PoemTalk 20: Amiri Baraka's "Kenyatta Listening to Mozart"

Posted 8/3/2009 (link)

As we mentioned in Friday's PennSound Daily entry, we've just released the twentieth episode of the the PoemTalk Podcast Series: an investigation of Amiri Baraka's 1963 poem, "Kenyatta Listening to Mozart," taken from the Asilomar Negro Writers Conference in August 1964. Joining PoemTalk host Al Filreis for this program, is a panel of first-time panelists, which includes Herman Beavers, Alan Loney and Mecca Sullivan.

The discussion begins with an exploration of the apparent juxtapositions between the titular figures of Mozart and Kenyan political figure, Jomo Kenyatta, which encapsulate the (post-)colonial tensions simmering throughout the poem: Mozart is emblematic of, as Sullivan reminds us, "a European cultural standard" lamentably preferred by black nationalist leaders over (as formulated by Baraka) James Brown, and the panelists take notice of the spats trudging through the bushland. Loney points out the work's migratory overtones, as well as the importance of "the specificity of place," making Beat stronghold, San Francisco a central location, for aesthetic as well as geographical reasons, and Filreis also sees Castro's Cuba as a key ideological location. The difference between Castro and Kenyatta, however, as Beavers observes, is that the latter is capable of negotiating with the west.

For Filreis, "the weighted circumstance" is a significant idea and a bridge into the poem's second, more scattered half, and he asks the panelists to consider what Baraka might mean by that phrase. For Sullivan, it's tied to "[l]ight to light" — the spiritual and connection between Jomo Kenyatta (whose first name means "light," or "the burning spear") and Baraka (whose taken name, "Imamu" means "spiritual leader"), and the burden they share. From there, at Beavers' prompting, they go on to consider the "beautiful / categories" at the end of the poem and their connection to the earlier notion of "[s]eparate / and lose," which, for him, is most closely tied to the poet's interaction with Castro and the dangers of isolation. Conversely, Beavers interprets the poem's concluding emphasis on "[c]hoice, and / style," which "avail // and are beautiful / categories" as a critique of bourgeoise culture, particularly when underscored by the final lines, "[i]f you go / for that."

Filreis then brings in the commentary of Lorenzo Thomas, who cites the deeply personal subject matter and self-criticism present in the poetry of this period, and the host uses this idea to trace a narrative of development from Beat hedonism to postcolonial politics in Baraka's own life. Beavers sees the line, "[w]e do not / write poems in the rainy season" as exemplifying a separation between the beatniks waiting on the sidelines, and those, like Kenyatta, who take matters into their own hands. Part of this direct action, for Beavers, requires those in the diaspora to actively participate in Western culture, despite its potential narcotizing effects.

PoemTalk is a co-production of PennSound, the Kelly Writers House and the Poetry Foundation. If you're interested in more information on the series or want to hear the previous nineteen episodes, please visit the PoemTalk blog, and don't forget that you can subscribe to the series through the iTunes music store. Our next episode will feature a panel of Marcella Durand, Eli Goldblatt and Hank Lazer joining Filreis to discuss his PennSound co-director, Charles Bernstein's "In a Restless World Like This Is." You'll also want to stay tuned for future programs in the series including conversations about poems by Louis Zukofsky, Cid Corman, Barbara Guest and Alice Notley.

A Helen Adam Sampler

Posted 8/5/2009 (link)

Today, PennSound co-director, Charles Bernstein unveiled a new addition to the PEPC library: a brief sampler of poems by the late Helen Adam, selected from 2007's excellent anthology, A Helen Adam Reader, edited by Kristin Prevallet. Click on the title above to browse Bernstein's picks, which include "Cheerless Junkie's Song," "Counting Out Rhyme" and "The Fair Young Wife." There, you'll also find links to Helen Adam pages on both PennSound and The Electronic Poetry Center, the latter containing multimedia links and writing on Adam by Prevallet and Ange Mlinko, among others.

