A. L. Nielsen: New Author Page Plus Close Listening Reading and Conversation

Posted 10/2/2009 (link)

We're wrapping up this week with a new author page for the venerable poet, critic and anthologist, A. L. Nielsen, anchored by a new Close Listening reading and conversation with Charles Bernstein, recorded last month at the Kelly Writers House.

The first of two programs features Nielsen reading a selection of poems spanning "about thirty years in about thirty minutes." Titles in this set include "On the Disappearance of Species," "Emily's List," "Exemplary Sentences," "The Virginia Monologues" "Epistemological Hesitation" and "My Dinner With Andrea." This is followed by a second conversation segment, which begins with the poet discussing his formative years and his education during the 1960s, where it seemed that some new aesthetic or cultural movement was emerging at a terrifying pace — however, he notes, "the danger of this, as we saw in the early 70s, was that people began sort of waiting to see what the next thing was going to be rather than making the next thing happen." In the face of this growing complacency, and guided by Ron Silliman's notion of "the new sentence" and the encouragement of David Bromige, among other sources, Nielsen felt that he had stumbled upon new personal means of expression early in the 1980s.

This leads Bernstein to question him as to his relation to form and style within his work: Nielsen admits to a long-time interest in "structuring aesthetic uses of language," though he might not make use of explicit form. Using free jazz innovations by Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor as examples, he concedes, "I was fascinated from early on in listening to the ways that musicians found to structure the work they were doing and the relationships to one another, once they had done away with traditional harmonic relationships and traditional units of measure [. . .] I was always trying to do that kind of thing in poetry" — not simply creating "jazz poetry," but rather, "find[ing] new ways of structuring rhythm and new ways of relating the sounds within lines to one another without relying upon the more traditional means, including the more traditional means of free verse." Given the tremendous influence of music upon his work, it should come as no surprise that song forms also filter their way into his writing, as everything from imitative structures to a general "songishness."

Another fostering influence during Nielsen's formative years, in the late 70s and early 80s, were the various regional scenes of poetry scenes (predominantly in Washington D.C. and the Bay Area), who shared a similar driving ethos, sometimes called "Analytic Lyric," which for Neilsen, entailed "saving a certain lyric modality" for himself within his experimentations. Next, the discussion shifts to the role of the comic and the ironic within his work, which Bernstein sees as a "rhythmic force," and citing George Burns and Henny Youngman as examples, agrees that "comic timing [is] not that different than lyric timing."

The program's second half begins with a discussion of "Self-Organizing Networks," the first poem read in the previous segment, which draws both syntax and sentiment from Nielsen's readings in the field of science, specifically concerning artificial intelligence. The poet sees language, and particularly poetic language, as a sort of "self-organizing network," "language gives us certain kinds of possibilities, but it's also constantly pulling our presumptions out from under us, so that we're in a constant state of having to revise our assumptions about the environment we live in, which means that we are ourselves a kind of self-organizing network as well."

Next, Bernstein asks about the role of identity structures in Nielsen's work: "to what degree are your poems organized around the fact of your whiteness, your maleness, your heterosexuality, if in fact you are any of those things?" The poet concedes to being all three, but doesn't see any of those factors as explicit organizing structures, though he has written "a number of poems that take up a direct address of racial subjects in one way or another," and sees his early immersion in African-American culture, including attending a black college, as having shaped his work. From here, the subject shifts to Nielsen's critical work in the field of African-American poetry and poetics, which was initially spurred by his distressing grad school discovery that there were scarcely any writing on white poets and racial discourse (the subject of his first book, Reading Race). Fittingly, the program comes to a close with Nielsen discussing the overlapping relationship between his creative and critical pursuits, including the very different levels of receptiveness publishers have to the work.

In addition to these Close Listening shows, you'll find links to two appearances on Leonard Schwartz's Cross-Cultural Poetics radio program (from 2004 and 2006), along with the poet's own recordings of the legendary MLA Offsite Readings in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Nielsen has generously agreed to share a number of key recordings from his archives — both of his own work and other poets — with PennSound, as he recently announced on his HeatStrings blog, so keep an eye out for those readings in the near future.

During this same visit to Philadelphia, Nielsen also recorded a PoemTalk Podcast episode with Al Filreis, Charles Bernstein and Michelle Taransky, discussing Vachel Lindsay's "The Congo." While that program won't be made available until a later date, you can listen to all of the exciting recordings mentioned above by clicking on this entry's title.

Ed Dorn: Four New Recordings, 1969-1981

Posted 10/5/2009 (link)

As you can plainly see from the "New at PennSound" sidebar to the right, there's a tremendous amount of exciting new material being added to the PennSound archives on a daily basis (and we'll be writing up some of those recordings on PennSound Daily in the near future), however today, we wanted to make sure that a key addition from this past summer didn't go unnoticed — namely, four new recordings from the late, great Ed Dorn, which were recently uncovered in the reel-to-reel archives of Robert Creeley.

