In Memoriam: Andrei Voznesensky and Peter Orlovsky

Posted 6/1/2010 (link)

Throughout the world of poetry, and the arts in general, it's been a difficult Memorial Day weekend, with the passing of Leslie Scalapino (which we first reported on Saturday) followed by the deaths of artist Louise Bourgeois and poets Andrei Voznesensky and Peter Orlovsky.

Voznesensky came to prominence during the 1960s "Thaw," captivating audiences worldwide and interacting with the cultural elite, including Robert Kennedy, Arthur Miller and Allen Ginsberg, who gave both a name and forward to Red Cats, a germinal City Lights publication (#16 in the Pocket Poets series) of translations by Anselm Hollo, which also featured work by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Semyon Kirsanov. While PennSound is home to a small but growing number of recordings of 20th century Russian poetry, sadly we have no readings by Voznesensky himself, but as part of the celebration of Poems for the Millennium at the Kelly Writers House in 1998, we have a recording of Jerry Rothenberg reading the poet's "Back into the Future."

Orlovsky also has ties to City Lights (who published his sole collection of idiosyncratic verse, Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs, as #37 in the Pocket Poets series in 1978), and most obviously to Ginsberg, his long-term companion from the mid-1950s — he's portrayed in the early love poem, "Malest Cornifici Tuo Catullo" (1955) as "a new young cat, / and my imagination of an eternal boy / walks on the streets of San Francisco / handsome, and meets me in cafeterias / and loves me." — until his death in 1997. While we don't have any recordings of Orlovsky reading his own poetry, he appears regularly throughout recordings on our Allen Ginsberg author page, most prominently on the 1969 performance of poems from William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, where he contributes vocals to many of the tracks.

These losses and the holiday remind us of Ted Berrigan and Anne Waldman's classic (and all-too-fitting) elegy, "Memorial Day," which observes, "[t]he heart stops briefly when someone dies, one / massive slow stroke as someone passes / from your outside life to your inside / & then / everything continues / sanely" (lines Berrigan reconfigured for another rumination on mortality, "Things to Do in Providence"). However, we more immediately connect with poet Joseph Massey's invocation of Frank O'Hara's "Ode to Joy" — specifically its plaintive refrain, "[n]o more dying" — and send our deepest condolences to the families, friends and fans of all of these departed artists.

C.S. Giscombe: Two New Recordings

Posted 6/4/2010 (link)

We're ending the week on a positive upswing with a pair of wonderful new readings from C.S. Giscombe, recorded over the past eight months.

Our first recording comes to us courtesy of A.L. Nielsen's Heatstrings archive: a May 28, 2010 reading at the African American Literature and Culture Society in San Francisco, where Nielsen (the society's president) presented the Stephen Henderson Award to his old friend. The event begins with opening comments by James Peterson (AALCS' vice-president), followed by Nielsen, who introduces the evening's honoree. After discussing the aesthetic debts he owes to Stephen Henderson, Giscombe reads a few poems from Here's "Look Ahead — Look South" series, including "1962," "Very Recent Past," "Three Ideas About the Future" and "1962 At the Edge of Town," as well as newer poems from Prairie Style: "Downstate," "Vernacular Examples" and "I-70 Between Dayton and East Saint Louis, Westbound Lanes," among others.

The second reading was recorded at the University of Cincinnati's Elliston Poetry Room on November 20, 2009, and like the previous event, features a lengthy introduction from an old friend — this time, poet Don Bogen. Giscombe's set serves as a retrospective sampling from throughout his writing career, starting with several selections from Practical Geography (an early manuscript that's only been published in small fragments), before moving on to poems from Here and Giscombe Road, both of which are preceded by comments on those collections. The set comes to a close with a generous selections from his latest book, Prairie Style, including "Cry Me a River," "Palaver," "A Train at Night," "Prairie Style," "Nature Boy," "Light, Bright, Etc." and "A Cornet at Night."

