Featured resources

From "Down To Write You This Poem Sat" at the Oakville Gallery

  1. Charles Bernstein, "Phone Poem" (2011) (1:30): MP3
  2. Caroline Bergvall, "Love song: 'The Not Tale (funeral)' from Shorter Caucer Tales (2006): MP3
  3. Christian Bôk, excerpt from Eunoia, from Chapter "I" for Dick Higgins (2009) (1:38):  MP3
  4. Tonya Foster, Nocturne II (0:40) (2010) MP3
  5. Ted Greenwald, "The Pears are the Pears" (2005) (0:29): MP3
  6. Susan Howe, Thorow, III (3:13) (1998):  MP3
  7. Tan Lin, "¼ : 1 foot" (2005) (1:16): MP3
  8. Steve McCaffery, "Cappuccino" (1995) (2:35): MP3
  9. Tracie Morris, From "Slave Sho to Video aka Black but Beautiful" (2002) (3:40): MP3
  10. Julie Patton, "Scribbling thru the Times" (2016) (5:12): MP3
  11. Tom Raworth, "Errory" (c. 1975) (2:08): MP3
  12. Jerome Rothenberg, from "The First Horse Song of Frank Mitchell: 4-Voice Version" (c. 1975) (3:30): MP3
  13. Cecilia Vicuna, "When This Language Disappeared" (2009) (1:30): MP3
  1. Guillaume Apollinaire, "Le Pont Mirabeau" (1913) (1:14): MP3
  2. Amiri Baraka, "Black Dada Nihilismus" (1964) (4:02):  MP3
  3. Louise Bennett, "Colonization in Reverse" (1983) (1:09): MP3
  4. Sterling Brown, "Old Lem " (c. 1950s) (2:06):  MP3
  5. John Clare, "Vowelless Letter" (1849) performed by Charles Bernstein (2:54): MP3
  6. Velimir Khlebnikov, "Incantation by Laughter" (1910), tr. and performed by Bernstein (:28)  MP3
  7. Harry Partch, from Barstow (part 1), performed by Bernstein (1968) (1:11): MP3
  8. Leslie Scalapino, "Can’t’ is ‘Night’" (2007) (3:19): MP3
  9. Kurt Schwitters, "Ur Sonata: Largo" performed by Ernst Scwhitter (1922-1932) ( (3:12): MP3
  10. Gertrude Stein, If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso (1934-35) (3:42): MP3
  11. William Carlos Willliams, "The Defective Record" (1942) (0:28): MP3
  12. Hannah Weiner, from Clairvoyant Journal, performed by Weiner, Sharon Mattlin & Rochelle Kraut (2001) (6:12): MP3

Selected by Charles Bernstein (read more about his choices here)

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Wanda Coleman on PennSound

Posted 7/2/2020

When Wanda Coleman passed away at the age of 67 in 2013, the headline of her Los Angeles Times obituary remembered her as that city's "unofficial poet laureate." In that same tribute, Richard Modiano of Beyond Baroque recalled that Coleman "wrote not just about the black experience in Los Angeles but the whole configuration of Los Angeles in terms of its politics, its social life," and poet and actress Amber Tamblyn, in a memorial for the Poetry Foundation, echoed those sentiments: 
Wanda was not just a Los Angeles treasure, she was a trove of it. She was the original performance poet, someone who could blow the hair off of any audience’s scalp, who read complex poems of race, suffering, sexual desire, music and love with the same power with which she wrote them. She was the person I refereed to when some shithead from New York wanted to tell me that no one cool or kind or genuine ever came out of Los Angeles. "Maybe you should stop trying to meet your wife at the Chateau, then, and go see Wanda Coleman read instead."
Modiano concurs. In his estimation, she was "a world-class poet. The range of her poetry and the voice she writes in is accessible to all sorts of people."

For those reasons and many more, we're very glad that Coleman is a part of our archives. On her PennSound author page, you'll find a modest but vital collection of recordings that make clear the breadth of her immense talents.  The most recent material you'll find there is a fifteen-minute set from a 2008 benefit for poet Will Alexander in Los Angeles, and we also have a few poetic selections from albums released by Coleman — Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like the Rivers (Rhino, 2000) and Jazzspeak: A World Collection (New Alliance Records, 1991) — along with the 1988 New Alliance LP Black Angeles in its entirety. Finally, thanks to David Buuck, we have recordings from the conference Expanding the Repertoire: Continuity and Change in African-American Writing, held at Small Press Traffic in April 2000.

Speaking in 2001, Coleman acknowledged that "Others often use the word 'uncompromising' to describe my work," before noting, "I find that quite pleasing." You can see for yourself by clicking here.

Charles Bernstein on Sid Caesar and Carl Reiner's Poetic Double-Talk

Posted 6/30/2020

Today brought the news that iconic American comedian Carl Reiner had passed away at the grand old age of ninety-eight, bringing tributes from every corner for this "gifted comic actor, [who] spent most of his career slightly out of the spotlight — writing, directing and letting others get the laughs" (in the New York Times' estimation). 