The earliest these new recordings, dating from May 6, 1969 at the University of New Mexico, features Dorn reading a lengthy portion of his best-known book, Gunslinger. Running just over an hour, this two-part recording features excerpts from Books I and II of his western epic.

Next, we have the first of two new lectures: a December 7, 1978 conversation as part of the Walking the Dog Seminars at the University at Buffalo, which were organized by Creeley. Dorn begins the recording by mentioning Amiri Baraka, who he'd read with the following day at the Just Buffalo Literary Center (a recording we discussed on PennSound Daily in May 2008). Dorn would return to Buffalo three years later to take part in the third annual Charles Olson Memorial Lecture series. Altogether, we have three talks, occurring on March 19th and 24th (the date of the third was not preserved).

Finally, there's a recording of Dorn reading from The North Atlantic Turbine, the date and location of which are unknown. Poems in this half-hour set include "Song (Again, I am made the occurrence)," "The Sundering U.P. Tracks" and that volume's long central poem, "Oxford."

On PennSound's Ed Dorn author page, you'll find all of the recordings mentioned above, along with number of additional readings covering the high points of the middle years of the poet's writing life. We first announced his 1973 reading at Toronto's A Space on PennSound Daily in December 2007, and other recordings include a two-day visit to the University at Buffalo in April 1974 (yielding an hour-long reading from Gunslinger and a lengthy set of poems from Recollections of Gran Apacheria), a 1975 cassette release of Gunslinger by Germany's S Press and a 1984 reading at Milwaukee's Woodland Pattern bookstore (featuring selections from Captain Jack's Chaps and Abhorrences). Considering that a great many of these recordings come from Robert Creeley's personal archives (the majority of them documenting events he curated), it's evident that he had a great deal of respect for Dorn's work, and hopefully you'll enjoy listening to them just as much as he did.

Segue Series at the Bowery Poetry Club: Zhang Er and Trey Sager, October 3, 2009

Posted 10/7/2009 (link)

This past Saturday, the Segue Series kicked off its Fall 2009 season of readings at the Bowery Poetry Club, which will be curated by Laura Sims and E. Tracy Grinnell. The first of eight very exciting events featured the pairing of poets Zhang Er and Trey Sager.

Trey Sager begins his set with a number of poems taken from The Weeds, his recent collaboration with painter Munro Galloway. He continues a newer work-in-progress, "On the Rocks," as well as several selections from his "Dear Failures" series (each of which is addressed to a failed poem), including "Dear Lumberjack," "Dead Orphans" and "Dear Modifications."

For her set, Zhang Er was accompanied by Martine Bellen and Bowery Poetry Club proprietor, Bob Holman, whose translations followed her readings in the original Chinese (or in Holman's case, was delivered simultaneously). Her set list was drawn from the nine introductory poems she composed for her most recent collection, Because of Mountain, which depicts her journey home to China to bury her grandparents.

The next Segue Series Reading will take place this Saturday at 4:00 PM, and will feature poets Paul Foster Johnson and Laura Moriarty. You can view the entire Fall lineup of readers on Charles Bernstein's Blog, and can visit the Bowery Poetry Club homepage for more information. Also, don't forget that you can listen to recordings of hundreds of Segue Series events spanning four decades by visiting PennSound's pages for the series' three homes: the Bowery Poetry Club, Double Happiness and the Ear Inn

PoemTalk 23: Cid Corman's "Enuresis"

Posted 10/9/2009 (link)

Earlier this week, we proudly released the twenty-third episode in the PoemTalk Podcast Series — a discussion of Cid Corman's poem "Enuresis." For this program, host Al Filreis was joined by panelists with a Philadelphia-centric panel of Frank Sherlock, Fran Ryan and Thomas Devaney, and this show serves as a reunion of sorts, as these four writers served as the moderators of a 2001 event at the Kelly Writers House celebrating Corman's life and work (from which the recording of "Enuresis" was taken).

Filreis begins the discussion by addressing the two kinds of terror present in the poem: Ryan frames the poem against the historical context of the 2001 event, which took place right after 9/11, while Sherlock feels it's more emblematic of Vietnam-era terror, as embodied in Vietnam veteran George Evans' book, Sudden Dreams, which Corman invokes in the poem's introduction (Evans being the "Ed" addressed in the opening line). Devaney agrees, stressing the dialogic nature of the poem, and Filreis picks up the thread, distinguishing between an adult's wartime terror and childhood terror, in which the fear of bedwetting is secondary to domestic discord and the fear of abandonment. Sherlock points out Corman's insistence that George Evans "never killed anybody" during his time in Vietnam, and asks whether then the poet is identifying with Evans, whether that makes the child narrator a pacifist figure who opts out of the Cold War struggles embodied by Mother and Dad and the violence inherent in their relationship. Ryan recalls the first acquaintance with Corman and this poem in particular, citing the poet's ease in sharing uncomfortable familial details, and the way in which he welcomed close friends into an extended family, further heightening this potential significance.