We first launched our Helen Adam page in November 2007, anchored by a complete recording of her lyric radio play, San Francisco's Burning, produced by Charles Ruas and first broadcast on WBAI's The Audio-Experimental Theatre on July 17, 1977. You'll also find a contemporary appearance on Susan Howe's Pacifica Radio Program, reading her poetry and in conversation with Howe and Ruas, and a YouTube clip of "Cheerless Junkie's Song," from Ron Mann's Poetry in Motion. We've also added a link to Prevallet's "Notes on San Francisco's Burning," from A Helen Adam Reader. Taken together, these resources provide a more-than-ample introduction to the peculiar genius of Helen Adam.

New Series: A Voice Box

Posted 8/7/2009 (link)

We're finishing off the week with a massively exciting new series page, which will give you plenty of listening for the weekend and beyond. Actually, calling A Voice Box a series is a bit of a misnomer, as this website — compiled and edited by Andrew Kenower — collects, in his words, "recordings of the recent past," taken from a variety of reading series and venues throughout the Bay Area. In much the same way that many of the classic recordings housed on PennSound exist solely because someone had the presence of mind to bring their reel-to-reel deck or Walkman to the reading, Kenower's archive fever has created a wide-ranging document of San Francisco's lively literary scene as it continually develops through events taking place in bookstores, libraries, galleries and poets' homes.

Altogether, there are currently eighty recordings on PennSound's A Voice Box page, taken from dozens of readings over the past two years. You'll find a complete rundown of the series' all-star lineup — which includes the likes of Judith Goldman, Joshua Clover, Kasey Mohammad, Erica Kaufman, Barrett Watten, Dodie Bellamy, Rae Armantrout, Tyrone Williams, Juliana Spahr, Marjorie Welish, Lyn Hejinian, among others — by clicking on the title above. Moreover, while it's always wonderful to have one more recording from a favorite well-known poet, A Voice Box is also a great place to discover new voices, and the series maintains a nice balance between the established and the less-well-known. All entries include links to Kenower's original write-ups on the A Voice Box website, which include biographical sketches, photographs and much more.

Brenda Iijima: New Author Page

Posted 8/10/2009 (link)

We're proud to announce the newest addition to PennSound's roster of authors: poet and editor of Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs, Brenda Iijima. This long-overdue author page collects a number of readings already present on the site, rounded out by a recent addition.

We begin with the most recent recording: Iijima's March 8, 2008 reading at the Bowery Poetry Club as part of the Segue Series — a forty-minute set highlights excerpts from the poet's forthcoming book, revv. you'll—ution, which was a new work-in-progress at the time. This Segue Series reading is joined by two other Segue events, also at the Bowery Poetry Club, dating from January 2006 and March 2005, which you can listen to as well. You'll also find Iijima's 2007 appearance on Leonard Schwartz's Cross-Cultural Poetics as part of show highlighting Litmus Press, which also included poet and editor E. Tracy Grinnell and Stacy Szymaszek.

Finally, we recently added a recording of the November 2007 launch reading for O Books' War & Peace Vol. 3 — thanks to that evening's host, the inimitable Thom Donovan — which features a brief set by Iijima, who appeared alongside a stunning roster of poets which included Bruce Andrews, CAConrad, Rodrigo Toscano, Michael Cross, Paolo Javier, Susan Landers and Evelyn Reilly.

We're very glad to have created this archive of Iijima's work, and look forward to adding new material in the future. To listen to all of the recordings mentioned, click on the title above to visit PennSound's new Brenda Iijima author page.

New Episodes of Cross-Cultural Poetics

Posted 8/12/2009 (link)

Last Friday, we overloaded your playlists with amazing readings when we introduced a new series page for A Voice Box. A few weeks back, we did the same when we announced a year's worth of recordings that had been added to our POG Sound page, and today, (un)fortunately, we're doing it once more, as we unveil a dozen new episodes from Cross-Cultural Poetics, one of PennSound's longest-running and most consistently engaging programs, which originates in the studios of Evergreen State University's KAOS-FM, and is hosted by Leonard Schwartz (shown at left).