One aspect of Reiner's genius left out of most of these homages, however, is his innovative relationship to language — something that was evident even from the beginning of his career. Our own Charles Bernstein shared his recent essay, "Doubletalking the Homophonic Sublime: Comedy, Appropriation, and the Sounds of One Hand Clapping," the opening essay in Vincent Broqua and Dirk Weissmann's open-source anthology, Sound /Writing : traduire-écrire entre le son et le sens, published in late 2019, which addresses the poetic practice of homophonic translation, here also called "traducson" and "Oberflächenübersetzung." Here, Bernstein challenges the set notion that homophonic translation emerges exclusively from "the context of radical poetic innovation," making a case for more populist roots, including Sid Caesar's pioneering television comedy on Your Show of Shows. "Doubletalk, as Caesar uses the term, is homophonic translation of a foreign-language
movie, opera scenario, or everyday speech into an improvised performance that mimics the sound of the source language with made-up, zaum-like invented vocabulary." To Bernstein, "The best example of Caesar’s 'double-talk' is a concert in which he moves through four languages, starting with French and moving to German and Italian, ending with Japanese (replete with recognizable anchor words, such as Mitsubishi, Datsun and shushi). Taken as a whole, this five-minute performance is macaronic—a burlesque jumble or comic hodgepodge of different languages," which you can see here

While the recurring bit was buoyed by Caesar's own considerable skill, his earlier years as a jazz saxophonist, and his bilingual upbringing (with the amorphous nature of Yiddish being a key factor), Bernstein points out that "[Carl] Reiner takes the credit for suggesting the foreign film parodies, noting that he could also do 'double talk' and sold the idea to Caesar by laying it on him" and as the essay unfolds he further explains Reiner's great influence upon its development. It's a fascinating piece that manages to effortlessly bring figures as diverse as Louis Zukofsky, Charlie Chaplin, and YouTube sensation Benny Lava into the discussion, while also situating both Jewishness and the immigrant experience as being central facets of this remarkable poetic practice. You can click here for Bernstein's Jacket2 commentary post announcing the anthology — which also includes contributions from Lee Ann Brown, Cole Swensen, Abigail Lang, and Yoko Tawada, among many others — as well as a special link to some of the texts under discussion in Bernstein's essay.

Hanif Abdurraqib Reads "USAvCuba," 2019

Posted 6/27/2020

Here's another old favorite from the PennSound Singles database to bring the week to a close —  Hanif Abdurraqib reading "USAvCuba" from his debut collection The Crown Ain't Worth Much (Button Poetry, 2016).

Columbus-born Abdurraqib is a formidable poet and critic perhaps best known for the follow-up to The Crown Ain't Worth Much, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Two Dollar Radio, 2017), which was hailed as one of the year's best books by as diverse an array of tastemakers as The Chicago TribuneEsquire, NPR, the CBC, Buzzfeed, Paste, Pitchfork, and O, the Oprah Magazine. Go Ahead in the Rain, his biography of hip-hop legends A Tribe Called Quest, was released to wide acclaim in February 2019.

An homage to Frank O'Hara's infectious style, "USAvCuba" makes clever use of the late poet's time-stamp aesthetics ("It is 3:15 on a Saturday & I am in a car on I-95 on the way to the soccer game") and the deft wordplay seen in poems like "Poem [Lana Turner Has Collapsed]" ("Nate is riding shotgun which is also the name for when you plunge something sharp into a can of beer & split open its aluminum shell before swallowing its urgent sacrifice"), all the while updating his voice for the 21st century and avoiding the pitfalls and cliches of so many bad O'Hara imitations. That said, not even O'Hara could come up with a line as breathtaking as "David Ruffin is singing I wish it would rain & his voice is unfolding long & slow in the backseat like an eager lover & there is a whole history of men demanding the sky to shake at their command & I’m not saying out loud whether or not I believe in god & I’m not saying out loud what I know the rain means I’m only saying that I need this dry summer to stay dry I’m only saying that the tickets to this soccer game cost as much as my best suit & kickoff is at 3:30."

You can listen to the poem in its entirety here and read along at Western Beefs here.

PoemTalk #149: On Kamau Brathwaite's "Negus"

Posted 6/24/2020

Today we launched the newest episode in the PoemTalk Podcast series — episode #149 in total — which is focused on Kamau Brathwaite's poem "Negus," taken from his 1969 collection, Islands. For this program, host Al Filreis was joined by a panel including Amber Rose Johnson, Jacob Edmond (the editor of PennSound's Kamau Edmond author page), and Huda Fakhreddine.

Filreis begins his PoemTalk blog post on this episode with further contextualization for the poem under discussion: "'Negus' appears as part six of a section of the book titled "Rebellion" within Islands, and Islands, in turn, is part two of The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy, which includes Rights of Passage and Masks as the first and third volumes." He then goes on to discuss the provenance for our sole recording of the poem itself, taken from a May 2004 Segue Series reading at New York's Bowery Poetry Club, noting  that Brathwaite "chose to read 'Negus' as a kind of prefatory piece to the whole forty-three-minute reading. It certainly seems to introduce several of Brathwaite’s major concerns." What exactly that means is spelled out both in the remainder of Filreis' note, and in the program itself.

You can read more about this latest show, see photos of the recording session, and read Brathwaite's poem by clicking here. The full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, can be found here.

Yusef Komunyakaa on PennSound

Posted 6/22/2020

Today we're taking a closer look at PennSound's author page for Yusef Komunyakaa, which was created not long after our official launch in 2005. While it houses a modest set of recordings, it nevertheless has many of this much-anthologized poet's most iconic work.

The heart of our Komunyakaa page is a March 1998 reading at our own Kelly Writers House. This  segmented recording consists of twenty-four in total, including favorite poems like "Facing It," "The Smokehouse," "Ode to the Maggot," "The God of Land Mines," "You and I Are Disappearing," and "Ode to a Drum," along with "Rhythm Method," "Letter to Bob Kaufman," "Camouflage in the Chimera," "We Never Know," and "Thanks," which has been a cherished part of PennSound's "Poems of Thanks and Thanksgiving" playlist for more than a decade. There's also a July 1999 appearance with Deborah Garrison on BBC Radio 3's Contemporary American Poetry Program, and the single poem "Slam, Dunk & Hook," published as part of the 2005 anthology Rattapallax.

We're grateful and proud to have Yusef Komunyakaa as part of the diverse array of voices found within PennSound's vast archives. You can listen to all of the poems mentioned above my clicking here.

