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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PoemTalk #137: on Anne Sexton's "The Ambition Bird"

Posted 6/21/2019

left to right: Ellen Berman, Anthony Rostain, Ahmad Almallah
Today saw the release of episode #137 in the PoemTalk Podcast Series, which focuses on Anne Sexton's poem "The Ambition Bird." Fittingly enough, given the poet, host Al Filreis was joined by two practicing psychiatrists, Ellen Berman and Anthony Rostain, along with poet Ahmad Almallah.

After discussing the provenance of both the poem itself and the specific recording under discussion, Filreis' PoemTalk blog post on the episode offers some sense of contemporary appraisals of Sexton's work: "A New York Times review by Joyce Carol Oates of The Complete Poems written in 1981 observed that after the mid-1960s Sexton's writing 'had begun to lose its scrupulous dramatic control and [was] weakened by a poetic voice that, rarely varying from poem to poem, spoke ceaselessly of emotions and moods and ephemeral states of mind.'" He continues, "Berman, Rostain, and Almallah, as PoemTalk listeners will hear, take a very different approach. If an understanding of clinical depression is adjusted by a sense of the deep anger and frustration of the domestic scene of an intensely ambitious woman, then perhaps the emotional ceaselessness, figurative ephemerality, and formal scrupulous control might be seen as of a piece."

You can read more here. The full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, can be found here.

New at Jacket2: "Extreme Texts," ed. by Divya Victor

Posted 6/20/2019

Today is a very exciting day long in the making: "Extreme Texts" — a groundbreaking Jacket2 feature curated by guest editor Divya Victor — has finally been launched. Here's how Victor starts her introduction of the materials:
When Jacket2 invited me to compose a CFP for a special feature spanning multiple modes of thinking, it was the summer of 2017 and we were several months into Trump's presidency. I had just returned to the United States, where I am a naturalized "citizen," after years in Singapore, where I was employed as a faculty member on a work visa, a status determined almost solely on the state's articulated understanding of my temporary utility to society — a condition that defines and delimits the lives of immigrants everywhere, but especially in oligarchic states (like Singapore and the US) that bank on the sweat and blood of certain bodies, the profitability of distended indenture (including debt), disenfranchisement, carceral surveillance, and other forms of coercion. The CFP was composed at a moment when it seemed that a majority of Americans had acquiesced to live, normally, under extreme conditions, with denuded civil rights, attenuated freedoms of press, increasing inequality of wages, and diminishing access to medical care, and under misogynist, transphobic, and supremacist policies. The moment was marked by fury over Trump's "Muslim ban," an executive order that prevented the entry of foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
You can read more of her introduction here and browse the impressive table of contents, which is divided into "Scholarship," "Engagements," "Cases," and a special "Philippines Dossier." If you don't instantly see two or three or four pieces that you have to read right away, then there might be something wrong with you.

In Memoriam: Kevin Killian (1952–2019)

Posted 6/18/2019

Killian Kevin in 2012 (photo by Daniel Nicoletta)
We are mourning the sudden and shocking loss of Kevin Killian, who passed away this weekend at the age of sixty-six. Over at Jacket2, editor Julia Bloch has written a lovely memorial that details Killian's many memorial contributions to Jacket over the years, as well as the contents of his modest PennSound author page:
At Killian's PennSound page you will find a collection of recordings that includes a September 19, 1997, event hosted by the Kelly Writers House in Houston Hall at the University of Pennsylvania. The program featured Killian and his wife, the acclaimed writer Dodie Bellamy, in conversation and was organized by Kerry Sherin Wright, director of the Writers House, and Joshua Schuster, who was a student here at the time. 
The recording opens with Killian, midsentence, describing how Jack Spicer came to attend UC Berkeley, where he refused to sign the Loyalty Oath in 1950 ("I don’t know if you have that here," Killian tells the Penn audience, to laughs). Killian coedited, with Lewis Ellingham, Spicer's posthumously published detective novels, The Train of Thought: (Chapter III of a Detective Novel) (Zasterle Press, 1994) and The Tower of Babel (Talisman House, 1994); cowrote, with Ellingham, the biography Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance (Wesleyan University Press, 1998); and coedited, with Peter Gizzi, My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (Wesleyan University Press, 2008), which won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Killian once told Rain Taxi, "I'm an artist with a complicated relationship to California and to the class in which I was born. I guess I'm more like Spicer than I thought."

Killian's PennSound page also includes his 1991 talk on Spicer at the Kootenay School of Writing; a 2007 reading of his poems "Norwegian Wood" and "Is It All Over My Face?" at the launch of EOAGH Issue 3: Queering Language; and his January 31, 2015, reading with CAConrad and Jennifer Moxley at Frank O'Hara's Last Lover, the Philadelphia reading series curated by Jason Mitchell at Snockey's Oyster and Crab House Rose Room.

You can read more here. Thanks to the good graces of Andrew Kenower (of A Voice Box fame), we'll be adding a number of new recordings of Killian in the near future, so watch this space. We send our love to Dodie Bellamy and the great many members of our community who are reeling from the loss of this singular talent.

