Bob Perelman and Francie Shaw: "Who's ON First," 2015

Posted 1/4/2016 (link)

Here's a new recording from the Koch-Dupee Poetry of the American Avant Garde Reading Series, organized through the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University, featuring UPenn emeritus professor Bob Perelman and Francie Shaw. Entitled "Who's ON First," this event was recorded on November 5, 2015 and is also affiliated with the Granary Books celebration we discussed in our last note.

The evening's introductions are provided by Sarah Arkebauer, who notes that "I'm overjoyed to welcome Bob Perelman and Francie Shaw to Columbia tonight — something that I've wanted to do for quite some time. I've long admired the work they do both individually and together. Collectively and apart they are warm and generous, funny and kind, and their work exhibits all of these qualities. The pair have a long and varied history of collaboration, from the covers Francie made for Bob's books to their joint performances in their loft on Folsom Street in San Francisco to their wonderful play, Playing Bodies, published by Granary in 2004." The long talk that follows addresses four different collaborations the couple has worked together on over the past forty-five years, with plentiful audio and video accompaniment.

You can listen to their talk on PennSound's Bob Perelman author page, and other recent Koch-Dupee recordings can be found here.

Williams Burns the Christmas Greens

Posted 1/6/2016 (link)

In Irish culture January 6th is traditionally recognized as Little Christmas, which marks the official end of the holiday season. On a chilly day like today, even a lapsed Catholic such as myself can't help but shudder just a little at the sight of the previous year's Christmas trees stripped bare and piled at the curbside waiting on trash day. Richard Brautigan's portrait of the grim holiday season after JFK's assassination, "'What Are You Going to Do With 390 Photographs of Christmas Trees?'" (from The Tokyo-Montana Express) does a fine job of paying tribute to this strange phenomenon — the sense of loss that haunts the promise of a fresh new year — but even it pales in comparison to the stark beauty of William Carlos Williams' "Burning the Christmas Greens," one of my favorite hidden gems on PennSound's encyclopedic Williams author page.

First published in the January 1944 issue of Poetry, the poem would later appear in The Wedge that same year. Altogether we have four recordings of Williams reading the poem: one from a May 1945 session at the Library of Congress Recording Library, another from a June 1951 home recording by Kenneth Burke, the third from a reading at Harvard in December of that year, and the last from the 92nd Street Y in January 1954; we also have a 1990 rendition of the poem by Robert Creeley.

"At the winter's midnight" — the thick of the dark / the moment of the cold's / deepest plunge" — "we went to the trees, the coarse / holly, the balsam and / the hemlock for their green," Williams tells us, before launching into a litany of the season's decorative delights. "Green is a solace / a promise of peace, a fort / against the cold," something that "seemed gentle and good / to us," and yet now, "their time past," Williams finds a different sort of solace in the "recreant" force of the conflagration, "a living red, / flame red, red as blood wakes / on the ash." Surrendering ourselves to the experience, we find ourselves, like Williams, "breathless to be witnesses, / as if we stood / ourselves refreshed among / the shining fauna of that fire," ready and grateful to be able to begin the cycle once more.

So even though the calendar's turned over, the presents are put away, and the all-too-swift delights of the season are gone, here's one last chance to reflect on what we've experienced and an opportunity to prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. You can listen to our four recordings of Williams reading the poem on his PennSound author page, or click the title above to hear the earliest.

Tuli Kupferberg, 'No Deposit, No Return' (1966)

Posted 1/8/2016 (link)

We're closing out this week with an amazing new addition to the site — something I'm very excited we can finally share with our listeners: Tuli Kupferberg's 1966 ESP-Disk release, No Deposit, No Return. While many know the late Kupferberg for his inimitable contributions to poetry-rock mavericks, the Fugs, this ambitious solo album is far more obscure, though not without its dedicated fans (this writer among them).

Subtitled "an evening of pop poetry" on the record sleeve, which devolves into "a nightmare of popular poetry" in Kupferberg's opening track, No Deposit, No Return is comprised exclusively of found texts performed with musical accompaniment "by Gary Elton on the various": "Real Advertisements," as the back cover explains, "As they appeared in newspapers, magazines, in direct mail. No word has been added. There are genuine ads. Parts of some ads have been repeated. Parts of some ads have been omitted. But these are the very texts. These are for real!" The end result is quite poetic, yet also drifts into the realm of pure comedy — albeit a comedy rooted in social critique — along with the golden age of radio, thanks to Elton's musical backings and sound effects. The invocation of sixties pop sensibilities and appropriative aesthetic also adds an element of the visual arts, creating a truly hybrid electric form that neatly parallels the contemporaneous sound poetry of John Giorno in building upon the foundational work of Charles Reznikoff.

