Sunday, February 28, 2010

while I'm thinking of higher-ed pedagogy

Forcing our students to write conventional literary-critical essays is no less a form of pre-professionalism than the assignment given by a marketing professor who tells his students to create a new ad for Coke.

get rid of the workshop

If you want to get rid of the workshop poem, you have to get rid of the workshop. (Click on the image below for a larger view of the Facebook discussion.)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Michael Heller

Michael Heller at Poets' House today, where he gave a presentation on modern poetry. Photo by Lawrence Schwartzwald. Here's our Michael Heller PennSound page.

sewing down the Mississippi

Jen Bervin will sew the Mississippi on your ceiling, if your ceiling is big enough.

I recently saw Bervin present on her "Mississippi" project. "Mississippi" is a panoramic scale model of the river that divides east and west in the United States. The scale is one inch to one mile, and the length of the river and gulf measures 230 curvilinear feet. The river is installed on the ceiling; it shows the riverbed mapped from the geocentric perspective, from inside the earth's interior looking up at the riverbed. It is composed of silver sequins; light shifts over the surface of them as you move through the space.

The sequins are made of foil stamped on cloth, a rare variety of vintage French sequin that comes strung in clusters. They vary in circumference — some are quite tiny. They are sewn onto a very simple layer of paper, mull, and tyvek.

The lower Mississippi, or meander belt, was completed at The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in August 2009. "During that time," Bervin writes, "I found that it took me exactly the same amount of time to sew the length of river in sequins that it would have taken me to walk the same section of the river."

She also says: "You know the bulk of that was sewn listening to Penn Sound files."

Jen Bervin has done a number of great projects, including the sewing of Emily Dickinson's fascicles.

Friday, February 26, 2010

he tweets

Follow me on Twitter:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

some other type success story

One of the longest soliloquies in the history of TV dramas:

You shut the fuck up, huh? Gimme that! Hey, you suck my dick and shut the fuck up, huh? Come here. Come on. Now then, here. The place where I found you, huh, is where this warrant’s from. Could you believe that I may have stuck a knife in someone’s guts 12 hours before you got on the wagon we headed out for fuckin’ Laramie in? No! Because I don’t look fuckin’ backwards. I do what I have to do and go on. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, what? You got a stagecoach to catch or somethin’, huh? Slow the fuck up. Did you know the orphanage part of the building you lived in, behind it, she ran a whorehouse, huh? Oh, so you knew? So, so what are you fuckin’ lookin’ at then, huh? God. Now, I’ll tell you somethin’ you don’t know. Before she ran a girls orphanage, fat Mrs. Fucking Anderson ran the boys orphanage on fucking Euclid avenue, as I would see her fat ass waddling out the boys dormitory at 5 o’clock in the fucking mornin’, every fuckin’ morning she blew her stupid fuckin’ cowbell and woke us all the fuck up. And my fuckin’ mother dropped me the fuck off there with 7 dollars and 60 some odd fuckin’ cents on her way to suckin’ cock in…in Georgia. And I didn’t get to count the fuckin’ cents before the fuckin’ door opened, and there, Mrs. Fat Ass Fuckin’ Anderson, who sold you to me. I had to give her 7 dollars and 60 odd fuckin’ cents that my mother shoved in my fuckin’ hand before she hammered 1,2,3,4 times on the fuckin’ door and scurried off down fuckin’ Euclid Avenue, probably 30 fuckin’ years before you were fuckin’ born. Then around Cape Horn and up to San Francisco, where she probably became Mayor or some other type success story, unless by some fucking chance she wound up as a ditch for fuckin’ cum. Now, fucking go faster, hmm?

Al Swearengen, Deadwood, season 1, episode 11, "Jewel's Boot is Made for Walking" (the very end of the episode).

