Featured resources

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

Contemporary
  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
Historical
  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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Marking the 50th Anniversary of Jack Kerouac's Death

Posted 10/21/2019

This October 21st is the 50th anniversary of the death of iconic novelist and poet Jack Kerouac, who finally succumbed to the collective effects of alcoholism and disillusionment at the age of forty-seven in St. Petersburg, FL. To mark this historic milestone, we're revisiting a PennSound Daily post for Kerouac's birthday from this past March.

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 in May 2018, 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.




Bern Porter on PennSound

Posted 10/14/2019

Today we're highlighting our holdings from the influential author, artist, and publisher Bern Porter, perhaps best known for his pioneering work in the field of Found Poetry.

Our earliest recording is parts one and two of "For Our Friends in Germany," recorded by Mark Melnicove in 1979 at the Eternal Poetry Festival in South Harpswell, Maine. Then there's "Aspects of Modern Poetry," a 1982 WBAI program with Bob Holman that was broadcast live. It's presented in two parts that are roughly a half-hour each.

Next, we have the New Wilderness Audiographics cassette release, Found Sounds, whose two sides consist of two separate sessions, the first made on December 2, 1978 with Dick Higgins and Charlie Morrow; the second from May 9, 1981 and featuring Patricia Burgess (tenor saxophone), Glen Velez (bodhrán, cymbal, tambourine), and Morrow (brass, ocarina, and voice). 

Jumping forward to December 1989, we have a recording from "Williamson Street Night" at the Avant Garde, Museum of Temporary Art in Madison, Wisconsin with contributions by Malok, Elizabeth Was & mIEKAL aND, and our final recording is an interview with Higgins and aND from Woodland Pattern Book Center on March 16, 1990. You can browse all of the aforementioned recordings by visiting our Bern Porter author page.

Congratulations to 2019 Prix Bernard Heidsieck-Centre Pompidou Winner Cia Rinne

Posted 10/11/2019

We send our heartiest congratulations to Finnish sound poet Cia Rinne, who was awarded the 2019 Prix Bernard Heidsieck-Centre Pompidou by Fondazione Bonotto last month. The prize, for "non-book literature," was previously won by Caroline Bergvall and Fia Backström.

Writing up the accompanying festival, Extra! for the Best American Poetry blog, Tracy Danison observes that "Rinne has linguistic feet in Sweden, Finland and Germany, as well as in her translingual poetry, which, she told me, was suggested by ordinary conversation in the multilingual household where she grew up. Just as Nina Santes' work reverberates with energies inherited from happenings, Rinne's work winds around and binds together concepts exemplified by sound-tech poet pioneers such as Laurie Anderson and traditional, page-visual-Ogden-Nash-book-of -practical-cats-style poetry formats."


Our Cia Rinne author page is anchored by a 2014 Close Listening program hosted by PennSound co-director Charles Bernstein in which she reads recent work and discusses her creative processes. From the same year, we have Rinne's participation in the Convergence on Poetics panel "INTERVAL: LANGUAGE + PRESENCE" alongside Aeron Bergman, Alejandra Salinas, and Lisa Radon. We have a trio of reading videos from 2013: two collective performances with Berlin Sound Poets Quoi Tête in Ausland and Altes Finanzamt, and a Berlin reading as part of "a night of text / sound / video" #3. Next there's 2012's Nonstop Action Poetry at Kiasma Theatre, Helsinki, Finland (with Leevi Lehto and Tomomi Adachi) and "notes for soloists" for the Quiet Cue Intermedia and Cooperation in Berlin as well as a performance of "sounds for soloists" with sound design by Sebastian Eskildsen from the same year. To round things out, we have another performance of the same piece (also with sound design by Eskildsen) from 2011 and a reading with Charles Bernstein and Caroline Bergvall at Gyldendal, Copenhagen from the same year. You can listen to all of these recordings by clicking here.