Melvin B. Tolson on PennSound

Posted 6/19/2020

We're wrapping up this week by highlighting the recordings you can find on PennSound's Melvin B. Tolson author page.

The heart of this collection is a two-part career-spanning reading at Washington, D.C.'s Coolidge Auditorium, on October 18, 1965 — an event held in coordination with the Library of Congress — which serves as a fitting tribute to the influential poet, politician, and pedagogue, who'd pass away less than one year later. After a lavish introduction, Tolson starts with his debut collection, Rendezvous with America and hits many of the high points of his prestigious career, including his magnum opus, Dark Symphony, and Libretto for the Republic of Liberia, written during his time as that nation's poet laureate. Running just short of eighty minutes, Tolson's reading includes the poems "Sometimes," "The Gallows," "If You Should Lie to Me," "The Primer for Today," "The Dictionary of the Wolf," "Harlem Gallery," "The Birth of John Henry," "Ballad on Old Satchmo," and "The Sea Turtle and the Shark," among others, with commentary provided along the way.

This retrospective performance is nicely complemented by a second recording of excerpts from Dark Symphony, for which, unfortunately, we have no information regarding its recording date and location. Nevertheless we're grateful to be Tolson's estate and the Library of Congress for the opportunity to present these materials to our listeners. Click here to visit PennSound's Melvin B. Tolson author page.

Dawn Lundy Martin on PennSound

Posted 6/17/2020

Today we're showcasing the recordings available on our Dawn Lundy Martin author page, which offers listeners the opportunity to check out readings and talks from 2006 to 2016.

The earliest pair of recordings come from an April 2006 visit to New York City, which yielded sets for both Belladonna* and the Segue Series; Martin would return for another Segue reading at the Bowery Poetry Club in December 2008. Our first recording from A. L. Nielsen's Heatstrings Theory archives is an October 2009 reading at Penn State University, and Nielsen was also kind enough to share a March 2016 appearance by the poet as part of a reading celebrating What I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in America, held in Brooklyn for that year's National Black Writers Conference at AWP. Then, from Andrew Kenower's A Voice Box archives, we have a pair of Bay Area readings: a 2010 reading at David Buuck's house and a 2013 reading at Tender Oracle held as part of the East Bay Poetry Summit. Finally, we have "On Discomfort and Creativity," the 2016 Leslie Scalapino Lecture in Innovative Poetics, held at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Video of that event is available, along with a link to the text in Something on Paper.

Four of the earlier readings mentioned above have been segmented into individual MP3s, providing listeners the unique opportunity to listen to multiple iterations of the same poems — including "The Undress," "The Morning Hour," "Bearer of Arms 1775-1783," and "The Symbolic Nature of Chaos" — read at separate events. Taken together, they also provide an interesting document of Martin's evolving style from her first publications up to just before her most recent collection, Good Stock, Strange Blood (Coffee House Press, 2017), which earned Martin the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award in 2019 for "creating 'fascinating, mysterious, formidable, and sublime' explorations of the meaning of identity, the body, and the burdens of history along with one’s own private traumas." You can experience Dawn Lundy Martin's formidable voice by clicking here.

Lorenzo Thomas, "Ego Trip," 1976

Posted 6/15/2020

We're starting off the new week by highlighting an old favorite track from Lorenzo Thomas that A.L. Nielsen was kind enough to share with us back in 2016. "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.

New at J2: 'Poetry at the Rail Park' Podcast by Laynie Browne

Posted 6/12/2020

In addition to our many ongoing podcasts, Jacket2 is always keeping an eye out for worthwhile limited series that we can share through the journal, which is why we were ecstatic when Laynie Browne came to us with the idea for Poetry at the Rail Park, a new six-part podcast "exploring poetry in public space, celebrating literary arts in multiple languages, and in the ongoing conversations which make art sustainable and available to all." 

The series is produced in conjunction with Dawn Chorus, an installation by Browne and Brent Wahl commissioned specifically for the Rail Park at Callow Hill by the City of Philadelphia's Percent for Art Program of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, which consists of "a sculpture made of a repurposed utility pole and cast aluminum birds" (shown at right) and "poetry excerpts in thirteen languages engraved in paver stones, carefully selected to celebrate communication, rail lines, and the city as a meeting place." "Altogether," the curators explain, "Dawn Chorus is designed to spark conversation and connect the ground with the sky, using imagery of birds, threads, and transmission."

Five of Poetry at the Rail Park's six episodes focus on poets whose work is part of the installation — Caroline Bergvall, Sawako Nakayasu, Erín Moure, Sarah Riggs, and Bernadette Mayer — with a sixth program featuring Wahl. You can listen by clicking the linked names above, or click here for the series' main homepage.

Peter Gizzi Reads from 'Sky Burial,' 2020

Posted 6/11/2020

We're back with a newly-added reading from Peter Gizzi, recently featured on PennSound Daily for his January 2020 session produced by Charles Bernstein, which presented poems from his forthcoming collection, Now It's Dark, along with 2011's Threshold Songs. Hosted by Colin Herd, this reading took place over Zoom on May 11th, and serves to celebrate Gizzi's recent  collection from Carcanet Press, Sky Burial: New and Selected Poems. Alan Baker of Litter Magazine praised Sky Burial as "'an outstanding piece of work," where "there's a sense in which it encapsulates Gizzi's achievement as a lyric poet, as the strategies and concerns found in it can be traced throughout his career."

