Monday, November 29, 2010
If you can't make it to Philly, watch this live as a video stream. Just go here at 6 PM eastern time next Monday and watch!
The recordings will later be made available in PennSound and the symposium will be published in Jacket2.
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The Kelly Writers House presents
POETRY IN 1960
RACHEL BLAU DuPLESSIS
MICHAEL S. HENNESSEY
hosted by AL FILREIS
Monday, December 6, at 6:00 PM in the Arts Café
Kelly Writers House | 3805 Locust Walk
No registration required - this event is free & open to the public
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KWH Faculty Director AL FILREIS curates a remarkable gathering of poets to present brief commentaries of books of poetry published in 1960 – to help mark the 50th anniversary of each. Each poet will read his or her 500- to 750-word critical commentary or retrospective review, after which there will be a Q&A session and a celebratory reception. The poet's commentaries will later be published as a special feature on the poetry & poetics of 1960 in Jacket2.
BOB PERELMAN on The New American Poetry edited by Donald Allen
RON SILLIMAN on The Opening of the Field by Robert Duncan
RACHEL BLAU DuPLESSIS on Second Avenue by Frank O'Hara
CHRIS FUNKHOUSER on Stanzas for Iris Leza by Jackson Mac Low
ERICA KAUFMAN on The Location of Things by Barbara Guest
JUDITH GOLDMAN on The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks
KRISTEN GALLAGHER on Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note by LeRoi Jones
DANNY SNELSON on Cartridge Music by John Cage
MICHAEL S. HENNESSEY on A New Folder edited by Daisy Aldan
CHARLES BERNSTEIN on On My Eyes by Larry Eigner
MEL NICHOLS on Hymns of St. Bridget by Bill Berkson & Frank O'Hara
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Cid Corman's poem beginning "It isn't for want" haunts me. It's the urgent quality of Cid's voice, recorded there over the telephone. And the way he so pressingly emphasizes any word adjacent to the word "you," as in "Something to tell you" or "To detain you." The phrases of the poem go round in my mind. So much so that I decided to remix the poem, almost as a way of getting it out of my head. As if to Stein-ize it would relieve it of its longing to have us listen. The remix also has the virtue, I think, of instructing us in Corman's use of breath as a formal unit. Anyway, I'm certain this will sound annoying to some, but here you go.
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'Juneteenth': Executor Tidies Up Ellison's Unfinished Symphony
By MICHIKO KAKUTANI
Over the years, Ralph Ellison's unfinished second novel has assumed the status of a literary myth. His first novel, "Invisible Man," published in 1952, established him unequivocally as a modernist master, and over the next four decades he labored to produce a follow-up to that masterpiece. In 1966 a fire at his home destroyed a portion of his manuscript, and during the ensuing years there were reports that the work in progress was slowly changing shape, evolving into an increasingly ambitious saga that, in the words of his literary executor, John F. Callahan, was "multifarious, multifaceted, multifocused, multivoiced, multitoned."
That manuscript was unfinished at Ellison's death in 1994, and from some 2,000 pages of typescript and printouts, Callahan has extracted "Juneteenth," the one narrative he says that "best stands alone as a single, self-contained volume."
"Aiming, as Ellison had, at one complete volume," Callahan writes, "I proceeded to arrange his oft-revised, sometimes reconceived scenes and episodes according to their most probable development and progression. While doing so, I felt uneasily Procrustean: Here and there limbs of the manuscript needed to be stretched, and elsewhere a protruding foot might be lopped off, if all the episodes were to be edited into a single, coherent, continuous work."
The resulting book provides the reader with intimations of the grand vision animating Ellison's 40-year project, but it also feels disappointingly provisional and incomplete. Given all the cutting and tidying up Callahan has done, the book's opaqueness and attenuation come as little surprise: after all, he has effectively changed the book's entire structure and modus operandi. Instead of the symphonic work Ellison envisioned, Callahan has given us a single, tentatively rendered melodic line. Instead of a vast modernist epic about the black experience in America, he has given us a flawed linear novel, focused around one man's emotional and political evolution.
[ more ]
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
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“Reznikoff’s Voices” by Charles Bernstein
Holocaust, Charles Reznikoff’s last book, is, like his great work of the 1930s, Testimony, haunted by the voices of the dispossessed. In Testimony, Reznikoff worked with legal records of violent crimes from 1885-1915 to create tautly etched accounts of the turbulent underbelly of these United States. The two long volumes of Testimony are difficult reading, though a different senseof “difficulty” than that of other modernist poetry by first-wave modernists such as Eliot, Pound, Stein, or Stevens. There is no difficulty interpreting the content of these poems; in a sense they start with the heresy of paraphrase, for each poem paraphrases the longer account of a crime that Reznikoff appropriates, edited but verbatim, from the legal documents. The book, composed entirely from archival material, averts an overarching story line or poetical reflections. In contrast, Muriel Rukeyser’s documentary poem “Book of the Dead” (1938) uses passages from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and a multi-voice format that shifts from quoted letters from a variety of sources and journalistic accounts, to weave together a far more theatrical and narrativizing work than Testimony.
