2007 MLA Off-Site Reading, Now Fully Segmented

Posted 2/1/2010 (link)

Our week is off to a quick start with a newly-segmented version of the 2007 MLA Off-Site Reading. Recorded by Aldon Nielsen at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (where it was organized by Robert Archambeau and Patrick Durgin), the complete reading clocked in at just over two hours, and featured fifty poets — now each performance is available for streaming or download as individual tracks.

Highlights from the marathon set include Kristen Prevallet's "The Day Lady Died: for Benazir Bhutto," Bob Perelman's "Current Poetics," Patrick Durgin's "Relay Excerpts," Tisa Bryant's "California Negroes," Jennifer Scappettone's "Concerning Lasts Made in Illinois" and Pierre Joris' "Lines Written from Returning to these Shores After a Long Absence." Other poets who took part in the evening's event include Dodie Bellamy, Michael Davidson, C.S. Giscombe, Laura Moriarty, Aldon Nielsen, Barrett Watten and Tyrone Williams.

To listen to the aforementioned readers, click on the title above to visit PennSound's Event Page for the 2007 MLA Off-Site Reading, and don't forget to check out our main MLA Off-Site homepage, where you can listen to recordings for eight of the twenty marathon readings that have taken place since 1989, including the very first event (featuring a modest quartet of poets: Nielsen, Perelman, and Marjorie Perloff). Additionally, you'll find recordings from 1996, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and this past December's on-site and offsite events (the latter taking place at the Rotunda in West Philly, with a grand total of 54 poets). As always, we're grateful to Aldon Nielsen for documenting these important events, and to the long, long roster of poets who've taken part in the readings for their enthusiastic contributions.

PoemTalk 28: Jack Spicer's "Psychoanalysis: An Elegy"

Posted 2/3/2010 (link)

Today, we're very happy to announce that the twenty-eighth and latest episode of the PoemTalk Podcast Series — a discussion of Jack Spicer's early poem, "Psychoanalysis: An Elegy" — is has been made available. Joining host Al Filreis for this program is a Philadelphia-centric panel of repeat-panelists: Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Julia Bloch and CAConrad.

The discussion begins with Filreis considering the poem's construction, which prompts DuPlessis to take notice of the dialogue taking place here: "it's so clearly doctor who is addressed like that, but it's also, in a funny kind of way, the self," an effect that's amplified in the live reading. She also points out the abruptness of the presence of "she" here, in a poem that's largely about California landscape, and Bloch concurs, parsing the relationship between the two: "when California is compared to the she, it's just the map, it's just the dress, it's not actually the body and it's also kind of an impossible California."

Filreis then works through the psychoanalytic tropes present here — the minimally-present voice of interrogation that gives way to Spicer's lengthy answers — before asking Conrad, "what could we say that Jack wanted out of this?" He begins by talking about his experience analyzing Spicer's tarot deck (while visiting Spicer biographer and editor Kevin Killian), observing, "'she' is the empress card, because she, the empress card, is where you go when you want the fruits of you labor realized, and she is where you go when you want your feelings to be taken seriously and she, being the empress card, is where you go when you want to freely give and receive love, and especially for the time period that Jack Spicer was alive, for being a homosexual, California was essential [...] in a pagan sense, she is the earth-mother." DuPlessis notes that "because 'she' is such an abrupt entrant [...] the figure wants to be able to admire and desire this figure [...] but cannot do it," and interprets the lines "Until the mad cartographer / Falls to the ground to possess / The sweet thick earth from which he has been hiding" as a reorientation from the female to the homosexual.

