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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Sophia Naz: Wexler Studio Session, 2019

Posted 1/15/2020

One of our latest additions to the site is a Wexler Studio session with Sophia Naz, recorded on April 3, 2019. Naz, a bilingual poet, essayist, author, editor and translator, as well as a regular contributor to Dawn, poetry editor and columnist at The Sunflower Collective, as well as the founder of rekhti.org, a site dedicated to contemporary Urdu poetry by women. She has published three poetry collections — Peripheries (2015), Pointillism (2017) and Date Palms (2017) — while her latest book is Shehnaz; A Tragic True Tale of Royalty, Glamour and Heartbreak, a biography of her mother.

This half-hour session consists of sixteen titles in total, including "Black Butterflies," "Eye of the Labyrinth," "The Heart of the Matter," "Habeas Corpus," "If You Spoke, Firefly," "Odysseys of an Onion Moon," " Chappan Churi," "Ode to a Scar," "In the Margins," "Atomic Nocta," and "The Department of Wronged Rights." You can listen in by clicking the title above, or here, to be taken to our PennSound Singles page.

Fatemeh Shams on PennSound

Posted 1/13/2020

We're kicking off this week by highlighting the work of Persian poet, translator, and scholar Fatemeh Shams, who is also an Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania.

On March 2, 2017 Shams and translator Dick Davis took part in a lunchtime event at our own Kelly Writers House on Persian Literature in Translation, which is available on her author page in video and audio form. Later that day, the two stepped into the Wexler Studio for a bilingual reading, with Shams reading in Farsi and Davis sharing his translations in English. In total, the pair read ten poems including "Mashhad," "Three Years Later," "Never to Fall Asleep," "Ash and Mist," "In Search of a Homeland," "Home," and "Persecution."

These earlier recordings are joined by "Poetry Is for Breathing: A Reading Against Islamophobia" an event that took place at the Kelly Writers House on April 17, 2019 with sets by Shams, Aditya Bahl (poet, translator, and a current Johns Hopkins Ph.D. candidate), and Husnaa Hashim (2017-2018 Youth Poet Laureate of Philadelphia), with Orchid Tierney serving as host. Shams' poem, "When They Broke Down the Door," was also the subject of PoemTalk Podcast #119, with a panel that included Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, Leonard Schwartz, and Mahyar Entezari joining host Al Filreis for the show. You can listen to all of the aforementioned recordings by clicking here.

PennSound Podcast #67: "Taking Up Space: Sarah Rose Etter"

Posted 1/10/2020

In the latest episode in the PennSound Podcast series, Sarah Rose Etter joined Jacket2 editor Julia Bloch in the Wexler Studio last September for a short reading from and discussion of her debut poetic novel, The Book of X, which appeared in 2019 from Two Dollar Radio. Etter and Bloch talked about the impact of open poetics and visual art upon Etter’s prose style, the feminist politics of speculative narrative, the process of fact-checking menstrual blood output, and the etymology of the book’s governing image — among other things. 

Sarah Rose Etter is the author of Tongue Party, selected by Deb Olin Unferth as the winner of the Caketrain Press award, and The Book of X, her first novel. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cut, Electric Literature, Guernica, VICE, New York Tyrant, Juked, Night Block, The Black Warrior Review, Salt Hill Journal, The Collagist, and elsewhere. She has been awarded residences at Disquiet International program in Portugal and the Gullkistan Writing Residency in Iceland.

As the World Watches Australia ...

Posted 1/8/2020

It's difficult to watch the daily news coming out of Australia and not feel a profound sense of helplessness — for the lives lost or disrupted, the sheer scale of the destruction, and the lack of any foreseeable end to the wildfires. In trying times like these, we find poetry to be a useful means of standing in solidarity with those suffering far away, therefore today we're highlighting Australia-centric content from both PennSound and Jacket2.

There's no better place to start than our Australian Poets anthology page, which is home to a comprehensive anthology of contemporary Australian voices, organized by the indispensable Pam Brown and first unveiled in 2013. In addition to links to preexisting author pages for Kate Lilley and John Tranter, it includes (then-)new recordings from a total of twenty-five poets: Adam Aitken, Ali Alizadeh, Judith Bishop, Ken Bolton, Bonny Cassidy, Stuart Cooke, Laurie Duggan, Kate Fagan, Michael Farrell, Liam Ferney, Duncan Hose, Jill Jones, Kit Kelen, John Kinsella, Peter Minter, Tracy Ryan, Jaya Savige, Pete Spence, Amanda Stewart, Ann Vickery, Corey Wakeling, Alan Wearne, Fiona Wright, Tim Wright, and Mark Young. This astounding collection of recordings is amazing in and of itself, but even more so when you realize that it's a supplement to an even more momentous Jacket2 feature: "Fifty-One Contemporary Poets from Australia", also organized by Brown, which was released in five installments over the course of 2012. Here's how she she opens her preface to the collection:
When it comes to poetry anthologies, I agree with David Antin's long-ago quip — "Anthologies are to poets as zoos are to animals" — and I think that journals and magazines are probably better indicators of what's current in any country's poetry than grand, often agenda-driven anthologies. Here I am presenting the work of fifty-one contemporary poets from Australia. My aim was to make it broadly representative by including innovation and experimentation alongside quasi-romanticism, elegy, and the almost-pastoral. No one in this group writes like another. The common link is simply that each poet is an Australian whether by birth, residence or citizenship.
She continues: "This collection could probably be read as an anthology, and so I grant a comment on omission. There are many other poets writing and publishing in Australia, probably around four hundred, who aren't included here. A problem for any editor assembling a collection of writing from Australia is the inclusion of multiracial poetries. At the outset, I should say that there are no Australian indigenous nor Torres Strait Islander poets in this selection of poems." That omission, however, is answered somewhat by Robbie Wood's astounding 2012 Jacket2 feature "On Australian Aboriginal Poetry: 'The Last Evening Glow Above the Horizon.'" Unlike typical Jacket2 features, which publish all of their content in one shot, Wood has filed new addenda to his anthology in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and I presume we might have further installments to look forward to in the future as well.