New at the PEPC Library: Poets on Stage: The Some Symposium on Poetry Readings

Posted 10/10/2019

This week saw an exciting new addition to our PEPC Library, Poets on Stage: The Some Symposium on Poetry Readings, edited by Alan Ziegler and originally co-issued by the journal Some (as its ninth issue) and and its book publishing arm Release Press in 1978. The volume's origins are explained in an introductory note by Ziegler:
One night the three editors of Some were discussing possibilities for forthcoming issues. One of the editors didn't have his mind in the sessions; he was thinking about a poetry reading he was to give the next day. He had given readings before but hadn't thought much about them. But now, as he drifted away from the work at hand, he thought about the fact that the next afternoon he would be reading his poems to an audience. Some of his poems would reveal to strangers and friends alike things he had not told anyone. (Of course, these secrets would be presented on a "wall of literature," and he could remain behind that wall). There was also material that was mostly incarnated from the imagination — images that had emerged excitedly yet silently onto the page. How comfortable would they be wearing sound? 
These musings interested him, and since the major criterion for Some is interesting material (and he was feeling guilty about not contributing to the meeting), he suggested: why not an issue of Some devoted to poetry readings? The meeting was transformed into a tentative discussion of the new project.
What emerged from that suggestion is a trailblazing document in the field of poetry in performance that draws its responses from fascinating cross-section of the contemporary poetry world, with contributions from (in order of appearance) Alan Dugan,  Jack Anderson, Colette Inez, John Love, Stephen Stepanchev, Marge Piercy, David lgnatow, Janet Sternburg, June Fortess, Mark Weiss, Phillip Lopate, Joe Brainard, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Haseloff, John Wieners, Gerard Malanga, Audre Lorde, Virginia R. Terris, Hugh Seidman, Paul Hannigan, Terry Stokes, Armand Schwerner, Rochelle Ratner, Denise Levertov, David Meltzer, Margaret Atwood, Dick Gallup, Anne Waldman, and James Dickey.

The responses, as you might imagine, are as diverse as the authors interviewed. Dugan offers this practical advice: "The first time I recited, at a college, I had forgotten how over-heated academic interiors can be and sweated because I was wearing a jacket and was too nervous to take it off, and therefore performed badly. The students and teachers were good to me, saying, roughly, 'Well, it's over, it's your first time, you'll do better next time,' which I did." Brainard's handwritten response, "On Reading," starts by observing "Both my aim and my desire is to please." Malanga shares that "I know I've made people feel I'm having just as good a time reading as they are listening, because of the response I've received at the end of the reading. I include the audience in what I'm feeling in every instant in my poems when I read aloud. I've attended readings by many poets who literally drove their work into the ground and knew it, too, although they probably didn't mean to. The worst feeling in the world is when you and your audience both know you're bad. When an audience loves you, there is no greater exhilaration." Finally, Audre Lorde confesses that "I find [readings] both leech-like & rewarding, alternately and together, so approach them always with great excitement & terror." 

You can read and/or download Poets on Stage: The Some Symposium on Poetry Readings in PDF format by clicking here.

Happy 85th Birthday to Amiri Baraka

Posted 10/7/2019

Today would have been the eighty-fifth birthday of legendary poet and provocateur Amiri Baraka, born LeRoi Jones in Newark, NJ in 1934. That means that it's a great time to revisit the recordings housed on our Amiri Baraka author page.

The earliest two recordings found there — the first from the Asilomar Negro Writers Conference in Pacific Grove, CA, which took place in early August 1964; the second from March 1965 at San Francisco State University — are particularly interesting because they show the author in flux, still LeRoi Jones but quickly being pushed by current events (most notably the assassination of Malcolm X in early 1965) towards his rebirth in Harlem. These sets include a number of notable poems, including "A Poem for Speculative Hipsters," "Short Speech to My Friends," "Black Dada Nihilismus," "A Poem Some People Will Have to Understand," "Kenyatta Listening to Mozart," and "Black Bourgeoisie."