Adonis on PennSound

Posted 5/13/2019

This week begins with the spotlight on our author page for Syrian poet, essayist and translator Adonis, for which we owe our gratitude to Pierre Joris (shown at left with the poet), who provided the recording to us back in 2013. 

This Poets House-sponsored reading took place on March 7, 2013 as part of that year's AWP conference in Boston. For this event, Adonis was joined by Khaled Mattawa, whose Adonis: Selected Poems was shortlisted for the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize, and after the reading, the two engaged in a lively discussion about poetry and contemporary issues.

Unfortunately, in the intervening years, we have not had the opportunity to add more recordings to our Adonis author page, but this modest gem is still well worth sharing with our listeners. 

Trish Salah on PennSound

Posted 5/10/2019

Today we're wrapping up the week by highlighting our author page for Canadian poet and critic Trish Salah, which we first launched a little over two years ago.

At that time, our holdings included the poet's appearance at the 2009 ADFEMPO (Advancing Feminist Poetics and Activism) conference, organized by Belladonna*, which took place on September 24th and 25th of that year. Salah appeared as part of a panel on "Body as Discourse" chaired by Kate Eichhorn that included Joan Retallack, Laura Smith, Nathalie Stephens (Nathanaël), and Ronaldo V. Wilson in addition to Salah, which explored "questions of the body, referentiality, remapping bodies and borders, intertextuality, narrativity, aesthetics, and the challenges of de-essentialization as we scrutinize 'female,' 'queer,' 'raced' and 'othered' bodies."

Beyond that panel, we had a brief set as part of a Belladonna* Reading Series event on Transfeminism and Literature from 2012, and Salah's Segue Series reading at the Zinc Bar in March 2013. Since then, we've added several more recordings, including "Nevada: A Reading and Panel" that also included Imogen Binnie, from the Young Centre for Performing Arts in 2013; 2014's Wanting in Arabic: A Conversation with Poet Trish Salah," recorded as part of the Asia Pacific Forum for NYC's WBAI-FM; and a 2014 reading at the East Bay Poetry Summit, hosted by the Manifest Reading and Workshop Series. There's also a very exciting PennSound Podcast episode (#57) in which Christy Davids interviews Salah and Salah reads her poetry, including "Two Self Portraits," "Interlude for the Voice," "Future Foundered," and "Gossels in Fugue."

You can listen to any and all of the recordings mentioned above by clicking here.

Edwin Torres and Will Alexander at KWH, 2016

Posted 5/8/2019

PennSound co-director Al Filreis recently posted a Jacket2 commentary entry highlighting a recent addition to our site: "On October 25, 2016, Edwin Torres and Will Alexander gave a double reading at the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia, and then joined together in conversation. The program, organized by Edwin Torres in collaboration with the Creative Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania, was titled 'Paradigm Shifting.'" 

As the description for that event notes, Alexander and Torres are "both practitioners in the fields of poetry, art, and commitment to making the creative process visible, [who] will read from their works and then engage in an open discussion of process, genesis, the way language evolves from within a poem, and how we allow ourselves to travel within a universe of our own making in parallel to humanity's continuous shift."

We're now able to share segmented audio of both poets' sets, thanks to the hard work of PennSound staffer Luisa Healey. The event moves through six phases altogether, with each poet offering a brief selection of poems, followed by a segment of conversation, then repeating this pattern a second time. Alexander reads "The Blood Penguin," "The Ghost Survivor," "The Deluge in Formation," and "The Bedouin Ark," among other titles, while Torres' set includes "Oblique Offering," "Slipped Curve," "The Happy Skeptic," and "To The Rendered Excision." You can listen to this complete event by clicking here.

In Memoriam: George Economou (1934–2019)

Posted 5/6/2019

Today we're mourning the loss of poet and translator George Economou, who passed away late last week at the age of eighty-four. 

Jerry Rothenberg, an old and dear friend of Economou, posted a brief tribute to his work, hailing him as a "master translator and poet" and "a major influence on my own life and times as a poet and assembler." Elsewhere, he offered a more substantial statement:
The death of George Economou brings with it a rush of memories & warm good feelings that sometimes seem overwhelming. His poetry & presence were crucial to what we were attempting early on, & in particular his prowess & devotion to the ancient art of translation & the years he spent in translating & transcreating the work of the fabled Greek modernist C.P. Cavafy. My awareness of George & his work goes back to distant deep-image days, when he was the co-editor with Robert Kelly of Trobar, a magazine the name of which was itself a kind of translative act that brought ancient Provençal troubadours into the orbit of experimental modernism (or 'post'modernism as it came to be called later). His masterwork Ananios of Kleitor [...] remains one of the great transcreative works of my time & generation."