Bloch feels that the iconography of maps is central here as well, noting the way in which it shifts from representing her dress to "she" herself to the speaker's investigation of "a map he's never seen," leading her to wonder why California is so difficult for Spicer to reach, and whether the poem's chronological setting (in 1949) might be important. Conrad responds by sharing from Peter Gizzi's afterword to The House That Jack Built, which cites psychology's inability to sympathetically address homosexuality, likening it to McCarthy-era Communist witch hunts. Filreis then mentions that 1949 is also the year of loyalty oaths within the University of California system — Bloch points out Spicer famously refused to sign his, putting himself at great risk — which no doubt sent many professionals running to their psychoanalysts, saying, "I'm not who I really am, but I really am who I am, but I can't admit it because if I admit it, I'll lose my job . . . and that's just the political context, not even the sexual context." While the poem's title suggests that it serves as a farewell to psychoanalysis, he concedes that "it seems possible to argue that in the context of this poem, the therapy's starting to work — that is to say, he's talking his way to the meat of the problem."

In light of this discussion, Conrad offers that the the prevailing map imagery represents "the mapping of the mind": "basically, Spicer's saying, 'this is ridiculous, I don't need this I have California, and here you are, you're just discovering this delicious flesh around this mind and you're all very excited about it as you should be finally.'" DuPlessis agrees, noting a general aesthetic trend within Spicer's work, namely that, "words and ideas and items in the poem — literally things named — slide across one another, making new combinations as they slide, and this is very visible here because what happens is that California is both female and male at a certain point." "What has happened," she continues, "is that California equals sexuality of some kind: image of sexual intercourse, good sex, promiscuous combinations where things, each item in the poem, slides across itself to be redefined by its link-ups," making "California a site of male desire [and] California a site of the female mapping with the map of the highway."

Filreis then returns to the figure of the mad cartographer, upon whose acceptance of this "sexualized, geo-cultural allegory," the whole poem seems contingent. Conrad is quick to point out the ways in which defiance was a guiding principle throughout Spicer's life, and sees a spirit of defiance running through the poem. The panelists differ in their assessment of how this is carried out, however. Bloch sees the speaker as defying the aims of therapy, while DuPlessis, focusing on the last line, sees the ultimate merging of the voices of doctor and patient. "This is a poem of incipience," she notes. "[T]he poem can go on forever . . . that's a great, tremendous joy, actually, and at that point, analysis is interminable [...] so if you have the incipience into poetry, because it is an early poem, and then you have what I do read as the incipience into his choice of sexuality, or his given sexuality." Therefore, "elegy" in the title represents "not just burying normativity, normative psychoanalysis and so on, but as singing loss into gain or into transformation, which is, of course, one of the classic genre modes of elegy, from death to transformation."

Filreis goes even further, finding evidence that the psychoanalysis is working in the evolving discourse between voices in the poem, yielding greater insights into the speaker: "the poem works because the psychoanalytic assumption is that if you just keep talking about it, the symbolic substitution is going to come out, we're going to get what you're really thinking about. Now in the end, he may be saying, 'look, I need to come out' or 'I need to figure out who I really am, and this mad cartographer has got the mapping, perhaps the female mapping, all wrong,' but in the end, the geo-cultural allegory is produced by the framing of psychoanalysis." Conrad disagrees, seeing the mad cartographer as "the fool, waiting, like when are you going to discover this?" and the speaker turning his focus instead to something bigger and better: the poem itself. DuPlessis considers the weight of that complete stanza, finding the question, "how long will I wait to come out to myself?" in the lines, "how many times this poem / Will be repeated. How many summers / Will torture California," and Filreis brings the conversation to a close by framing "Psychoanalysis: An Elegy" against "a long tradition of male seduction poems" (by Donne and Williams, to name a few) in which the landscape is female, and therefore finding, for Spicer, a farewell to the inheritance of that tradition, along with many other farewells.

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-seven 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 including Filreis, Rae Armantrout, Thomas Devaney and Linh Dinh discussing a poem by Kit Robinson. Stay tuned also for future programs in the series which will address poems by William Carlos Williams, Robert Grenier, Susan Howe, Fanny Howe and Sharon Mesmer. Thanks, as always, for listening!