"Everyone I suppose has always wanted to write his own commercial." Kupferberg notes in the introductory track, explaining the album's origins. "I have resisted this temptation strenuously, especially for this album, but when a certain well-known shampoo company came to the Fugs last summer, proposing that we do our own commercial for their new summer product, I countered with my own suggestion for a new product" — namely, Pubol, a pubic hair shampoo — and thus the project was born.

Aside from consumerism and America's culture of violence, No Deposit, No Return's major preoccupation is sex and sexuality, as Kupferberg performs advertisements for timid swingers, not-so-timid swingers, fetish photos, an erotic novel (The Violation of the Child, Marilyn Monroe) and a scary-looking penis pump,"the Hyperemiator," whose ad is one of two reproduced on the record's back cover. In a Foucauldian sense, particularly in the midst of a period of revolutionary sexual exploration, the poet reminds us that societal curiosity about sex and atypical sexual interest are nothing new. Regardless, there's a startling difference between the hidden, repressed and clinical nature of the poems on No Deposit, No Return, and the joyous and liberated carnality celebrated in Fugs' songs like "Supergirl" and "Coca Cola Douche." Thus, the album serves as both a strident cross-generational critique and a statement of shared beliefs, targeted at young audiences through one of their most popular media. In a fashion not dissimilar from what Kupferberg parodies in tracks like the heartbreaking "Social Studies," or the Fugs' "Kill for Peace," No Deposit, No Return is very effective propaganda.

We're grateful to Kupferberg's daughter, Samara, for her permission to share this groundbreaking record, which you can listen to in its entirety here. By clicking on the thumbnail images you can view large-format scans of the album covers and liner notes as well.

In Memory of David Bowie: Tracy K. Smith's "Life on Mars"

Posted 1/11/2016 (link)

There's a good chance that if you're reading this then you're also mourning the loss of the one and only David Bowie, and why wouldn't a lover of poetry also love this perennial icon — whose influence rivals the likes of Stein, Duchamp, Cage, and Warhol — who made fruitful use of Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs' cut-up technique throughout his long career, and peppered his list of 100 favorite books with selections from T.S. Eliot, Frank O'Hara, Ed Sanders, Jack Kerouac, and Hart Crane among many other worthy choices?

One person who poetry fans are turning to in this time of grief is Tracy K. Smith, particularly her Life on Mars, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, which draws heavily from Bowie's aura. While we don't have any recordings of Smith on PennSound itself, via our YouTube account you'll find a short clip from Smith's 2013 reading at the Kelly Writers House as part of the Brave Testimony reading series (a collaboration with UPenn's Center for Africana Studies). Click here or the title above to watch.

Tomorrow at Noon: Ashraf Fayadh Teach-In at KWH

Posted 1/13/2016 (link)

Ashraf Fayadh, a 35 year-old Palestinian poet and art curator who lives in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced to death by a Saudi court on Nov. 17th, 2015 for the "crime" of apostasy. Besides renouncing Islam, Fayadh stands accused of blaspheming and promoting atheism through his collection of poetry, Instructions Within, published in 2008.

Join Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Ron Silliman, Julia Bloch, and Ariel Resnikoff at the Kelly Writers House at noon on Thursday, January 14th to learn more, as a part of a worldwide network of events, readings, and protests, organized in collaboration with PEN International and the international literature festival Berlin (ilb), that will take place this day in support of Fayadh and against the heinous charge on his life.

For more information about Fayadh and the international call for justice in his name, please visit this link.

In Memoriam: C.D. Wright (1949-2016)

Posted 1/14/2016 (link)

Last evening brought the sad news of the unexpected passing of poet C.D. Wright at the age of sixty-seven.