Testimony is presented in a monolithic, if not to say monotonous, form, which offers no respite from directly confronting an unfolding, accumulating series of horrific events. Reznikoff’s methodological refusal to mitigate means that the work speaks not for itself as as itself. Perhaps the most important precedent for Testimony is Whitman’s “Song of Myself”: Reznikoff’s work is the antipode: in place of Whitman’s bursts of celebration, Reznikoff’s Testimony is a prolonged elegy; an unflinching acknowledgement of unredeemable and inexcusable loss. [more]
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Gary is also the Serif of Nottingblog - which is to say, runs a blog going under that title. He blogs on average once every other day. I recommend it as a digital destination.
Gary is Jewish, and the family's path runs like this: Lithuania, South Africa, Ottawa. His Lithuanian family fled the holocaust. His great-uncle Isaak Grazutis is a holocaust survivor, and also, now, a painter. "In 1941, at the age of eleven, Isaak was forced to flee his native village in advance of Nazi occupation. After his parents were taken away by the invading forces, he was brought to live in an orphanage in Ural, and later, Moscow where he spent his formative years." Here is much more from Gary's blog. At right you see one of Isaak's oil paintings.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
John Ashbery: Well, I'm told that they're not. I wish that they were as accessible to as many people as possible. They are not, I wouldn't say, private. What they are is about the privacy of all of us and the difficulty of our own thinking and coming to conclusions. And in that way they are, I think, accessible if anybody cares to access them. [source]
Phillips writes: "I found this book (or rather, it found me) when I was not quite thirty and have worked on it constantly ever since. It beckoned me on as it yielded strange words and provoked new images and told the fragmentary tale of Irma and Bill Toge. Now I am well over seventy and still revisiting and revising its pages, I find further layers of hidden texts and buried messages. Like the I Ching, the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, chance pairs of pages, taken together and interpreted, act as a guide and cryptic commentary on life in word and picture; a not-too-serious oracle which I now share with you."
A HUMUMENT: humument.com
Below are two screen shots from my iPad. The first shows page 2. The second shows the oracle function at work, about the merge pages 11 and 367 at a randomly chosen point in time.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
The Hotel Wentley Poems, Wieners's first book (1958), are available online--all of them. This is a book that should be read in one sitting, and it offers a powerful reading experience. Not quite Beat (although he was feeling beat--out of it, not beatific--and he was in San Francisco at the time he wrote these poems in successive days) and not quite Black Mountain, the poems can be placed in their time and aesthetic context with some pleasure taken by the placer; but they do really well as more generally "New American" or, frankly, contextless, or in the similar/different context of love poetry across the literary ages. I have two favorite passages. One is the seventh and final section of "A poem for painters" and the other is a passage near the end of "A poem for museum goers." The latter movingly situates the speaker (a writer--the author of these very poems) both in the history of art (the art of lovers leaving lovers) and in the desolate present room at the Hotel Wentley, the room of the poem.
Lover leaves lover,
1896, 62 years
later, the men
sit, paws and
under their heads,
Now the season of
the furnished room. Gone
the Grecian walls & the
plain planks and spider
webs, a bed
only big enough for one,
it looks like a
The speaker didn't want this but he knows how keenly and well the depression has provoked these poems. They're his way out but also his deathbed.
The seventh section of "A poem for painters" needs little explanation. Another magnificent poem about the poem, it puts itself in the tradition of the defense of poesy, by first enumerating what the present poem lacks. Otherwise, the section serves the same purpose as the passage quoted above:
At last. I come to the last defense.
My poems contain no
wilde beestes, no
lady of the lake music
of the spheres, or organ chants,
yet by these lines
I betray what little given me.
One needs no defense.
Only the score of a man's
struggle to stay with
what is his own, what
lies within him to do.
Without which is nothing,
for him or those who hear him
And I come to this,
knowing the waste, leaving
the rest up to love
and its twisted faces
my hands claw out at
only to draw back from the
blood already running there.
Oh come back, whatever heart
you have left. It is my life
you save. The poem is done.
PennSound makes available a recording of Wieners reading of "A poem for painters" (in a pre-published version). The recording of this and other poems was made by Robert Creeley, probably at a Berkeley poetry conference, probably in the summer of 1965.
Above left: Guest in 1968.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Poet, novelist, essayist, translator, and scholar of Hebrew and Jewish literature of the Middle East Ammiel Alcalay will give a reading at the Kelly Writers House this week (what a week upcoming it is!): on Wednesday, 11/17/10, starting at 6 PM. For much more, go here.
Earlier the same day, Ammiel and I, and two others, will record a session of PoemTalk on John Wieners.
