Sunday, October 31, 2010

follow me

Ange Mlinko reads an "N + 495" poem in celebration of Bernadette Mayer: Follow me on twitter.

Anthony DeCurtis interviews Keith Richards

Our own Anthony DeCurtis recently interviewed Keith Richards at the New York Public Library. Here is one of the two courses Anthony will be teaching at CPCW/Writers House in the spring semester.

contexts: a poem about a painting

Install the Flash plugin to watch this video.

Obviously I've been reading and thinking about Burt Kimmelman's writing recently because Burt was here at the Writers House visiting. Before we move away from this poet, as is inevitable given so much that's going on, let's take one more look. It's a poem with a fabulously open first line: "Nothing is ever decided." Open enough out of context--just as a line--but now add that the poem is about a Robert Motherwell painting (seen at MoMA in January 1988) and, further, that the poet gave an illuminating brief intro to the poem before reading it at KWH the other day. Sometimes I like blogging about these matters because in such a space (as a matter of lasting record) several contexts can be laid out so easily across the various shareable media: the video (above) of the poet's intro; a PDF (click here) of the text of the poem (from the book Musaics, pp. 20-21); the audio-only recording of the poem being performed.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

4 former students read

Install the Flash plugin to watch this video.

This afternoon at Penn's "homecoming" weekend, we at the Writers House celebrated its 15th year by hosting an event, open to all, that featured four alumni writers (all former students of mine): Eric Umansky, who read an essay he'd published in Salon; Kerry Sherin Wright, former long-time director of KWH, who read part of a short story; Suzanne Maynard Miller, who, with some actor friends, staged three scenes from a new play; and Alicia Oltuski, who read about half of a short story about an East German family, soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, that set up a falling-of-wall re-enactment in the family store each day for tourists. The video embedded above is of Alicia reflecting on her years at the Writers House.

for teachers of the New York School

A completely gorgeous performance of his poem "The Circus," by Kenneth Koch. He'd already written a poem called "The Circus" years earlier, and now this is a poem about thinking about having written that poem - a memory of writing that poem, its circumstances, and then some digressing thoughts about circumstances. New York School epitomized.

Many thanks to Curtis Fox, who featured this poem--and this terrific recording--in the most recent episode of the podcast, "Poetry off the Shelf."

Friday, October 29, 2010

the snake according to Eileen Myles

In January 1998, during a reading at the Ear Inn in New York, Eileen Myles read a poem called "Snakes." We recently "found" this poem in that reading; it hadn't been segmented and we just didn't know "Snakes" was one of the poems Myles read that day. I for one am glad of the find. It's quite an interesting poem: story-like but defiant about its story-ness, to say the least. A kind of kunstlerroman, a portrait of this particular artist as a young girl. And not surprisingly it plays with and against the powerful gendered associations of snake. Here is a link to the recording of the poem. And here is the text of the poem as it once appeared in The Massachusetts Review (in 1998).

telephony so cool it's retro

About a year ago Curtis Fox, who produces and hosts a weekly poetry podcast for the Poetry Foundation, spoke with me about our dial-a-poem project, which is part of a telephone system we at the Writers House set up, figuring that it was beginning to be, or was well into, an age once again in which telephony was the site of convergence for many if not all things communication. Which is a probably an over-fancy way of saying something obvious about how many of us walk around with smartphones and do email, texting and of course phone-calling on the one portable device. So when our email weekly calendars get sent out, listing and linking to upcoming events at the Writers House for the coming week, at the top of that announcement is our phone number: 215-746-POEM (215-746-7636). When you're looking at this emailed announcement on a smartphone, the device will automatically make a kind of hyperlink of the phone number (it knows to do this for every 10-digit number it sees). Touch that link or scroll to it and hit your button, and the phone will automatically dial it. Because of this, we figured we ought to be there with some cool telephony, retro and cutting-edge both. Try dialing 215-746-7636 right now and see what I mean. Press "3" and you'll hear a single poem recording from PennSound - a poem read at the Writers House. Press "4" and you'll hear a 1-minute performance from a member of the Writers House community. Click here and listen to Curtis Fox's interview with me about this new/old version of "dial-a-poem."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

from the other side of these words

Install the Flash plugin to watch this video.