Taken together, these features represent some of my favorite PennSound and Jacket2 content over my long tenure with both sites, and while I wish there were more auspicious reasons for Australia to be on the minds of people all over the world. For those who are capable of donating to help victims of the wildfires, The New York Times offers a rundown of various charities on the ground offering assistance, and if you're feeling crafty, there are other important ways you can help as well. 

We send our sincere best wishes to the people of Australia and hope for a swift end to these fires so that the long and arduous process of recovery can begin in earnest. Moreover, we hope that sanity may prevail in regards to the looming climate crisis, such that disasters of this scope are no longer treated as normal occurrences.

William Carlos Williams Burns the Christmas Greens

Posted 1/6/2020

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

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

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

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

PoemTalk #143: on Hannah Weiner's "Clairvoyant Journal"

Posted 12/23/2019

Last Friday, we released episode #143 in the PoemTalk Podcast Series, which addresses two entries from Hannah Weiner's Clairvoyant Journal — "those composed on April 1 ('April Fool   BRAVE GIRL') and April 4 ('DONT COMPLAIN / April 4')." Joining host Al Filreis for this program is a panel including Charles Bernstein, Kate Colby, and Davy Knittle.

After discussing the origins and various editions of Clairvoyant JournalFilreis' PoemTalk blog post on this episode frames the work with one key question: "What is clairvoyant about this text — or more generally about Hannah Weiner's seeing words? Her seeing was plain sight but also visionary perception. The group grapples with this mode — words as seen — through the striking daily and domestic (it is a journal or diary, after all) particularities of augury, foresight, and divination on view on the page by readers, and heard by listeners of the remarkable three-voice performance." "Augury?" he asks his readers, before offering an assured "Yes." 

You can read more about the program, find copies of the entries under discussion here, and much more info on Clairvoyant Journal — as both a text in and of itself and as a score of sorts for multi-vocal performance — by clicking here. The full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, can be found here.

Welcoming Winter with Bernadette Mayer

Posted 12/21/2019

Winter will officially begin at 11:19PM EST tonight, well into the darkest night of the year. The winter solstice has long been a source of cultural inspiration and poetic inspiration as well, with one of the most notable recent manifestations being Bernadette Mayer's iconic Midwinter Day, which celebrates its forty-first birthday this year. While not published until 1982, Mayer famously wrote the book — hailed by Alice Notley as "an epic poem about a daily routine ... sedate, mundane, yet marvelous" — in its entirety while marking the the winter solstice at 100 Main Street in Lennox, Massachusetts on December 22, 1978.

As Megan Burns notes in her Jacket Magazine essay on the book: "A long held tradition on Midwinter's Day was to let the hearth fire burn all night, literally keeping a light alive through the longest night of winter as a source of both heat and a symbol of inspiration to come out the other side of the long night closer to spring and rebirth. It is fitting that a poem about surviving death and the intimacy of the family would be centered around this particular day that traditionally has focused on both. The hearth is the center of the home where the family gathers, where the food is cooked and where warmth is provided. Metaphorically, the poem Midwinter Day stands in for the hearth gathering the family into its folds, detailing the preparation of food and sleep and taking care of the family's memories and dreams."

Mayer read a lengthy excerpt from the book at a Segue Series reading at the Ear Inn on May 26th of the following year, which you can listen to on her PennSound author page along with a wide array of audio and video recordings from the late 1960s to the present. 

Angela Carr: New Wexler Studio Session, 2018

Posted 12/20/2019

This week we're highlighting a trio of newly posted recordings made in our own Wexler Studio at the Kelly Writers House during the fall semester. Today we're closing things out with a short set by Angela Carr recorded on October 18, 2018.

Carr's set consists of four poems in total: "Other Signs," "First Signs," an excerpt from Signs of Interest and Currency, and an unnamed poem starting "When I board the train ahead of Iris..." These recordings are our sole holdings by Carr, which is why you'll find them on our Singles page, along with many other stellar recordings from poets we don't have enough material from to create proper author pages. You can listen in by clicking here, and you can browse through our Singles page by clicking here.