We take a massive leap forward to a pair of Buffalo recordings from the archives of Robert Creeley: a short set from 1978 accompanying a much larger reading by Ed Dorn at the Just Buffalo Literary Center, and a two-part performance from 1985 at the Allentown Community Center. We owe Chris Funkhouser a debt of gratitude for several full-length recordings — from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2000, a home recording for Kenning in 2001, the Newark Public Library in 2002, and the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival, also in 2002 — along with many miscellaneous recordings presented without date or location information. Our final major recording is a 2007 appearance on Leonard Schwartz's Cross Cultural Poetics program, where he read his work and discussed a number of topics including the recent controversy over "Somebody Blew Up America." There are also, as mentioned before, a healthy collection of miscellaneous audio recordings, joined by a fine selection of video clips made by Optic Nerve. Finally, Baraka's work has served as the subject for not one, but two episodes in the PoemTalk Podcast Series: episode #20 on "Kenyatta Listening to Mozart" and episode #126 on "Something in the Way of Things (In Town)." Click here to access all of the aforementioned recordings and more.

Eva Macali on PennSound Italiana

Posted 10/4/2019

We're closing this week out with a series of new audio visual recordings by Eva Macali, which were recently added to our PennSound Italiana page (lovingly edited by Jennifer Scappettone).

The first of these is GAR, "a project about the Proto-Indo-European languages theory (PIE) inspired by the semiology research of Zoltán Ludwig Kruse," which states that "the majority of languages spoken today have a common ancestor language [whose] seed-words can be found in today's spoken languages with similar meanings." Here, Macali explores one of these seed words, "gar," which means "circle," in two pieces, "Gar," (recorded at Tapetenwerk, Leipzig, Germany with sound design Benjamin Leal) and "Har" (recorded at Campus Allegro, Jakobstad Pietarsaari, Finland with sound design by Matteo Polato).

Next, there's The Fire of 'Bu, an operetta "developed with jazz singer Alice Ricciardi in 2016-2017 and performed in different locations and with different musical arrangements." There are three selections from this project — "Y'am," "Tip Tap Shoes," and "Savoy Savoy" — recorded at various locations and presented in both video and audio forms. The libretto for this project is also provided. That's followed by "Ustica ha il ritmo suo" from I Luoghi, a "live recording performed with jazz drummer Armando Sciommeri and piano player Pietro Lussu," and AL5B5RI "a poetry film produced with Joakim Finholm and installed in the exhibition AL5B5RI at Energiverket in Jakobstad Pietarsaari, Finland." Finally, we have Löyly, another short poetry film also based on Kruse's Proto-Indo-European languages theory.

You can listen to or watch all of the aforementioned recordings by clicking here and while you're there don't forget to check out the many other astounding poets housed on our PennSound Italiana homepage.

Finally, we have two more projects, each represented by one 

Jeff Preiss Discusses the Jon Lovitz / Charles Bernstein Yellow Pages Ads, 2019

Posted 10/3/2019

Since we talked about our co-director Charles Bernstein's recent ad for PennSound, it's a great time to revisit his classic Yellow Pages ads from the late 1990s, particularly since we recently added a somewhat spontaneous recording — as evidenced by the turn signal clicks that punctuate his spiel — in which Jeff Preiss, who conceived and directed the spots, shares how they came to be.

It all started with a well-received ad Preiss directed for the NBA starring Bill Murray. "Then the Yellow Pages — poor Yellow pages — they were about to just die. There was no saving the Yellow Pages. Yellow Pages were on life support and they hired an agency to try to figure out a way of keeping the Yellow Pages relevant. Now in hindsight it was really just hopeless." That "absolutely terrible" idea was disposing with the beloved "let your fingers do the walking" slogan and imagery and switch their iconography to a light bulb, thus making the book "a kind of an inspirational text and a work of literature, where it gives you ideas." "A beautiful idea, but a doomed one," as Preiss recollects.