Gizzi begins his set with "Speech Acts For a Dying World," followed by "Nonotuck Avenue," "Beginning with a Phrase from Simone Weil," "When Orbital Proximity Feels Creepy,"  and then three pieces from the series, "Field Recordings": "Languour," "Wrapper Frag," and "Strangeness Becomes You." He continues with "Now It's Dark," "The Present Is Constant Elegy," and ends with "The Growing Edge," before granting his appreciative audience an encore with "Every Day I Want to Fly My Kite." The second half of the recording features Gizzi and Herd in conversation, along with questions from the crowd, before Gizzi shares one last poem, "Release the Darkness to New Lichen."

You can listen to all of the aforementioned readings on Gizzi's PennSound author page, which is home to more than twenty recordings spaning nearly three decades.

PoemTalk #148: on Erica Hunt's "Should You Find Me"

Posted 6/9/2020

We recently posted the latest episode of the PoemTalk Podcast — program #148 in the series — which addresses Erica Hunt's poem "Should You Find Me," the coda of her 2006 Belladonna* collection, Time Slips Right Before Your Eyes.  For this show, which was recorded live at the Kelly Writers House in November 2019, host Al Filreis was joined by a panel that included (from left to right) Tyrone Williams, William J. Harris, Aldon Nielsen, and Hunt herself.

"Who is the you in the title and the refrain?," Filreis asks in his PoemTalk blog post on this episode. "It might be us, those who witness the speaker's efforts to look at herself in family photographs that pre-date her. You could also be herself. That would be a developed, succeeding you, the self presenting herself in the present of the poem — an identity formed by the family and by the family's stories as they are re-told through archived images." He continues, "As we begin to locate the speaker in the meta-photographic poem, we discern her in the process of finding herself. After working through this complex second-person address, the group contemplates the power of this special kind of finding as it increases through the course of the poem."  Summarizing the panelists' perspectives, he observes, "We note that insofar as such power is gained, the speaker can turn to ask herself: Where do you belong, if at all, in the socio-economic, post-design world of both 'residential grids' and 'tear-downs'? How might the speaker-who-relearns-her-own-name cancel the threatened 'cancellations of futurity'? By posing this question, the very supposition 'Should You Find Me' radicalizes self-renaming."

You can read more about this program, watch the raw video feed or listen to the MP3 mixdown, and read the poem under discussion by clicking here. The full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, can be found here.

A Message from Al Filreis and Jessica Lowenthal of KWH

Posted 6/5/2020

To the beloved Writers House community: 

We unequivocally support justice for those murdered and brutalized by police: Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and countless others. We unequivocally support justice for those lynched by civilians: Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, and countless others. 

Anything we might say in this time of rage, despair, and mourning would be inadequate and incommensurate as a response to these deaths, especially because so many members of our community are in pain and there is so much work to do. But we do want to state a few things simply and plainly:

We firmly now and always stand against racial injustice, inequality, and police brutality. 

We resolutely affirm that Black lives matter. 

And we are committed as always to amplifying the ideas and voices of our community, many of whom are engaged daily in the necessary work of change. That is what the Writers House was founded to do nearly 25 years ago and now more than ever we consciously intend to honor that mission.

We’re putting together a livestream event on Monday, June 15 at 6:00 PM that will feature some of our community members sharing thoughts, writing, and reflection. We’ll send more info soon. Meantime, please put that date and time in your calendar and we hope you’ll plan to participate.

And in the coming days, weeks, and months we plan to use outreach methods the Kelly Writers House has created and extended over the years — connecting a strong network of artists, writers, teachers, students, citizens — to share readings, writings, ideas, resources, and projects that provide urgently needed information, challenge racist assumptions and structures, might bring comfort, and are otherwise relevant to this extraordinarily difficult time. Here, for now, we share a few links below, as recommended by some of our community members. 

We hope you will join us in this effort by sending us links to and information about some of the projects, readings, ventures, stories, and work that you find important and relevant right now. We will share what we can with our networks via email and social media. Send your notes and suggestions to whresources@writing.upenn.edu

—Al and Jessica

Al Filreis, Faculty Director, Kelly Writers House
Jessica Lowenthal, Director, Kelly Writers House



Arts and writing organizations:
  • • Virtual programming from the Free Library of Philadelphia while branches remain closed due to COVID-19: https://libwww.freelibrary.org/calendar/virtual-programs/ , use this link specifically for programs with the tag African American: https://libwww.freelibrary.org/calendar/tag/african-american
  • • Safe Kids Stories which promises to see safety, peace, and non-violence with the clarity and imagination with which we now see danger
  • • Mighty Writers, a Philadelphia organization that teaches kids to write and has expanded to launch an urgently needed food distribution program
  • • Art for Philadelphia, a collaborative project by Philadelphia-based artists in support of the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund
  • • Printers for #BlackLivesMatter, list of print studios offering free services for anti-racist protest use: bit.ly/printersforBLM

Support Black-owned bookstores in Philadelphia:

Resources for speaking to children about racial injustice, policing, and protest:
  • • Educators Responding to Nationwide Uprisings Resource Guide a fantastic series of conversation prompts, articles and other resources for children and teens, compiled by the Racial Justice Organizing Committee of the Caucus of Working Educators of Philadelphia
  • • Early childhood educator Akiea Gross shares read-alouds and other kindergarten-appropriate content affirming Black lives matter, follow their YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZJqFGssFb-O9mOuF6nKJNQ/videos or on Instagram @wokekindergarten

Food distribution or donation:
  • • Philabundance, a Philadelphia organization seeking to end hunger and food insecurity. To find food distribution, click here: https://www.philabundance.org/find-food/
  • • Follow @bunnyhopphl on Instagram for information on how to pick up free food, or donate food and other goods you have to spare in Philadelphia
  • • City of Philadelphia food distribution sites for K-12 students and their families, seniors, or ANY Philadelphian. View the map with pick up sites, dates and more information here: https://www.phila.gov/food/#/

      Happy Birthday to Allen Ginsberg!