Filreis offers a Freudian interpretation of potty training as a civilizing practice, and the speaker's denial of this process as a means of maintaining his freedom: "I want to hold on to the power closest to my body, even if it means I smell." While Ryan believes Corman would reject so intricate an interpretation of his own work, he admits that the visceral preoccupations present in much of his poetry reinforce the lesson that (in Corman's words) "the hardest thing you will ever do is you will live your life," and even five years after his death, Ryan can find solace in the poet's acknowledgment that "life is not meant to be easy." Devaney concurs, finding a tremendous complexity of life present in the poem's "elemental trauma": "there's a communication beyond the clear-eyed speech of the poem."

After ruminating on this emotional resonance, Filreis reconsiders what he deems the audacity of Corman's assertion — i.e. that the experience of childhood trauma gives one the ability to understand the terror of the foxhole. Ryan returns to the word, "livingdying" (the title of a 1970 Corman collection and a term he often used) that underscores our human condition, noting, "I don't think that he sees the soldier's experience as somehow different than what all humans must do." Devaney makes note of the "Asian consciousness" present in this poem and throughout Corman's work (a cultural inheritance from Ezra Pound), however, much like Philip Whalen, his voice remains essentially American (through his directness, his brashness, etc.). Ryan also hears traces of William Carlos Williams, particularly in the conversational tone.

The program winds down with Filreis asking the panelists to address Corman's relative obscurity and his feeling that his poetry was underappreciated: "What do we miss if we don't include Cid Corman in conversations about modern and contemporary poetry?" Sherlock begins by citing Corman's work as both translator and editor (of Origin) and the geographic and interpersonal distances that kept him removed from acknowledgment as a major voice in the New American Poetry. It's a hopeful sign, however, that so many young poets (including Sherlock, Ryan and Devaney) have sought out his work, and Ryan points out the reciprocal nature of this cross-generational relationship, namely Corman's role as a generous and incisive mentor, even as these poetic conversations were carried out via international aérogrammes. Devaney notes that many older poets (including Carl Rakosi and Lorine Niedecker) enjoyed similar correspondence with Corman, and his thoughtful writing about their work is yet another reason he'll be remembered long after his passing.

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-two episodes, please visit the PoemTalk blog, and don't forget that you can subscribe to the series through the iTunes music store. In the next episode, Filreis will be joined by Randall Couch, Michelle Taransky and Natalie Gerber for a discussion of Barbara Guest's "Roses." Stay tuned also for future programs in the series which will address poems by Alice Notley, Vachel Lindsay and Robert Duncan. Thanks, as always, for listening!

Segue Series at the Bowery Poetry Club: Laura Moriarty and Paul Foster Johnson

Posted 10/12/2009 (link)

Hopefully you were able to make it out to the Bowery Poetry Club this past Saturday for the Segue Series' latest fall season reading featuring Paul Foster Johnson and Laura Moriarty, but if you weren't so lucky, we've got the recordings ready for your listening pleasure. Thanks to the good work of the BPC's tech staff, we were able to post the reading a little over an hour after the event's conclusion — so quickly, in fact, that some folks who were in the audience hadn't even made it home yet.

The afternoon's first reader was Paul Foster Johnson, who started with a number of poems from his latest collection, Refrains/Unworkings (Apostrophe Books, 2008) — "Personal Nimbus," "Shadowbox Fragment" and "After-Image," among others — before switching to his new project (which maintains a similar conceptual dichotomy, this time between "Pavilions" and "Panic Rooms"), which included "Self-Study in Pavilions," "Intimate Immensity Safe-Room," "Fountain of Friendship," "This Tortured Earth," "Palace of Arts," "Digital Cities" and "Portable Survival System." On PennSound's Segue at the Bowery Poetry Club series page, you can also hear Johnson's 2005 reading with Norma Cole.

Inspired by Paul Foster Johnson's poem, "A Farm Shadowbox," Laura Moriarty opened her set with "Waking From Sleep a Thousand Miles Thick," the first and earliest poem in her latest collection, A Semblance: Selected and New Poems, 1975-2007 (Omnidawn Press, 2007). She continues with the poem, "Non-Tonal," which is followed by "Allegory of Estrangement," a chapter from her manuscript-in-progress, Prosodic Beings, which serves as a sequel to her "poetic science fiction novel," Ultravioleta (Atelos, 2006). The reading concludes with Moriarty reading "Ladybug Laws" from her forthcoming Slack Buddha chapbook, Divination. Moriarty's PennSound author page archives more than a decade's worth of readings, starting with her 1997 appearance on the first episode of PhillyTalks alongside David Bromige. Alongside a Segue Series Reading from 2005 and a 2007 appearance on Cross-Cultural Poetics, you'll also find a pair of recent Bay Area readings courtesy of A Voice Box.

Next Saturday's Segue Series Reading will feature Keith Waldrop and John Keene, and don't forget, you can see the complete Fall lineup of readers on Charles Bernstein's Blog.