Jacket Magazine: An Announcement from John Tranter and Al Filreis

Posted 2/4/2010 (link)

Dear friends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— John Tranter & Al Filreis

Susan Howe and David Grubbs, "Thiefth" (2005)

Posted 2/8/2010 (link)

While we all remain very excited about last week's big news (and thank everyone who's sent encouraging e-mails, tweets and wall notes), we've still got a lot of great work to do here at PennSound, and a lot of wonderful things to look forward to in the near future — one of the most eagerly anticipated being Susan Howe's upcoming visit (on March 22nd and 23rd) as the second of this year's Kelly Writers House Fellows.

In preparation for this monumental event, we've been adding new recordings to her PennSound author page, including her 1986 visit to Rachel Blau DuPlessis' Temple University classroom (which we highlighted last month), and today's new addition, Thiefth, Howe's collaboration with composer and critic David Grubbs. Originally released on the indie label Blue Chopsticks in 2005, Thiefth was the first album issued by Howe and Grubbs (they would work together on the 2007 album, Souls of the Labadie Tract). The collaboration was proposed by the Fondation Cartier in 2003, and late in the year, the two began work on staging performance versions of two long-form Howe poems: "Thorow" and "Melville's Marginalia."

"Drawing from the journals of Sir William Johnson and Henry David Thoreau," we're told in the production notes, "'Thorow' both evokes the winter landscape that surrounds Lake George in upstate New York, and explores collisions and collusions of historical violence and national identity," creating "an act of second seeing in which Howe and Grubbs engage the lake's glittering, ice surface as well as the insistent voices that haunt an unseen world underneath. Presented in four parts, the piece features woodwinds from Mats Gustafsson and cello by Nikos Veliotis, which, along with Howe's voice, are woven together by Grubbs into a soundscape of sinister, reedy drones, celestial noise and dense, skittery montages of processed speech.

Thiefth's coda is "Melville's Marginalia," described in the notes as "an approach to an elusive and allusive mind through Herman Melville's own reading and the notations he made in some of the books he owned and loved. Undergirded by Grubbs' piano and laptop manipulations the soundtrack toys with listeners' emotions, shifting between striving strings and skewed piano figures set in motion by the percussive sounds of dripping water, while Howe's recitation creates a similarly multi-faceted dialogue between her perspective and Melville's. "The collaging and mirror-imaging of words and sounds," Grubbs writes, "are concretions of verbal static, visual mediations on what can and cannot be said."

We've put together a special page to house Howe and Grubbs' collaborations, where Thiefth is presented in lavish fashion, complete with photographs, liner notes and more. We're grateful to David Grubbs for passing along these supplementary materials, and to Blue Chopsticks (and its parent label, Drag City) for generously agreeing to make this album available through PennSound. We hope to make more work by Howe and Grubbs available in the near future, and if you're craving more of Howe's work after listening to Thiefth, don't forget to check out her main PennSound author page. You can find more information about her March visit, including how to attend her reading and conversation in person, or tune in via our live webcast

The Bon Mot/ley Reading Series: Two New Readings Added

Posted 2/10/2010 (link)

We've just added two new recordings from the Bon Mot/ley Reading Series — one of Cincinnati's premier venues for contemporary poetry, both local and national. Organized by poets Kristi Maxwell and Michael Rerick and housed at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, the series is now in its second season, and on PennSound's Bon Mot/ley Reading Series homepage, you'll find recordings of five events since last summer, including our two most recent additions.

First up is January's reading, which features local poets Noah Falck and Joshua Butts, along with Denver's Jen Tynes, who read work from her several current manuscripts-in-progress. We've also added a wonderful reading from last November with local poets Matt McBride and Andrew Grace (who filled in at the last minute for Mathias Svalina) and Richmond, Virginia native Allison Titus (who read from her debut collection, Sum of Every Lost Ship).

