bought along the one I especially admired and gave it to me. It now sits prominently on display in my office at the Writers House. Best of all, we now have for our archive a video of Tony showing this object and reading it/reading from it.

the reinvention of truth in Madison

In April, Joan Retallack visited Madison, Wisc., to give a lecture and a reading. The lecture was entitled "John Cage's Anarchic Harmony: A Poethical Wager," and the reading, introduced by Lynn Keller, included "Present Tensed," "The Reinvention of Truth," "Bosch Bookshelf," and "The Woman in the Chinese Room." We've made both lecture and reading available on PennSound, ready just yesterday.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

new PoemTalk now out

The new episode of PoemTalk is now being released, our 18th podcast in a series that has featured 25-minute discussions among three poets, hosted by me, on single short poems by William Carlos Williams, Adrienne Rich, George Oppen, William Blake via Allen Ginsberg, Ted Berrigan, Jaap Blonk, Jerome Rothenberg, Rae Armantrout, John Ashbery, Gertrude Stein, Erica Hunt, Ezra Pound, Kathleen Fraser, Wallace Stevens, Lyn Hejinian, Robert Creeley, Rodrigo Toscano and now Lydia Davis. Lydia Davis a poet? Well, no, she's the writer of short-short stories, prose parables, prose-poems--you decide. Here's your link to the new episode.

Monday, June 08, 2009

late late spring in Fialta

I am generally a disciplined reader. I read one book at a time. At most: two. I start and finish, start and finish. The exceptional time of year is now - late May, early June. The end-of-summer deadlines don't press quite yet (after July 4 they do and will). I am reaching for the shelf of books that piled up over the year, with more enthusiasm about reading than I ever otherwise feel. It's why I got into the work I'm in. This year I've gone especially wild. I am reading, in mostly random rotation, all these now:

- Vladimir Nabokov's 1936 story, "Spring in Fialta"
- Vertov from Z to A eds. Ahwesh & Sanborn
- Joyce Carol Oates' newest collection of stories, Dear Husband,
- Wallace Stevens across the Atlantic
- Jeff Toobin's The Nine, gearing up for the Supreme Court nomination hearings
- David Milch's Stories of the Black Hills
- Walter Kirn's anti-meritocracy memoir
- Norman Mailer's huge Hitler/devil novel, The Castle in the Forest

Friday, June 05, 2009

civic read

--from a profile (really, a snappy Q&A) of me done by the Philadelphia Inquirer in January 2007.

command creativity

From the "Also Remember" section of the Saturday Review of Literature, June 23, 1951, p. 14. The caption reads: "Due to hundreds of requests the General has added a creative writing course to the curriculum . . ."

Milch's complex cops

Thanks to Allison Harris, I now have put together a list and quick summary of episodes of NYPD Blue written by David Milch -- those for which, at least, he officially received credit. (There's little doubt, early in the show's run, that he had a big hand in all episodes.)

reading from tubes, reclaimed from rolling eyes

Finally I met Tony Green in person. Yesterday at the Writers House. We'd been in contact since March of 2001, and now here he was, having come all the way from New Zealand. First time in Philly in 20 years. I'll save space for more about Tony's performance when the recordings are available on PennSound, but for now let me happily pass you along to CAConrad's entry at the PhillySound blog, where Conrad begins his informal review of Tony's appearance at KWH with this sentence: "Magic is a word I want us to reclaim from rolling eyes."

The photo here shows Tony reading from one of his poem-tubes.

trial by fury

I'm hosting David Milch at the Writers House next spring. I've long been a fan of this quirky genius. To prepare, I'm reading and watching. First up: Hill Street Blues. Milch, it's said, rescued the show from its tendency toward silliness. "Trial by Fury," the first episode of season 3, was all his - and it won an Emmy. I think this was Milch's very first crack at a teleplay. Amazing.

I've tracked every show Milch wrote (is credited for writing) - many in seasons 3 and 4, and two near the end. For the very latest episode, May 12, 1987, in season 7, they brought Milch back. The result is "It Ain't Over Till It's Over," of course.