Kate Colby: New Wexler Studio Session, 2018

Posted 12/18/2019

This week we're highlighting a trio of newly posted recordings made in our own Wexler Studio at the Kelly Writers House. Today, we're focusing on an extensive session with Kate Colby made on October 25, 2018.

Colby's set includes twenty-six poems in just over twenty-three minutes. They include "Green Flash," "Nature," "The Lesson," "Vessel," "Too Late," "Beauty," "Senescence," "Survivor," "Artificial Light," "Catch of the Day," "Aftermath," "Air Lock," "Tartarus," "Cold Comfort," "How I Look in the Mirror," "Shackleton, "Ars Poetica," and "A Diamond Is Forever."

These new recordings can be found on PennSound's Kate Colby author page, along with a career-spanning Wexler Studio Session from 2016 (covering selections from six collections: Unbecoming Behavior, Beauport, Blue Hole, Fruitlands, Return of the Native, and The Arrangements) and a half-dozen other full-length readings from 2011 to the present. You can listen in by clicking here.

erica kaufman: New Wexler Studio Session, 2018

Posted 12/16/2019

This week we're highlighting a trio of newly posted recordings made in our own Wexler Studio at the Kelly Writers House. We start today with a new set by erica kaufman recorded on November 5, 2018.

In total, kaufman recorded seven poems for this twenty-two minute session, starting with the long poem "Bad Habit (for CAConrad)," followed by "Instant Classic on Contingence." The remainder of kaufman's set consists of selections from her project "Post Classic," starting with "an invocation" and then continuing with four more installments from the series.

You can hear these new poems on PennSound's erica kaufman author page, which is also home to a diverse array of recordings by the poet spanning the past fifteen years, from readings to interviews, panel talks, podcasts, and much, much more. Click here to start browsing.

Happy Birthday to Emily Dickinson!

Posted 12/10/2019

Early December must be when formidable poets are born — yesterday we celebrated Eileen Myles' 70th, and today would have been the 189th birthday of Emily Dickinson. For many years, a treasure trove of Dickinson materials was scattered throughout our site, but a few years ago we pulled together a proper PennSound author page for the poet, gathering selected resources from throughout our archives.

It should come as no surprise that Susan Howe would be prominent featured, and here you'll find complete talks on the poet from 1984 (from the New York Talk series) and 1990 (from SUNY-Buffalo) in addition to several smaller excerpts from larger talks pertaining to the poet. There's also a link to PoemTalk #32, which discusses Howe's interpretation of Dickinson's "My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun."

Full series of lectures on Dickinson are also available from Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley, both at the New College and dating from 1981 and 1985, respectively. Among other substantial contributions, there's also the 1979 Dickinson Birthday Celebration at the St. Mark's Poetry Project (featuring Jan Heller Levi, Charles Bernstein, Susan Leites, Charles Doria, Virginia Terrace, Barbara Guest, Madeleine Keller and Vicki Hudspith, Armand Schwerner, Karen Edwards, Jackson Mac Low, Maureen Owen, and Howe) and Rae Armantrout's 2000 presentation on Dickinson from "Nine Contemporary Poets Read Themselves Through Modernism."

You'll also find performances of individual Dickinson poems from John Richetti and Jeffery Robinson as well as brief excerpts of radio interviews — with John Ashbery, Guest, and Elizabeth Bishop — pertaining to the poet.

Our hope is that this page, which brings together disparate resources already available in our archives, will be a useful tool for teachers, students, and casual readers, as well as serious scholars. Click here to start exploring.

Happy 70th Birthday to Eileen Myles!

Posted 12/9/2019

We send out birthday greetings to Eileen Myles, who reaches the momentous milestone of 70 today! There's no better way to celebrate than browsing through the selections available on PennSound's Eileen Myles author page

Whether you're an old fan or newly acquainted with Myles, a great place to start is their two-part 2009 Close Listening radio program with Charles Bernstein that includes readings of twenty-one poems from throughout their published work, and a half-hour conversation between the two. 

Our earliest recordings of Myles are three appearances on Public Access Poetry in the late 1970s. They're nicely complemented by a 1978 appearance on Susan Howe's WBAI radio program and an October 1978 Segue Series Reading at the Ear Inn — one of seven total Segue Series appearances from the 1970s to the present. That's followed by a 1981 reading at the St. Mark's Poetry Project, a pair of Belladonna* readings from 2003 and 2009, visits to our own Kelly Writers House in 2010 and 2016 (when they were one of that year's Kelly Writers House Fellows). Other full-length readings include sets from the Dia Art Foundation, Mills College's Contemporary Writers Series, the ICA in Philadelphia, the California College of the Arts, the Poetry Center at the University of Arizona (via POG Sound), LA Lit, the CUNY Graduate Center, Basilica Soundscape, and the Penn Book Center, and there are also numerous individual tracks scattered over the past five decades.