A few evenings ago I had the honor of introducing Burt Kimmelman before he read his poems at the Writers House. The reading was terrific and will soon be available in both video and audio recordings on Burt's PennSound page. I had read his book Somehow, taking particular pleasure in its formal and thematic homages to William Carlos Williams (and to early Oppen and to Creeley, I should add). I grabbed--perhaps too easily--a poem that would bespeak Kimmelman's method of complicating the simple subjective lyric: "Self-Portrait." Everything after "not" in the third line and especially after "but" in the fifth line makes a problem of the seemingly simple "lean[ing]" from subject toward object and the seemingly simple "here I am" presence in what might otherwise be a conventional romantic(ist) gesture. The poem succinctly points to an alternative to itself and to its mode; there's a gesture--indeed a gesture--on "the other / side of these [very] words." A simple complication. I quoted the poem in my intro and Burt then very nicely provided some book-making, bibliographical backstory - not discounting my reading so much as pointing me gently in another direction. I appreciated that. It turns out that the poem is the key or starting point to the book Somehow and was involved in its very design. And perhaps "the other / side of these words" is the dimension of the visual arts. It turns out that the poem expresses ut pictura poesis and is a poem-about-painting, words doing equivalent work of the visual: a portrait in words of an actual painted self-portrait. It was not about poetic selfhood in the first place. My misreading will make sense when you watch the video embedded above.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Anne Tardos poem for Lytle Shaw

Anne Tardos created a poem that consists (mostly) of lists of adjectives and adjectival phrases that she'd "picked up" from a reading given by Lytle Shaw in the Segue series. In December 2002 she gave her own reading in The Line Reading Series, where Lytle Shaw introduced her, and so she began with the aforementioned poem, "For Lytle Shaw." Here is the recording. And here is the link to PennSound's Anne Tardos page.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ken Irby in 1984

Kenneth Irby reads "Given: Three Beavers in a Tree," a 2 minute, 49 second recording made at Irby's 1984 Ear Inn reading. He also read several poems by Mary Butts and well as his own "Gutter Ode" and several others of his own poems. Thanks to Anna Zalokostas for segmenting this recording for the first time. The whole thing can be found at Ken Irby's PennSound page.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

lists of poetry books, 2010

For some years Steve Evans at Third Factory has been hosting Attention Span, an annual gathering of readers' lists and commentaries about works of poetry (and related books). I have found these lists suggestive and helpful. Attention Span 2010 is complete now. Here are the first four items on Patrick Durgin's list:

Tan Lin | Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking [AIRPORT NOVEL MUSICAL POEM PAINTING FILM PHOTO HALLUCINATION LANDSCAPE] | Wesleyan | 2010

I wrote the following blurb for Tan’s metadata event: Tan Lin is the first poetic conceptualist with personality; it is no wonder he has paid scholarly attention to Eliot. But what was tradition has dissipated, as if it so needed, into detritus, and that cultural clog of ingredients are what you find “controlled” in SCV. In my estimation, this is the best book of poetry written yet this century, and precisely because the politics it demands are yet to come, but their context already so familiar.

Christine Wertheim, ed. | Feminaissance | Les Figues | 2010

One of several anthologies that have been useful to me in unexpected ways, the others include The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry, and…

Brenda Iijima, ed. | eco language reader | Nightboat | 2010

Several things seem to be coming together lately: ecological thinking, somatics, conceptualism (updated, or exploited, depending), feminism, and it’s all here. What’s great about how this collection is comprised and presented is that it posits a center and clarifies the radius of sources past and present for making a foray—you don’t just sit there and absorb, as we say, “the material.” It invites practical pluralities of response. Praise seems beside the point.