We were lucky to count both Economou and his wife, poet and playwright Rochelle Owens, as part of the Kelly Writers House community, and therefore it comes as no surprise that our George Economou author page is full of wonderful recordings made in-house, from a 2002 reading with Owens to last fall's David Bromige memorial reading. You can browse those resources by clicking here. We send our condolences to Owens, and to Economou's friends and colleagues, for their loss.

Three New Belladonna* Readings, 2019

Posted 5/1/2019

Here are the three latest additions to our Belladonna* Reading Series homepage, representing programming that took place during the spring of 2019.

The earliest of these readings, which took place on March 4, 2019 at Performance Space New York, has the amazing title of "Lesbian All-Stars." This event featured introductory comments by Rachel Levitsky before sets by Raquel Gutiérrez and Ru (Nina) Puro, Gail Scott and Pamela Sneed, and finally, Camille Roy, who was recorded in absentia.

The next event, from March 9, 2019, was "Epic Voices: Bernadette Mayer and Stacy Szymaszek," held at Poets House. Introduced by Rachael Wilson, this symposium focused "on the long poem and daily writing."

Finally, dating from April 8, 2019, we have Sahar Muradi and Diana Khoi Nguyen reading at Queens College. James Loop and Amanda Long provided introductions for this evening, while the Q&A session was facilitated by Amanda Long and Zachary Zeringue.

Now approaching its twentieth year, Belladonna* continues to be as vital a force as ever in our contemporary poetry scene. On our Belladonna* reading series homepage, you'll find an astounding array of audio and video documentation of the organization's ambitious work promoting "the work of women writers who are adventurous, experimental, politically involved, multi-form, multicultural, multi-gendered, impossible to define, delicious to talk about, unpredictable, and dangerous with language," going back to its very origins. Click here to start browsing, or click any of the individual dates above to visit that specific reading.

PoemTalk #135: on John Cage's "Writing for a Second Time through Finnegans Wake"

Posted 4/24/2019

Panelists Marjorie Perloff, Danny Snelson, Nancy Perloff.
Today we're releasing episode #135 in the PoemTalk Podcast Series, which is concerned with John Cage's "Writing for a Second Time through Finnegans Wake," a mesostic transformation of Joyce's iconic novel. This time around, the program was the guest of Marjorie Perloff in her Los Angeles home, with Danny Snelson and Nancy Perloff also joining host Al Filreis on the panel.

As Filreis notes in his PoemTalk blog post announcing this new episode, "Nothwithstanding its status as an intense selection or condensation of the original text, [Cage's] resulting 'writing through' is too long for PoemTalk's signature 'close but not too close reading,' so the group focuses on the opening pages of the Cage text," which was published in Empty Words (1979). He continues: "Cage famously considered Finnegans Wake 'without a doubt the most important book of the twentieth century' (Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage, 294). He obsessed over it, wrote music inspired by it, and corresponded and conversed with several Wake-focused Joyceans such as Marshall McLuhan and Norman O. Brown. Brown, in fact, makes a significant appearance in Cage’s charming and somewhat helpful (somewhat charmingly digressive and disarming) prefatory statement to the work." This, of course, was not the composer's only dalliance with Joyce and his writing: "Cage visited the Wake elsewhere in his Roaratorio (1976–79) — fully titled Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake; the Mode Records CD series of Cage recordings arranges its volume 6 to include “Writing for the Second Time” along with Roaratorio and Laughtears: Conversation on Roaratorio."

You can read more, read Cage's text, and see video of him performing "Writing for a Second Time..." here. The full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, can be found here

David Antin Discusses Kathy Acker, 2002

Posted 4/22/2019

Here's another stunning vintage recording from our archives that might also serve as belated birthday greetings to Kathy Acker, who would have turned seventy-two on April 18th. In October 2017, just a few weeks after his death, we posted this half-hour video of David Antin discussing Acker — who he calls "a dazzlingly charming and funny and brilliantly powerful writer, whose work I've always felt very close to" — as part of a symposium on her work held at New York University on November 8, 2002.

"Let me point out I knew Kathy before she was the Kathy Acker you all know," Antin begins, discussing his first meeting her at UC San Diego in 1968, when she was working as a teaching assistant and associating with other "refugees from Brandeis," along with her husband Robert (nominally a student of Marcuse). He goes on to discuss "the climate in which Kathy came to be a poet" — specifically "the proclaimed sexual revolution" and "the year of the assassinations" (Antin's arrival in the city coincided with Robert Kennedy's murder and Valerie Solanas' shooting of Andy Warhol) — then recalls the guidance that he provided to young and aspiring writers like Acker, Mel Freilicher, and others from their social circle, the conceptual art projects he worked closely with (including a Fluxus retrospective), and associations with figures like his wife, Eleanor, Jerry and Diane Rothenberg, Lenny Neufeld, George Quasha, et al., all of which proved to be very influential. "She was exposed to all of these people in various ways that were useful to her," he observes. 

He goes on to talk about her compositional use of constraint ("Her engagement was with so many things but she had to restrain herself to not be all over the place all at once."), her means of getting her work out to wider audiences, and the qualities that made her a singular talent: "Kathy had both intelligence and energy, and she had desire [...] It was the intensity of her desire for life." It's a gossipy, raucous recollection that also reveals deeper truths about how Acker came into her own. You can watch it here.