Certainly, the promise of the poet's early writing and the audacity of their 1992 presidential campaign have flourished fully in our new century, with Myles taking their rightful place as one of our era's most influential poets, as well as one of our community's greatest ambassadors to lay audiences. Therefore we not only celebrate them today, but wish them many happy returns!

Claude Royet-Journoud: Close Listening Conversation with Charles Bernstein

Posted 12/6/2019

Our latest addition to the site is Charles Bernstein's recent Close Listening conversation with French poet Claude Royet-Journoud, which was recorded in Paris late last month. In his Jacket2 commentary post announcing the episode, Bernstein offers this summation: "I recorded this Close Listening conversation with Claude Royet-Journoud in Paris on November 24, 2019. We talked about his early years in London, his editing of Siècle à mains, meeting Anne-Marie Albiach, his extraordinary poetry interview program for France Culture, as well as his trips to the United States."

One of the more notable recordings on PennSound's Claude Royet-Journoud author page is the poet's November 3, 1984 reading with Keith Waldrop at the Ear Inn. Waldrop reads his translations of La Notion d'Obstacle alongside the French originals, and to close out the set, Royet-Journoud reads prose excerpts from book three of Les Objets Contiennent l'Infini. Strangely enough, segmenting this reading was one of the very first projects I undertook after starting at PennSound and it's wonderful to revisit it now. You'll also find a 1974 documentary film on the poet that also features Edmond Jabés and Lars Fredrikson, along with a 1995 reading at SUNY-Buffalo as part of the First Poetics Program French Poetry Festival, a 2008 video portrait by Bernstein, a 2012 lecture in Paris, and a pair of 2016 videos celebrating the release of La finitude des corps simples. Click here to start listening.

Congratulations to Premio Velázquez de Artes Plásticas Winner Cecilia Vicuña

Posted 12/5/2019

We could not be happier for the one and only Cecilia Vicuña, who — in the words of no less respected a source than The New York Times — "is having a new North American moment," though we'd amend that worthy praise to "worldwide" instead, particularly with the recent news that the she's won the Premio Velázquez de Artes Plásticas for 2019. As ARTnews explains, this prize, which is "given out by the Spanish Ministry of Culture to an artist based in the country or from the Ibero-American Community of Nations" is "Spain's most prominent art award." The jury hailed Vicuña's "outstanding work as a poet, visual artist and activist” along with her “multidimensional art that interacts with the earth, written language, and weaving.”

As ARTnews attests, this well-deserved honor is one of several recent accolades for Vicuña, including her nomination for the the Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Prize and work that "figures in the Museum of Modern Art’s rehang that debuted last month." This week also saw a lavish profile in The Times — "For Cecilia Vicuña, 'Consciousness Is the Art'" — which centers on About to Happen, which is now taking Miami by storm after previous stops in New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Berkeley. One especially fascinating passage in the article describes the epicenter of Vicuña's lifelong relationship with art and nature:
While the public’s attention may have shifted in recent years, the artist notes that her work has held to the same themes for more than half a century, going back to a certain January day in 1966, when she was 17. She vividly recalls standing on the beach in Concón, Chile, not far from her hometown, Santiago, and in the shadow of an oil refinery that had been built on an ancient Andean ritual site. 
She suddenly became aware of how every object and action in the universe was connected. She picked up a stick, turned it vertically and stuck it in the sand. It was that moment, she said, when her art began. 
"When I look at these little things, I immediately see in them what they want to be, what they can be," Ms. Vicuña said. "I see this potentiality of place, of balance, of asymmetry. This is what moves me."
Whether you're new to Vicuña or an old fan, it's a wonderful time to take in the many varied materials available on her PennSound author page. There you'll find more than two dozen complete readings, talks, and interviews, from as early as 1994 up to last year. Given the visual impact of Vicuña's work, it's fitting that many of these recordings include video components. Taken together, they serve as a document of her varying modes and aesthetic evolution over a long and fruitful career. I've only had the pleasure of seeing Vicuña perform once — her 2008 Writers Without Borders event at our own Kelly Writers House — and more than a decade later I'm still struck by the profound bodily sense of calm and connectedness that she elicited that evening. If you've never had a chance to witness this artist first-hand, then here's a wonderful chance to see if you might have a similar experience, albeit vicariously. Click here to start browsing.