We begin with Episode #176, "Wisdom Of,", which showcases translations from Anne Moschovakis (of Annie Ernaux's The Possession) and Lee Fahenstock (of Francis Ponge's Mute Objects of Expression, read by Schwartz), as well as poet Judith Roche, who reads from her latest book, The Wisdom of the Body. Dating from the 2008 season, we hadn't been able to share this show until now due to technical issues, but it's well worth the wait.

Jumping forward to 2009, we have Episode #184, "Pearl Diving,", featuring a diverse trio of guests: poet Steve McCaffery (who reads from Cappuccino), Cabinet editor-in-chief Sina Najafi, and Seattle Opera Education Artistic Administrator, Jonathon Dean (who discusses the uses of captioning in opera). McCaffery returns for Episode #185, "Another Kind of Nation,", reading from his new Chax Press book, Slightly Left of Thinking, alongside Zhang Er, who shares selections from Another Kind of Nation: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Poetry, the Talisman House volume she co-edited. After Episode #186, "I and You", featuring Anne Tardos and Charles Simic, which we mentioned on PennSound Daily in June, we have Episode #187, "Uncanny,, with the pairing of Elizabeth Robinson (reading from The Orphan and Its Relations) and Joseph Donohue (reading from Terra Lucida).

The program gets truly "cross-cultural" in Episode #189, "Poem as Map,", with Iraqi poet Sinan Antoon, discussing his translation of Mahmoud Darwish's At The Station of a Train Which Fell off the Map, and Samoan poet Craig Perez, who shares his From Unincorporated Territory, a poem inspired by his homeland. This international focus carries over into Episode #190, "Pushing Water/Minus Ship", where Chax Press head Charles Alexander reads recent work (Pushing Water 50 and Between Poetics) and Eugene Ostashevsky discusses the work of the Russian poet Alexei Parschikov — particular his Minus Ship, which Ostashevsky recently co-translated with Michael Palmer. Palmer appears on a later program (Episode #192, "Greats") to talk about his work translating Parschikov, alongside Wesleyan University Press' editor-in-chief, Susanna Tamminen, who discusses two recent monumental releases from the press: Barbara Guest's Complete Poems and Jack Spicer's My Vocabulary Did This To Me: Collected Poems of Jack Spicer. First, however, comes Episode #191, "Quite a Lineup,", which features the poetic triple-play of Charles North (who reads from his recent collection of baseball-themed work, Complete Lineups), Jed Rasula (talking about his Hot Wax, or Psyche's Drip) and PennSound Managing Editor Michael S. Hennessey (who discusses his work for the site, reads a few recent poems, and generally feels uncomfortable talking about himself in the third person).

The next three programs showcase interesting pairings of writers reading from and discussing recent work: in Episode #193, "Disagreements," it's Nathalie Stephens (author of Notebook of Disagreements) and Rob Spillman (editor of Gods and Soldiers: The Penguin Anthology of Contemporary African Writing), while Episode #194, "The City," brings together poet Sumaiya el-Sousy (calling in from Gaza City to read "The City") and editor Sophie Mayer (of English Pen World Atlas), who discusses her work with Palestinian writers. Ron Silliman reads from his recently-published The Alphabet on Episode #195, "The Alphabet/Farout," alongside Egyptian poet Maged Zaher (author of farout_library_software). Finally, in Episode #196, "Place,", Teresa Carmody, publisher and editor of Les Figues, talks about her work at the press, while one of her authors, Vanessa Place, reads from her book, Dies: A Sentence. Amal Eqeiq, a Palestinian Israeli, brings the program to a close, talking to Schwartz about her recent work translating the Arabic of Palestinian poets.