      Posted 6/3/2020

      June 3rd is the birthday of Beat Generation legend Allen Ginsberg, who would have turned 94 today. For many generations, Ginsberg has served as an important gateway to poetry — I've written and spoken about my own teenage experience discovering his work and its life-changing effects — and in these turbulent times it's well worth remembering that for Allen poetry and politics were inextricably linked, from his earliest scribbles through to his deathbed writings. 

      From the civil rights movement to queer liberation, nuclear disarmament to environmentalism, censorship to anti-imperialism, Ginsberg (who originally aspired to being a labor lawyer) tirelessly fought the good fight on behalf of the oppressed and challenged those in power to do better. We see it in his dream cabinet in "Death to Van Gogh's Ear," his demands for the Clinton presidency in "New Democracy Wish List," and hundreds more poems  written over his fifty-year career. Moreover, a spirit of radical empathy guided both his work and his worldview: "I'm with you in Rockland," he pledges to Carl Solomon in the footnote to "Howl," his most iconic poem, and undoubtedly he would be with us in Minneapolis, in Ferguson, in Baltimore, in Cleveland, in Sanford, and every other battleground in our long and ongoing struggle for justice.

      We are honored to be able to share a startling array of recordings — readings, songs, interviews, talks, and more —  on PennSound's Allen Ginsberg author page, which spans more or less the entirety of his writing career, from a few 1956 sessions all the way up to his legendary residency at the Knitting Factory in 1995, during which he gave authoritative readings of his three finest long-form pieces: "Howl," "Kaddish," and "Wichita Vortex Sutra." You'll find the majority of Ginsberg's most iconic poems — aside from the aforementioned titles, "A Supermarket in California," "America," "Sunflower Sutra," "The Lion for Real," "Don't Grow Old," "Plutonian Ode," "Gospel Noble Truths," "Do the Meditation Rock," "Hum Bom," and "After Lalon" are all there — but the real treat for diehard fans are the more obscure titles, the telling asides between poems, and the pieces shared with audiences in their earliest drafts. To hear Ginsberg read "Autumn Leaves" or "Manhattan Mayday Midnight" or "Tears" or "To Aunt Rose" or "Transcription of Organ Music" or "After the Big Parade" is as much a delight as encountering them for the very first time. You can start exploring by clicking here.

      'Jacket2' Bids Farewell to Editor Divya Victor

      Posted 6/1/2020

      It is hard to express how much Divya Victor has enriched and expanded Jacket2 since we first welcomed her as a (then-guest) editor in 2017. From the two commentary series she’s contributed, to the thoughtful and wide-reaching features she’s curated, not to mention the tireless work she’s done behind the scenes to make Jacket2’s editorial process more equitable, affirming, and innovative, Divya’s presence as a member of the J2 team will be sorely missed. It is with sadness — but excitement for Divya as a thinker and writer — that we say goodbye to Divya as a J2 editor. From our wonderful friend and colleague’s departure note:
      [W]e work, every day, to support those who hyphenate between these roles as poet-critics, especially the ones who work (in Stephen Collis’s words) as “anarcho-scholars,” and who write to unsettle their roles as artists, academics, scholars, critics, graduate students, or editors in order to perform new modes of disruptive engagement with contemporary poetry.  
      Working with this team has been one of the least complicated joys of my professional life. I will miss our spirited conversations and our careful negotiations. I will continue to read Jacket2 for this team’s earnest labor (along with the labor of countless interns, students, and editors at large) which has shaped a field in which our international audiences can witness the changing horizon of poetry’s critical and chimeral role in contemporary letters. 
      Read Divya’s full departure note here. We’ll miss you, Divya!

      Remembering Leslie Scalapino, Ten Years Later

      Posted 5/28/2020

      Today marks ten years since the passing of poet and publisher Leslie Scalapino, which makes it an excellent opportunity to both remember her and reflect upon the impact she's made — and continues to make — upon the word of contemporary poetry. Scalapino was an integral part of our archive since its inception, as her PennSound author page attests, and in the decade since her death, that collection of recordings has expanded considerably, both through new additions and the segmentation of older readings into individual tracks. One terrific place to start is her conversations with Charles Bernstein on LINEbreak in 1996 and Close Listening in 2007. We're also proud to be able to share video of her final reading in March 2010.

      You can click here to read our PennSound Daily tribute to Scalapino, which includes the full text of her husband Tom's note on her passing. Because Jacket2 didn't exist when Scalapino died, we took the unorthodox step of publishing Lyn Hejinian's tribute to her dear friend here at PennSound, which you can read here. Finally, the Leslie Scalapino Memorial Lecture Series in Innovative Poetics continues her lifelong dedication to pushing the genre ever forward, and has hosted a remarkable array of poets and scholars over the past decade. 

      New at the EPC: Mina Loy

      Posted 5/22/2020

      After several years of development, we are very happy to announce the launch of a new EPC author page for Mina Loy. There are many people to thank for this astounding collection, starting with Roger Conover, Loy's editor and literary executor, whose insightful notes accompany many of the poem, and Sandra Simonds, who selected the poems, other writings, and resources gathered here. Jack Krick handled the coding and site design, while Karla Kelsey and Ariel Resnikoff also had some input into the page.

      The poems Simonds chose include "The Effectual Marriage," "Apology of Genius," "Brancusi's Golden Bird," "Gertrude Stein," and "Mass Production on 14th Street," along with the thirty-four-part sequence "Songs to Joannes," all of which are accompanied by extensive commentary (both general and line-by-line) from Conover. These are complemented by a survey of Loy holdings at sites including the Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets, the drama The Sacred Prostitute, Loy's "Feminist Manifesto" and "Aphorisms on Futurism," examples of her visual work, and a handy compendium of writings about Loy from throughout the web, including the Loy feature from Jacket #5 (1998).

