Saturday, October 31, 2009

my delicious links

poets in the green room

Robert Grenier and Ron Silliman at the Kelly Writers House this past Tuesday (October 27), just before Bob's reading/talk.

can a poem be political?

Kevin Davies on political poetry:

I'm reminded of Ed Dorn saying something like 'You're handing me this piece of paper and telling me it's political? It's about as political as a gopher hole.' I'm totally agnostic about the ability of unpopular verse to affect change in the political world. I just don't believe it. I don't think for a second, oh, here I am striking a blow against capital. Political change is not made by the choices that we're making in verse. We're doing this so that certain possibilities can exist in the world. So that works of art can exist, temporarily, and they'll certainly bear traces of our political vision because if they don't they're no good.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ezraversity circa 1960

When Ezra Pound and Donald Hall converged.

Alf teaches poetry virtually

Here "I" am - my avatar, Alf Fullstop - teaching modernist poetry last night to a group of folks from around the world (one from Puerto Rico, another from Hong Kong) in Second Life's virtual Kelly Writers House.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

transcribing the world, no more or less than that

Transcribing the world this entire year with our students.

the whenever-we-feel-like-it aesthetic thrives

"Whenever We Feel Like It" is a new poetry series. It's put on by Committee of Vigilance members Michelle Taransky and Emily Pettit. The Committee of Vigilance is a subdivision of Sleepy Lemur Quality Enterprises, which is the production division of The Meeteetzee Institute. Yeah, yeah. There have been three readings so far, the most recent quite recent: October 21. Click here for information about all three events and audio recordings divided by poet. On October 21: Sanae Lemoine, Joshua Harmon, and Andrew Zawacki.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ashbery actually explicates

Rare it is that John Ashbery explains one of his poems. But, in a radio interview in 1966, he did that just. He read "These Lacustrine Cities" and then went line by line offering various sorts of explanations - paraphrase, sources for phrases and words, a sense of the process of composition. Now we have released a PennSound podcast, #18 in our series, featuring this recording, which aired on WKCR. The podcast is 18 minutes long.

autumnal podcast

Today we release the 22nd in our series of Kelly Writers House podcasts. This one features 5 excerpts from the vast archive of our programs - all having, in one way or another, to do with autumn. Autumn comes to 3805 Locust. Have a listen.

The podcast features Ellen Yin (founder of Fork restaurant), Tom Devaney (from his poem "At Franklin's Grave"), former longtime KWH director Kerry Sherin Wright ("Autumn Lullaby"), Eileen D'Angelo ("Love Letter to a Moody Sea") and Ben Lerner (excerpt from "Doppler Elegies").

Waldrops coming

Listen to my audio announcement of the upcoming reading at the Writers House to be given by Rosemarie and Keith Waldrop on November 4. It includes a recording of Keith reading one of his translations of Baudelaire.

the sun was not the sun

You should watch all 30 minutes of Edith's testimony as a survivor of Auschwitz. But if you cannot watch the whole thing, at least for now, move the counter to 15:19 and listen/watch as Edith tries to "describe" Auschwitz in sum.

wordsmith Yankee

My friend Irwyn made the following clever observation ("Mo"=Mariano Rivera, of course):

I know this is not your dream Series scenario, but how about a tip of the cap to Mo, the wordsmith, who, when asked by the silly post-game interviewer what was going through his head when he was called in to pitch two innings of relief, said: "Get six outs." Most succinct job summary since Eastwood's Man With No Name going out to face the gunmen with: "Get three coffins ready." Bon Mo, who knew?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

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what Emily feels

John Carroll, "Emoticon Dickinson," published in The Foghorn.

objectivist home

Facebook people can have the treat of seeing Joey Yearous-Algozin's recent photographs of Lorine Niedecker's house: here.

teaching with sound

The very fact that audio recordings of poetry are now readily available to the classroom can be turned to a great advantage and can at least temporarily change the relationship between teacher and student. It is surely the case that when my students and I in class together listen to sound files instead of reading poem-texts, our vocabularies tend to be on the same plane. I might have a subtler response to what we’re hearing, and certainly I know far more than they about the sound in literary-historical context, but they are never struck dumb by the terminology I bring to bear on the point I seek to make about the specific sound of the words, the poetics of it. The students notice this difference – between their talk about the poem on the page and their talk about the sounded or recorded poems – and their discussion of poetics generally becomes charged with it. If it is true of those who perform spoken poetry that (as David Antin has put it) ‘it was my habit to record my talks / to find out what i[’]d said’ then similarly, the disorienting and terminologically disruptive mode I am describing is the means by which we might find out what we are teaching.