Charles Reznikoff Reads from 'Holocaust,' 1975

Posted 4/19/2019

In late 2009, we were fortunate enough to be contacted by filmmaker Abraham Ravett, who offered us a treasure trove of rare recordings he'd made of poet Charles Reznikoff reading from his final collection, Holocaust, along with a number of photographs. Recorded December 21, 1975, these eighteen tracks — which include a number of retakes and an audio check — were originally recorded for inclusion in the soundtrack to the recently-graduated director's debut film, Thirty Years Later, which he describes as an autobiographical document of "the emotional and psychological impact of the Holocaust on two survivors and the influence this experience has had on their relationship with the filmmaker — their only surviving child."

In addition to the recordings themselves, Ravett graciously shared his recollections of that day — noting, "Mr. Reznikoff's West End apartment was located within a high-rise apartment complex reminiscent of where I grew up during my teens in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, N.Y. He was very kind and gracious to a rather nervous young filmmaker fumbling with his Nagra tape recorder and Sennheiser microphone who hoped that everything would work as planned" — along with a series of eight photographs of the poet, including the stunning image at right.

While Holocaust, as a text alone, serves as a viscerally pointed indictment of Nazi atrocities during the Second World War, not to mention a marvelous example of documentary poetics, in these selections, the auratic resonance of these appropriated testimonies are amplified dramatically, particularly when framed by the frail yet determined voice of the seventy-nine year old poet — who would pass away a month and a day from the date of this recording session — lending the work a gravid anger, a grand sense of monumental enormity.

You can listen to these tracks by clicking here, where you'll also find a link to a separate page housing Ravett's photographs, and don't forget to visit Reznikoff's main PennSound author page, where you can listen to the poet's 1974 reading at the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University (where he was famously introduced by his Objectivist compatriot, George Oppen) and his 1975 appearance on Susan Howe's Pacifica Radio program, "Poetry Today," among other recordings.

Congratulations to Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Forrest Gander

Posted 4/16/2019

Monday afternoon was a bright one for this year's crop of journalists, authors, artists, and composers who've been awarded Pulitzer Prizes for 2019. Among them is Forrest Gander, who won the prize for poetry for his 2018 New Directions book, Be With.  In their citation, the Pulitzer judges hailed the book as "a collection of elegies that grapple with sudden loss, and the difficulties of expressing grief and yearning for the departed."

The publisher's details the volume's contents as follows: "Drawing from his experience as a translator, Forrest Gander includes in the first, powerfully elegiac section a version of a poem by the Spanish mystical poet St. John of the Cross. He continues with a long multilingual poem examining the syncretic geological and cultural history of the U.S. border with Mexico. The poems of the third section — a moving transcription of Gander's efforts to address his mother dying of Alzheimer's — rise from the page like hymns, transforming slowly from reverence to revelation." They continue, "Gander has been called one of our most formally restless poets, and these new poems express a characteristically tensile energy and, as one critic noted, 'the most eclectic diction since Hart Crane.'"

Our Forrest Gander author page is home to eleven full-length recordings, including readings from 1992 to 2011 at The Ear Inn, the New Coast Festival, San Francisco State University, the Key West Literary Seminar, Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Boise State MFA Reading Series, and our own Kelly Writers House, along with two appearances on Leonard Schwartz's Cross Cultural Poetics program.  You can browse those holdings by clicking here. We send our congratulations to Gander and his many fans, and hope to be able to showcase more recent recordings of his work soon.

M.C. Richards on PennSound

Posted 4/15/2019

We're starting this week off by highlighting our author page for the late M.C. Richards, a poet, potter and translator whose astounding life included a stint teaching at the fabled Black Mountain College (where she also participated in the first happening), an early experiment in communal living at "the Land," in Stony Point, NY (along with John Cage, David Tudor and others), and friendships with Jackson Mac Low, Charles Olson, Paul Williams, Robert Rauschenberg and Franz Kline. She devoted her later years to working with the developmentally disabled at the Camphill Village in Kimberton, PA.

Our Richards author page is anchored by a 1997 recording made at Indre Studios in Philadelphia and comes to us courtesy of a close friend, Jasper Brinton, who provided us with a little background to the session. "She made this tape essentially under some strain: she did not live to see it published to any degree; but understood its importance for her legacy," he notes. "The quality of the recording is excellent. Her voice strong. Earlier in 1991 Station Hill Press published Imagine Inventing Yellow: New and Collected Poems of M.C. Richards. The tape includes a few of these poems but also later work she saw fit to preserve."

We're very glad to be a part of that preservation process. You can listen to the seventy-five minute recording, consisting of nearly two dozen poems — including "March," "Strawberry," "Imagine Inventing Yellow," "Morning Prayer," "How to Rake Water," "Sweet Corn," and "For John Cage on His 75th Birthday" — along with plentiful fascinating asides and remarks by the author, by clicking here.