      While you're relishing all of this wonderful poetry, we welcome you to pay a visit to PennSound's Mina Loy author page. While there's just one recording there, it's a terrific one: a ninety-minute conversation between Loy, Paul Blackburn, and Robert Vas Dias made just before her death in 1960, which is believed to be the only extant recording of her voice.

      Congratulations to 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize Winner Etel Adnan

      Posted 5/21/2020

      This week brought another critical acclaim for Lebanese-American poet and painter Etel Adnan, who — along with her translator Sarah Riggs (both shown at right) — has been awarded the 2020 Griffin International Poetry Prize for her 2019 Nightboat Books collection, Time. In their citation, the judges highlight some of the qualities of Adnan's recent work that speak beautifully to our current condition:
      "I say that I’m not afraid / of dying because I haven't / yet had the experience / of death" writes Etel Adnan in the opening poem to Time. What is astonishing here is how she manages to give weariness its own relentless energy. We are pulled quickly through this collection – each poem, only a breath, a small measure of the time that Adnan is counting. Every breath is considered, measured, observant – perceiving even "a crack in the / texture of the day." If Adnan is correct and "writing comes from a dialogue / with time" then this is a conversation the world should be leaning into, listening to a writer who has earned every right to be listened to.
      We're grateful to be able to share a modest collection of recordings on our Etel Adnan author page, starting with Adnan's 2006 appearance on episode #118 of Leonard Schwartz's program, Cross-Cultural Poetics, titled "Forms of Violence." Via phone from Paris, she "reads from her book In the Heart of A Heart Of Another Country (City Lights), and meditates on her mother city of Beirut and American violence, inner and outer." Next, from 2010, we have a Serpentine Gallery reading showcasing The Arab Apocalypse and a 2012 reading commemorating the release of Homage to Etel Adnan (Post-Apollo), which was held at The Green Arcade Books Ideas Goods and co-sponsored by The Poetry Center and Small Press Traffic. Adnan returned to the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London for a conversation with poet Robert Grenier a few weeks later. This chat between two hybrid artists was the inaugural event for the exhibition, "Etel Adnan: the Weight of the World."

      We recently added a terrific and lengthy discussion between Adnan and Jennifer Scappettone, recorded September 23–24, 2017, which has been segmented into individual tracks by theme, including "Home Life and School in Beirut," "Education in Philosophy and Beginnings in Painting," "English-Language Poetry and US Politics from the Vietnam War through Today," and "Cultural Identity, Multilingualism, and Translation." You can listen to any of the aforementioned recordings by clicking here.

      Happy 95th Birthday to Robin Blaser!

      Posted 5/18/2020

      We start off this new week by marking what would have been the 95th birthday of poet Robin Blaser (1925–2009). Our own Charles Bernstein, in his afterword to The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser, begins by noting that "Robin Blaser's poems are companions on a journey of life, a journey whose goal is not getting someplace else, but, rather, being where you are and who you are — where you is always in the plural." You can see that focus in action by browsing through the four decades' worth of recordings archived on PennSound's Robin Blaser author page.

      The earliest document there is a 1965 reading in Vancouver, BC, which features "The Moth Poem" and "The Translator: a Tale." From the following decade, we have recordings from the University of British Columbia in 1970 and the San Francisco Poetry Center in 1976, along with the original raw audio for The Astonishment Tapes, recorded in Vancouver in the spring of 1974 and edited for eventual publication by Miriam Nichols under the title The Astonishment Tapes: Talks on Poetry and Autobiography with Robin Blaser and Friends (University of Alabama, 2015). Next, there's a 1986 appearance at the Portland Poetry Festival and Blaser's 1987 appearance at SUNY-Buffalo to deliver that year's Charles Olson Memorial Lectures, which concluded with a March 29th reading from his own work. Blaser would return to Buffalo for readings and lectures in 1991, 1993, and 1996, which are also available on his author page. 

      Other 90s-era recordings include a 1994 set at the Albany Writers Institute, 1995 readings at the University of British Columbia and the Kootenay School of Writing (where he'd also read in 1997), a 1997 appearance on the BBC Radio 3 program Night Waves hosted by Patrick Wright, and a lecture on Dante Alighieri delivered at Universita d'Annuzio that same year. The final years of Blaser's life are documented via a 2003 reading at Vancouver's Cultural Centre, a reading and talk at Woodland Pattern in 2004, and a 2008 conversation with Robert Hass at UC Berkeley, courtesy of Cloud House Poetry Archives, along with a trio of appearances on Cross-Cultural Poetics in 2003, 2004 and 2007 (a transcription of the first interview was published by Jacket2 in 2015). Last but certainly not least, Blaser's poem "A Bird in the House," was the subject of PoemTalk #113, featuring Kristin Prevallet, Jed Rasula, and Brian Teare, You can listen to all of the recordings mentioned above by clicking here.

      Charles Bernstein Reads "Poetry Month Will Come a Little Late This Year"

      Posted 5/15/2020

      "Poetry's freedom, which to say poetry's essential contribution to American culture, is grounded in its aversion of conformity and in its resistance to the restrictions of market-driven popularity. Indeed, contemporary American poetry thrives through its small scale and radical differences of form. There is no one sort of American poetry and certainly no right sort — this is what makes aesthetic invention so necessary." Thus begins "Poetry Month Will Come a Little Late This Year," a commentary published on the University of Chicago Press blog last month as a sequel of sorts to Charles Bernstein's "Against National Poetry Month As Such," his "contrarian and spirited take on the April ritual of poetry month" first published nearly two decades ago. "Curious whether he still shares the same opinion," Chicago's editors "reached out to Bernstein for his current perspective" and were very happy to share the results with their readers.