As Cross-Cultural Poetics approaches its 200th episode, it just keeps getting better and better. Click on any of the individual links above to go directly to the programs mentioned, and don't forget to spend some time with the scores of older programs in the series, which you'll find on PennSound's Cross-Cultural Poetics series page.

Robin Blaser: Newly Segmented SUNY-Buffalo Reading, 1993

Posted 8/14/2009 (link)

It's been a little over three months since the poetry world lost the singular voice of Robin Blaser, who's passing was noted on PennSound Daily back on May 8th of this year. In addition to sharing encomia from Charles Bernstein, Judith Fitzgerald (of The Globe and Mail) and the Griffin Prize Committee (who awarded Blaser their prestigous prize in 2008), we provided a brief rundown of the various readings, lectures and interviews available for download on our Robin Blaser author page. We've since gone back and split one of the few unsegmented readings into individual MP3s for your listening pleasure: a September 15, 1993 reading and discussion at the University at Buffalo.

This reading celebrates the recent publication of The Holy Forest in its original form (i.e. Blaser's collected poems to date, later supplanted by a 2007 edition that adds the poet's output over the intervening fourteen years), which Robert Creeley hails in a long and intimate introduction, highlighting favorite moments from the two poets' long and admiring friendship. Blaser begins his reading with all twelve parts of his early serial work, Cups, which was first published in 1968, but written between 1959 and 1960. This opening offering is followed by "Of the Land of Culture" and "A Bird in the House" and Henri Michaux's "In the Tree Tops," before Blaser concludes with a masterful half-hour performance of "Image Nation 24" from Exody.

You can hear this newly-segmented reading, along with many other fantastic recordings spanning four decades of the poet's life, on PennSound's Robin Blaser author page. Clicking on the title above takes you directly there.

New in the PEPC Library: Thomas McEvilley's Sappho Translations

Posted 8/17/2009 (link)

At the start of May, we launched a series of new recordings of Sappho fragments, translated by multi-talented author and scholar Thomas McEvilley, which had been added both to his author page and our PennSound Classics page. These new translations — presented in English, followed by the original Greek — come from McEvilley's latest book, 2008's Sappho (Spring Publications, shown at left), and at the time, we'd promised to add the text of each fragment to accompany the recordings. Today, we'd very happy to announce a new page at the PEPC, which brings together McEvilley's translations with his readings of the poems

In addition to these half-dozen fragments — numbers 1, 2, 16, 31, 94 and 96 &mdash, McEvilley has graciously provided us with an introduction to the poems, in which he explains the long and convoluted history of the surviving relics of Sappho's body of work, contextualizes their importance within the course of the developing western cultural canon (as well as gender discourse; he refers to her as "the Ur-model of the female artist"), and shares praise from voices as diverse as Pound and Plato. We've integrated the original recordings alongside the texts, so you can easily stream the audio in your browser as you read along with each piece.

If these selections pique your interest in contemporary renderings of classical texts, be sure to check out our Thomas McEvilley author page, where you'll also find a two part Close Listening program from 2006, in which he discusses his translation works with Charles Bernstein and reads works by Homer, Aeschylus and Meleajer, as well as Sappho. You might also want to check out PennSound's Old Songs page, which is home to a number of albums' worth of archaic Greek verse turned into song by Chris Mason and Mark Jickling.

Monica de la Torre: Close Listening Reading and Conversation, 2009

Posted 8/21/2009 (link)

Today, we're unveiling the first in a series of new programs from Charles Bernstein's Close Listening series, featuring Mónica de la Torre. This two-part program, recorded on August 4th at New York City's Clocktower Studios, starts off with the poet reading "The Crush," a long-form poem from her latest volume, Public Domain (Roof Books, 2008).