See an earlier post: "Classroom as Kiva."

Dylan's guide to presidents

Click on the image at left for Bob Dylan's guide to presidents and other notables. Likens himself to Lee Harvey Oswald because, you know, they started booing. (Courtesy: Bruce Springsteen's people, who put together a Bob Dylan map of the U.S.)

Poe and madmen

Poet, critic, teacher, reviewer and former Writers House program coordinator Tom Devaney has a good piece on Poe (in time for Halloween) in today's Philadelphia Inquirer.

Barbara Guest

The most recent episode of PoemTalk we released features a discussion of a remarkable poem by Barbara Guest, "Roses."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

transcontinental hypnotics

Poet Linh Dinh is on the road now - I should say the railroad; he's taking trains from the east coast to Chicago, down to Austin, out to L.A., giving poetry readings along the way and taking photographs for his superb blog Detainees. His blog's photos depict the American economy as keenly as any medium I've seen/read. When I heard Linh would be traveling by train I immediately fantasized my own version of such a mode: reading a stack of books, and writing. No, said Linh, I can't do that. I will just sit and stare.

Jackson and Anne

On June 20, 1993 Jackson Mac Low and Anne Tardos gave a reading together. Lawrence Schwartzwald was then an amateur photographer snapping shots at various literary events. Here are Jackson and Anne at Biblios, 317 Church Street (no longer there). What a lovely shot.

(c) Lawrence Schwartzwald


At left you see my avatar, Alf Fullstop, preparing to lead a seminar in the virtual Kelly Writers House in Second Life this coming Thursday evening. The poem on the wall, WCW's "Between Walls," is the third of three poems I'll be teaching.

your daily Al

Here's your daily Al for today. Get your daily Al daily.

no ideas but what's from the hardware store

In Paris very recently (yesterday?), two of my students - Lily and Alex - pay appropriate non-respects to one of the Duchamp "Fountain" reproductions. Their own caption: they laughed so hard (not at Duchamp but at themselves for their response to coming up it) that they peed in their pants. Better in their pants, I say, than in the urinal.

Friday, October 23, 2009


The Kelly Writers House has a new Facebook page. Be a friend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

it's a small world after all

This straight from Disney World. Photo taken this past weekend. Jews are now part of the "It's a Small World" exhibit. Tell your neighbors. Tell your friends.

Photo courtesy Lauren Roberts

Sunday, October 18, 2009


"Metadramas" by Dick Higgins: here.

rather than have his mind stop

My favorite literary photographer, Lawrence Schwartzwald, got this good shot at "Poet's Forum" at The New School in Greenwich Village yesterday. The topic was "Prosody in Free Verse." and here you see Frank Bidart (with Sharon Olds) getting animated when discussing an excerpt from Pound's Canto CXV, the different versions of the poem, the spacing on the page.
Wyndham Lewis chose blindness
rather than have his mind stop...

Time, space,
neither life nor death is the answer.
photo credit: (c) Lawrence Schwartzwald

goodbye, Cathy

My friend Cathy Crimmins died recently. Far, far, far too young. She'd had a difficult life, but there should have been lots more of it. She was always utterly hilarious, the sharpest wit I've ever known.

In the late 80s we lived next door to Al and Cathy - and then Kelly too. I say "next door," and I really mean it. Or "next window." Our living room windows were three feet from each other, in two row houses on the 23rd block of Spruce Street. In the warm months, when windows were open, we heard everything going on in each other's lives. When infant Kelly was up all night (screaming for an hour at a time), sometimes I would lean out the window and talk with Cathy as she walked the baby around on her shoulder, trying to quiet her. Sometimes I would even hum the baby a lullaby from my neighborly perch. I can't remember what Cathy and I talked about on such occasions, but I'm certain it included hilarious riffs on the ironies of parenting. She was of course deliciously funny, especially at moments otherwise tough to endure.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Celan primer

I've prepared a document that might nicely serve as a primer to Paul Celan's wartime experience and early poems. It includes a page-long summary of his life c. 1941-45 and then five pages from Pierre Joris' excellent introductory profile to his Paul Celan: Selections, followed by the texts of just two early poems. Here is that document (PDF).