Lyn Hejinian on the western desire to describe

In February 2004 I interviewed Lyn Hejinian before a live audience. Just today (thanks to the efforts of Rebekah Caton) we've divided the full audio recording of that interview into topical segments. Here is a link to page with the list of topics and links to the mp3 files. And here's the list of topics:

1. introduction (5:37): [listen] MP3
2. on Carl Rakosi (1:55): [listen] MP3
3. on "The Fatalist" (15:31): [listen] MP3
4. on Barbarism (4:18): [listen] MP3
5. the western desire to describe (4:11): [listen] MP3
6. "My Life" and compositional practice (2:09): [listen] MP3
7. younger poets and politics (3:21): [listen] MP3
8. poetry and ordinary language (4:08): [listen] MP3
9. terminology in contemporary literary history (4:05): [listen] MP3
10. social aspect of the language movement (1:47): [listen] MP3
11. truncated words (2:44): [listen] MP3
12. poetic practice and technology: engaging texts (3:51): [listen] MP3
13. the anthology process (4:36): [listen] MP3
14. wordplay vs. syntax in "Scheherazade" (4:08): MP3
15. theory and poetry: shared spaces (4:04): [listen] MP3
16. on Charles William Beebe (6:51): [listen] MP3
17. on Russian influences (4:08): [listen] MP3
18. reading from "the Fatalist" (2:09): [listen] MP3

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ashbery last night

Last night John Ashbery hosted the Tenth Muse at the Unterberg Poetry Center at the 92nd St. Y, where he introduced Marcella Durand, Robert Elstein and John Gallaher, who read from their works. Photography by Lawrence Schwartzwald.

northernmost PennSound listening

Michael Nardone and I have been corresponding about his interest in PennSound. He's currently spending a few months on Vancouver Island, but typically he and his wife live in a cabin on the east arm of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. (If you want to check this out on Google Maps, look for the town of Yellowknife and move about 150 km eastward.)

What is the northernmost listening to PennSound? It seems likely that Michael holds that record. "Probable northernmost Pennsound listening," he writes, "took place during a week up in Resolute. I remember listening to David Antin's war talk with a few arctic scientists stationed there."

Monday, February 22, 2010

manifesto: planning to stay

This talk was presented in response to a request for a manifesto to conclude a four-day conference on new writing practices. The conference took place in February 2010 at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff, Alberta.

My dicta are four in total. In sum they are:

1) Writing isn’t the only thing that is changing or needs to change. 2) The other kinds of changes might demand an attention very different in kind from our usual. 3) Deep down, most of us do not really want these other changes to come. 4) The ideal site might be where things happen rather than get presented or taught.

Now I will elaborate a little on each:

1) If all this talk about true modal changes caused by (or aided by) writing in new media is going to be more than just talk, then we must also seek, or at least encourage, major changes in the institutions that were and are organized to assure the continuation of the old mode. Which is to say: if publishers and universities and art centers as organizations (with budgets, staff hierarchies, physical spaces, customs of credentialing) are set up assuming these binarisms:

I write/you read
I talk/you listen
I have/you want
I am/you aren’t yet
I have language/you need my language
I produce/you consume & purchase

--and if the relationship I write/you read is in the process of really changing (and indeed most of us here do our work on the assumption that it has already changed)--then all other aspects of the relationship must also be subject to that change. We cannot expect the traditional I write/you read binarism to disintegrate and then just hope that everything else in the writer/reader (and publisher/consumer, teacher/learner) relationship will similarly wither away, for there are actual forces maintaining it.

2) So the most obvious thing one can say is that the conversations we have been having this weekend are not just about writing. We should think every bit as innovatively about the institutions and organizations that rose up around the technology of the book as we have in conceiving the writing that goes on inside or near or astride these institutions. (Complete separation from them is a nice dream, but only as nice and dreamy as other separatisms.)