You'll find both of these recordings, along with a wide array of readings and interviews from 1993 to the present on PennSound's C.S. Giscombe author page. To start listening, click on the title above.

Patrick Durgin: Series A Reading, 2010

Posted 6/7/2010 (link)

Our latest addition to the PennSound archives comes from poet, scholar and publisher, Patrick Durgin — specifically, his marvelous Series A reading in Chicago, recorded last Thursday evening.

Durgin's set begins with "Untitled (Fiat Currency)" and "The Hand That Slants," the latter having been published late last month on the Poets for Living Waters website (it also appeared in the chapbook, [Imitation Poems]). The reading's centerpiece is an excerpt from Durgin's ongoing poets theatre piece, PQRS: A Drama — Act Two: Scene One, which consists entirely of international site-specific stage directions — which nicely complements last December's MLA On-Site event, "Coming in from the Cold": Celebrating Twenty Years of the MLA Off-Site Poetry Reading, where he read Act One: Scene One of the same piece. The reading concludes with a selection from the poet's ongoing "Craft Ballads" project, and "Lines Toward a Well-Crafted Ballad."

You can listen to these tracks on PennSound's Patrick Durgin author page, along with last spring's Segue Series reading from the Bowery Poetry Club, 2008 readings at Myopic Books and Woodland Pattern, a radio appearance from the same year where he discusses his own work and Hannah Weiner's Open House, and several contributions to the yearly MLA Off-Site readings. You'll also want to check out Durgin's EPC homepage, where you can read selected poems and critical works, peruse interviews and find links to some of his many ambitious projects, including Kenning Editions, his editorial preservation of several of Hannah Weiner's manuscripts and his musical output as Da Crouton.

Raymond Federman: "Take It Or Leave It"

Posted 6/9/2010 (link)

Today, we're very happy to present a pair of recently-added recordings by the late and much-beloved novelist and scholar, Raymond Federman: a 1998 reading from the author's classic novel, Take It Or Leave It (1976, reissued 1997), augmented by electronic sound design by Erik Belgum, and a second, undated excerpt from the same book.

Earlier this year, we added the 1998 set of recordings, which consists of three chapters — "The Masturbatory Gesture," "Frogliness" and "Charlie Parker, or how to get it out of your system" — each preceded by their own "Pretexts," with a reading of the book's title page prefacing the entire recording. As the liner notes observe, "[t]his audio production [...] with its sonic landscape created entirely from electronically modified bits and pieces of Federman's voice, further exaggerates the self-canceling aspect of Frenchy's narrative as Federman's voice is heard obliterating itself as quickly as he can relate the story." Indeed, Belgum's turntablist scratches and pitch manipulations, blips, beeps and delay oscillations provide a rhythmic undercurrent to Federman's spirited delivery, as well as a censoring impulse, struggling to wrest attention from listeners.

Last month, we added a second recording from Take It Or Leave It, the date and location of which are unknown. After beginning with an explanation of the book's concept, Federman launches into a twenty-minute excerpt from chapter XIV, "Laughter & Literature." You can listen to both of these recordings, along with the author's 1995 appearance on Charles Bernstein's LINEbreak program and the standalone track, "The Excavation of Grave Diggers" on PennSound's Raymond Federman author page.

Charles Bernstein and Norman Fischer: Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture, 2010

Posted 6/11/2010 (link)

We're bringing this week to a close with a conversation between Charles Bernstein and Norman Fischer, recorded May 11, 2010 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. Entitled "Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture," after the recent anthology of the same name, edited by Stephen Paul Miller and Daniel Morris, the evening's discussion uses that book as a starting point, seeking to explore — in the words of co-host, Samantha Giles (executive director of Small Press Traffic, the evening's co-sponsor) — "how being Jewish, secular or not, is reflected in the aesthetics and practice of poetry," as well as "how the practice of avant-garde poetry informs Jewish identity and vice-versa." After introductory comments by the two poets, which trace the evolution of the project and delineate some of the contextual issues and controversies surrounding discourse on this topic, they read a selection of their own work, leading into a broader conversation. This event is presented in two versions: a fifty-five minute podcast version produced by the JCCSF, and the raw audio from that evening's performance, which runs approximately twenty-five minutes longer.