      Now, thanks to the fine folks at Yale's Beinecke Library, you can watch Bernstein read his essay as part of their new YouTube series. Recorded at home in isolation on May 4th, this new work is reminiscent of "Some of These Daze," his collaboration with Mimi Gross written in the aftermath of September 11th, as both a document of these surreal months of isolation — "Like a memorial except we're all alive. Or we imagine we're alive even though we died weeks ago." — and an incisive commentary upon them. It's well worth your time, whether you're reading or watching.

      PennSound Podcast #70: Al Young

      Posted 5/13/2020

      The latest episode in the PennSound Podcast Series went live yesterday and it's one you won't want to miss out on. This special program features Al Young in conversation with Al Filreis, William J. Harris, and Tyrone Williams, and was recorded at our own Wexler Studio in conjunction with Young's visit to the Kelly Writers House to give a reading on November 15, 2018.

      Filreis describes the session as follows in his write-up for Jacket2: "The conversation covered the relationship between Young’s poetry and the Black Arts Movement, the role of music and jazz in his writing, and other figures with whom he was acquainted, such as poets Ishmael Reed and Bob Kaufman. Young spoke of his time at Stanford, where he met Harris; of having resided in various parts of the country; and of the role of writing about lived experiences beyond writing about writing." Young also reads some of his poetry, including "A Dance for Militant Dilettantes," "Yes, the Secret Mind Whispers" (which pays tribute to Kaufman), and "January." You can listen to the show by clicking here. On Young's PennSound author page you'll find his aforementioned UPenn reading from 2018, along with a 2006 reading in San Francisco and a 1990 reading at Palo Alto's Printer's Ink. Click here to listen to those sets.

      Maggie O'Sullivan Reads Herself and Tom Raworth, 2019

      Posted 5/11/2020

      Here's a pair of newly-added videos from Maggie O'Sullivan to start off the new week, which come from "King's Underground: Eric Mottram and Spheres of Contexts," an event hosted by King's College London Archives last November 22nd and 23rd.

      The first recording is O'Sullivan reading Tom Raworth's poem "Gaslight," a poem that takes its name from the classic George Cukor film, and which you can also hear Raworth read on his own PennSound author page

      In the second video, she reads "(via John Clare (1793–1864) (1) and (2)," poems which, as she explains in a linked post from Jerry Rothenberg's Poems and Poetics blog, "were made around the late 1970s/early 1980s in homage to Clare. They are included in ALTO (2009)." Her note, which accompanies the complete texts of both poems, continues: "John Clare was one of the poets I began reading in the early 1970s. Of vital sustenance and continuing inspiration to me, are his unfettered, courageous uncompromiSingings."

      You can watch both of these new videos by clicking here.

      Congratulations to Jackson Poetry Prize Winner Ed Roberson

      Posted 5/8/2020

      This week is bookended with great honors for deserving poets, with news that Ed Roberson has been awarded the Jackson Poetry Prize, "which celebrates an American poet of exceptional talent and comes with a purse of $70,000," by Poets & Writers. The award panel, which included Nikky Finney, Anne Waldman, and Robert Wrigley released an extensive citation praising Roberson for his long and influential career, which begins as follows:
      It is a great privilege honoring Ed Roberson as the recipient of the Jackson Prize for 2020. This is an extraordinary time to be awarding this significant prize in poetry, a momentous time in our recent history, a time of panic, fear, uncertainty and inner turmoil, and devastating tragedy where people are separated from one another, cannot even touch or bury loved ones, and yet are bound together inextricably by their vulnerability as humans in the vast web — an interconnected Indra's net — of co-arising cause and effect with chaos and  outrageous failings as well. Where is the language for the experience of such magnitude, of experiencing a pandemic  of Biblical proportions? And as if  that’s not enough, all the other woes that conjure up the Sixth Extinction, Mayan End Time prophecy, or a prophetic Chinese rune from a cracked tortoise shell are with us. Poets are also diviners. What will the paradigm shifts be? Is there still time to balance the inequities and the ravage of the Anthropocene on this planet's body and social construct ? We may be looking into an Abyss or a Reckoning for our  Fallen Age.
      Poetry such as Ed Roberson's troubles these  meditations, these issues, these apocalyptic queries in innovative expressive ways. He is both scholar and jazz-like innovator. A recent book of his is entitled To Seek The Earth Before The End of the World.  Roberson also embeds and laments the suffering African Americans have endured and continue to endure in an unjust ever exposed imbalanced society, with its unresolved  incipient racism. He writes  in a way that is so empathetically profound and heart rending, that one can only cry out again against the insane unhealed wounds of this nation! Isn't it time to change the frequency of inequity once and for all?
      Whether you're a long-time fan of Roberson's work or are just getting acquainted with him, you'll find a three-decade survey of his poetry on his PennSound author page, which begins with a pair of Segue Series readings from 1993 and 1999, an Eco-Panel at the Bowery Poetry Club in 2006 (which also included Jill Magi, Laura Elrick, Karen Anderson and Brenda Iijima). There's also a 2010 appearance on Cross Cultural Poetics, and two recordings that come to us courtesy of Aldon Nielsen's Heatstrings archives: a 2011 reading and presentation of the Stephen Henderson Award for Literature by the African American Literature and Culture Society, and a 2016 reading at Penn State University. The single track "Scattered Images," recorded with the Ways & Means Trio (and taken from their 2006 album, Fire of Dream) closes out the collection. Click here to start browsing.

      In Memoriam: Michael McClure (1932–2020)

      Posted 5/5/2020

      We have late-breaking news from the Bay Area this evening that poet Michael McClure has passed away at the age of 87. 