Congratulations to National Book Award Winner Arthur Sze

Posted 12/2/2019

We send our heartiest congratulations to Arthur Sze, whose Sight Lines was recently awarded the National Book Award for Poetry, beating out stiff competition that included Jericho Brown's The Tradition, Toi Derricotte's I: New and Selected Poems, Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic, and Carmen Giménez Smith's Be Recorder. Mark Wunderlich presented the award to Sze at the ceremony late last month. Here's what he had to say:
The great wit Max Beerbohm wrote that the most difficult thing about being a poet was deciding what to do with the other twenty-three and a half hours of the day. But I can tell you that the greatest difficulty poets face is having to withstand the pointless public and private arguments about poetry's relevance to our culture. Writing poetry is an essential human activity — like dancing, or making music — and as long as the moon rises in the night sky, or people love each other, or break each other's hearts — poetry will matter. Having read a large cross section of it this past year, I can tell you that poetry is essential to our national character, and in our country — with its fractiousness, its vulgarity and cupidity — we are also a nation capable of great sensitivity, refinement, and generosity of spirit, and those best qualities are possessed by our nation's poets who show us what we all might be capable of feeling and knowing and saying. America is a nation of great poets, and it is important for us to see them as the treasure that they are. 
We're proud to count Sze as part of our archive, with a modest collection of recordings available on his PennSound author page. They include two appearances on Leonard Schwartz's Cross Cultural Poetics program in 2004 and 2010. In the earlier program, Sze read from The Redshifting Web as well as his volume of Chinese translations, The Silk Dragon, while in the latter, he shared work from his anthology Chinese Writers on Writing. These two shows bookend a 2006 visit to our own Kelly Writers House, where Sze also read from The Redshifting Web along with his later book, Quipu. You can listen to all of the aforementioned recordings by clicking here.

PennSound Presents Poems of Thanks and Thanksgiving

Posted 11/27/2019

With the US celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, it's time to revisit a perennial PennSound Daily tradition that started way back in 2010: a mini-mix of poems of thanks and thanksgiving — some old, some new — taken from the PennSound archives.

In a classic recording of "Thanksgiving" [MP3] from the St. Mark's Poetry Project, Joe Brainard wonders "what, if anything Thanksgiving Day really means to me." Emptying his mind of thoughts, he comes up with these free associations: "first is turkey, second is cranberry sauce and third is pilgrims."

"I want to give my thanks to everyone for everything," the late John Giorno tells us in "Thanx 4 Nothing" [MP3], "and as a token of my appreciation, / I want to offer back to you all my good and bad habits / as magnificent priceless jewels, / wish-fulfilling gems satisfying everything you need and want, / thank you, thank you, thank you, / thanks." The rolicking poem that ensues offers both genuine sensory delights ("may all the chocolate I've ever eaten / come back rushing through your bloodstream / and make you feel happy.") and sarcastic praise ("America, thanks for the neglect, / I did it without you, / let us celebrate poetic justice, / you and I never were, / never tried to do anything, / and never succeeded").

"Can beauty save us?" wonders Maggie Nelson in "Thanksgiving" [MP3], a standout poem from her marvelous collection, Something Bright, Then Holes, which revels in the holiday's darker edges and simplest truths: "After dinner / I sit the cutest little boy on my knee / and read him a book about the history of cod // absentmindedly explaining overfishing, / the slave trade. People for rum? he asks, / incredulously. Yes, I nod. People for rum."

Yusef Komunyakaa gratefully recounts a number of near-misses in Vietnam — "the tree / between me & a sniper's bullet [...] the dud / hand grenade tossed at my feet / outside Chu Lai" — in "Thanks" [MP3], from a 1998 reading at the Kelly Writers House.

Finally, we turn our attention to the suite of poems that concludes Mark Van Doren's Folkways album, Collected and New Poems — "When The World Ends" / "Epitaph" / "Farewell and Thanksgiving" [MP3] — the last of which offers gratitude to the muse for her constant indulgence.

To keep you in the Thanksgiving spirit, don't forget this 2009 PennSound Podcast (assembled by Al Filreis and Jenny Lesser) which offers "marvelous expressions of gratitude, due honor, personal appreciation [and] friendship" from the likes of Amiri BarakaTed BerriganRobert CreeleyJerome RothenbergLouis Zukofsky and William Carlos Williams.

Phill Niblock on PennSound

Posted 11/25/2019

We were very proud to be able to host work by composer and Experimental Intermedia Foundation director Phill Niblock for practically as long as our site has been in existence. Today, we're highlighting the three films by Niblock available on PennSound, all of which were upgraded with higher-resolution video files when we created a proper Niblock author page in 2013.

The latest addition is Evidence, starring Erica Hunt. Shot in 1983, the eighteen-minute relishes negative space, beginning with stark white Helvetica lettering on a black background that persists for more than a minute before fading in the film's sole visual: the poet's face, silhouetted to near-featurelessness by a white television screen. Seen in profile, Hunt's speaking gestures are heightened — subtle shudders and nods, along with the frenetic moiré of her mouth — serving as an apt accompaniment to the narrative.

This one-third/two-third profile motif also appears in Niblock's mid-70s portrait of Hannah Weiner, where the poet's speedy delivery of her clairvoyant writings weaves in and out of live reading segments juxtaposed with domestic scenes. Meanwhile, in Niblock's 1973 portrait of Armand Schwerner, the poet contends with the wind as he reads (or more accurately, preaches) from his Tablets pacing back and forth in a bright orange jacket on a hilltop, the Verrazano-Narrows bridge behind him.

You'll find all three of these marvelous poetic portraits on our Phill Niblock page, and don't forget to check out PennSound Cinema, home to a stunning array of essential filmic materials.