The entire Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture project began as a 2004 Symposium, "Secular Jewish Culture / Radical Poetics Practice, organized by Bernstein in New York City at the Center for Jewish History / American Jewish Historical Society, which you can also hear on PennSound, and has spawned a number additional events in the intervening years, including a special session (featuring Bernstein, Miller, Norman Finkelstein and Hank Lazer) at this past year's MLA. Bernstein and Fischer continued their conversation on the opposite coast this past Monday with an event at the Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn (from which the photo above, by Sara Shostak, was taken), and the following day, Bernstein, along with Kenny Goldsmith and Jamie Saft, took part in "Jewish Art for the New Millennium: Avant-Garde Poetry and Music" at the Sixth Street Community Synogogue. Presumably, recordings from both of these events will be forthcoming shortly, but for now, you can enjoy this fascinating conversation by clicking on the title above.

Leslie Scalapino: Two New Videos

Posted 6/14/2010 (link)

As the poetry community continues to reel from the loss of Leslie Scalapino two weeks ago, we're very happy to be able to share two new videos of the poet with our listeners.

Recorded February 14, 2010 by Konrad Steiner at Scalapino's home in Oakland, these two videos showcase recent work: one is a thirty-minute reading from Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows (Starcherone 2010), while the other clip, almost the same length, is taken from its companion text, The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom (Post-Apollo Press, 2010). You can watch both of these clips by clicking on the title above, which will redirect you to a post on Charles Bernstein's blog.

We remind our listeners that Scalapino's play Flow-Winged Crocodile will be performed in New York at Poets House on June 19th at 7pm and June 20th at 2pm by the performance group The Relationship, directed by Fiona Templeton and with Katie Brown, Stephanie Silver, and Julie Troost. Dance by Molissa Fenley, music by Joan Jeanrenaud, and projected drawings by Eve Biddle. This production is co-sponsored by Belladonna* and the St. Mark's Poetry Project, which will host a memorial event for Scalapino on Monday, June 21st.

In lieu of flowers, Scalapino's family requests that Leslie's friends consider a charitable donation in her memory to: Poets in Need, PO Box 5411, Berkeley, CA 94705; Reed College for the Leslie Scalapino Scholarship, 3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, Portland, OR 97202-8199; The AYCO Charitable Foundation, PO Box 15203, Albany, NY 12212-5203 for the Leslie Scalapino-O Books Fund to support innovative works of poetry, prose and art; or to a charitable organization of their choice. Condolence cards may be sent to Tom & Leslie's home address, 5744 Presley Way, Oakland, California 94618-1633.

And please don't forget that you can connect with Scalapino's work through PennSound's Leslie Scalapino author page.

Marcella Durand Announced as 2010-2011 CPCW Fellow in Poetics and Poetic Practice

Posted 6/16/2010 (link)

Yesterday, Al Filreis — director of UPenn's Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing and PennSound's co-director — announced that Marcella Durand would be the 2010-2011 CPCW Fellow in Poetics and Poetic Practice.