3) The honest truth is that most of us associated with such organizations - again I mostly mean universities and publishers and art centers, but also humanities institutes and foundations supporting artists – probably don't want the rest of the changes to follow from the disintegration of I write/you read exclusivity. This is especially true of I talk/you listen. (I make noise and you listen silently. I am producing something; you for the moment are unproductive.) Like the poetry reading, the lecture--being an ideology as well as an artifact of a certain phase of technology--is not something most people here are ready to give up. But I'm certain we will all be better off when we’ve put an end to the lecture; and anyway an alternative mode is among the main implications of what we do. So what is truly interactive? How many of us have been promised that such-and-such a gathering would be “interactive” only to find out that what people really want to give--but rarely to receive--is a series of monologues?

4) I do not believe what I'm saying is to come about virtually. It is very much a matter of physical design, of planning (and, incidentally, of planning to stay), of working with brick and mortar. We need to build spaces that are unconducive to what I'm doing right now.

Back in the mid-1970s, when he was promoting “oral poetry” as an alternative to the traditional presentation of writing, Jerome Rothenberg said the following: "As for poetry 'belonging' in the classroom, it's like the way they taught us sex in those old hygiene classes: not performance but semiotics. If I had taken Hygiene 71 seriously, I would have become a monk; & if I had taken college English seriously, I would have been an accountant." Yet Rothenberg did teach poetry in the classroom, and so admitted to a realization I very much admire and have myself used as a guiding principle: “the classroom [can] become a substitute for those places (coffee shop or kiva) where poetry actually happens & where it can be ‘learned’ (not ‘taught’) in action.”

As pre-digital as the metaphor of the kiva is, I still like it. I like it because it pushes the distinction between teaching and learning, and because it imagines spaces where “poetry actually happens” rather than where it is presented as if it’s not there and thus must be talked about.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

KWH'ers in Banff

Here at Banff last night: immediately after Charles Bernstein's stunning performance of his poetry there was a bit of a group hug among the Penn/Kelly Writers House-affiliated people at the conference. From left to right they are: Julia Bloch, Al Filreis, Rebekah Caton, Charles Bernstein, Kimberly Eisler, Sarah Dowling, Nick Montfort, and Kenny Goldsmith. (Thanks to Erin Moure for taking the shot.)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

new writing practices

I'm in Banff, Alberta, attending a long-weekend-long conference called "interventions"--focused on new writing practices. The best thing about it is that most of the presenters are practicing artists. This morning, for instance, Jen Bervin showed us several of her textile/weaving projects--one a brilliant weaving of Emily Dickinson's fascicles. Lance Olsen (an old graduate school chum) and Steve Tomasula on various forms of digital/hypermedia fiction. Fred Wah starts a talk about collaboration by talking about using tea mold for a mealtime art project. I'm meeting many Canadian writers whom I'd not known before. Erin Moure and J.R. Carpenter among them. Maria Damon riffs on connections between schmata and schema-ta, a raggy poetics, in response to the matter of the state of the sentence. Craig Dworkin (best paper, to my mind, of the conference) starts with the Poundian/imagist compression of the sentence and does exemplary literary history in a short paper. There's a ton there. I moderated a panel on the state of reading today and tomorrow I will present a manifesto in 6 minutes. Hearing tales of the Wah-bash (the celebration of Fred Wah's retirement from active teaching near here in Calgary). Finally, after all these years, met Derek Beaulieu--a treat. Kenny Goldsmith found a moment to insert his stump speech about uncreative writing, and he chose the perfect moment. Charles Bernstein started his talk by being absent, then showed us some stunning slides of his collaborations with painters over the years. Met a young man, Mike, who lives in a cabin in northern Northwest Territory, has a satellite-enabled WiFi and uses PennSound recordings as a lifeline to the world of poetry in the provinces and states below. John Cayley yesterday used the (Brown University) "cave" (3D virtual textual environment) to draw the distinction between our seeing objects floating before us (not "on" a surface) and our seeing words in such a scene. We just can't see the words as things. Chris Funkhouser performed the other night, sheet over head, as a dancing bounding text reflector, and played a one-string instrument his mother had bought him years ago. He's finally found a use for it. Christian Bok unveiled his new project: infecting can't-be-killed microbial life with text so that it will survive the death of readers. Writing that really lasts. As someone observed, he's gotten so far past the traditionalist's lament about writing for the ages that he's back to it. Humanism rears its viral head.