PoemTalk #142: on Charles Bernstein's "As If the Trees by Their Very Roots Had Hold of Us"

Posted 11/22/2019

Today, we release episode #142 in the PoemTalk Podcast Series, a very special episode on Charles Bernstein's early poem, "As If the Trees by Their Very Roots Had Hold of Us," recorded as part of a Kelly Writers House celebration of Bernstein's retirement from teaching last April. Host Al Filreis convened a panel that included (shown from left to right) Tracie Morris, Marjorie Perloff, and Danny Snelson, and Bernstein makes a cameo at the end, popping into the Wexler Studio to share a poem during the concluding Gathering Paradise segment.

As Filreis explains in his PoemTalk blog post on this episode, the poem "originally appeared in Senses of Responsibility (1979) and in 2010 was chosen by Bernstein to be included in All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems. We know the writing of the poem dates at least to 1977, which is when he performed it at a reading at the Place Center in New York (on December 18); he read that day with Kathy Acker." He continues, offering this preliminary summary of the program's discussion: "Our group observes that the poem is uncharacteristic, especially of writing in that early period with its intensely disruptive, disjunctive style at the level of the phrase. Yet the poem's satire — a mock of 'poet voice' and of the centrality of concepts like poetic 'presence' dominant in that era — looks forward to Bernstein's stance and tone of recent years." You can read more about the program, find the complete text of Bernstein's poem, read more about the Bernstein celebration, and listen to or watch video of this episode by clicking here. The full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, can be found here.

In Memoriam: Sean Bonney (1969–2019)

Posted 11/20/2019

Today brings the sad news of English poet Sean Bonney's passing. His sister, Mel Bonney-Kane, shared this message on social media: "We are devastated to let people know that my beloved brother Sean Bonney died in a tragic accident last week in Berlin. We are in the process of seeking to bring him home and will let people know of the funeral arrangements when we are clearer. He will live on in his words and poetry."

We couldn't agree more, which is why we humbly direct our listeners to our Sean Bonney author page. There, you'll find a modest collection of recordings made between 2009 and 2012. The earliest reading, presented in two videos, is an August 2009 reading at Manchester's The Other Room that includes selections from The Commons, Document: Poems, Diagrams, Manifestos, and Tracts and Commentaries. Next there's a 2011 reading from The Commons at London's Birkbeck College, and a trio of readings from Happiness: Poems After Rimbaud at the University of Cambridge's Lady Mitchell Hall in November 2011, and unknown London venue in 2011, and at the Poetry and Revolution Conference, X-ing the Line, at London's The Apple Tree in May 2012. Our last two recordings are "Notes on Militant Poetics" from the aforementioned Poetry and Revolution Conference, and a home recording from the Letters on Harmony series made in the summer of 2012. 

These documents of Bonney's work are nicely complemented by PoemTalk Episode #122, where Bonney's "Happiness" is discussed by a panel including Al Filreis, Anna Strong Safford, Chris Martin, Stephen Willey, and Luke Roberts. You can listen to everything mentioned above by clicking here. We send our condolences to Bonney's family, friends, colleagues, and fans as this devastating news spreads throughout the poetry community.

Ted Enslin: New Author Page

Posted 11/18/2019

Our latest PennSound author page is for Ted Enslin (1925–2011), the avant-garde poet long associated with the Maine wilderness. 

Our collection starts well into his writing life, with a February 1985 reading at the legendary Woodland Pattern Book Center, followed by a January 1986 interview and reading on WMCS-AM and a reading of the single poem "Antiphony" at Bowling Green State University's Kobacker Hall in April 1989. We have another Woodland Pattern reading from February 1990, a March 1992 reading at Granary Books and another set from the same month at Wendell's, both in New York City. Then there are readings in Las Cruces in February 1997, the University of Maine in February 2000, and a recording of Enslin and Ben Friedlander reading at an unknown location in April 2000. Finally, from Jonathan Skinner's Steel Bar Reading Series, we have Enslin's last reading, close to home at Bates College in November 2009.

You can browse the aforementioned readings by clicking here.

Happy Birthday, Ted Berrigan!

Posted 11/15/2019

November 15th would have been the 85th birthday of Ted Berrigan, a poet of capacious talents and appetites whose life and work continues to resonate decades after his premature death. We honor him today by taking a tour of his PennSound author page, which has grown exponentially over the course of our history.

Our earliest recording comes from a 1968 visit to SUNY-Buffalo, where Robert Creeley provided an introduction to a set that includes a number of iconic early poems like "Words for Love," "Living with Chris," "For You," and "Things to Do in New York City," along with a generous selections from The Sonnets. That's followed by a May 1971 reading with Anne Waldman of their co-authored poem "Memorial Day" in its entirety, and while we now know that this isn't the sole surviving copy of this historic reading, that makes it no less breathtaking. Next, there's an August 1971 reading a San Francisco's Intersection for the Arts, whose setlist draws heavily from poems that would eventually be published in 1975's Red Wagon, including "Wishes," "Ophelia," "Wrong Train," "Frank O'Hara," "Crystal" and "Three Sonnets and a Coda for Tom Clark," along with "People Who Died" (from 1970's In the Early Morning Rain), "Southampton Business" (published in 1977's Nothing for You) and the as-yet-unpublished "Things To Do in Bolinas." The true standout tracks, however, are of some of Berrigan's most-beloved works from the period — "Words for Love," "What I'd Like for Christmas, 1970," "Today in Ann Arbor" and "Things To Do in Providence" — performed with their full emotional weight and playful hilarity, by a young writer at the peak of his poetic abilities.