Brodsky Gallery Opening – with a talk by the artist
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
6:00 PM in the Arts Cafe
co-sponsored by: Femininsm/s and the Wexler Family Fund
Susan Bee is an artist, editor and designer who works and lives in New York City. Her work examines and questions intersections of identity, gender roles and secular Jewish culture. As an artist, she believes strongly in the role of the imagination and the importance of poetry, humor, irony, memory, and fantasy in art. She also believes in idiosyncratic, individualistic, and eccentric art making. She has published six artist's books with Granary Books, including collaborations with poets: Bed Hangings, with Susan Howe, A Girl's Life, with Johanna Drucker, Log Rhythms and Little Orphan Anagram with Charles Bernstein and The Burning Babe and Other Poems with Jerome Rothenberg. She is coeditor of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artist's Writings, Theory, and Criticism, with writings by over 100 artists, critics, and poets, published by Duke University Press in 2000. She was the coeditor of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A Journal of Contemporary Art Issues from 1986-1996 and is the coeditor of M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
A portrait of legendary Beat poet Gary Snyder. His poetry embraces and celebrates the rhythms of nature and the written word. Occupying a hallowed yet humble position within the realms of poetry, academia, ecological activism and spiritual practice, Snyder distinguished himself among peers such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac by becoming both a countercultural hero and a Pulitzer Prize winner. Here, we follow Snyder’s journey through nature and across the page with his cantankerous compadre and fellow scribe Jim Harrison. Together, these two old friends roam the hills of the central California coast, musing on Bay Area bohemia, Zen Buddhism and the morally charged interdependence of all living things. (Running time 0:53)
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Now back to Williams, your initial response to Williams—-according to something you said at Camden in December -—was that what mattered to you in reading Williams, particularly The Wedge, was that the work was driven by anger. This is what, at least, Ron Silliman posted to the Buffalo poetics listserv afterwards. And then he went on to comment at how Williams had a huge impact on him as well, but it was a very different Williams. So, if anger is not quite operating as much, what’s your Williams now? How does Williams animate you now?
Back to Ron’s point, that that wasn’t the Williams he read, he reads the later Williams.
The Desert Music.
Yeah. Which is not an unangry poem, so to speak. But it certainly isn’t nearly as angry as the poems he was writing in the thirties or twenties. Spring and All, for example. Or the "Descent of Winter," or "March First." Many of the early poems are really angry, and their emotional base is their revulsion and anger at the world he finds around him.
So, now when you look back at Williams, how does it feel?
Well, it feels very much like my own life. I, when young, felt a dismay, let’s put it, that such things as the Holocaust or the Second World War or the depression or many other factors in one’s real life, that these could be so unremarkable to the body politic, that it seemed not to matter.
Through the agency of my terrific wife, I sent an article, I think it was called “Bush Goes Green” from the New York Times to this listserv that a friend of ours sends us, you know, Barbie dolls and things women have to do to protect themselves in parking lots, lots of actually useful information, but the list has had a certain smugness. So, I zapped out this Bush article—Texas is 50th in education, and so on—and instantly comes back a letter: “Don’t send any more of this to me. I’ll vote for Bush no matter what.”
So, I was disappointed that one would vote for someone who commits to have his state have 25% of its population with no insurance, who would willfully do so, and fight to preserve that situation. I still feel anger in that way.
But again, back to the verse, think of the classic phrases humans make: X wants to make his peace with the world. The resistances of Lawrence’s, the day of my interference is done, the recoil outstrips the advance, et cetera.
I remember one time, terrifically, I had the chance to ask Kenneth Burke at a community meal we were all at up in Orono, there was a moment when I had him to myself, so to speak, and I asked him quickly: what advice would you have for someone as myself who is getting old. And he looked at me and said: Don’t boast. You won’t be able to back it up.
Therefore, it isn’t don’t get angry, don’t use anger as a primary emotion. It’s extraordinarily hard to sustain. It always was incidentally.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Monday, November 08, 2010
Last year, Even, a Latin American Latino Studies and Africana Studies major and a Creative Writing and Urban Education minor (yes, two majors and two minors), was hired as a work-study student to revive community outreach at Penn’s Kelly Writers House. The afternoon at West Philadelphia Catholic was just one of the many small-scale initiatives she organized, but the event prompted her to question whether the current outreach offerings at Penn was sufficient.
Currently, the Netter Center for Community Partnerships serves as a hub and sponsors for a comprehensive array of community services. Among these is Community School Student Partnership (CSSP), which recruits and trains Penn students to assist hired staff in mentoring and tutoring at West Philadelphia schools through a series of structured programs. The Kelly Writers House also hosts a series of literary-based outreach programs, including WriteOn!, in which fourth- through eighth-graders from two local schools come to the Writers House on select Fridays and Saturdays to engage with Penn students on extracurricular writing projects.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Monday, November 01, 2010
Carl Rakosi responds to a question about his status as a communist poet in the 1930s (and 40s). Tom Devaney posed the question during a public live-audiocast interview we conducted at the Writers House in 2002, when Carl was 99 years old.