New Recordings from and by A. L. Nielsen

Posted 10/14/2009 (link)

A few weeks ago when we launched our new A. L. Nielsen author page, we mentioned that Nielsen would also be sharing a wide variety of recordings from his own personal archives through our site. Today, we're proud to announce the first additions to PennSound's Heatstrings series page, along with a new recording of Nielsen reading in Ghana.

Thanks to Nielsen's diligence, we'd already been able to share recordings of the MLA Off-Site Readings from 2004, 2006, 2007 and last year's event in San Francisco. We've now added additional recordings of the readings from 2005, 1996 and the very first event in 1989 (which, rather interestingly, features only four readers — Nielsen, Charles Bernstein, Bob Perelman and Marjorie Perloff — while recent readings have showcased dozens of poets). All of these recordings are available on our MLA Off-Site series page.

The next series page we've created is for Incognito Lounge, a bi-weekly radio program hosted by Nielsen which aired on San José's KSJS-FM between 1989 and 1995. Our first, and so far only offering from this innovative series is a 1990 broadcast with noted author John Edgar Wideman, however many wonderful readings and interviews will be added to this page in the future.

Bringing things to a close for the time being, we have a pair of readings by Charles Bernstein from the 1990s: a February 1995 reading at UC Berkeley (introduced by Douglas Messerli) and a February 1998 salon in Los Angeles for Messerli's press, Sun and Moon, both of which were recorded by Nielsen.

Finally, as we mentioned above, we have a new recording of Nielsen to go with all these new recordings made by Nielsen — a July 2008 appearance at the first Pan African Writers Forum in Ghana. The poet notes: I'd been invited there to deliver a lecture and hadn't brought any of my poetry with me. When the organizers asked me to do a poetry reading, I hurriedly gathered a few poems from web sites, and one in progress from my notebook — The reading took place late one night under the stars and just a few yards from the ocean." You can hear this recording, along with Nielsen's recent reading and interview on Bernstein's Close Listening program on PennSound's A. L. Nielsen author page, and be sure to keep an eye out for new additions to both that page, and the Heatstrings series page, in the near future.

David Bromige: "Intention and Poetry" Talk, San Francisco, 1977

Posted 10/16/2009 (link)

We've been processing tapes from the archives of our own Bob Perelman for the past year or so, yielding some wonderful historic recordings. Key among these materials are a number of "Talks" from the legendary series the poet curated in San Francisco in the late 1970s and early 1980s, featuring, among others, Rae Armantrout, Tom Mandel, Lyn Hejinian, Bill Berkson, Ron Silliman and Fanny Howe, and today, we're very happy to announce a new addition to this formidable collection: David Bromige's June 2 1977 talk on "Intention and Poetry.". Beginning with a reading of the "Six of One, Half-a-Dozen of the Other" section of his much-beloved book, My Poetry, this talk illuminates not only Bromige's unique poetics, but also makes evident his warmth and wicked sense of humor, and deepens our sense of loss over his recent passing.

This evening, a number of the poet's close friends and colleagues will gather at New York's Poets House for "Living in Advance: A Tribute to David Bromige. Those scheduled to perform include Charles Bernstein, Corina Copp, Rachel Levitsky, Daniel Nohejl, Perelman, Nick Piombino, Silliman, Gary Sullivan and Geoffrey Young, and the event begins at 7:00. Please visit the Poets House website for more information.

John Ashbery Week, Plus PennSound Daily's Anniversary

Posted 10/19/2009 (link)

Two years ago today, we launched PennSound Daily with a brief 78-word blurb announcing that a recent Studio 111 Session with Rachel Blau DuPlessis had been added to the site (along with two equally short, backdated items on Charles Olson and Rae Armantrout). Over the past twenty-four months, what started as a Twitter-length newsfeed has moved from the right-hand sidebar to the heart of our front page, grown exponentially in both size and scope — providing information on new additions as well as analysis, historical contextualization and suggestions for further investigation within the PennSound archives — and, in a way, brought our mission full-circle as the poetic text is vivified through the spoken word and then commented upon through writing. With our recent integration of the PennSound Daily archives and our main author and event pages, we hope this resource has become even more useful to our listeners, and if you haven't already subscribed to the feed, we encourage you to do so by clicking on the orange icon above.

We kicked off our first full week of PennSound Dailies on October 22nd with a five-day celebration of the newest author to be added to our roster, John Ashbery. At the time, our Ashbery holdings were so scant at that time that his Kelly Writers House Fellows reading and conversation had to be covered on separate days, and the single track, "They Dream Only of America" (from the Peter Gizzi-edited Exact Change Yearbook) also got its own entry. However, thanks to the generosity of both John Ashbery and David Kermani, and their commitment to the PennSound project, our John Ashbery author page has developed into a remarkably broad archive of five decades of the poet's recorded work, from Some Trees through to a number of as-yet-uncollected poems, written since his latest volume, A Worldly Country. We've recently finished digitizing a number of new recordings from the Ashbery Resource Center, and have decided to mark the two-year anniversary of our Ashbery page with another week of PennSound Daily entries, so keep an eye out, starting tomorrow, for the first of many exciting additions.