Marcella Durand's recent books include Deep Eco Pré, a collaboration with Tina Darragh published by Little Red Leaves in 2009; Area, published by Belladonna Books in 2008 as part of the Council of Literary Magazines and Small Presses' FACE OUT program, and Traffic & Weather, a site-specific book-length poem written during a residency at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in downtown Manhattan (Futurepoem Books, 2008). She has collaborated with artists on various projects, including most recently a collaboration with New Orleans artist Karoline Schleh titled, "Stare: What Wild New World Is This?" (exhibited at Barrister's Gallery, Fall 2010). She has talked about the potential intersections of poetry and ecology at Kelly Writers House, Poets House, Small Press Traffic, Naropa University, and other venues. Her essays and poetry have appeared in The Nation, Ecopoetics, NYFA Current, Conjunctions, The Poker, HOW(2), Critiphoria, The Denver Quarterly and other journals. She was a 2009 fellow in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

In the Spring of 2011 Durand will be teaching a course titled "Poetry & Poetics: The Ecology of Poetry," which she describes below:

In this course, we will delve into the emerging discipline of ecopoetics. While it has a catchy title, what ecopoetics actually is remains elusive. We will experiment with writing in forms associated with nature poetry such as the pastoral, while inventing new ones based on our own observations of the "world about." Reading includes selections from Black Nature Poetry and The Ecolanguage Reader, as well as a range of poetry that will expand and illuminate the potentials of ecopoetics.

Durand joins the ranks of past CPCW Fellows, including Rachel Levitsky, Tracie Morris, Linh Dinh, Erica Hunt and Kenny Goldsmith. You can read more about the program by clicking on the title above, and click here to listen to a wide array of recordings on PennSound's Marcella Durand author page.

PoemTalk 33: Sharon Mesmer's "I Accidentally Ate Some Chicken . . ."

Posted 6/21/2010 (link)

Today, we release the thirty-third episode of the PoemTalk Podcast Series: a discussion of Sharon Mesmer's "I Accidentally Ate Some Chicken and Now I'm in Love with Harry Whittington" Joining host Al Filreis for this program are Nada Gordon, Kenneth Goldsmith and Steve McLaughlin, the curator of the Flarf event at the Kelly Writers House from which this recording is taken.

Filreis begins by asking Gordon to discuss the poem's Flarfist qualities (which include its pop culture references and its speechy elements), as well as its anti-Flarf traits, namely the concluding rhymed couplet — this is Gordon's favorite part of the poem, while for Goldsmith it's a letdown for reaching towards poetic reflex. The other panelists disagree, with McLaughlin stressing the continuities between this poem and Mesmer's pre-Flarf work and Filreis praising the cleverly controlled assonance throughout. This leads into a broader discussion of Flarf's relation to poetry as a whole with Gordon avowing that the movement "is not anti-poetic, I think it's super-poetic, that is, just expanding the net of what a poem can be."

Further analysis of the poem brings the panelists to consider the straightforwardness of its content: in Filreis' words, a poetic liberal rant that equates "how everything tastes like chicken" with one's feelings about the political futility embodied in the Dick Cheney/Harry Whittington shooting episode. While McLaughlin and Gordon feel that this stance oversimplifies the complexity of Nichols' political stance. McLaughlin cites other examples from the poet's work where she lampoons the anti-Bush protestors as much as Bush himself, and then mentions the source text that provides the poem's opening lines: a blogspot blog from a Harry Whittington imposter. After a brief digression on the nature of close listening within a Flarfist poetic tradition (i.e. a reverse Google search), Goldsmith takes notice of the poetic qualities inherent in everyday speech, concluding that "we don't really need to embellish it even more, to lineate it [...] we need to recontextualize it into the space of poetry in order for it to be art."