The sudden announcement gave way to encomia from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets, and her publisher, Copper Canyon Press, whose press release noted that, "Known for a signature styling of journalistic investigation, hybrid language, collaborations, and sharp wordplay, Wright's writing captured the depths of emotion while engaging in redefining literary activism. She was also fiercely committed to poetry, and wrote: 'I poetry. I write it, study it, read it, edit it, publish it, teach it... Sometimes I weary of it. I could not live without it. Not in this world. Not in my lifetime.'" Rich Smith of the Stranger has also published a lovely tribute to the "tenacious, ever-changing writer."

The centerpiece of PennSound's C.D. Wright author page is a 1999 studio session for Copper Canyon, which begins with a reading of her book-length poem Deepstep Come Shining (running over an hour long), followed by selection of highlights from her earlier volumes, String Light, Tremble, Just Whistle: A Valentine, and Steal Away. Another key recording, made as part of an art installation, features a number of excerpts from One Big Self: An Investigation. Beyond that you'll find a number of readings from a pair of 1990s Segue Series events from the Ear Inn up to a 2007 appearance on Ireland's ITE Radio.

We send our condolences to Wright's husband, Forrest Gander and her many fans in our listening audience.

PoemTalk 96: on Allen Grossman's "My Radiant Eye"

Posted 1/20/2016 (link)

Yesterday we released the ninety-sixth episode in the PoemTalk Podcast series, focused on Allen Grossman's "My Radiant Eye" — "a late poem written in a late style," according to host Al Filreis, taken from the poet's final book, Descartes' Loneliness. For this program, the panel joining Filreis in conversation includes Ariel Resnikoff, Peter Cole, and Kathryn Hellerstein.

In his introduction on the PoemTalk blog Filreis starts by offering some preliminary observations from all of the panelists: "The performance of the poem, recorded by Harvard's Woodberry Poetry Room, gives us a voice that has 'vatic sweep and boost,' as Peter puts it, but also 'fragility.' Kathryn, who knew Grossman as her teacher of Humanities 1 at Brandeis decades earlier, will 'never forget th[e] voice' of those long-ago lectures. That dramatic intoning is still here, she observes, but 'you feel him slipping a little.' There is some improvising in the performance even as it falters. 'I like the way he seems to be engaged with the text but not completely committed to it,' Ariel adds. 'I love that you get this sense for the poem which is outside of the page, which exists momentarily in his mind but really only exists in this recording.' (We cannot think of a better reason for aural study of audio archives of poet's readings.)" You can continue reading on Jacket2.

PoemTalk is a co-production of PennSound, the Kelly Writers House, Jacket2 and the Poetry Foundation. If you're interested in more information on the series or want to hear our archives of previous episodes, please visit the PoemTalk blog, and don't forget that you can subscribe to the series through the iTunes music store.

Race, Ethnicity, and United States Poetry at MLA 2016

Posted 1/22/2016 (link)

Thanks to A. L. Nielsen and his Heatstrings archives, we're able to share this recording of "Race, Ethnicity, and United States Poetry," a roundtable panel at this year's Modern Language Association conference in Austin, Texas that he participated in.

Taking place on January 8, 2016, the panel was organized and moderated by Timothy Yu and Rachel Galvin, with a panel that included Keith Leonard, Urayoan Noel, Sonya Posmentier, and Nielsen, and Dorothy Wang as a respondent. Here's its official description from the MLA program: "Does the alleged divide between identity politics and experimental writing persist in United States poetry? Scholars of Asian American, Latin@, and African American poetry debate what can be learned from a multiethnic, cross-field discussion that cannot be by focusing on a single racial or ethnic group. How can diasporic, hemispheric, or postcolonial approaches advance the conversation?" After brief opening statements, the aforementioned participants "had an engaging discussion with the standing room only crowd in the room" (in Nielsen's words). You can read his contribution to the panel on his Heat Strings Theory blog.

In Memoriam: Francisco X. Alarcon (1954-2016): New PennSound Author Page

Posted 1/25/2016 (link)

Our brief new year continues to be marked by the deaths of influential figures. Today, we mark the passing of Francisco X. Alarcón, who died after a short battle with cancer on January 15th at the age of sixty-one.