John Ashbery Week, Day 2: New Letters on the Air and Radio Helicon

Posted 10/20/2009 (link)

We're celebrating the second anniversary of PennSound's John Ashbery author page with a week's worth of PennSound Daily entries highlighting newly added recordings from the venerable poet. Our first pair of new recordings come from two very disparate sources, yet in both, we perceive not only the immensity of his talents, but also his warmth and sociability in the commentary between poems and interview segments.

Our first selection is from an August 1986 broadcast of New Letters on the Air, a production of the magazine, New Letters, which presents the poet's commencement address at the Kansas City Art Institute that year. "I was the class poet when I graduated from college," Ashbery begins, "and I wasn't able to produce a class poem, so what I did was to take a poem that I had already written that sounded kind of ominous and I read that, and that seemed to go over okay. Since then, I've written a lot more ominous poetry, which I'm going to share some with you . . . not too much, but a little." He starts with "Soonest Mended," then continues with "Whatever It Is, Wherever You Are," "The Songs We Know Best," and an excerpt from "A Wave," providing helpful annotations and asides to his young audience as he goes.

Next comes Ashbery's appearance on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program, Radio Helicon, which dates from 1987 or 1988. Hosted by noted Australian poet and critic, John Tranter (also the editor of Jacket), and guided by his love and respect for the poet's work, this sprawling broadcast, which runs well over ninety minutes, includes lengthy interview segments (addressing Ashbery's artistic development, his poetic process, influences, and many of his published collections), commentaries by critics (including Stephen Greenblatt, Philip Mead and Imre Salusinszky) and readings of a number of poems. While Ashbery often reads solely from contemporary work, the proximity of this program (and the preceding one as well) to the 1986 publication of Penguin's Selected Poems permits him to sample freely from throughout his collected poetry (and more importantly, discuss these works), therefore, we're treated here to a diverse selection of poems, including, "Two Scenes," "The Picture of Little J. A. in a Prospect of Flowers," "Some Trees," "Thoughts of a Young Girl," "Last Month," "Paradoxes and Oxymorons," "Forties Flick" and "Soonest Mended." At some point in the near future, we'll break this program down into individual segments, but we didn't want to keep it from our listeners any longer.

Both of these recordings, and a great many others, are available now on PennSound's John Ashbery author page. Stay tuned tomorrow for even more new additions to our Ashbery archives.

John Ashbery Week, Day 3: "Attitudes Towards the Flame" (with Robert Creeley) and Reading T.S. Eliot

Posted 10/20/2009 (link)

We're celebrating the second anniversary of PennSound's John Ashbery author page with a week's worth of PennSound Daily entries highlighting newly added recordings from the venerable poet.

We begin today with the 1983 radio program, "Attitudes Towards the Flame", part of the series, The Territory of Art, produced by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, which features readings by and profiles of Ashbery and Robert Creeley. Some of the topics discussed during Ashbery's segment of the half-hour program include his creative methods, the development of Ashbery's iconic collection, Three Poems, strategies for approaching his poetry and his working relationship with composer Elliott Carter. The poet reads an excerpt from "The System" from Three Poems and Houseboat Days' "Syringa," which formed half of the lieder to a Carter composition of the same name. Creeley's short segment (which starts the show) tackles similar writerly questions (including the influence of jazz upon his work and his approach to rhythm and meter), and "Mother's Voice," "Retrospect," "The Edge" and "Still Dancers" (from Mirrors).

Our second recording comes from "In Different Voices: T.S. Eliot at 100," an October 22, 1988 event at New York's Symphony Space, organized by Richard Howard. In his uproarious introduction, Ashbery explains how, during his student years, he was first led to Eliot's work through the writings of W.H. Auden, before discussing the poet's "Ariel Poems," from which his two selections — "Marina" and "Animula" — were chosen. "I don't know why these are called 'Ariel Poems,'" he admits, "and I just took a brief poll of my learned colleagues backstage and was relieved to find out that they don't either . . . except for the fact that these poems are somewhat light in texture and spirit-like. I have no real explanation for the title."

Both of these recordings, and a great many others, are available now on PennSound's John Ashbery author page. Stay tuned tomorrow for even more new additions to our Ashbery archives.

John Ashbery Week, Day 4: WNYC and Academy of American Poets Anniversaries, Modern Languages Auditorium

Posted 10/22/2009 (link)

We're celebrating the second anniversary of PennSound's John Ashbery author page with a week's worth of PennSound Daily entries highlighting newly added recordings from the venerable poet.