Julia Bloch and Sarah Dowling are taking good notes on everything and intend to write an article. Steven Ross Smith, organizer, says he will get us recordings so that we can put a selection on PennSound.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Vendlerian caffeination

Spotted at Dunkin Donuts last evening in New York: Helen Vendler. She was on her way to speak about Whitman at the 92nd Street Y, when my favorite literary photographer, Lawrence Schwartzwald, noticed her caffeinating herself in prep for a bout with the great bard's energy. I'm in Banff, Alberta, at the moment, and it's nice to know that the camera's eye is keeping track of things back east. (Click on either photo for a larger view.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Joyce joy

Joyce Carol Oates as Writers House Fellow, February 15-16, 2010. Molly O'Neil, a student in the Writers House Fellows seminar, introduces the Monday evening reading.

George Borge Smorgasboard - Borges tonight

Philadelphia Weekly is publishing a preview of "George Borge Smorgasboard," a program at the Writers House (tonight) that will celebrate Jorge Luis Borges.

"A DJ, an English professor and two or three other academic types walk into the Kelly Writers House. In a good joke, one of them would also need to be a rabbi. In real life, they’d get together to discuss, celebrate and explore the work of the late, great Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine writer, essayist, and poet (who you probably confuse with the living Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez), through a variety of lenses—including “the labyrinthine, the Babelian and the intertextual”— in an attempt to figure out where ol’ Gorgeous Jorge stands in the global literary canon. In a Jorge Luis Borges story, the Writers House would be filled with every 410-page text in the world and the speakers would, instead of talking about Borges, solve murders with the assistance of Funes the Memorious and An Animal Imagined by Kafka.--Wed., Feb. 18, 6pm. Free. Kelly Writers House, 3805 Locust Walk. 215.746.7636."

Monday, February 15, 2010

off the wall

“[John] Tranter broke new ground in terms of serious criticism of poetry being spread all over the world,” [new editor Mike] Hennessey said.

Media Editor Steve McLauglin, a 2008 [Univ. of Pennsylvania] alumnus, is going on a two month bus trip this summer with his audio recorder to record poetry readings from all across the United States to use as podcasts for Jacket2.

“This project is an example of the kind of thing that doesn’t happen very often. Off-the-wall stuff happens at the Writers House,” McLaughlin said.

According to Charles Bernstein, American poet and Penn English professor, “the Web is the quickest and economically most efficient way to get poetry out there.”

Jacket is one of the most appealing and best edited of literary magazines that exists,” Bernstein said.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

the capacity of patterns

My former student Paul Andersen has now created a design studio in Denver called "IndieArchitecture." It's a design and research group that takes on a variety of projects—-from designing buildings to writing books to curating contemporary art exhibitions. As an alternative to mainstream, mass produced, and corporately funded architecture, the office embraces its small market status, is associated with collegiate backpack intellectualism, and consistently seeks new ways of disseminating architectural and urban ideas. Paul, the director, has taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Cornell University, and is a guest curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. "Conceptually," says Paul, "we maintain an ongoing interest in patterns—visual patterns, but also behavioral, structural, organizational and other types of patterns. Patterns have a unique capacity for integrating a wide range of materials, functions, forms, environmental systems, and even cultural trends in a coherent and technically precise project. They bridge worlds of knowledge and matter, art and science, and for us, research and practice." [web site]

an algorithmic poem/painting

Suicide in an Airplane (1919) is an algorithmic poem/painting by Brian Kim Stefans with music by Leo Ornstein, played by Marc Andre Hamellin. The text is derived from the New York Times. Download it at Brian's site