The second program — a conversation between the two poets — begins with a brief discussion of the title of her book, Acúfenos, including its fuller implications that get lost between languages (while a straightforward translation would be "tinnitus," there's more there, as de la Torre explains). This leads back "The Crush," which is guided by the poet's deep love of music and, in particular, the process of fervent close listening to music, which she deems "the most transformative artform, in the sense that if you allow yourself to really listen and immerse yourself, you're already transported." After listing some of her childhood favorites (which range from Neil Diamond to Morrissey, Barry Manilow to Bryan Ferry) and talking about her youthful musical aspirations, she explains how those energies were refocused towards writing poetry, and how this tension between genres — filtered through the awkward obsession of a teenage crush — shaped the composition of "The Crush." After talking about the collage effects and Oulipian encodings present in the poem, they move on to its emotional center: the torturous and fleeting nature of desire.

In the second half of the show, Bernstein asks de la Torre about the influence of a bilingual upbringing upon her poetics, the ways in which dual systems of syntax and sound have shaped her approach to language. "I feel equally uncomfortable in both languages (English and Spanish)," she explains, before discussing her current interest in the myriad dialects present within contemporary Spanish -- the ways it is spoken in Mexico versus South America versus New York City -- as well as her exploration of the fluidity between languages and the untranslatable. The conversation then shifts to address the poetics of the Americas, the differences between northern and southern vernacular, as well as the tensions between native and European influences, however, she notes, "some readers seem intent on not realizing that really there is a continuum between what is being produced in the north and what is being produced in the south of the Americas." Bernstein then invites de la Torre to discuss her work as a translator, what has drawn her to the authors whose work she has worked on &mdash particularly its political investment, which she discusses at some length to bring the conversation to a close.

In addition to these programs, you will find a Segue Series reading at the Bowery Poetry Club from February 2007 on our Mónica de la Torre author page. To listen to any of the aforementioned recordings, click on the title above, and do not forget to visit PennSound's Close Listening homepage, where you are sure to find engaging readings and conversations with many of your favorite poets.

John Wieners: Two Berkeley Readings, July 1965

Posted 8/21/2009 (link)

This week on PennSound comes to a close with two new sets from the inimitable John Wieners, which come to us from the reel-to-reel collection of the equally-inimitable Robert Creeley. While Creeley's notes on the tape are somewhat scant, we believe that one recording might be Wieners' July 14, 1965 reading as part of the Berkeley Poetry Conference, while a second recording might either be his July 12th set (also as part of the conference) or another contemporaneous reading in Berkeley.

The first set begins, after an introduction by Creeley, with "Chinoiserie," and continues with a number of poems from Wieners' second book, Ace of Pentacles (1964) — such as "Le Chariot," "Procrastination," "Moon Poems" "Tuesday 7:00 PM" and "The Suicide" — as well as uncollected works including "Night Boat to Cairo," "The Mole Proposes Solitude" and "Despair is Given Me." While PennSound previously featured a recording of this reading on the site, this remastered version, taken directly from the master tape, has vastly improved sound quality, and so we've replaced the original with this take.

Wieners' second set starts with three pieces from his debut collection, 1958's The Hotel Wentley Poems: "A poem for record players," "A poem for Painters" and "A poem for the old man." These are followed by several recent works, composed a month prior to the reading (in June 1965) and apparently uncollected — "Wracked by beauty . . .," "Dion Doyle," "Grieving battle of swing . . .," "A Poem to Dawn" and "Watchman, What of the Night?" Towards the end of the set, he reads a pair of poems from Ace of Pentacles, "My Mother" and "Cocaine" (a cut featured on Steve Evans' The Lipstick of Noise yesterday).

You can hear both of these along with several other full-length readings and numerous scattered selections from the mid-60s to the late 90s on PennSound's John Wieners author page, where you'll also discover more esoteric (but no less valuable) treats like a pair of visits to Creeley's Harvard poetry class in 1972, and an hour-long conversation with Lilian and Walter Lowenfels and Alan DeLoach recorded in 1969. Clicking on the title above takes you directly there.