young journalists at our house

We're pleased to announce a new partnership between the Kelly Writers House and the Philadelphia Inquirer, a project coordinated on our side, in part, by Povich Writer-in-Residence Dick Polman. This collaboration has now produced the Penn page in "Student Union 34": Through this effort, young Penn journalistic writers will be regularly published in the city's premier newspaper. (Do, please, check the web address above regularly for new entries, stories, essays, and features.) Today the site features Steven Waye's article about how pop culture-infused sermons abound in Fishtown.

myth at Yale: undergraduate teaching requirement

Below is the first part of an article appearing in today's "Yale Daily News." For the full article, click here.

One of the Yale Admissions Office’s favorite selling points to prospective students — that, unlike at many other large research universities, all of Yale’s tenured professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences teach undergraduate courses — is widely believed by students and faculty.

But it’s not that simple. In fact, there is no policy requiring professors to teach undergraduates, and in any given semester, a handful of them, for a variety of reasons, do not.

According to this year’s Yale College admissions viewbook, “100 percent of tenured professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences teach undergraduate courses.” Interviews with professors in several departments reveal that faculty members believe this to be a rule. However, Deputy Provost J. Lloyd Suttle confirmed Thursday that no such policy exists.

Indeed, a search on the Online Course Information Web site reveals at least a dozen Yale faculty members who are not teaching undergraduate courses this year. In many cases, Yale College students still have the opportunity to be taught by these faculty members if they enroll in graduate-level courses, and administrators said that (while they do not have formal records) they have not identified any professors who routinely do not teach undergraduates.

Still, admissions representatives often use the idea that professors must teach undergraduates to emphasize Yale’s focus on undergraduate teaching.

“Most of the tour guides when discussing the introductory biology courses will mention that, even at the introductory level, there are Yale’s most renowned professors in the classroom, for example [Nobel laureate] Sidney Altman in MCDB 200: Molecular Biology,” tour guide Matthew Sheehan ’11 said.

While Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said he understands that scheduling conflicts can preclude professors from teaching undergraduates in a given academic year, he said he still believes Yale expects all tenured faculty to teach undergraduate courses.

“Our viewbook states that 100 percent of tenured faculty in the Arts and Sciences teach undergraduates, and we convey that to [prospective students], because that is Yale’s expectation,” Brenzel wrote in an e-mail.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

on schoolchildren being taught to praise the President

Dialogue last night and today with my friend Dave (a former student and someone who has often disagreed with my positions, although not--thank goodness--my mode). I was tempted, outside the dialogue, to add a final editorial bloggy word from me, but then decided to leave the discussion as was.

Dave: Loathe though I am to consume your time, and please don't consider this to be a request, I'd be interested in reading your thoughts on this mess on your blog/Facebook/somesuch: [A YouTube video of schoolchildren being taught to praise the President.]

Al: Just like what I had to do for JFK in grade school!

Dave: That your *reassuring* citation to precedent is boomer Kennedy devotionals (I'd love to read one) isn't a good sign, especially for Obama (I mean that on a policy level) or the well-being of the country. Anyway, I'm not going to be a time schnurrer. Be well.

Al: My point is perhaps that presidential devotionals, performed by idiotic teachers and civic leaders, are ubiquitous across eras and ideologies. Americans have devotedly prayed for their presidents, and instructed their children to do so, long before YouTube could capture the phenomenon. Doesn't make the purveyors of such crap any less or more idiotic. But doesn't either require us to change or perception of JFK or Reagan or Ike (oh did the heartland love Ike piously) or the current president. And Prezes who came along in times of malaise (Washington, FDR, Reagan, Obama) stir this idiocy more than others, but not, to me, significantly.

Dave: You'd know better than me, which is why I was curious what you thought. I don't find the ubiquity reassuring. There's differences in eras, depth and scope of devotion, and what's driving the devotion (reaction). The new devotees are last year's dissafecteds and the tea partiers and birthers are last years devotees. If you see these things as inversely correlated oscillations, your reassurance that they are constant is undermined to me by the idea that they can get further and further out of whack.