Here's a PDF giving you of all the Milch-written Hill Street Blues. Some full episodes are available on Hulu. Only seasons 1 and 2 are available, so far, on DVD. Season 3 is available in a new-ish service provided by Amazon; you pay $1.99 to watch each episode on demand.

- - -

Later: Patrick Dillon points out to me that Hulu offers all season 3 episodes for free: here.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

writing made of disaster

"There is nothing on earth that can prevent a poet from writing, not even the fact that he's Jewish and German is the language of his poems."--Paul Celan.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

six poets each teach a poem

A few weeks ago I wrote about having invited six poets each to teach a short poem to high-school student. I commented in particular about teaching the constraints of the haiku and its possible special connection to high-school kids' understanding of poetry today--what with their sense of extreme limits (texting, Twitter's 140 characters, etc.). Anyway, now we've put up the PennSound page featuring links to audio and video recording of these six sessions.

against the cavalcade of nice

"Don’t let a poetry organization be put in charge of placing poems on buses. It upholds the cavalcade of nice. If poetry is nice then it is dead." Eileen Myles writes for the Harriet blog of the Poetry Foundation on why she hates poetry.

More Myles.

Monday, June 01, 2009

as Bruce Andrews' world turns

One day, on the street, Bruce Andrews found several thousands of pages of scripts from As the World Turns. He then created a piece I'm calling "This Is the 20th Century" (from its first line), a preface/blurb to a book by Johanna Drucker (Dark Decade) which uses phrases from the scripts and also some language from Drucker. He read this piece at an Ear Inn reading in 1994. Here is the recording--from PennSound's Bruce Andrews page where this '94 reading has just now been segmented (thanks to the talented Jenny Lesser).

humanities saves all

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a soul collected

I'm looking at a file that is an accumulation of letters, emails and documents all pertaining to a longtime search for a few frames in a documentary. The oldest item is a letter dated 1989. In all the time since, on and off, I've been trying to get a screenshot of a painting by Alice Neel featured briefly in the film Alice Neel: Collector of Souls, produced by Nancy Baer. Bear made her Neel film for TV and it was aired on PBS (part of a series called Women in Art).

Neel did a portrait of Ronald Lane Latimer, who was born James Leippert and had about five or six pseudonyms other than Latimer. In the mid-30s Latimer published books of poems at the small press he founded, Alcestis Press. He published Williams, Moore, Allen Tate, Stevens, Robert Penn Warren (Warren's first book), Willard Maas, Ruth Lechlitner and others. Until I published by book on Stevens' poetry in the politically radical context of the 1930s, very little was known about who Latimer/Leippert really was. He was a bisexual avant-gardist living and publishing booked in Greenwich Village, while being a semi-secret Communist, while enrolled in a school preparing him for the priesthood upstate, while engaged to a young woman in Albany...while corresponding crucially with Stevens and other poets, while running away from certain demons. I was able to track him mainly because I compiled a list of his pseudonyms.

I became fascinated with Latimer and tried to find photographs of him in his various phases: Columbia student, publisher-communist, then Buddhist in flowing robes in New Mexico, then expatriate in Japan, finally Episcopal priest in Florida (while living with a young man whom he told neighbors was his son--and who might have been his son, for all I know, but doubtful). I actually have a photo of him in Florida, posing, in his collar, with his large dog. And I have one of him standing on the steps of Columbia's library from 1932. But I've only had a glimpse--on TV as it aired--of the Alice Neel portrait of Latimer depicted in the Nancy Baer documentary. (There's also a painting done of Latimer in Buddhist robes done by Santa Fe-based painter Miki Hayakawa.)

For some reason I'm back on the trail, looking to be in touch with Nancy Baer, hoping to find a reproduction of the Neel portrait, hoping even to see a copy of the documentary (which is rare). Anyone with leads? Please contact me at afilreis AT writing DOT upenn DOT edu.

the '20s were in again

When the legacy of The Dial got clinched.