PoemTalk 21: Charles Bernstein's "In a Restless World Like This Is"

Posted 8/24/2009 (link)

The twenty-first episode in the the PoemTalk Podcast Series hits close to home, as it features PennSound co-director Charles Bernstein's "In a Restless World Like This Is," taken from his 2004 chapbook, World on Fire and the 2006 collection, Girly Man. Joining host Al Filreis to discuss the poem, is another trio of first-time panelists: Marcella Durand, Hank Lazer and Eli Goldblatt.

Durand kicks off the conversation by giving listeners a gloss on the title, which comes from a line in the 1950's pop ballad, "When I Fall in Love," made popular by Doris Day and Nat "King" Cole: "In a restless world like this is / love is ended before it's begun." Goldblatt further decodes the poem by finding analogues in book eleven of St. Augustine's Confessions, which ruminates on the differences between past times and the present, while Lazer finds a comforting nostalgia in the poem's tone. Filreis then asks about the unsolvable "it," recurring throughout the poem, which Durand ties to the poem's sonnet form — the four unanswered its being addressed after the poem's turn (marked by the em dash) in a comment upon poetry itself. Lazer points out the similar rhetorical force of the repeated ors, while Filreis adds the nos to the discussion before returning to the titular "this," finding a restless syntax to match the restless world around it. Goldblatt concurs: "there's this constant moving . . . and that's what reminded me of Augustine . . . this sense that the world is dissolving behind you and in front of you is an indivisible mass and all you've got is a presentness." The panelists also point out several other slippery syntactical constructions.

For Filreis, the poem denies a "Frost-ian" logic — "the further you go along the path, the further you'll have to go on [. . .] and at a certain point of going on that way, the way back cannot be discerned, the way becomes indivisible." Lazer brings in words and phrases with particular resonances for him, such as "indivisible," which takes him to the Pledge of Allegiance, and notes that "what happens often with Charles' work is we get embroiled in the humor and the tonality of it, and it's easy to sever it from historical circumstance," hence he seeks to bring the conversation back to its post-9/11 setting, pointing out its first publication in World on Fire. He wonders, "When we're going along a path, what is it we're nostalgic for? Are we looping back? Is there a way to get back? And yet each part of the process that we'd want to latch onto in some way gets subverted." Goldblatt compares this later reflection (written in the summer of 2002) to the poems composed immediately in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, finding both stylistic and philosophical differences. Durand takes this comparison further, exploring the questions Bernstein raises about the role of poetry and the poet in contemporary society throughout Girly Man, while Filreis places the focus on the poet's problematization of "transparency" in recent work, likening this piece's movement to the con-man or fortune teller with nothing up his sleeve — "this a poem that's all process, but it's not hidden, it's right out there in front."

Lazar brings the discussion full-circle by pointing out a continuity with Bernstein's early work: "here, he's mastered a kind of comedic tone that allows him to assemble phrase after phrase trying to point us toward the act of doing it." Filreis asks whether one has to reconcile the light tone with the darker undercurrents within the poem, and this leads to a broader consideration of the role of humor within Bernstein's poetics. Lazer laments, "I think Charles generally has been treated as a figure in literary history, and the poetry has not been attended to in detail [. . .] I think they may see the comedy and not necessarily appreciate the seriousness of the comedy." Filreis then plays devil's advocate, asking how one might state the value of this poem to an audience not familiar with work such as Bernstein's — a situation that might arise in a classroom setting — and both Durand and Lazer offer possible answers, which carry over nicely into the panelists' final thoughts on "In a Restless World Like This Is."

PoemTalk is a co-production of PennSound, the Kelly Writers House and the Poetry Foundation. If you're interested in more information on the series or want to hear the previous twenty episodes, please visit the PoemTalk blog, and don't forget that you can subscribe to the series through the iTunes music store. Our next episode will reunite PennSound co-directors Filreis and Bernstein, along with Bob Perelman and Wystan Curnow for a discussion of an untitled section of Louis Zukofsky's Anew, which begins, "It's hard to see but think of a sea . . ." Stay tuned also for future programs in the series which will address poems by Cid Corman, Barbara Guest, Alice Notley and Vachel Lindsay. Thanks, as always, for listening!