Andrew Levy | Cracking Up | Truck | 2010

An old favorite (of a poet) from a new press. The cover shots of Ann-Margaret doing “Bye Bye Birdie” perfectly illustrate the methodically coagulated spurts of late-capitalist wisdom in these pages.

the revolution will be typewritten

Thanks to Darren Wershler-Henry whose recent tweet turned me on to The Boston Typewriter Orchestra. They are "a collective endeavor which engages in rhythmic typewriter manipulation combined with elements of performance, comedy and satire. BTO aims to entertain the masses while providing an outlet for the creative urges of its members. *BTO promises to protect customer confidentiality with the utmost vigilance while remaining irreverent at all times." Listen here and enjoy a new single, "The Revolution Will Be Typewritten."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Burt Kimmelman here on Tuesday

To readers of my blog in the Philly area: I hope you will join us on Tuesday at 6 PM to meet and hear the work of Burt Kimmelman. See the announcement below.

- - -

Poet BURT KIMMELMAN will be reading at the Kelly Writers House next Tuesday, October 26, at 6:00 PM. A professor of English at NJIT, he has been called “a successor to the lineage of William Carlos Williams and George Oppen” by Jerome Rothenberg, as well a projector of “great possibility” in his latest collection, As If Free. Please help us welcome Mr. KIMMELMAN, who’ll be introduced by our own Al Filreis!

The Kelly Writers House presents

Tuesday, October 26, 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

BURT KIMMELMAN has published six collections of poetry – As If Free (Talisman House, Publishers, 2009), There Are Words (Dos Madres Press, 2007), Somehow (Marsh Hawk Press, 2005), The Pond at Cape May Point (Marsh Hawk Press, 2002), a collaboration with the painter Fred Caruso, First Life (Jensen/Daniels Publishing, 2000), and Poetry New York: A Journal of Poetry and Translation. He is a professor of English at New Jersey Institute of Technology and the author of two book-length literary studies: The "Winter Mind": William Bronk and American Letters (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1998); and, The Poetics of Authorship in the Later Middle Ages: The Emergence of the Modern Literary Persona (Peter Lang Publishing, 1996; paperback 1999). He also edited The Facts on File Companion to 20th-Century American Poetry (Facts on File, 2005) and co- edited The Facts on File Companion to American Poetry (Facts on File, 2007). He has published scores of essays on medieval, modern, and contemporary poetry.

he's no alien

Nope, he's about as terrestrial a person and poet as there is. This is a new and better version of a photograph taken by Lawrence Schwartzwald, and I'm happy to feature it today.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

poetry & pumpkin chili, coming right up

to an announcement about an upcoming event featuring Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, who is our 2010-11 ArtsEdge artist in residence. By the way, she's providing Pumpkin Chili that night, based on a secret family recipe.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Writers House 15th featured

The University of Pennsylvania home page today (and presumably for a few days) features the Kelly Writers House - helping us mark our fifteenth year. (October 1995 to October 2010.) Now go here and watch a fabulous slide show: some wonderful photos of Writers House people in action. Here's the text:

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Spotlight: Kelly Writers House Celebrates 15 Years of Success

Fifteen years ago a band of forward-thinkers believed there should be a place on campus where people could gather to appreciate, create, study and participate in every aspect of the writing process. The place, they believed, should exist outside the conventional classroom, be open to everyone in the community and be run by those who would use it.

That vision became the Kelly Writers House (KWH) at 3805 Locust Walk, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary on Oct. 30.

Al Filreis, the Kelly professor of English and one of the house's original founders recalls that KWH was established in 1995 on the idea that students at Penn deserved a place on campus where they could find a rich intellectual experience that had nothing to do with the curriculum.

Today, the house stands as a shining example of the power of artistic and educational collaboration put into practice. It's a place where novelists, poets, journalists, screenplay writers, humorists, food writers and others meet, work, dine and mingle.