Saturday, February 13, 2010

taking Freud out of psychoanalysis

A talk by David Antin
"Rethinking Freud – Taking Freud out of Psychoanalysis"
3:00 PM Tuesday February 16
at the Kelly Writers House

You can watch by live video stream:

David Antin is a poet, performance artist, art and literary critic internationally known for his "talk pieces" -- improvisational blends of comedy, story and social commentary that critics have described as "a cross between Lenny Bruce and Ludwig Wittgenstein" or alternately as "a blend of Mark Twain and Gertrude Stein." New Directions has published three books of these "talk pieces" -- Talking at the Boundaries (1976), Tuning (1984), and What it Means to Be Avant-Garde (1993). Tuning was awarded the prize for poetry for 1984 by the PEN Center of Los Angeles. Much of his earlier work was collected in Selected Poems 1963-1973 published by Sun and Moon Press in 1991. Antin has performed at the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Getty Center in the U.S., at the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris, and performed both improvised and scripted verbal works for radio and television. Antin has designed Skypoems, short texts he describes as "commercials that aren't selling anything," that have been skytyped over Los Angeles and San Diego, and Word Walks for urban parks, as well as an ongoing electronic poem for an airport. He received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEH and was awarded the PEN Los Angeles Award for Poetry in 1984. He has published criticism in most major art and literary journals, and his work has been written about in The Poetics of Indeterminacy, Marjorie Perloff (Princeton, 1981); The Object of Performance, Henry Sayre (Chicago, 1989); The Jazz Text, Charles O. Hartman (Princeton, 1991). An extensive interview with him has been published in Some Other Frequency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors, ed. Larry McCaffery, U. Penn. 1996, and the Review of Contemporary Fiction devoted its entire Spring 2001 issue to his work. Dalkey Archive recently republished his 1972 book talking (originally published by Kulchur Foundation) with a Preface by Marjorie Perloff and a Postface by David Antin. Granary Books recently published A Conversation with David Antin, the text of a three month email conversation between David Antin and Charles Bernstein. The most recent works include two new collection of talk pieces -- I Never Knew What Time It Was (UC Press, 2005) and John Cage Uncaged is Still Cagey (Singing Horse, 2005).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

in the war between flesh & paper

I picked up a copy of Tuli Kupferberg's The Book of the Body (1966). Tuli K. is an American counterculture poet, author, cartoonist, pacifist anarchist, publisher and, famously, co-founder of the band The Fugs. On the back jacket: "In the war between flesh & paper paper made out of flesh wins every time."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

yesterday's Bernstein convergence

All the president's libretti. Yesterday, journalist Carl Bernstein took some time at a Manhattan restaurant to read the libretti Charles Bernstein wrote for Ben Yarmolinsky's music in Blind Witness. My favorite literary photographer, Lawrence Schwartzwald, happened by and took this photo of the productive Bernstein convergence. (The photo was taken at Barney Greengrass (the Sturgeon King), Upper West Side deli on Amsterdam Avenue.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

your 2010 mind of winter

The video recording of our annual January "Mind of Winter" event--which always begins with a reading of "The Snow Man" by Wallace Stevens--is now available: here.

we subsidize rent for emergent writers

I'm pleased to see that our ArtsEdge program is mentioned in an article in today's Daily Pennsylvanian. We subsidize rent for emergent artists - one writer per year who is associated with the Kelly Writers House (and, often, will teach a course). The project is a collaboration with the Fine Arts department of Penn's School of Design and the Real Estate and Facilities division.

Monday, February 08, 2010

roll over Brion Gysin

Google Voice transcripts are given in verse. A blogger today wrote: "Roll over, Brion Gysin, and tell Bill Burroughs the news: There's a new sheriff in Cut-Up Land, and his motto is Don't Be Evil." (Thanks to Peter Holstein for pointing this out.)