Ted Berrigan Reading at Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, August 1971

Posted 8/26/2009 (link)

Recently, we've added a number of new recordings to the site taken from the reel-to-reel archives of the late Robert Creeley, including the two new John Wieners readings we mentioned late last week. Today's featured reading — of Ted Berrigan at San Francisco's Intersection for the Arts in August 1971 — also comes from that body of recordings, and represents a happy ending of sorts, as the tape we'd originally processed a year ago didn't match the list of contents on the tape case, and appeared to be lost forever. Thankfully, intrepid summer intern Rebekah Larsen found this nearly-forty minute set on a different reel last week, segmented it, and made it available to our listening audience.

Berrigan's marvelous reading is largely comprised of poems which would appear in 1975's Red Wagon, such as "Wishes," "Ophelia," "Wrong Train," "Frank O'Hara" and "Crystal," along with "Three Sonnets and a Coda for Tom Clark" (which here bears the subtitle, "An Appreciation for His Kindness and Features") and "Poem (for Larry Fagin)" ("You are lovely. // I am lame."), which would later be incorporated into one of that volume's standout poems, "Buddha on the Bounty." Other titles included in the set are "People Who Died" (from the previous year's In the Early Morning Rain), "Southampton Business" (which would later appear in 1977's Nothing for You) and the unpublished "Things To Do in Bolinas."

However the purest delight here is in hearing some of Berrigan's best-loved and most characteristic poems (or at least some of this commentator's favorites) — "Words for Love," "What I'd Like for Christmas, 1970," "Today in Ann Arbor" and "Things To Do in Providence," all of which make their first appearance on Berrigan's PennSound author page — performed with their full emotional weight and playful hilarity, by a young writer at the peak of his poetic abilities. It's a truly memorable reading that adds a considerable number of important poems to our large, but still not large enough, archive of Ted Berrigan's work, which also includes The Sonnets read in its entirety from the poet's controversial residency at the New Langton Arts Center in 1981, and a 1978 appearance on In the American Tree, along with a handful of scattered recordings.

As a final note, we'd like to thank a formidable trio of poetry detectives — Bill Berkson, Lewis Warsh and Ron Silliman — who, by deciphering clues in the recording itself and drawing upon their memories, were able to pinpoint the location of this reading, correcting Creeley's tape-case notation of "Dillard's" (which astute listeners might've seen on the page earlier this week).

Allen Ginsberg: Several New Recordings from the Creeley Archives

Posted 8/28/2009 (link)

Our latest dip into the audiotape archives of the late Robert Creeley brings us several historic recordings by his long-time friend and compatriot, Allen Ginsberg, adding a number of new and fascinating takes on some of his best-known work to his PennSound author page.

We begin with what's identified as a benefit reading for the literary journal Big Table, founded by Irving Rosenthal and Paul Carroll, who resigned from the editorial staff of the Chicago Review after the contents of the Winter 1959 issue were repressed by university authorities. While it's clear that the contents of this recording are taken from several different venues, biographer Bill Morgan notes that Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso did a number of readings to support the fledgling journal in January 1959, and so perhaps this complete recording contains material from several different events. Regardless of the location, the set represents some of the poet's finest work of the mid-to-late 1950s, bookended by his epic collections, Howl and Other Poems and Kaddish and Other Poems. Aside from those two title works (the latter still a work-in-progress at the time), Ginsberg also reads classic poems like "Sunflower Sutra," "A Supermarket in California," "America" and "A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley," along with "Transcription of Organ Music," "In Back of the Real" and "Europe! Europe!"