Al: Bottom line for me is that there are some people out of whack on both sides of liking/disliking the president (as for any Prez*). I don't pay much attention to them on either side. (* I've read over the years about the intense hatred of JFK. I'm not a fan of JFK's presidency but I really can't give much credence to those irrational views; my disappointment with him has little or nothing to do what those people were feeling.)

Dave: To steal a play I learned from you, the reassurance by ubiquity sounds...ahistorical ;-) On an abstraction-level, doesn't how far out of whack and where matter? And what they're doing to put it back on track? One of the things that's been interesting to me lately is the conversion of unlike things between different forms--there are people, for instance, who turn degrees of volatility (oscillations in price) into money irrespective of whether the change in value in up or down. And that's things that get incrementally measured--ideas are doing all sorts of unmeasurable, even contradictory, things at once. I've decided I don't like these people--they're very big and uncoupled from things. Their motivations are suspect and their means to implement their motivations, good or bad, aren't reliable or safe to bystanders.

once-loved mothers over yonder

Listen to this 1-minute preview of next week's reading at the Writers House by Rae Armantrout:


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

the formalist lounge

We at PennSound have just now segmented Jennifer Moxley's reading in the Segue Series at the Bowery Poetry Club (New York), October 6, 2007. Click here for links to the recordings - the complete reading and individual poems by title.

Monday, October 12, 2009

5-page paper on Stevens, yours for just $59.75

As I sat down to compose this note I proimised myself I wouldn't get worked up. Today during some somewhat relevant googling I happened up one of those Term Paper Mill sites. You know the ones. You've been assigned to write about Mercutio's relationship to Romeo and you find on the web that this company will sell you a 5-page paper on said topic. Everyone in academe (on one side of the paper-assigning divide or the other) has pondered this, at least briefly. I always assumed that if one of my students bought a ready-made paper from such an enterprise, I would notice it immediately--either because of the odd and invariably somewhat off-the-point presentation of the argument or because it would be badly argued and poorly written too.

But the price. Here's the kicker. Today, looking for a quick e-text of Stevens's poem "Mozart, 1935" (readers of this blog will know that I am somewhat obsessed with this poem)--I was too lazy at the moment to walk to the shelf for my copy of the book--I found a 5-page paper "interpreting" this poem. The cost: $59.75. I was so chagrined that I was very tempted to buy a copy and then...what?....expose? rail against? these people. What's more, the little summary reading of the poem remarkably resembles my own reading of it (in a book and at least two articles, the latter available online). Is it possible that I would have been buying a hack-job remix of my own article on the poem? (Click on the image above and left for a larger view.)

I think I would have asked for reimbursement from my university-sponsored research fund for this expense. After all, it would have been research. No?

How desperate would a student have to be to use one of these sites?

As Stevens says, "Play the present."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

distance learning

At Paul Baker's Wordsalad today:

I have not attended the u. of pennsylvania and have not enjoyed the privilege of attending classes with charles bernstein. but you know what? Bernstein has been one of my most valuable and appreciated teachers over the past 5 years or so. How? because of his poetry, his radio programs, his books of essays and criticism, his conference appearances, his blog (which, yes, promotes his own work, but to a much larger degree promotes the work of others), and because of his work with Al Filreis, producing the audio content on Pennsound. I met Charles at a conference last year sponsored by the Academy of American Poets in NY a year ago. The guy’s passion and counter-establishment perspective will always be attractive to me.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

unfair fair use

My colleague Peter Decherney has been studying and writing about fair use of digital media - specifically, for the purpose of teaching. The extension of copyright protections mindlessly, to the point where showing a clip of a film in class is a violation (and requests for exceptions are denied--although Decherney himself presented the case for extension of the exception recently and won it, at least for now). Narrow interpretations of fair use have shaped the way film and media are taught--which is thus to say, the way the next generation of scholars, film-makers and also customer-users of film, video, television are coming first to understand the subject. In order to feature Decherney's writing on this topic (from a special feature in Cinema Journal he edited), and perhaps just to be puckish, I've made PDFs of two short essays available here: 1, 2.

intrepid design for new Barnes

Barnes Foundation architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien talk about their design for the new building for the Barnes on the Parkway. Exciting!

poems for the millenium, take 3

The other night at the Kelly Writers House, a panel discussing romanticism and post-romanticism in contemporary poetry, marking the publication of the third volume in the Poems for the Millenium anthology (published by California). From left to right: Charles Bernstein (moderator), Jerome Rothenberg, Jeffrey Robinson, Esther Schor. Recordings of this event and the reading that followed will be available soon.