Antin tweet

We at PennSound are happy that our tweets are met with such enthusiastic responses. Here our recommendation of David Antin's talk poems causes Miguel Lopez-Remiro to pronounce Antin "the best speaker you can listen to." We too love Antin's voice and mode. Here's the link. We hope you will follow PennSound on twitter.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

top PennSound poets for January

Most oft-visited PennSound author pages in the past month: 1) Ginsberg, 2) Pound, 3) WC Williams, 4) Ashbery, 5) Creeley, 6) Olson, 7) Howe, 8) Baraka, 9) Christian Bok, 10) Spicer, 11) Reznikoff Holocaust page, 12) Berrigan, 13) C. Bernstein [60-Second Lecture page].

This last item is the video recording of a 60-second lecture given by Charles Bernstein on the topic, "What Makes a Poem a Poem?" It has a punchline ending, so be sure to watch.

Auschwitz: once you're in the room, you'll never get out

This morning I'm reprising one of the most oft-visited blog posts I've made:

Daughter of an Auschwitz survivor, Debbie Fischer, asks her father, as he lies dying, to tell her the real story of his time at the death camp. He has refused to tell her much all these years, always giving a blandly positive response to life in the camp. Here is the audio recording of her testimony about his testimony: mp3.

See my Holocaust site for much more.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

don't stop? don't slow down? don't watch out for deer? don't dine here?

Saw Christian Bok's mention of this, and then explored it (his tweet) - and am marveling at it. At the Galerie Heinz-Martin Weigand, Josef Schulz is exhibiting images of signs that have had all the text removed from them. Have a look.

edit event

The newest event in the EDIT series, created by Danny Snelson for the Writers House, will feature Adachi Tomomi and Tianna Kennedy on February 18. EDIT is a roving events series pairing innovative performances with focused critical responses toward an exploration of editorial strategies in contemporary writing and the arts. For more, listen to this announcement. In the photo: Tiana Kennedy.

Friday, February 05, 2010


Susan Howe's "Thorow" and "Melville's Marginalia" performed by Howe along with music and sounds composed by David Grubb. As of tonight, these recordings are available on PennSound. Click here.

nuanced commie critic

Stanley Burnshaw, who died at 99 years of age just a few years ago, reviewed Wallace Stevens's Ideas of Order critically in the communist New Masses in 1935. Although Stanley left his association with the Party fairly early (he'd never been a member, so far as I know--and he was always skeptical of aesthetic "lines"), and was very active as a translator and anthologist, and later as a senior editor at Henry Holt, the poetry world forgot about him as he developed his literary portfolio and sensibility. They seemed to prefer Burnshaw, frozen in Depression time, as the angry young lefty, hurling Marxist critique at the insular modernist. But Stanley was right there, all along, to be found and talked to. I came to know him in the 80s and eventually spent many hours at his apartment, with Harvey Teres (then at Princeton, writing a book about Partisan Review). We recorded the interview, then excerpted it and, with Stanley, edited it. Then published it in the Wallace Stevens Journal in 1989. I've been digging around my old things, as readers of this blog will have noted, and found the interview. Made a PDF of it and here it is.

atomic anxiety in poem?

Years ago I reviewed a book by Charles Berger called Forms of Farewell which argued, in part, that "The Auroras of Autumn" (Wallace Stevens' late poem) was about fears of nuclear annihilation. I re-discovered an offprint of the review recently and here it is (PDF). I'd always thought the poem was about the not-aboutness of the aurora borealis.

poetry in Chicago

CHICAGO POETRY SYMPOSIUM 2010: Featuring Stephanie Anderson, Garin Cycholl, Al Filreis, Phil Jenks, Nancy Kuhl, and Don Share. With talks on Alice Notley, Sterling Plumpp, Henry Rago, and Margaret Anderson. When and Where: Saturday, April 17, 2009 | 12:30 p.m. through 5:00 p.m. Special Collections Research Center / The Joseph Regenstein Library / University of Chicago / 1100 East 57th Street / Chicago, IL 60637
Contact: David Pavelich, Bibliographer for Modern Poetry / pavelich [at] /