Their debate narrows to consider the usefulness of enjambment in particular — for Goldsmith, it's an artificial means of making work seem poetic, while Gordon sees value in its ability to add emphasis and create rhythm — as well as the poem's conceptual bent before moving on to question (using a well-known description of Flarf by Gary Sullivan) its corrosive qualities. For McLaughlin, a more important question is whether the poem "is a legitimate or worthwhile productive critique" or rather, "a kind of nihilistic revelry," and framing his response through a quote from the postscript to Mesmer's Annoying Diabetic Bitch, admits that he's leaning towards the latter option. Goldsmith loves the freshness of Flarf's poetic practice, the novelty of its techniques, its productive "bottom feeding" and "embrace of the low," leading to a boundary-free one-upsmanship. The strength of Flarfist concept, combined here with Mesmer's exquisite taste, leads to a work that's engaging on several levels. Gordon brings the conversation to a close by offering a third alternative: that this poem is ultimately about compassion. She frames this response through her knowledge of Mesmer's vegetarianism and "strong Buddhistic leanings," compared to her father's job as a butcher, and given this knowledge, Goldsmith find the poem "more convincing, because you can't suppress personality and ego in work." She reinforces this point by sharing several lines from Mesmer's poem, "Blue Collar Typeface," which, like "I Accidentally Ate Some Chicken . . ." embodies both a "smart-ass ingenuousness and full-on testicularity."

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 thirty-two episodes, please visit the PoemTalk blog, and don't forget that you can subscribe to the series through the iTunes music store. For our next program, Al Filreis is joined by Bob Perelman, Rachel Blau DuPlessis and his PennSound co-director, Charles Bernstein to discuss Charles Olson's "Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]. Stay tuned for future programs in the series which will address poems by Fanny Howe, Bruce Andrews, Jena Osman, Norman Fischer, Ethridge Knight and Joan Retallack. Thanks, as always, for listening!

Segue Series at the Bowery Poetry Club: Jean Day and Andrew Levy, 2010

Posted 6/23/2010 (link)

We'll be adding the remaining three events from the Segue Series' spring season at the Bowery Poetry Club this week, starting with a May 8, 2010 event featuring readers Jean Day and Andrew Levy.

Jean Day is introduced by Kristen Gallagher who praises her work for its "Whitmanian pulse [...] the music of it, the rhythm, noting that "it feels inclusive, it feels overflowing and there's a life-pulse constantly going through it." Day's set is drawn mostly from a new manuscript-in-progress, Late Human, which she describes as "a book that I think all of us are writing, and actually the reason it's called Late Human is because 'late capitalism' was already taken." Some titles included are "Diet of Worms," "Id of the Later Coleridge," "Sincerely" and "Long May She Wave." Her set concludes with a selection of eleven poems from series, "Works and Days, or Industry and Idleness," in her recently-completed manuscript, Daydream. We've just put together a new Jean Day author page, where you'll find this recording as well as two previous Segue Series readings and a 2001 recording from the Line Reading Series.

This Segue Series event was also a release party for Andrew Levy's latest collection, Cracking Up, and the majority of his set — after an opening excerpt from a recent work, Tree Ship — consisted of selections from the book, performed with the help of Elizabeth English. In his opening comments, Chris Alexander cited several "responsibilities" undertaken by Levy's work, including "a practice of mindfulness, a skill at being present," yielding "a disordered devotion towards the real that becomes a tension on paper." "Where we are is in a poem," he adds, "but we have the world. Also, what we have is the poem, in the world, so that there is a responsiblity to the poem itself as well, the minute shifts it tenders in speaker, in syntax, in word and emphasis, and the permissiveness of its line, which becomes a frame for whatever is thrown up without exclusion." You can hear a wide array of recordings by Levy on his PennSound author page, including previous Segue Series readings from 2003, 1992, 1988 and 1987.

In Memoriam: Peter Seaton (1942-2010)

Posted 6/24/2010 (link)

Among many other recent passings in the poetry world, we're sad to share the recently-discovered news that Peter Seaton died of a heart attack last month.

In a post on his blog yesterday, Nick Piombino offered his memories of Seaton, who he met as a CCNY undergrad in the early 1960s, observing, "Peter was a terrific marathon one-on-one conversationalist, a mordant, literary wit of the Holden Caulfield variety, an indefatigable reader who loved to endlessly talk and search for books and new ideas. This, combined with the fact that he was among the most private and secretive persons I have ever known, added immeasurably to the quality of mystery that surrounded both his presence and his absence."