Today, we begin with two short recordings marking the anniversaries of well-respected institutions. First, from 1983, a brief appearance on NPR's Morning Edition, occasioned by the 50th birthday of the Academy of American Poets. A much-lauded poet who cannot subsist on his book sales alone, Ashbery (who received a grant the previous year), is cited as an example of the beneficial work the Academy — which he calls "a one-of-a-kind institution in a society that doesn't pay much attention to poets and poetry" — does. Marie Bullock (the Academy's founder) and New York Mayor Ed Koch (who's involvement in the city's poetry scene goes back to the 1960s, as detailed in Daniel Kane's All Poets Welcome) are also interviewed. This is followed by a recording of the poet reading "Syringa" as part of a June 13, 1994 celebration of the 50th anniversary of public radio powerhouse WNYC.

Finally, from September 12, 1990, we have a longer recording from the Modern Languages Auditorium at the University of Arizona. This 45-minute set, drawing exclusively from poems that would be part of Ashbery's 1992 collection, Hotel Lautréamont, begins with "[untitled]" (a piece commissioned by Siah Armajani for inclusion in the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge in Minneapolis, MN), and continues with titles including "Avant de Quitter Ces Lieux," "Still Life With Stranger," "Hotel Lautréamont," "In Vain, Therefore," "From Palookaville," "Notes from the Air," "Autumn Telegram" and "Korean Soap Opera," before concluding with an excerpt from 1991's Flow Chart.

All of these recordings, and a great many others, are available now on PennSound's John Ashbery author page. Stay tuned tomorrow for even more new additions to our Ashbery archives.

John Ashbery Week, Day 5: With James Schuyler at the 92nd Street Y, 1989

Posted 10/23/2009 (link)

We're celebrating the second anniversary of PennSound's John Ashbery author page with a week's worth of PennSound Daily entries highlighting newly added recordings from the venerable poet.

We've saved perhaps the most exciting selection for the end of the week: a rare recording of Ashbery reading with his great friend and collaborator, James Schuyler, recorded November 23, 1989 at New York's 92nd Street Y. The evening's proceedings are introduced by Jonathan Galassi, who lauds the pair, noting, "I wish the New York of tonight retained in the flesh the vitality and brilliance and multifariousness and sheer exuberance it will immemorially have in and because of their work."

Ashbery's set starts with a number of poems from his 1987 collection, April Galleons — "Riddle Me," "Alone in the Lumber Business," "Vaucanson" and "Some Money" — before moving on to new material which would later appear in 1992's Hotel Lautréamont. Some of the titles included in the second half of the reading include "Still Life with Stranger," "In Vain, Therefore," "Revisionist Horn Concerto," "From Palookaville," "[untitled]," "Film Noir," "Notes from the Air," "The Little Black Dress," "Le Mensonge de Nina Petrovna," "Avant de Quitter Ces Lieux" and "Autumn Telegram." The significant amount of overlap between this recording and yesterday's 1990 set at the University of Arizona (along with other readings) underscores the benefits of an archive as thorough and dense as our Ashbery page: listeners often have the opportunity to select from multiple readings of a given poem, experiencing it in different moods, different rooms, all of which yield radically different performances. Moreover, the frequent presence of introductory comments, asides and discussion during Q&A sessions and interviews all help to broaden our understanding of the work, whether we're coming to Ashbery with new ears or are old friends of his work.

On Monday, we'll discuss James Schuyler's half of this reading, along with a number of other new recordings recently added to PennSound's James Schuyler author page, thanks to Ashbery and Nathan Kernan (whose scholarship unearthed a number of important recordings).

Click on the title above to listen to this reading (and many, many more) on PennSound's John Ashbery author page, and keep an eye out for more wonderful recordings from this contemporary American master as we continue to process the tapes the poet has generously donated to PennSound.

James Schuyler: Six New Recordings Added

Posted 10/26/2009 (link)

As promised in last week's conclusion to John Ashbery week, today, we're unveiling a bevy of new recordings from another stalwart of the New York School's fabled first generation: James Schuyler. Altogether, there are six new recordings, some provided by Ashbery, the rest recently unearthed by poet and scholar Nathan Kernan.

We begin with Schuyler's half of the November 23, 1989 reading with Ashbery at New York's 92nd Street Y, that we highlighted on Friday. Recorded less than two years from his death, this set includes many of the poems Schuyler had intended for his never-completed next collection (which finally saw the light of day in the "Last Poems" section of 1993's Collected Poems), including "A Cardinal," "Mood Indigo," "Horse-Chestnut Trees and Roses," "Rain," "Shadowy Room" and "Let's All Hear It for Mildred Bailey!" A number of earlier favorites — such as "Korean Mums," "Fauré's Second Piano Quartet," "A Man in Blue" and "Empathy and New Year" — are present here as well.