Moving forward in time, we have a trio of recordings from a March 28, 1973 reading at the St. Mark's Poetry Project that were released on the 1980 album, the World Record: Readings at the St. Mark's Poetry Project, 1969-1980 — "Things to Do in New York City," "Landscape with Figures (Southampton)" and "Frank O'Hara" — followed by an August 1977 appearance on on Public Access Poetry with Harris Schiff, where Berrigan read a handful of mid-70s poems like "A Little American Feedback," "Carrying a Torch," "Erasable Picabia," and "From A List of the Delusions of the Insane, What They Are Afraid Of." From August 1978, we have Berrigan's appearance on In the American Tree, hosted by Lyn Hejinian and Kit Robinson. In this 35 minute program, the poet reads from Red Wagon and his Easter Monday manuscript, and discusses his compositional techniques, including his novel, Clear the Range. Highlights include "Whitman in Black," "Buddha on the Bounty," "Personal Poem #9," "Crystal," "Three Pages" and "Remembered Poem." From December of the same year, we have a Jim Brodey-organized recording of The Sonnets that starts with an intro from Ron Padgett and singing by Shelley Kraut, which unfortunately suffers from audio quality issues for a roughly twenty-minute span towards the beginning. 

Next we have a handful of audio and video recordings from Naropa University made during 1979 and 1980, followed by the heart of our Berrigan author page (and one of the very first recordings to be added to PennSound) is a historic and controversial June 1981 reading of his masterpiece, The Sonnets, in its entirety as part of a residency at San Francisco's New Langton Arts Center. Berrigan had been preparing the manuscript for a new edition of The Sonnets to be published the following year by United Artists, and therefore this reading includes a number of poems left out of the 1966 Grove Press edition, making this (until the revised 2000 Penguin Poets edition) the most complete record of his debut collection. Equally important is the poet's lengthy introduction, running nearly ten minutes, in which he describes in great detail the origins of the methods employed in The Sonnets, his life story in the years surrounding its composition and his early correspondences with poets who'd go on to become some of his closest friends (including Robert Creeley, Frank O'Hara and Philip Whalen).

Our last complete reading is a 1982 set at Bard College that covers Berrigan's A Certain Slant of Sunlight-era output, including the title poem, "Red Shift," "A Poets Tribute to Philip Guston," "Blue Galahad," "The School Windows Song," and "Sleeping Alone." There are also a few scattered tracks, including "Red Shift" from the Peter Gizzi-edited Exact Change Yearbook #1 and an excerpt from "Memorial Day" from Waldman's 2001 album, Alchemical Energy. Last, but by no means least, is PoemTalk #5, which addresses Berrigan's "3 Pages (for Jack Collom)." You can listen to all of the recordings mentioned above on PennSound's Ted Berrigan author page — clicking on the title above will take you directly there.

Haroldo de Campos on PennSound

Posted 11/13/2019

Today we're highlighting our author page for poesia concreta pioneer, Haroldo de Campos, which is anchored by a 2002 video from the Guggenheim Museum celebrating his life and work. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Brazil: Body and Soul, this January 12, 2002 event featured both performances and discussion of de Campos' work by a wide variety of poets, translators and critics.

The video begins with introductory comments by Pablo Helguera and organizer Sergio Bessa, who are followed by a staging of de Campos' 1950 poem/play "Auto do Possesso (Act of the Possessed)," translated by Odile Cisneros and directed by Cynthia Croot. Craig Dworkin is next, reading his translation of "Signantia quasi coelum / signância quase céu," follwed by a brief set by Cisneros, who reads her translations. The performances conclude with Marjorie Perloff and Charles Bernstein reading Bessa's translation of "Finismundo," after which Perloff and Bernstein take part in a panel discussion moderated by Bessa.

Next, from 2005's Rattapallax we have a single track, "Calcas Cor de Abobora." Finally, we have a 2017 video of our own Charles Bernstein performing at New York's Hauser and Wirth Gallery with Sergio Bessa on September 28, 2017. This event, co-sponsored by the Poetry Society of America and held in conjunction with an exhibit by Mira Schendel at the gallery, included Bessa speaking about de Campos and Bernstein reading his translations of Drummond, Cabral, Cruz e Sousa, Leminksi, and Bonvicino.

On our Haroldo de Campos author page, you'll also find a link to Bernstein's 2003 essay "De Campos Thou Art Translated (Knot)", first published in the Poetry Society of America's Crosscurrents.