In the early days, the house was known simply as the Writers House. But about a year into the Writers House initiative, Penn alumnus and Chairman of the China Ceramics Company Paul K. Kelly dropped by to see what was going on in the shabby Tudor-style cottage on Locust Walk.

“He met with me and the house's first director, and it just happened that on that day there was a jazz band playing in the front room and cookies and cakes were baking in the kitchen,” Filreis says. “He absolutely loved the place, and within 20 minutes he pledged $1 million to help fix it up.” Kelly's gift allowed for a complete renovation of the site that included new plumbing, restoration of the fireplaces, an updated kitchen and the painting of the exterior of the house with its original colors of tan and Fairmount green. Its new name was the Kelly Writers House.

Over the past 15 years, Kelly Writers House has welcomed world-class authors such as Joan Didion, Richard Ford, Ian Frazier, Joyce Carol Oates, Jamaica Kincaid, Grace Paley, Gay Talese, John Edgar Wideman and others. This year, Marjorie Perloff, Susan Cheever and Edward Albee will work with students through the Kelly Writers House Fellows program.

“It's more than just a venue for readings and events,” says Lily Applebaum, a junior in The College. “There is a real emphasis on community-building here, anybody can come in and make the space their own.”

Text by Tanya Barrientos
Photos courtesy of the Kelly Writers House & Steven Minicola

it makes of nonsense

Speaking of Ray DiPalma. We've segmented another reading by him; this one took place on November 10, 1977, and he read with Michael Lally and Bruce Andrews. He read four pieces. One of them, very short, begins "It makes of nonsense..." I think it's quite compelling. Listen yourself and decide.

listen to the biography of Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven, the "Baroness"

Here is an audio version of the biographical profile of the Baroness that was published in the sixth issue of Sulphur (1983), read by Shawn Walker: MP3.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

oh, the things art students will do

Animal Cruelty, or Art?

GAINESVILLE, Fla., April 5 [1996] (Associated Press)

A college senior who dipped 40 live baby mice into resin, then cut the material into cubes for an art project, was charged with animal cruelty today.

The student, Vincent Gothard, a 25-year-old fine arts major at the University of Florida, faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.

Mr. Gothard's lawyer, Robe Rush, defended the art project, saying the mice died instantly and were destined to become food for other animals anyway. He also maintained that the project was " clearly artistic expression and probably protected by the First Amendment."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

the way Gertrude Stein wrote book reviews

Compare two reviews of Alfred Kreymborg's chatty group-bio/memoir of the high-flying modernists of Europe and New York in the late 1910s and early '20s. One is Gertrude Stein's book review published in Ex Libris, a magazine put out in Paris. The other, written by Mark Van Doren, was published in the Nation. At right is an image of the Stein review as it appeared in the magazine; click on the image for a larger view.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Monday, October 11, 2010

PennSound on YouTube

In this video clip, watch and hear Juliana Spahr read from her work, "The Incinerator." The clip is 8 minutes long and was prepared for our PennSound YouTube channel: There are now 118 videos uploaded to PennSound on YouTube. They range from David Antin rethinking Freud to Kaegan Sparks introducing Christian Bok to John Yau talking with Charles Bernstein.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

British blew up humanitarian flotillas after the Holocaust

"A new book to be published next week entitled MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949, by Keith Jeffery, reveals the existence of Operation Embarrass, a plan to try to prevent Jews getting into Palestine in 1946-'48 using disinformation and propaganda but also explosive devices placed on ships. Nor is this some speculative spy story that can be denied by the authorities: Jeffrey's book is actually, in their own words: 'Published with the permission of The Secret Intelligence Service and the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office.'" Here is a link to the full review/article by Andrew Roberts.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Lisa Robertson

Lisa Robertson reading in Berkeley on November 6, 2007:

  1. A Hotel, after Oscar Niemeyer (4:40): MP3

  2. On Painting (4:37): MP3

  3. The Dogs of Dirk Bogarde (8:48): MP3

  4. Wooden Houses (6:51): MP3

  5. After Trees (9:35): MP3

PoemTalk's 36th episode now out

The latest episode of PoemTalk is being released just now - the 36th show in our series. Go here for program notes and a link to the audio.

modernist pedagogy at the end of the lecture

This essay on modernist poetry at the end of the lecture is now available through the Selected Works site. Many thanks to Peter Middleton and Nicky Marsh for commissioning it and for fabulous editorial and other advice along the way. Thanks also to Julia Bloch, whose class session on the sounds of Amiri Baraka was inspirational. Also to Ira Winston, John MacDermott, the late Jack Abercrombie, Chris Mustazza and Mark Lindsay who have pushed me toward using digital media and computing in my teaching and who on occasion permitted me to push them. RIP, Jack!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

recruiting young writers

Penn's student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, ran a story in this morning's paper about our efforts at the Writers House to find talented writers among high-school student candidates for admission to the university.

selections from the audio archives

The folks over at Brain Pickings have selected some gems from the audio archives of the Kelly Writers House. Have a look and listen.

radical artifice and other topics, 1991

We at PennSound have just segmented an interview with Marjorie Perloff conducted by Aldon Nielsen for the Incognito Lounge in Palo Alto, CA, November 12, 1991. Here are the clips:

  • introduction by A.L. Nielsen (0:51): MP3

  • work on Frank O'Hara (7:13): MP3

  • "The Futurist Moment, poetic movements, and marginalized works (7:47): MP3

  • "The Poetics of Indeterminacy" and John Cage (15:02): MP3

  • the avant-garde and post-modernism (7:57): MP3

  • "The Radical Artifice," poetic language, and authentic speech (13:16): MP3

  • L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets (7:42): MP3

  • Wittenstein and Gertrude Stein (6:52): MP3

  • And the complete interview (1:06:36): MP3. Here is the link to PennSound's Perloff page.

    Monday, October 04, 2010

    Primo gets a street

    Taken today in Paris by Samantha Braun, who admires Levi's writing as much as I do.

    Sunday, October 03, 2010

    poetry and anticommunism, an essay-length primer

    I've now made my essay "Modern Poetry and Anticommunism" available through Selected Works. Citation: Alan Filreis. "Modern Poetry and Anticommunism." A Concise Companion to Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Ed. Stephen Fredman. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2005. 173-190.

    neo-Nazi teaches high-school history

    Install the Flash plugin to watch this video.

    Teacher James Keegstra, of Alberta, was teaching in his "history" classes that Jews were historical devils, and their deviltry was no metaphor. This is for real. You've just got to watch this 20-minute video clip from a Canadian 60 Minutes-style TV news magazine. It's called "Lessons in Hate." Note the modest heroism of the two nosey moms. Among Keegstra's claims: "that John Wilkes Booth was of the Jewish religion."

    Friday, October 01, 2010

    we want water in every originist myth

    Ah, the way we humans find ways to mythologize water. It flows into almost every narrative we make about origins. Here's my favorite instance of this:

    On April 16, 1964, the day before Shea Stadium officially opened, Bill Shea christened the Mets' new home with two symbolic bottles of water: one from the Gowanus Canal, near Ebbets Field, the former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers and one from the Harlem River, near the Polo Grounds, where the New York Giants had played and later the Mets during their first two years. The next morning, April 17th, construction workers were painting outfield signs and fresh sod was being laid in the outfield as the teams took batting practice. (The Mets lost, 4-3, to Pittsburgh that afternoon.)

    I hardly need to say that the Mets were originally conceived as a balm to the wounds felt by Giant and Dodgers fans whose National League teams were stolen from them (moving to California) in the late 50s, in moves that have often and can really only be interpreted as white flight.

    By the way, my friend Peter Tarr, who passed along this factoid to me, himself attended that first Shea game, April 18, 1964, the first of many, many losses Pete has endured.