Tango with Cows: Book Art of the Russian Avant Garde, 1910-1917

Posted 4/12/2019

We're taking a trip deep into the PennSound archives to close out this week, with a new addition to the site from ten years ago this month. "Tango with Cows: Book Art of the Russian Avant Garde, 1910-1917" was a groundbreaking exhibition that ran through the spring of 2009 at Los Angeles' Getty Center.

PennSound Senior Editor Danny Snelson was responsible for seeing this remarkable multimedia resource through to fruition, and so we thought it fitting to have him provide our listeners with an introduction. Here's what he had to say:
PennSound has been working in collaboration with the Getty Research Institute to present this remarkable collection of historical and contemporary transrational poetry, centered on an exhibition of Russian Futurist book art held at the Getty earlier this year. The exhibition's title — "Tango with Cows" — taken from a poem by Vasily Kamensky, points to the sense of hilarity and irreverence you'll hear in these startlingly original 'beyonsense' poems. Our page of recordings compliments the extensive media collected online at the Getty's website. There, you can find programs, essays, video footage, full scans of the Futurist books, and even a fully interactive slideshow of key books from the exhibition! 
Our archive of sound recordings comes in two parts: first, Tango with Cows features Oleg Minin's bilingual readings of essential poems found in book art projects from poets such as Alexei Kruchenykh, Velimir Khlebnikov, and Pavel Filonov. By reading from the Russian before the accompanying English translation, Minin offers listeners the pleasure of sound before recognition — an ideal situation for the revolutionary poetics on display here.

However, the real highlight of this great resource sounds from the second half: we're pleased to present high quality recordings of Explodity: An Evening of Transrational Sound Poetry held on February 4th, 2009. This blockbuster reading casts the zaum' poetries of Khlebnikov and Kruchenykh in the parallel light of historic and contemporary sound poetry, as presented by Christian Bok and Steve McCaffery. After virtuoso performances of English translations of historical Russian poems, Bok and McCaffery present personal selections from the history of sound poetry alongside their own original compositions. On the short list are works by Aristophanes, Raoul Hausmann, F.T. Marinetti, Hugo Ball, Kurt Schwitters, and R. Murray Schafer, just to mention a few.

You can hear more work in this vein on PennSound pages for Christian Bok, Steve McCaffery, Jaap Blonk, Tomomi Adachi, and The Four Horsemen. Additionally, we'd like to suggest our historic pages for F.T. Marinetti and Vladimir Mayakovsky. Our partner UbuWeb offers a huge index of this exciting brach of poetry; we suggest in particular that you visit a companion set of Russian Futurist recordings from the GLM Collection.

Special thanks to Nancy Perloff and everyone at the Getty Research Institute for making this resource possible. We hope these recordings lend the same vision of language that mystified Benedikt Livshits in 1911 (from Nancy Perloff, Curator's Essay): "I saw language come alive with my very own eyes. The breath of the primordial word wafted into my face."
You can start browsing our PennSound page for this event by clicking here.

Stephen Ratcliffe: Two Recent Readings

Posted 4/10/2019

Today we're highlighting two recent readings by Stephen Ratcliffe that were just added to our site.

In the first, recorded at San Francisco's Alley Cat Books on October 28, 2018, Ratcliffe reads from his latest, vast observational project, w i n d o w. Then, from January 7th of this year, we have a reading from Vanne Bistro in Berkeley, where Ratcliffe reads from both w i n d o w and sound of wave in channel. Each set runs about twenty-five minutes, which is is positively microcosmic when you consider that each of these book-length projects is one thousand pages long! Both can be streamed or downloaded on our Stephen Ratcliffe author page, where you'll find many other readings from Ratcliffe's previous book projects, including c o n t i n u u m, CLOUD / RIDGE, HUMAN / NATURE, Remarks on Color/Sound, and Selected Days.

Ratcliffe discussed sound of wave in channel with Jonathan Skinner in a 2011 interview published by Jacket2. Here's how he describes the dynamics of language and observation at play in the work:
The scene is like a static — the scene is this ongoing, recurrent, apparently repeating … but it’s not really. For several reasons. One, every day is a new day. Every time the sound of the wave is heard, the next day it’s not the same thing. It’s this ongoing investigation of space and time, of course. Of place, space/place. But over a period of ongoing time, one day after another after another. So it’s never the same sound, although the words are the same. There’s this kind of failure of language to enact those things. The words point to things that are occurring, which the words have in some way to do with, but those things have nothing to do with the words. And the words don’t discriminate between this sound and that, or between this color green and that color green. It’s using the same words over and over again, to point toward things that are constantly shifting and are not really being grasped by that language.
You can read the complete interview here, and sound of wave in channel is available to read in its entirety via Eclipse.

Andrei Codrescu Reads at the Strand, 2019

Posted 4/8/2019

Here's a treat to start off the new week: a recent recording of Andrei Codrescu — multi-genre author, Exquisite Corpse editor, and National Public Radio commentator — reading at the New York's legendary Strand Bookstore.