ABOUT: This event is free and open to the public. The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) at the University of Chicago Library welcomes you to the third annual Chicago Poetry Symposium, a yearly conversation on the history of Chicago poetry. Held in the University of Chicago Library's Special Collections Research Center (SCRC), the event highlights the SCRC's strong archival and book holdings in the history of Chicago poetry, including the papers of Harriet Monroe and her Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, Paul Carroll, Chicago Review, Flood Editions, Ralph J. Mills, Jr., Michael Anania, and others.


12:30-12:45: Welcoming remarks

David Pavelich, Bibliographer for Modern Poetry, University of Chicago Library

12:45-1:45: A Discussion on the Work of Sterling Plumpp

"It was very south": the Geography of Chicago and Mississippi in the Poetry of Sterling Plumpp
Garin Cycholl, Instructor in Creative Writing, University of Chicago, and author of several books of poetry
Phil Jenks, poet, author of My first painting will be "The accuser" (2005) and On the cave you live in (2002)

1:45-2:00: Break for refreshments

2:00-3:15: Avant-Garde Editors and their Magazines

Making No Compromise: Margaret Anderson and the Little Review
Nancy Kuhl, Curator of Poetry for the Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke Library

Curating Location: Alice Notely and Chicago Magazine
Stephanie Anderson, Doctoral student in the English Department, University of Chicago

3:15-4:30. A Discussion on the Work and Legacy of Henry Rago

Slow Music: The Two Eras of Henry Rago
Al Filreis, Kelly Professor of English; Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House; Director, the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing; and Director of PennSound; University of Pennsylvania

Henry Rago and the Wider Door
Don Share, Senior Editor, Poetry Magazine

4:30-5:00: Refreshments/reception

Stevens in NYC

Click on the image for a larger view.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Jacket moves

Tonight John Tranter and I are sending out the following announcement:

Dear friends:

We are writing with news of a transition we both deem very exciting.

By the end of 2010, John Tranter and Pam Brown will have put out 40 issues of Jacket ( It began in what John recalls as "a rash moment" in 1997 - an early all-online magazine, one of the earliest in the world of poetry and poetics, and quite rare for its consistency over the years. "The design is beautiful, the contents awesomely voluminous, the slant international modernist and experimental." (So said _The Guardian_.)

After issue 40, John will retire from thirteen years of intense every-single-day involvement with Jacket, and the entire archive of thousands of web pages will move intact to servers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where it will of course be available on the internet to everyone, for free, as always. But the magazine is not ceasing publication: quite the opposite.

Starting with the first issue in 2011, Jacket will have a new home, extra staff and a vigorous future as Jacket2. Jacket and its continuation, Jacket2, will be hosted by the Kelly Writers House and PennSound at the University of Pennsylvania.

The connection with PennSound, a vast and growing archive of audio recordings of poetry performance, discussion and criticism, is seen as a valuable additional facet of the new magazine, as is the relationship with busy Kelly Writers House, a lively venue for day-to-day poetic interchange of all kinds. The synergy in this three-way relationship has great potential.

Al will become Publisher and Jessica Lowenthal, Director of the Writers House, will be Associate Publisher. The new Editor will be Michael S. Hennessey (currently Managing Editor of PennSound) and the new Managing Editor will be Julia Bloch. John will be available as Founding Editor, and Pam will continue as Associate Editor.

More news about Jacket2 in the weeks and months to come. Meantime, the Jacket2 folks extend gratitude -- as many in the world of poetics do -- to John and to Pam Brown for the extraordinary work they've done. And John, for his part, is mightily pleased that Jacket will be preserved and will continue and grow in a somewhat new mode but with a continuous mission and approach.