Friday, October 09, 2009

the late Cid

We've now released the 23rd episode of PoemTalk. This one is about a poem by Cid Corman. Click here for more, and for a link to the recording.

2 bits of Perloffiana

(1) I introduced Marjorie Perloff in 1999 by bringing together a number of things others have said about her. I solicited these comments from others in the weeks preceding Marjorie's talk at the Writers House.

Susan Stewart: Marjorie, unlike other American intellectuals, thinks constantly about the future. This is why she is one of my favorite European intellectuals.

Bob Perelman: Didn't someone in some universe once say, "May the Force be with you"? Poets in the innovative universe say it this way when any new project is being launched: "May Marjorie be with you."

(2) And speaking of Marjorie, or speaking of Marjorie speaking: PennSound has just now added a recording of the 1989 "off-site" reading at the Modern Language Association conference that year. Marjorie read from her then-in-progress book, Radical Artifice. It was '89 and she was advocating that we get away from the term "language writing." Have a listen. And check out PennSound's off-site MLA reading page.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Stevens in NYC

I will be giving a paper at this conference.

today on the London tube

Seen this morning on the London tube. And photographed by Lily A., a veteran of the English 88 WCW wars and now always on the look-out for modernist hunger.

Joe Milutis writes: "So is it now 'I have eaten and which forgive me,' and 'I have eaten you were probably so sweet.'? They've unintentionally turned Williams into Queneau thru bad graphic design. (What's the permutation? 9! That's 362,880 plums.)"

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Louis Kahn's grand-daughter

Last night Becca Kantor gave a presentation at the Kelly Writers House about her grandfather - the architect Louis I. Kahn. With a grant from us (KWH and CPCW) she traveled to Estonia, where Kahn was born and where he briefly returned as an adult, and imagined his beginnings personally and architecturally. Soon we'll have links to the audio and video recordings of the event. I was pleased to see a full house: Becca's former high school teachers, many Kahn scholars and admirers, several members of the Kahn family who have, like Becca, been tracking and thinking about Kahn's unusual, partly elusive, life. An article in today's Daily Pennsylvanian describes the scene. Becca is writing a novel about all this (having worked with Max Apple during her Penn days).

Sunday, October 04, 2009

so decorative as to be abstract

Barbara Brody Avnet's drawings are so elaborately and insistently decorative as to be (sometimes) abstract. They're not all like this, but the ones I admire most are. Some of the works you can view on her web site have been recently exhibited. I've had the pleasure of seeing the work right there in her studio. If you click on her inspirations link, you'll have the sense that in some instances the studio itself (gorgeous) marks the start of the work. Here is an artist with a constant aesthetic sensibility: the way she lives.

Lewis Lapham

Lewis Lapham was at the Writers House last Thursday. Old-school guy in manner, razor-sharp political mind, master editor, whose ideology leans left and right at once, a new-monger and advocate of tradition in one tobacco-filtered baritone. The event was the first in a new annual series (funded by my and our friend Irwyn Applebaum) that will feature eminent editors and publishers. (And Irwyn was there to see the action at first hand. If you weren't there you can watch the video recording.)

red ferns

Here's today's daily Al. You can get your daily Al daily. Here is a better photo of the ferns.

new invisible cities

Tom Devaney has now made available a video presentation of the puppet show he and his students put together last spring. Inspired by Italo Calvino's dream-like masterpiece Invisible Cities, they enacted their own new invisible cities through this puppet theater production. The performance was created in collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Art and Beth Nixon's Ramshackle Enterprises.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

finish this or die

Still thinking about the late Terrence Des Pres. When I first knew him (mid-70s) he was spending time with the political poet Carolyn Forche. He finished The Survivor (a struggle, to say the very, very least) and became well known for that book (deservedly, but there was always much more to Des Pres than that book). Later, through a poem by Forche (and in many other ways, of course), I came to learn more about what kind of struggle it was for him to write The Survivor. In the poem, "Ourselves or Nothing," Forche tells us of finding notes TDP had written to himself and, after an all-night attempt at writing, left for himself on his desk for the morning. "you will live and die / under the name of someone / who has actually died." And another message (although not one for which Forche was present): "Finish this or die." Here is a copy of that poem.