Previous readings in the series also available on PennSound include a September event including recent Segue Series coordinator, Laura Sims, Shelly Taylor and Ruth Williams; a stellar August trio of Eric Baus, Dana Ward and Gina Myers; and the season's first reading, which featured Bruce Covey, Ashley Van Doorn and PennSound managing editor Michael S. Hennessey.

As part of our commitment to documenting the broad variety of local poetry scenes taking place across America, we're glad to be able to present series like Bon Mot/ley, and look forward to future events from them.

Catching Up with the Segue Series: Four New Readings

Posted 2/12/2010 (link)

A New York City mainstay for thirty-three years, the Segue Series continues to thrive with weekly readings at the Bowery Poetry Club showcasing some of the newest and best voices in contemporary poetry. Over the past few weeks, we've added four new recordings from December and January to our Segue Series at the Bowery Poetry Club home page, which represent much of Thom Donovan and Sara Wintz's curatorial tenure.

Picking up after Corina Copp and Ariana Reines' December 5th reading, we have the December 12th pairing of Alan Bernheimer and PennSound contributing editor, Danny Snelson, which was followed by 2009's final reading in the series, featuring Fiona Templeton and M. Mara Ann.

Judith Goldman and artist Adam Pendleton got the new year off to a rousing start with their January 9th reading, and our final new addition, dating from January 16th features the formidable duo of Mónica de la Torre and Fred Moten.

Keep an eye on the site for readings from January 23rd (Bruce Boone and Rob Halpern), January 30th (David Larsen and Samantha Giles) and February 6th (Diana Hamilton and Divya Victor), which will be added in the near future, and if you're in New York and looking for a wonderful way to spend your afternoon tomorrow, head down to the BPC for Segue readings by Anselm Berrigan and Rodney Koeneke.

Matvei Yankelevich: New Author Page

Posted 2/15/2010 (link)

This week gets off to a rousing start with a new author page for poet, translator and Ugly Duckling Presse founding editor, Matvei Yankelevich, showcasing readings and discussions spanning the past six years.

Our most Yankelevich recording comes from episode #201 of Cross-Cultural Poetics, "By the Sea," on which he reads from his latest collection, Boris by the Sea. The poet also appeared on episode #158, "The Present Work," dating from 2008, which features Yankelevich reading from his collection, The Present Work, as well as Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms, which he translated and edited.

Courtesy of A Voice Box, we have Yankelevich's October 2009 reading in Oakland as part of the Artifact Reading Series, while recordings from LA-Lit (an April 2006 reading) and Poetic Brooklyn's "Radio Poetique" (two poems recorded in February 2004) round out Yankelevich's PennSound author page. The author has also provided links to two YouTube videos of recent readings: a 2008 set as part of The Stain of Poetry, and a reading last month from the In Your Ear series. To listen to any and all of the aforementioned recordings, click on the title above.

Dana Ward: New Author Page

Posted 2/17/2010 (link)

Our week continues with another new author page, this time for Cincinnati-based poet and Cy Press editor, Dana Ward — a true galvanizing force in that city's poetry scene.

In his introduction to Ward's reading with Kit Robinson at Xavier University last fall, Tyrone Williams identified Ward as "one of a new generation of post-Language writing poets whose work can be said to constitute, in toto, an exhumation of traditional narrative lyricism, a post-autopsy report that investigates, first and foremost, the autopsy itself." Williams goes on to describe Ward's poetics as such: "his writing draws on pop culture, hip-hop culture — not just rap music — and traditional literary sources to interrogate the place and status of his body, his desires, in relation to his social constructions."

The Xavier reading, featuring the poems "After Post-Death Organizing Poem" and "Crying," is one of three you'll find on Ward's PennSound author page. There's also Ward's set at San Francisco's Canessa Gallery (courtesy of Andrew Kenower's A Voice Box), which follows a similar pattern, pairing "Crying" with the long-form poem, "Typing Wild Speech." Finally we have a set from last August as part of the Bon Mot/ley Reading Series, which includes "Poem for the Sirens," "Heaven," "Michael Jackson" and "Dogs of Love."