Michael Gottlieb shared his thoughts on Seaton's passing in a post to the POETICS List that went out this afternoon, recalling his work as "powerful, unflinchingly, unerringly [and] nakedly vital." Discussing Seaton's sporadic presence in New York's poetry scene of the late-70s and early-80s — marked by a number of appearances at the Ear Inn — and his subsequent absence, Gottlieb notes, "it was as clear then as it had been clear from the beginning, in the very same way that it remained clear over the years as Peter came to mind, as his name came up in conversation from time to time, that Peter could have, maybe should have, been someone whose name was always on the tip of all of our tongues."

We're proud to be able to offer listeners looking to reconnect with Seaton's work a half-dozen vintage recordings from Segue Series events at the Ear Inn, taking place in December 1978, April and September 1971, July 1982, December 1984 and February 1987 — the first and last of which have been segmented into individual tracks — on our Peter Seaton author page. There, you'll also find a link to Seaton's Agreement (Asylum's Press, 1978) on Eclipse, where you can also read his books, The Son Master (Roof Books, 1982) and Crisis Intervention (Tuumba Press, 1983). Seaton was also a frequent contributor to L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, the complete run of which is also available on Eclipse.

All of us at PennSound share our condolences with Seaton's family and friends, as well as those with whom his work resonated, and invite those unfamiliar with his writing to take this opportunity to start exploring.

Susan M. Schultz: New Author Page

Posted 6/28/2010 (link)

Our newest PennSound author page is for Susan M. Schultz: Hawaii-based poet and editor of Tinfish Press.

Schultz is a frequent guest on Leonard Schwartz's Cross Cultural Poetics program, with four shows from 2004 to 2008 represented on her page. She first appeared on episode #31, talking about writers of the Pacific Rim and Basin, as well as her collection, And Then Something Happened (Salt Publishing, 2004), then came back for episode #149, in 2007, to discuss her recent critical book, A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (University of Alabama, 2005). Schultz appeared on the program twice in 2008 — first as one of "Four Editors" featured on program #178, discussing recent releases from Tinfish, before returning two shows later to discuss her most recent collection, Dementia Blog (Singing Horse Press, 2008). You can also listen to a brief recording of excerpts from Dementia Blog from last June, as well as "From the Memory Cards," taken from a reading at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2000. There's also a link to Schultz's page at the Electronic Poetry Center, where you'll find a broad selection of work, both creative and critical.

We're very happy to make this page available to our listeners, and hope you'll enjoy revisiting Schultz's work. Click on the title above to start exploring.

Rachel Zolf: Two New Videos, 2010

Posted 6/30/2010 (link)

While we're called PennSound for a reason, you might not have realized that our site is also home to a small but growing body of poetry video, and with server changes planned for this summer, we hope to dramatically increase our video content — for both PennSound and Jacket2 — in the coming months and years.

Our most recent video additions are two clips featuring Canadian poet and editor extraordinaire, Rachel Zolf, who reads from her latest collection, the fabulous Neighbour Procedure, in a pair of events recorded earlier this spring. First up is brief set at Toronto's Palmerston Library, organized by Diaspora Dialogues, which took place on April 30th. Two weeks earlier on April 16th, Zolf delivered the keynote address at the conference, "Turning on Rights: Politics, Performance and the Text," at SUNY-Albany. Taken together, these two videos showcase nearly an hour of the poet in performance.

On Zolf's PennSound author page, you'll find both of these new videos, as well as audio and video from her March 2009 appearance at the Kelly Writers House, and older readings from the Segue Series at the Bowery Poetry Club, Toronto's Friends Meeting House and Test Reading Series, Montreal's Atwater Library, Vancouver's Kootenay School of Writing and the Buffalo Small Press Reading Series, as well as a pair of appearances on Cross Cultural Poetics. We'll also be adding selections from her recent appearance at New York City's Zinc Bar in the near future.