Recorded on March 26th of this year, this mobile video starts in medias res, quickly treating us to a unique urban fantasy of "a super crane operated by Hart Crane in the Manhattan fantasy of drafting her skyline to whose credit, and to Hart's, allows for better places for jumping from its heights." "How thoughtful," he observes, "suicide must be given beautiful places to be conducted from." Some of the poems read for an appreciative audience in this brief set include "Shoelaces," "How Time Deals with the Heart's Annoying Presence," "Apology" and "Return of the Repressed in the Age of the Avant-Garde Robots."

Oddly enough, this is the first recording of Codrescu to grace our site. You can watch it now by clicking here to visit our PennSound Singles page.

Newly Segmented: Amiri and Amina Baraka Read in Buffalo 1985

Posted 4/3/2019

We recently segmented this very exciting 1985 recording of husband and wife duo Amiri and Amina Baraka reading at the Allentown Community Center in Buffalo, NY. 

Recorded on June 14th of that year, the event began with a twenty-five minute set by Amina, who read "Soweto Song," "I Wanna Make Freedom," "Oh Say Can You See," "Dirge for the Lynched," and "For the Lady in Color," among other titles. Amiri then took the state for a forty-five minute set that draws largely from his 1995 collection, Wise, Why's, Y's, including "Wise" parts 1–10, "1929: Y you ask?," "Ya Gotta Have Freedom," "Reflections (for Thelonious Monk)," and "How to Beat Reagan," among many other titles.

These two sets, consisting of thirty-two segmented tracks in total, can be found here. As we mentioned last week, when highlighting Baraka's 2005 recording of "Funk Lore," our Amiri Baraka author page, is home to a broad array of recordings going as far back as 1964.

PigeonSound at 10

Posted 4/1/2019

This April Fool's Day marks ten years since our PennSound Daily announcement of our PigeonSound ™ service, which sadly never got off the ground given — among other things — the widespread rejection of pigeon post in the United States. Turntables still continue to sell healthily, flip phones are coming back, and every hipster has a vintage typewriter they paid too much money for, but the same enthusiasm could not be rekindled for avian poetry delivery, and so our fleet coos in waiting for more genteel and discerning times.

Here's our original announcement, which, in true April Fool's Day fashion, came a month early, alongside the unveiling of our Twitter account:

It's been less than 24 hours since we launched our PennSound Twitter page, and already we have 50 followers. Sign up to follow our feed to get micro-updates — from co-directors Al Filreis and Charles Bernstein, and managing editor Michael S. Hennessey — highlighting changes to the site, new additions and favorite recordings from our archives. Recent tweets have featured Bernadette Mayer & Lee Ann Brown, Tracie Morris, the PennSound Podcast series and our video page

Are you getting the most out of your PennSound experience? Aside from Twitter, don't forget all of the other ways in which you can keep up to date with the site through the web or your cell phone: first, there's the PennSound Daily newsfeed, which automatically delivers entries like this one to your iGoogle page, Google Reader, or favorite feed reader.PennSound is also on FaceBook, along with pages for our sister sites, including the Kelly Writers House and the Electronic Poetry Center. One additional option is the Kelly Writers House's Dial-a-Poem service: just dial 215-746-POEM (7636), and aside from news on upcoming KWH events, you can also hear a recording from a past reading, courtesy of the PennSound archives.

Finally, for those of you who feel overwhelmed by all this new technology, and liked the world a lot more before it Twittered, Tumblred and Bloggered, we're currently beta-testing yet another, more traditional means of transmission. Utilizing homing pigeons equipped with state-of-the-art (well, state-of-the-art circa WWI) wire recording technology, PigeonSound ™ (see prototype at right) will be able to deliver three minutes of telephone-quality audio up to several hundred miles from our home base at UPenn's Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing (our apologies to the rest of the world). Though there have been numerous unfortunate setbacks to date, we hope to have the program up and running by the first of next month with our inaugural offering: The Selected Poems of Ern Malley (read by the author himself). From sites that tweet to birds that tweet, we have all of your poetry options covered at PennSound.

Happy Birthday, Gregory Corso!

Posted 3/26/2019

March is certainly the month for Beat Generation birthdays: we've already recognized Jack Kerouac earlier this month, and just fêted Lawrence Ferlinghetti on his centenary. March 26th would have been the eighty-ninth birthday of American poetry's Dead End Kid made good, Gregory Corso.

We launched our Gregory Corso author page in June 2017, with assistance from Raymond Foye. There, you'll find five full readings plus one individual poem recorded between the 1970s and 1990s. The earliest recording is a April 1971 reading at Duke University, which is followed by an August 1985 appearance at the San Francisco Art Institute as part of their "Art of Poetry" series. Jumping forward to the 90s, there's a March 1991 Brooklyn College reading notable for the appearance of Corso's iconic late poem "The Whole Mess ... Almost" and for the half-hour candid conversation recorded in the car on the way home. From December 1992, there's a stellar reading in New York City also featuring Herbert Huncke, John Wieners, and Allen Ginsberg, and finally, from March 1993, we have a half-hour reading from Rutgers University including "I Met This Guy Who Died," "Earliest Memory," "Youthful Religious Experiences," and "How Not to Die," among other poems.