Ward has often said that he'd "rather have a PennSound author page than a perfect-bound book," and so we're very glad to bring that wish to fruition (however those who traffic in perfect-bound books should still consider themselves free to publish his work). Click on the title above to start exploring the work of Dana Ward, and stay tuned for a number of recordings we hope to add in the near future.

Noah Eli Gordon: New Author Page

Posted 2/19/2010 (link)

Our week of new author pages comes to a close with one for Denver-based poet Noah Eli Gordon, featuring a wide array of recordings covering a five-year span.

The most recent recordings are a trio of readings from 2008, when Gordon was promoting a trio of books released the previous year: A Fiddle Pulled from the Throat of a Sparrow, Figures for a Darkroom Voice (a collaboration with Joshua Marie Wilkinson) and Novel Pictorial Noise (chosen by John Ashbery as part of the National Poetry Series in 2006). Gordon's sets from Milwaukee's Woodland Pattern and Denver's Tattered Cover have been segmented, and it's also worth noting that his Segue Series set from the Bowery Poetry Club, while un-segmented, does feature a cameo appearance from Wilkinson.

Moving backwards, we have another trio of recordings, this time from 2006, including segmented sets from Denver's Dikeou Gallery and Boulder's Left Hand Reading Series, along with a November 16th appearance with Kate Greenstreet and Jason Zuzga at the Kelly Writers House as part of the Emergency Reading Series' debut year. Earlier recordings include a 2005 set at the St. Mark's Poetry Project, a 2004 appearance in Chicago with Eric Baus as part of the Discrete Series, and a home recording from 2003 of Gordon reading from his book The Frequencies, and the page is rounded out by an undated recording of "Color System" and the 2008 MLA Off-Site reading.

We're very glad to have brought Gordon into the PennSound fold with this diverse sampling of his work and are particularly grateful to Eric Baus, another fixture of the Denver poetry scene and a former PennSound fieldhand, who archived and processed many of these recordings. Baus' PennSound author page — which showcases a variety of recordings including his Discrete Series set from 2004, a 2005 reading at Broadside Books in Northampton, MA, a 2008 set at Colorado State University, a Bon Mot/ley Reading Series event from last summer and a 2007 reading at Gordon's Denver apartment — is also worthy of your attention.

New Heatstrings: Reading at Alan Golding's House, 2010

Posted 2/22/2010 (link)

It was a busy weekend in the world of contemporary poetry and poetics, with one contingent (including many PennSound / Kelly Writers House / UbuWeb folks) meeting in Banff, Alberta for the Interventions Conference, while other writers and scholars headed south to Kentucky for the Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900. If you weren't lucky enough to make to either, we hope to have you covered — Al Filreis mentioned on his blog that we anticipate getting a sampling of recordings from Banff, and today, we're happy to share a wonderful recording that comes to us courtesy of A.L. Nielsen and his Heatstrings archives.

"For several years, Alan Golding has been hosting a party at his house at the end of the annual conference at the University of Louisville," Nielsen tells us, adding "[i]n recent years, he has added a poetry reading to the festivities." This year's event took place Saturday night, and Nielsen sent us his recording yesterday evening, with a special page for the reading going up this afternoon. Clocking in at just under an hour, the recording features micro-sets from eleven poets — cris cheek, Ewa Chrusciel, Pat Clifford, Joseph Donahue, Alan Golding (who read the work of his friend, Burt Hatlen), Norman Finklestein, Bill Howe, A.L. Nielsen, Mark Scroggins, Michael Davidson and Lisa Shapiro — and while the work is wonderful in its own right, we think you'll enjoy the raucous and intimate banter between the writers just as much.

As always, we're grateful to Aldon for generously sharing this recording with us, and encourage listeners to check out both PennSound's Heatstrings archive homepage (housing recordings Nielsen's made over the past twenty years) and Nielsen's author page, where you can hear more of his own work. To listen to this event, click here or on the title above.