- John Tranter & Al Filreis

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Norman Rosten

This 1963 LP of Norman Rosten reading his poems is coming to PennSound very soon.

set Howe to music

David Grubbs & Susan Howe |
Souls of the Labadie Tract | CD

Susan reads. David plays. Further sounds from this duo set on stretching your mind to its limit. Studying poetry has never been so rewarding. The Drag City is one source for this recording. Now Wire (subtitled "Adventures in Modern Music") is making the work available in streaming audio here.

new PoemTalk on Jack Spicer

Today we've released the newest episode of "PoemTalk"--number 28 in our series. This one is about Jack Spicer's early poem, "Psychoanalysis: An Elegy." Here's your link.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

junketeering gumshoes

David Schine and Roy Cohn - Joseph's McCarthy's henchmen - turned their attacks on overseas State Department-sponsored libraries. The point of these was to provide war-torn European communities a place to go for otherwise hard-to-get books by American authors. Or, to be more specific, the point was to provide the sort of American books that would persuade postwar Europeans, otherwise susceptible to the wiles of communist criticism, that the American imagination was being nourished by the free and diverse cultural life in the U.S.

But McCarthy and his people decided that some of the books in these libraries had been written by disloyal people. Schine and Cohen went traveling (a classic boondoggle disguised as a national-security emergency), yanked books off shelves and ruined the careers of librarians and many other government workers in Europe whom Schine-Cohn said they suspected of radical pasts.

The pair spent forty hours in Paris, sixteen in Bonn, nineteen in Frankfurt, sixty in Munich, forty-one in Vienna, twenty-three in Belgrade, twenty-four in Athens, twenty in Rome, and six in London. What was it all about? After a time, it turned out to be about books in I.I.A. libraries, but the interest in books was probably minor at the start. The expedition had been set up only a few days in advance, and the purpose of it was so obscure that everywhere the travelers touched down they gave a different account of why they were traveling. In Paris, they said they were looking for inefficiency in government offices overseas. In Bonn, they said they were looking for subversives. Asked in Munich which it was, Cohn explained that it was both. "Efficiency," he said, "includes complete political reliability. If anyone is interested in the Communists, then he cannot be efficient." Back home, on "Meet the Press," he said he didn't consider himself competent to judge performances abroad and had gone only to look into "certain things."

Richard Rovere was there after the Cohn-Schine tornado had done its damage. Here is his description of what he found afterward:

I was working in Europe a few months after Cohn and Schine left, covering much the same territory they had covered, and I had a chance to see what they had wrought. Actually, not many people had been fired as a result of their trip. The most notable victim, probably, was Theodore Kaghan, who had been a Public Affairs Officer in the United States High Commission for Germany. A witness at the Voice of America hearings had called him a "pseudo-American," and it had come out that in the thirties he had shared an apartment in New York with a Communist. He might have survived these scandals if he had not described Cohn and Schine as "junketeering gumshoes" to a newspaperman during the tour, and he might have survived even this if the State Department had not been in such a panic to get rid of him. He was eased out speedily, and so were a few others, but what really damaged the whole American complex in Europe was the shame and anger of the government servants who had witnessed the whole affair. I must have talked with a hundred people in Bonn, Paris, Rome, and London who told me their resignations were written, signed, stamped, and ready for mailing or delivery. Some did not really want to resign; others planned to, and were simply waiting until they could find other jobs or make the necessary arrangements for getting their families out. No one, probably, could estimate the number of people whose departure could be traced to this affair, and surely no one could estimate its effect on morale. Morale sank very low so low, indeed, that I was surprised to note, among government people in Europe, a willingness to denounce McCarthy in extravagant language and to ridicule Cohn and Schine. This was most unlike Washington at the time, and the explanation I was given was that very few people cared any longer whether they held their jobs or not.

For a fuller excerpt, go here.

Monday, February 01, 2010