Corso's birthday is a wonderful time to remember his unique voice and perspective. Ginsberg famously offered high praise for his dear friend, calling him ""a poet's Poet, his verse pure velvet, close to John Keats for our time, exquisitely delicate in manners of the Muse," who "has been and always will be a popular poet, awakener of youth, puzzlement & pleasure for sophisticated elder bibliophiles." He continues, judging Corso as "'Immortal' as immortal is, Captain Poetry exampling revolution of Spirit, his 'poetry the opposite of hypocrisy,' a longer, laughably unlaurelled by native prizes, divine Poet Maudit, rascal poet Villonesque and Rimbaudian whose wild fame's extended for decades around the world from France to China, World poet." Click here to start listening.

Celebrating Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 100th

Posted 3/24/2019

Today is the 100th birthday of living legend Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose prodigious resumé is summed up by The New York Times thusly: "poet, retail entrepreneur, social critic, publisher, combat veteran, pacifist, poor boy, privileged boy, outspoken socialist, and successful capitalist." As Barry Miles observes, "Ferlinghetti's contribution to American literature is immense" and that's certainly cause for celebration of a life both long and well-lived.

We first launched our Lawrence Ferlinghetti author page a year ago in honors of the poet's 99th, and here's what you'll find there. Our most reading (which comes to us via Chris Funkhouser) is am hour-long set from 1994 at Page Hall in Albany. From there we jump back nearly a decade to two recordings from George Drury and Lois Baum, including an appearance on the program Word of Mouth and a forty-minute reading of selected poems at the Art Institute of Chicago. Next we have the Watershed Tapes release Into the Deeper Pools, recorded in two sessions in Bethesda and Baltimore, Maryland in 1984 and 1983, respectively.

We shuffle back a few decades for a few select poems recorded in 1969, including "Assassination Raga" and "Tyrannus Nix," which were digitized by Joel Kuszai for The Factory School, and the Ferlinghetti/Ginsberg episode of Richard O. Moore's Poetry USA series from 1966. Finally, we have  a short recording from the Berkeley Poetry Conference and a few assorted recordings without dates.

As we think back today about the impact Ferlinghetti has had on all of our lives, it's far too easy to foreground practically everything but his own poetry, so here's an excellent opportunity to connect directly with it and appreciate the ways in which it "constantly risk[s] absurdity / and death," as he so famously observed more than a half a century ago.

PoemTalk #134: on Mei-mei Berssenbrugge's "Hello, the Roses"

Posted 3/22/2019

Earlier this week, we released episode #134 in the PoemTalk Podcast Series, focusing on the title poem of Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s 2013 New Directions book, Hello, the Roses. For this program, host Al Filreis gathered a panel that included (from left to right) Joshua SchusterEvelyn Reilly, and James Sherry 

Filreis begins his PoemTalk blog post announcing this new episode by discussing the poem's structure: "Our poem is in two sections. In the first, a woman meditates upon — and communicates with — a rose. In the second, the rose responds. The second begins: 'The rose communicates instantly with the woman by sight, collapsing its boundaries, and the woman widens her boundaries.' The poems of Hello, the Roses often feature a person's efforts to understand animals (especially 'Animal Voices' and 'DJ Frogs') and plants ('Slow Down, Now'). In 'Verdant Heart' communication flows back and forth between a rose and the speaker, although the emphasis in that poem is the increasing ecological awareness of the speaker." 

You can read more and listen in here. The full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, can be found here

Amiri Baraka reads "Funk Lore," 2005

Posted 3/20/2019

Thanks to the efforts of Howard Ramsby, we are able to share this recording of Amiri Baraka reading "Funk Lore," the title poem of his 1996 Littoral Books collection, Funk Lore: New Poems (1984–1994). This three-minute track comes from a visit to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on October 24, 2005.

"We are the blues / ourselves," the poem begins, "our favorite / color / Where we been, half here
/ half gone" revisiting themes found at the heart of Baraka's poetry since his earliest output. By the middle of the poem, a transubstantiation has taken place: "We are the blues / the past the gone / the energy the / cold the saw teeth / hotness / the smell above / draining the wind / through trees / the / blue / leaves us / black," though he quickly comes full-circle — "& now black again we are the / whole of night / with sparkling eyes staring / down / like jets” — ending with a reassertion of identity: "“that’s why our spirit / make us // the blues // we is ourselves // the blues." 

You can listen to the complete poem here on our Amiri Baraka author page, along with a treasure trove of recordings going as far back as 1964.