Newly Segmented Writers Without Borders Readings by Christian Bok, Zhimin Li

Posted 2/24/2010 (link)

Among many remarkable ongoing series at the Kelly Writers House, Writers Without Borders is, without a doubt, one of the most ambitious, bringing together a diverse group of voices for endlessly engaging readings and conversations. Today, we're proud to present a pair of newly-segmented recordings from two of last year's most exciting events: Zhimin Li's set from last winter (which we discussed on PennSound Daily in February), and Christian Bök's appearance last November for the launch of his Umlaut Machine: Selected Visual Works (which which we launched late last December).

Li's set begins — after introductions by Jessica Lowenthal and Charles Bernstein — with a trio of short poems: "Light in Love of Life" (dedicated to Emma Bee Bernstein), "Contrast" and "A Soul." He continues with the long-form poem "Non-Presence" (presented here in fourteen individual files corresponding to its fourteen parts) and ends the reading segment with "She." After a brief intermission, Li returns to the podium to deliver the talk, "New Chinese Poetry: the Origin and the Development from the Perspective of Cultural Exchanges Between China and the West." You can download or stream any and all of these tracks (twenty-one in total) on PennSound's Zhimin Li author page.

Bök's reading kicks off with a few Hugo Ball poems, followed by two excerpts from Eunoia and a series of variations on Arthur Rimbaud's "Voyelles." A selection of work from throughout his career follows, including pieces from The Xenotext Project and Busted Sirens, along with an aria from R. Murray Schafer's opera Princess of the Stars and Kurt Schwitters' Ursonate. Bök closes with two pieces from The Cyborg Opera and Hugo Ball's "Totenklage," before launching into a lengthy Q&A session with Kaegan Sparks, Astrid Lorange, Danny Snelson and Henry Steinberg. You can hear this performance, along with many others on PennSound's Christian Bö:k author page.

You'll also find both of these readings on our Writers Without Borders series page, which is also home to sets by Cecelia Vicuña, Breyten Breytenbach, Wystan Curnow, Régis Bonvincino, Dmitry Golynko and more. Stay tuned for the February 18th event featuring Tomomi Adachi and Tianna Kennedy, which we'll be adding in the near future, as well as an April 20th event showcasing poets Jorgen Gassilewski and Anna Hallberg. For more information on the series, be sure to visit the Writers Without Borders homepage.

Sarah Dowling: New Author Page

Posted 2/26/2010 (link)

After last week's cavalcade of new author pages, we've got one more for you, this time showcasing the work of Kelly Writers House Hub member, Emergency Reading Series co-coordinator and Security Posture author, Sarah Dowling.

Our earliest recording comes from the Emergency series' inaugural event in 2006, and includes Dowling reading the poems "Keepness," "A Winter Proposition/Interview" and "Amateur Cartography," along with a twenty-minute conversation with that evening's other reader, Jena Osman. From 2007, we have Dowling's appearance as part of the March 24th event at Robin's Bookstore celebrating the launch of EOAGH Issue 3: Queering Language, during which she reads the poems "Coordinates" and "This I Will Never Be Able to Narrate."

The new author page is rounded out by a trio of events at the Kelly Writers House. First, the November 2008 event, "William Carlos Williams and Women: the Legacy of William Carlos Williams at 125," which also featured Osman, Pattie McCarthy and Michelle Taransky. From last year's "Six Poets Teach One Short Poem to High School Students" event, we have audio and video of Dowling teaching Lorine Niedecker's "[I married...]," and finally, we have Dowling's introductions for Rosmarie Waldrop and Keith Waldrop from this past November. We expect to add at least one new recording in the near future, and given what an important part of Philadelphia's poetry scene Dowling is, we should have plenty to add to this page in the coming months and years. Click on the title above to start exploring Dowling's PennSound author page.