This late set is nicely complemented by a reading several months earlier at the San Francisco Art Institute at the invitation of Bill Berkson, who celebrates the recent publication of Schuyler's Selected Poems by noting that "the appearance of virtually every one of Mr. Schuyler's books, and indeed of any poem of his in a big or little magazine, has constituted, for the poets of my generation, something on the order of an epiphany. One anticipates his poems the way one anticipates, with whatever degree of eagerness or need, the break of a new day in one's life, because Schuyler's poems are primarily accounts of what there is to be lived on particular days, and no one else does this quite the way he does in poetry." While there's quite a bit of overlap between this set and the previous one, a few standout poems unique to this reading include "February," "Light Blue Above," "Today" and "Light from Canada."

Our next recording comes with no indication as to where or when it was recorded. While the introductory voice (Ron Padgett's, perhaps?) makes reference to Schuyler's 1980 collection, The Morning of the Poem, the setlist seems to sample liberally from throughout the poet's collected works — including poems from Freely Espousing ("Salute," "An Almanac"), The Crystal Lithium ("Empathy and New Year," "Scarlet Tanager"), Hymn to Life ("Poem," "Just before fall," "In Wiry Winter," "The Bluet"), The Morning of the Poem ("Dining Out With Doug and Frank"), A Few Days ("At Darragh's I") and his final poems ("Over the hills," "Six something") — suggesting that perhaps this is a retrospective reading at the St. Mark's Poetry Project from sometime in the mid-to-late-1980s.

We find another chronologically diverse set of poems in a 1989 BBC interview with Schuyler, recorded at his home in the Hotel Chelsea — presented here as both the finished broadcast-ready production (which runs twenty-five minutes) and the full raw audio from that day (running seventeen minutes longer) — which also includes several interview segments and thoughtful commentary by presenter Adam Philips. We conclude with a pair of recordings from the mid-1980s: a single track from 1982 ("The Morning of the Poem") and a sixteen-minute suite of love poems recorded in New York City in September 1986, almost all of which come from the "Loving You" section of The Crystal Lithium.

Last March, we ended a PennSound Daily entry highlighting our (then) sole James Schuyler selection — the 1986 Watershed Intermedia release, Hymn to Life & Other Poems — by observing "[w]hile we'd love to have even more material to share with our listeners, we're very glad to be able to make these recordings available so that a wider audience may know and appreciate this less well-known, but no less important member of the New York School's first generation." Half a year later, our enthusiasm for Schuyler has not abated one iota, and thanks to Nathan Kernan and John Ashbery, we (and you, our listeners), now have a substantial archive of the poet's work to savor. Click on the title above to start exploring these new recordings.

Poems for the Millennium, Volume 3 Launch Events at the Kelly Writers House

Posted 10/28/2009 (link)

Earlier this month, the Kelly Writers House hosted a pair of events celebrating the recent publication of Poems for the Millennium, Volume 3: The University of California Book of Romantic & Postromantic Poetry, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Jeffrey C. Robinson, and today, we're making recordings of both available for your listening pleasure.

The evening's proceedings began with a panel discussion, moderated by Charles Bernstein, which featured both editors, along with UPenn's own Michael Gamer (author of Romanticism and the Gothic: Genre, Reception, and Canon Formation) and Princeton's Esther Schor (author of Bearing the Dead: The British Culture of Mourning from the Enlightenment to Victoria and The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley). Running more than eighty minutes, this fascinating symposium is presented in both audio and video formats (the latter courtesy of KWH-TV), as is the ninety-minute reading that follows.

After an introduction by Bernstein, Gamer kicks off the second set with a brief talk (a continuation from the earlier discussion), and is followed by editors Rothenberg and Robinson, who read a selection of manifestos from the book. Next, a number of poets from the Kelly Writers House community share selections from the, beginning with a breathtaking montage from Bernstein, which ably blends selections from Whitman and Blake, the poet's own translations of Hugo, Heine and Baudelaire, and a trio of original works. Rothenberg then shares a translation of the Goethe's "Mignon's Song" (a translation begun by Coleridge which he finished) and Coleridge's "Urine," while Rachel Blau DuPlessis reads from Wordsworth's "The Prelude" and an excerpt from her own "The Wander." She's followed by Robinson sharing a pair of his own poems which borrow from a number of late drafts by Wordsworth, George Economou's reading of three poems about sharks taken from the anthology, followed by one of his own, and Rothenberg's reading of Shelley's "On the Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci." Rochelle Owens comes next (reading Adah Issacs Menken, followed by her own "Song from Out of Ur"), followed by Robinson (reading Emily Dickinson), Bob Perelman (reading his "Transcription," inspired by Whitman's "Passage to India") and finally, Rothenberg, who closes out a wonderful evening with his poem "Romantic Dadas," dedicated to his co-editor.

If you enjoy this reading, you'll definitely want to check out the reading which precedes it on PennSound's Poems for the Millennium page: an earlier celebration of the same volume, recorded March 29th at the Bowery Poetry Club, featuring Rothenberg, Robinson and Bernstein, along with Pierre Joris, Anne Waldman, Cecelia Vicuña, and BPC proprietor, Bob Holman. You'll also find a September 1998 reading at the Kelly Writers House celebrating the first volume in the series, featuring many of the same poets. We're particularly proud to have been able to celebrating these groundbreaking anthologies for more than a decade, with their editors and many members of our writing community. Click on the title above to listen to all three of these readings.