      As renowned for his good looks as his poetry, McClure was a pivotal figure in San Francisco's postwar literary scene, taking part in the watershed Six Gallery reading in 1955 that launched Allen Ginsberg to stratospheric heights — Gary Snyder, who will turn 90 in just a few days, is the last living participant in that historic event. As the 50s gave way to the 60s McClure adapted to the changing times, participating in 1967's Human Be-In and collaborating with the likes of Janis Joplin, the Doors, and the Band. As Dennis Hopper famously opined, "without the roar of McClure, there would have been no 60s."

      PennSound's Michael McClure author page starts with the documentary film Rebel Roar: the Sound of Michael McClure, which "explores the poetry and thoughts of one of the original Beat poets ... through readings and candid discussion of his work." There are numerous albums presented in their entirety, including two career-spanning discs of readings from the Rockdrill series (a complementary group of short Optic Nerve videos is presented at the bottom of the page), and several musical collaborations with the likes of Terry Riley and Ray Manzarek. There's also McClure's episode (shared with Brother Antonius) from Richard O. Moore's USA: Poetry series, a series of Olson Memorial Lectures delivered at SUNY-Buffalo in 1980, a 1983 reading at SFSU with Robert Duncan, and a Wednesdays at 4 Plus reading (also from SUNY-Buffalo) dating from 1998. Just this past January, we published PoemTalk episode #144 on McClure's Ghost Tantras, which you can hear here.

      We send our condolences to McClure's generations of fans, as well as his friends and family in the poetry world. You can browse through our archives by clicking here.

      Congratulations to Pulitzer Prize Winner Anne Boyer

      Posted 5/5/2020

      Monday was a very exciting day for poet Anne Boyer, who was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction for The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care. Tracing Boyer's battle with aggressive breast cancer, the book is "a twenty-first century Illness as Metaphor, as well as a harrowing memoir of survival [that] explores the experience of illness as mediated by digital screens, weaving in ancient Roman dream diarists, cancer hoaxers and fetishists, cancer vloggers, corporate lies, John Donne, pro-pain 'dolorists,' the ecological costs of chemotherapy, and the many little murders of capitalism."

      In a post celebrating Boyer and Jericho Brown (this year's Pulitzer winner in poetry), Harriet quoted from their 2019 interview between the author and Shoshana Olidort, where she explains her motivations in writing the book:
      I had to write the book for two reasons. The first one was gratitude for all that kept me alive and made life worth living, and the second was vengeance against all that diminishes life, the arrangement of a racist, misogynist, capitalist world that sickens people, profits from their illnesses, and then blames them for their own deaths. I'm probably better at writing than I am at anything else, and so it is that writing a book was some of what I could do in return for my life, or at least it is what I could do toward the most good. I am, however, not very skilled at being happy about publishing or publicity, and I've never quite understood why — life-long shyness, maybe; a standard-issue egalitarian impulse; a consistently affirmed hypothesis, too, that public success is a precinct of haters and sycophants that should be visited as little as possible in a well-lived life.
      On PennSound's Anne Boyer author page, we're proud to be able to host a half-dozen full-length readings by the poet spanning the years 2012–2018, including 2013 sets at Zinc Bar (for the Segue Series) and St. Bonaventure, and several Bay Area readings courtesy of Andrew Kenower's A Voice Box series. The most recent recording is from Stanford University in 2018, with, interestingly enough, Olidort providing the introduction. We send our heartiest congratulations to Boyer for this well-deserved win.

      Remembering Lewis MacAdams and Peter Ganick

      Posted 5/1/2020

      We wanted to take a moment to mention two important figures in the world of contemporary poetry that we lost during the month of April: Lewis MacAdams (shown at right) and Peter Ganick. While we don't have enough materials from either to merit individual PennSound author pages, we nevertheless wanted to draw your attention to the resources related to both within our archives.

      MacAdams died on April 21st at the age of 75. A polymath with a long and fruitful career, he was hailed in his Los Angeles Times obituary as a "a poet and crusader for restoring the concrete Los Angeles River to a more natural state and co-founder of one of the most influential conservation organizations in California." A former director of the Poetry Center at San Francisco State and a prolific journalist in addition to his work as a poet and critic (cf. 2001's Birth of the Cool: Beat, Bebop, and the American Avant-Garde) he was best known outside of literary circles for his work as the head of Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR), which worked tirelessly to rehabilitate the "51-mile flood control channel hemmed by freeways, power lines and railroad yards." We have but one recording of MacAdams on our site: a June 30, 1977 lecture, "Politics and Poetry," delivered as part of the Bob Perelman-organized Talks series at 1220 Folsom Street, which you can find here. Over at Jacket2 we have a pair of reviews of MacAdams' most iconic work, The River from Jacket Magazine: Dale Smith reviewed the first two installments in issue #7, while Patrick James Dunagen reviewed the complete three-volume edition in issue #35.

      Ganick died on April 16th at the age of 73. Remembered as "a prolific experimental writer and artist" in his obituary, he was also the founder of Potes&Poets, a beloved press that championed adventurous and groundbreaking writing from the earliest days of Language Poetry and beyond. A brief sampling of authors published by Potes&Poets includes Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, Cid Corman, Tina DarraghRachel Blau DuPlessis, Andrew Levy, Gil Ott, Stephen Ratcliffe, Kit Robinson, Leslie Scalapino, Ron Silliman, and Hannah Weiner. You can listen to two Segue Series readings by Ganick — from May 20, 1989 and March 28, 1992 — on our Ear Inn homepage. Ganick also has a page at the Electronic Poetry Center, along with an EPC page for Potes&Poets Press.

      We send our deepest condolences to the friends, families, colleagues, and fans of both MacAdams and Ganick. You can the links above to listen to their work.

      Want to read more? Visit the PennSound Daily archive.