A post at the Poetry Foundation's "Harriet" blog focused on Alarcón's role as a mentor within the Chicano poetry community, drawing heavily upon Francisco Aragón's memorial at Letras Latinas, which was also home to "Cuando el Pueblo," a collaborative poem written by a diverse array of poets in Alarcón's honor. This spirit of camaraderie also pervades a tribute at El Tecolote, which shares photos from "Long live Life (Viva la Vida)," a celebration of the poet's life (and his last public reading), held just five days before his passing.

Finally, the wide-reaching influence of Alarcón's life and work is evident in Rigoberto González's remembrance published by NBC News. Here is how he concludes his piece: "'Thank you for everything, Francisco,' I said as we parted ways. And I like to believe that he understood what I meant by everything: for his exceptional example as a teacher, a writer, an activist, and a mentor. As I move forward on my journey, I know I'm a better person because I learned from people like him how to respect my communities and how to love myself."

Since we ran our original tribute note to Alarcón last Monday we've had the opportunity to create a PennSound author page for him, starting with the three poems Chris Funkhouser recorded in Santa Cruz, CA in 1991 for We Magazine's fourteenth issue — "Letter to America," "Victima Del Sismo," and "Tropical" — as part of a larger collaboration that also included two chapbooks (Quake Poems and Loma Prieta) benefitting those displaced in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. To that we've added a new recording from A.L. Nielsen's Incognito Lounge, originally recorded at San Jose State University in 1991.

Naomi Replansky: Three New Readings, 2015

Posted 1/27/2016 (link)

It was almost exactly a year ago today that we announced our new author page for Naomi Replansky anchored by two recordings of the poet and translator. In early March we added one more recording, and today we're proud to announce another extensive addition to her page.

The most recent of these recording sessions took place on October 23, 2015, and features thirty-seven selections from her Collected Poems (Black Sparrow, 2012). That's followed by a two-part reading on June 17, 2015 at the home of Marcia Eckert and Tom Haller, recorded by Haller, which also includes a sixteen-poem selection from Collected Poems, as well as a fascinating set of Replansky reading favorite poems by other poets. Some of those twenty-one titles include Shakespeare's "Full Fathom Five," William Blake's "The Sick Rose," Emily Dickinson's "After Great Pain," Wallace Stevens' "Anecdote of the Jar," Gerard Manley Hopkins' "I Wake and feel the Fell of Dark," Stevie Smith's "Not Waving but Drowning," and Paul Celan's "Death Fugue."

These latest sets are but a small sampling of the work collected on our Naomi Replansky author page. As always, we'd like to extend our thanks to Richard Swigg for his assistance in bringing these recordings to us.

Lorenzo Thomas: "Ego Trip," 1976

Posted 1/29/2016 (link)

A.L. Nielsen has delivered a prime cut from the late, great Lorenzo Thomas to get your weekend off to a wonderful start. "Ego Trip" features Thomas performing with the Texas State University Jazz Ensemble and was originally released on the album 3rd Ward Vibration Society (shown at right) on the SUM Concerts label in 1976. Lanny Steele is the composer for the track, which rubs shoulders with a cover of Carole King's "Jazzman" and the amazingly-titled suite, "Registration '74. The Worst I've Ever Endured / The Girl on the Steps / Drop and Add."

Internet commenter John Atlas provides a little context for the recording: "The TSU Jazz Ensemble was directed by Lanny Steele, who also founded and directed a nonprofit called Sum Arts. During the 70's and 80's, Sum Arts produced shows by, among others, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, The World Saxophone Quartet, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, The Leroy Jenkins Octet, Old and New Dreams, and a host of notable poets. In the process he exhausted an inheritance from his parents, and more."

Thomas' solo voice starts us off riffing on "Stormy Monday"'s litany of days — "Every dog has his day. / Monday is my day / even if it is blue. / Come trifling Tuesday / that's my day too ..." — and is soon joined by congas and funky wah-wah guitars, then a defiant bassline, Rhodes piano, and a fuzzed out lead, before the full ensemble kicks in as Thomas' final syllable echoes out ("I ... I ... I ... I ..."). After a series of solos and some stop-start time changes Thomas returns over the band — "Let me testify! / Every day his his dog, / but I'm tired! / I want the sun shine just over me. / I want the wind blow just over me. / I want your policemen to be just to me." — which leads into the track's closing section.

You can listen to this smoldering track on PennSound's Lorenzo Thomas author page along with a slew of readings and talks from 1978 up until just a few years before his death in 2005.