PoemTalk 24: Barbara Guest's "Roses"

Posted 10/30/2009 (link)

In the midst of last week's John Ashbery celebration, we released the latest episode in the PoemTalk Podcast Series (our twenty-fourth in all) — a discussion of Barbara Guest's poem "Roses." For this program, host Al Filreis was joined by a panel of Randall Couch, Michelle Taransky and Natalie Gerber.

The discussion begins with the panelists unpacking a few of Guest's allusions, starting with the poem's epigraph from Gertrude Stein (taken, Couch tells us, from Paris France), which the opening lines seem to refute. Gerber reads Stein's sentiment as "looking back at a moment just before the cusp of a modern experience [...] looking at the the breaking into modern poetry," which, in the context of Guest's poem (particularly the start of the second stanza), provides two possibilities: that Guest is agreeing with Stein's statement, or disputing it.

Next, Filreis asks Taransky to unpack the poem's distinction between stickiness (emblematic of Juan Gris' aesthetic) and "stick-to-it-ness" (which is "an alternative to the Gris/Stein/Williams lineage") — she sees stickiness as both a direct nod to Gris' technique of collaging newspaper to create his painting (1912's Roses, which Stein once owned), but also to that artwork's being tied down to a specific time and place: "this can't be Guest encountering this for the first time, she's encountering something that's already encountered and for her that experience is in the composition, in how she proceeds to make the poem." Therefore, for Filreis, there's the possibility of an alternative genre, which also embodies "focus and concentration," setting up a potential anti-modernism, or postmodernism, and Guest's tone is ironic, she's challenging Stein.

The panelists focus on Guest's statement, "It might be / quite new to do without / that air," in light of Pound's proclamation, "Make It New." Filreis paraphrases, "sure, Gertrude, it's new to do without air, airlessness is new, but still, there are certain illnesses that require air." For Taransky, Guest begins a different logical approach here — she parallels the newness of her experience (reconsidering this artistic time period) with Stein's own childhood conversion (leading her to make the observation that "painting has no air"). Couch points out a characteristic choice, and repetition, of words here (specifically "new" and "air"), leaving room for mystery: "if you think of the word "air" as being roughly equivalent to "atmosphere," and you look at Guest in the context of someone like Ashbery, for example, it seems to me that there's an exploration here of other kinds of poetic value [...] it seems to me like an explorat[ion], fairly gentle and generous, but ultimately [...] declining to follow in Stein's footsteps." Filreis also notes "a very moving pitch," as the poem moves from the second stanza to the third, due to both mental and physical distress, and the mystery of what "one does outside / the cube" (a reference to Cubism), all of which "take place in air."

In the program's final third, the panelists read Guest's "Roses" through the frame of William Carlos Williams' 1923 poem, "The Rose is Obsolete" (from Spring and All), which features, in Filreis' words, "the metal rose, the sharp-edged rose, the lovely unlovely rose," and which also addresses Gris' painting. Taransky points out Guest's Objectivist leanings: "the air in here, it is the insistence to notice the particular atmosphere you are in and look at that rose [...] that's her showing us how poetry can point to particular things." Couch chimes in, noting that "the Guest poem is full of ideas about the thing and not the thing itself" — while Williams attempts to be a Cubist poem, "concentrating meaning at and of edges." Her tone is not "a reinforcement of Williams, but rather, perhaps a sort of dialogue or perhaps friendly dispute." Gerber sees a nostalgia in the final stanza, "a way of both embracing with a certain wistfulness but ultimately rejecting these techniques and strategies," and picking up this idea, Filreis sees a nod back to Stein's childhood experience "this poem seems to be reminiscence, maybe even nostalgic, that there could be such a moment when one looks at a painting and one's course changes."

In concluding, Couch praises the poem for being one "that's so much about openness and possibility, and the instability of objects," and likens it to the elusive logic found in the work of John Ashbery. Gerber sees it as "a meditation on poetics [...] a poem about a painting about a poem owned by a poet, looking at the rose, the most symbolic symbol/object of all time," which asks, "what is poetics to do with roses?" Taransky is reminded of a favorite Guest poem of hers, "Invisible Architecture," and sees "Roses" as "a perfect example of the poet performing the surface of the poem and being happy while doing it." Finally, Filreis, sees the poem's origins in anti-modern rhetoric, however he finds it "much more generous toward the alternative possibilities."

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-three 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 address Alice Notley's classic, "I The People," with a panel featuring Filreis, along with Erica Kaufman, Joe Milutis, and Zack Pieper. Stay tuned also for future programs in the series which will address poems by Vachel Lindsay, Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, Kit Robinson and William Carlos Williams. Thanks, as always, for listening!