Aural Monsoon, "Live in the Haight," 2017

Posted 3/18/2019

Here's an opportunity to get to know another side of poet Will Alexander through his jazz duo, Aural Monsoon, where he plays piano alongside drummer Mark Pino. Today, we're proud to highlight Live at the Haight, an album recorded on August 13, 2017. Click here to listen to all nine tracks, including "Bamboo and Fire," "Calm and Furious Waters," "Verdigris Panorama," "Lyrical Jasmine Towers," "Aural Diamonds in Motion," and "Double Recognition."

Here's what Pino had to say about his their collaboration: "Los Angeles poet and musician Will Alexander's work been shaking my perceptions for several years now. I was happy to play with him on sets with Cloud Shepherd, and continue to love to read his writing. Hence, when Will contacted me to ask about my being available for a house show in San Francisco, with me on drums and he on piano, I jumped at the opportunity." Later, he says of the same gig, "Towards the end of the second set, I simply stopped playing my drums and listened to Will, more as a fan than a duo partner. I guess I kind of got lost in that for a few minutes. Will's Surreal Trance moves will have that effect!"

For those craving more of Alexander's work, click here to visit his PennSound author page, which is home to a variety of talks, readings, and interviews going back to 1994.

Barbara Henning and Maureen Owen (plus Ashley Smith Keyfitz), 2019

Posted 3/15/2019

This winter, poets Barbara Henning and Maureen Owen undertook an amazing road trip, reading from coast to coast between January and March, and covering 5,547 miles in the process. We're lucky to have recordings of two of those fourteen readings to share with our listeners.

That includes the first event in the tour: a Belladonna*-sponsored reading at Williamsburg's McNally Jackson Bookstore, which took place on January 18th. The complete audio from this this hour-long event is available to stream or download.

Then, jumping forward a few weeks to February 2nd, we find ourselves in the much-warmer climes of Austin, TX, where Henning and Owen read with Ashley Smith Keyfitz at Malvern Books. Streaming video of this complete event is available for your viewing pleasure.

Henning and Owen have kept a journal of their travels on Henning's author site, which you can read here, and if you're in Denver, you can catch the last stop on their ambitious overland journey next Tuesday, when they'll read with Crisosto Apache at Mercury Cafe as part of the F Bomb Series. You can find the complete itinerary here.

For Jack Kerouac's Birthday: Coolidge and Gizzi Read "Old Angel Midnight," 1994

Posted 3/12/2019

Since we're marking the birthdays of noteworthy authors, we'd be remiss to not acknowledge the March 12th birthday of Jack Kerouac, who would have turned ninety-seven today, had he not committed a slow alcoholic suicide, dying in the fall of 1969.

While we don't have permission from the Kerouac estate to share recordings of the poet's work — multiple albums, including collaborations with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, along with polymath Steve Allen, are widely available — we do have a truly astounding document of Clark Coolidge and Michael Gizzi reading Kerouac's iconic spontaneous prose piece, "Old Angel Midnight." This session took place at the studio of Steve Schwartz in West Stockbridge, MA in 1994, and served as the basis of PoemTalk #124, first released last May, where Coolidge was joined by J.C. Cloutier and Michelle Taransky to discuss the piece.

Coolidge is, of course, well-known for, as Al Filreis phrases it, "his advocacy for Kerouac as properly belonging to the field of experimental poetry and poetics." Here's how he lays out his sense of what he refers to as Kerouac's "babble flow":
[S]ound is movement. It interests me that the words "momentary" and "moments" come from the same Latin: "moveo, to move. Every statement exists in time and vanishes in time, like in alto saxophonist Eric Dolphy's famous statement about music: "When you hear music, after it's over it's gone in the air, you can never capture it again." That has gradually become more of a positive value to me, because one of the great things about the moment is that if you were there in that moment, you received that moment and there's an intensity to a moment that can never be gone back to that is somehow more memorable. Like they used to say, "Was you there, Charlie?" 
Kerouac said, "Nothing is muddy that runs in time and to laws of time." And I can’t resist putting next to that my favorite statement by Maurice Blanchot: "One can only write if one arrives at the instant towards which one can only move through space opened up by the movement of writing." And that’s not a paradox.
Here's how Kerouac himself described the project (which famously appeared in the premier issue of Big Table, along with excerpts from William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch — content liberated from the suppressed Winter 1958 issue of The Chicago Review): 
"Old Angel Midnight" is only the beginning of a lifelong work in multilingual sound, representing the haddalada-babra of babbling world tongues coming in thru my window at midnight no matter where I live or what I'm doing, in Mexico, Morocco, New York, India or Pakistan, in Spanish, French, Aztec, Gaelic, Keltic, Kurd or Dravidian, the sounds of people yakking and of myself yakking among, ending finally in great intuitions of the sounds of tongues throughout the entire universe in all directions in and out forever. And it is the only book I've ever written in which I allow myself the right to say anything I want, absolutely and positively anything, since that's what you hear coming in that window... God in his Infinity wouldn't have had a world otherwise — Amen."
You can listen to Coolidge and Gizzi's rendition of this classic here.

Want to read more? Visit the PennSound Daily archive.