A second set of three recordings, unidentifiable in regards to date or location begins with a twenty-eight minute reading, which, given the selection of poems, the background noises and Ginsberg's banter with Creeley between pieces, appears to have been recorded at the Creeleys' home in or around 1959. Drawing from the body of material which would later comprise Reality Sandwiches and Kaddish and Other Poems, this set begins with "Back on Times Square, Dreaming of Times Square," and continues with the first part of "Laughing Gas," "My Sad Self (for Frank O'Hara)" and "To Aunt Rose," before concluding with parts I, III, IV and V of "Kaddish."

Next comes a recording of "Wales Visitation," taken from an unidentified radio program, which begins with the poet chanting a mantra for the consecration of bhang (an Indian cannabis confection), an appropriate lead-in, given the influence of psychedelics upon this visionary poem. After reading the poem, Ginsberg briefly discusses its origins, including the role of the visitation within the bardic tradition, Wordsworth and LSD.

Finally, we have a rather interesting recording of Ginsberg's sprawling anti-war epic, "Wichita Vortex Sutra" — preceded by several minutes of chanting, this rendition starts at the start of Part II of the completed version, where the original 1966 chapbook begins. While many of us know and justifiably love the Philip Glass setting of a lengthy portion of this poem, or the all-star performance of the complete work at the St. Mark's Poetry Project (later released as a commercial album), this particular iteration has much to recommend it, from the heavy slap-back echo on Ginsberg's voice — which speaks to the poem's tape recorder composition method and nicely complements his "electric arguments," especially his thunderous refrain of "language language" towards the poem's conclusion — to the multilayered soundscape, which includes the Buddhist chanting, a sea of slow-dying reverberations, and other subtly clever tricks, like a perfectly-timed sample of Bob Dylan's "Queen Jane Approximately" paired with the poet's appropriation of the song's refrain.

We're tremendously happy to have these new recordings to add to our Allen Ginsberg author page, and equally glad that Robert Creeley had the presence of mind to make these recordings, creating an indelible record of some of the 20th century's most influential poets. Click on the title above to check out these recordings, and don't forget to spend some time exploring our Robert Creeley author page as well — an astoundingly detailed collection of recordings spanning fifty years of the poet's life.

Stan Brakhage: New Resources Added

Posted 8/31/2009 (link)

Today, we bring the month of August to a close with an exciting addition to our roster of authors &mdash (or, in this case, auteurs): a new page hosting several recordings by the legendary experimental filmmaker, Stan Brakhage. Organized by PennSound Contributing Editor, Danny Snelson, our Brakhage page brings together a pair of newly-digitized recordings from Robert Creeley's archives, along with select resources from our sister-site, UbuWeb to present a different side of the iconic artist.

First, we have an undated radio interview with Brakhage, broadcast on Albuquerque's KHFM-FM, in which he discusses his particular aesthetic in relation to the early development of the film form (including the similarities between visual effects and the magician's sleight-of-hand, the imaginative possibilities of the medium and its effects upon the audience) as well as personal versus public aims, authenticity and his response to his critics, among other topics.

Next, we have a lengthy recording taken from Brakhage's visit, at Creeley's invitation, to SUNY-Buffalo as part of the Walking the Dog Seminars (which preceded the Wednesdays @ 4 Plus series of the 1990s) on November 30, 1978. Running more than ninety minutes, the event starts with a discussion of literary pilgrimages before segueing into an exploration of dreams, including their power and influence upon the filmmaker's work. The set concludes with a long question and answer session as well several conversational interludes with Creeley.

Finally, we have a link to Brakhage resources on UbuWeb : Sound, including a fascinating discussion with venerable film critic Pauline Kael and "The Test of Time," a twenty-part series of half hour-long radio programs broadcast over the University of Colorado's KAIR-FM in 1982. Snelson has chosen the sixteenth episode — in which the filmmaker discusses his friendship with Creeley and showcases recordings of inspirations including Creeley, Ed Dorn, Gertrude Stein, Louis Zukofsky and Tennessee Williams — for inclusion on our Brakhage page itself. To start listening to the recordings mentioned above, click on this entry's title.