Jackson Mac Low and Tom Leonard, Sound and Syntax Festival, 1978

Posted 11/11/2019

Here's a fascinating recent addition to our archives: a 1978 video of Jackson Mac Low and Tom Leonard reading at the Sound and Syntax International Festival of Sound Poetry. Bob Cobbing provides introductions to both poets.

The first performer is Jackson Mac Low. His set begins with the "First Milarepa Gatha," the syntax of which, he explains, is taken from the mantra of Milarepa, "the bodhisattva who looks as if he's listening to a transistor radio." He follows that performance with a brief explanation of the techniques involved in the piece's composition. Next is a series of eleven poems, "Phone," which starts with an improvised piece that is then processed into various variations that complete the set. His next piece, "1st Sharon Belle Mattlin Vocabulary Crossword Gatha" returns to the techniques of his first text, but adds an added delight for listeners: live accompaniment on piano, as dictated by the very complex set of performance instructions Mac Low typically provides with his gatha pieces. Then we have a "Simultaneity" taken from his recently-published book, 21 Matched Asymmetries, which is nothing short of stunning, with Mac Low joined on stage by a quartet of friends and collaborators — bpNichol, Steve McCaffery, Jerome Rothenberg, and David Toop — for a five-voice performance. Mac Low concludes with "Let It Go," starting with William Empson's poem of the same name, which inspired his own "Words nd Ends" revision of that piece, which follows. 

Tom Leonard's set is next, starting with "A Short History of Marianism" — a recorded piece during which Leonard presents an altar of sorts with a box of Flash detergent set between two candles, dances for the audience, and holds up signs (which unfortunately are not completely legible in the video). That's followed by "The Rainbow Of," a piece built upon repetitions of short phonemes and words. He next reads a few pieces from his 1975 book Bunnit Husslin that are "not sound poems but reflect Glasgow patois," including the prefatory poem, "Poetry." The recording concludes with a then-recent tape composition, "Either/Or," based on Kierkegaard's work of the same name, during which Leonard sits on stage, smoking thoughtfully.

As would befit both of these artists and their interest in chance operations, the video is handheld and grainy, producing lovely visual distortions throughout (as is visible in the photo above). You can start watching by clicking here.

Mei-mei Berssenbrugge: 2019 KWH Fellows Program

Posted 11/8/2019

We recently announced the exciting roster of Kelly Writers House Fellows that will be joining us in 2020 — including Canadian poet and translator Erín Moure — which gives us something to look forward to in the cold winter months to come. Today we're looking backwards to our visit from one of this year's fellows, poet Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, who joined us this past March 25–26.

Berssenbrugge's visit began with a reading on the evening of the 25th that included a number of longer readings, including "Irises," "Concordance," "Hello, the Roses," "Star Beings," "Lux," and "Chaco and Olivia." She returned on the 26th for a brunch conversation with Al Filreis, which has been segmented thematically. Some of those sections include their discussion of aphorisms, syntax and line structure, Berssenbrugge's poetic influences, classical literature, photography, and the definition of time.

Audio and video versions of both of these programs are available for your listening and viewing pleasure here. Our PennSound author page for Berssenbrugge houses more than two dozen individual recordings going back as far as 1986, including interviews, radio programs, and many, many readings. Click here to start browsing.

Congratulations to 2019 Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize Winner Stephen Collis

Posted 11/6/2019

Today brought the exciting news that poet Stephen Collis had been awarded the 2019 Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize, which is "given to a mid-career poet in recognition of a remarkable body of work, and in anticipation of future contributions to Canadian poetry." The jurors' citation, signed by Hoa Nguyen and Margo Wheaton, states:
Through six collections of poems, Stephen Collis has achieved something remarkable: an invigorating body of work that convincingly addresses both the urgency of the present moment and the long echoes of our historical and lyrical past. 
In disrupted language simultaneously unsettled and musical, Collis passionately investigates subjects as diverse as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, John Clare and the English countryside, the increasing disappearance of public space, and, in a hauntingly beautiful sequence, the death of his sister from cancer. The depth and scope of Collis' vision is startling and impressive; so are the courage, precision, and care he brings to the poems he creates. 
In Collis, we find a poet ferociously hitting his stride. We're looking forward with eagerness to what comes next.
We congratulate Collis for this astounding honor and happily direct our listeners to his PennSound author page where they can sample his award-winning work. There you'll find a modest yet broad array of recordings made between 2005 and 2014, including readings, panel discussions, and an interview on Leonard Schwartz's radio program Cross-Cultural Poetics. Among many great resources, I'd especially like to highlight Collis' contributions to North of Invention, the two-day festival we hosted at the Kelly Writers House in January 2011, along with Short Range Poetic Device, a four-part radio show organized and hosted by Collis and Roger Farr during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. As the program notes explain, "Each show hosted a number of Vancouver poets, nearly all of whom were involved in anti-Olympic activities of one sort or another. The poets read from their work and discussed the role of poetry in contemporary struggles, the politics of poetic form, protest genres and both political and literary 'tactics.'" Click here to start listening.

Want to read more? Visit the PennSound Daily archive.