Because the Yellow Pages didn't have the money to get Bill Murray they wound up with Jon Lovitz instead, but Lovitz was reluctant because "the scripts [weren't] funny," though working together Preiss and Lovitz were able to revise them into something workable. Now they needed a literary critic to deliver a few lines, "and I had this idea to cast Charles and I figured Charles, it's so perfect for him, he'll be able to just go for it." Everyone at the agency was please with the results — "Charles is amazing ... like, it's beyond" — to the extent that they wrote and shot a second series of spots starring Bernstein exclusively.

They then took all of this back to the Yellow Pages, and that's where things start to break down. Listen in to hear the company's reaction, Preiss discussing his long friendship with Bernstein facilitated through filmmaker Henry Hills, and more. We're very proud to be able to host the full set of radio and TV ads Preiss made, along with outtakes, which are well worth checking out whether you already know and love them or if you're just seeing them for the first time. We're grateful to Davide Balula, who made the recording and serves as interlocutor throughout, for sharing this with us. Click here to start listening.


PennSound in 90 Seconds

Posted 10/1/2019

PennSound co-director Charles Bernstein recently sat down with Bob Greenberg to record a few poems, and while the camera was rolling he asked Bernstein to record a short, spontaneous ad for our site (something, of course, he has a little experience with). You can watch the pitch above and here's a little of what he had to say:
PennSound is the largest archive of poets reading their work on the internet and it's a giant site — [it] goes from very early recordings such as complete Williams, Stein, Stevens to readings that are taking place just this year all around the country and internationally. The files are all completely downloadable and many of the readings are broken up into individual poems and for many of the featured poets we have enormous numbers of readings by each one. So it's ideal for a way to enter into contemporary poetry by listening rather than reading.
Don't forget that you can read more about our site — its history and methodologies, as well as the long roster of wonderful poetry fanatics who've been involved with PennSound since its inception — on our About PennSound page. You might also enjoy browsing our Praise for PennSound and PennSound in the News pages.

PoemTalk #140: on Barbara Guest's "The Blue Stairs"

Posted 9/27/2019

Today, we release episode #140 in the PoemTalk Podcast Series, which is focused on the title poem from Barbara Guest's 1968 collection, The Blue Stairs. As befits so wonderful a poet, host Al Filreis brought together a trio of equally formidable women to discuss Guest's work: (from left to right) Simone White, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, and Kirstin Prevallet.

Filreis offers some vital background info on the poem in his PoemTalk blog post on the episode: "'The Blue Stairs' was inspired by a stairway in the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art in Amsterdam, and yet, the group agrees, the poem is not really about those stairs — nor, really, any known sort of stairs other than what one could wildly imagine. Guest's stairs will not accommodate concepts of ascent, orderly progress, step-wise elevation, nor even gradation." He continues, "The stair of the poem — the poem as itself stair, the textual thing which readers attempt to scale — offers an experience that is 'spatially selective,' a counter-intuitive means of 'Reading stairs / as interpolation.' Such antihierarchical step-taking offers its 'code' as a variable language not meant to be cracked or deciphered, or even read, so much as spatially felt." 

You can read more about the program and find links to three recordings of Guest reading the poem (in 1969 [used for this show], 1984, and 1996) by clicking here. The full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, can be found here.

Madeline Gins on PennSound

Posted 9/26/2019

Today we're highlighting our author page for multi-genre artist and author Madeline Gins, who passed away in January 2014. Taken together, the recordings found there offer a broad sense of her diverse talents.

Our earliest recording, from the archives of Robert Creeley, is a 1979 seminar with Gins and her long-term creative (and romantic) partner, Arakawa at SUNY-Buffalo. That recording is nicely complemented by the pair's two-day appearance at the school in 2000 as part of the Wednesdays at 4-Plus series, along with "Blank and Other Relatives of Indeterminacy," a lecture given in the spring of 1984 as part of the New York Talk series.

We also have a number of readings by Gins, from throughout the long history of the Segue Series, with a 1992 set at the Ear Inn (featuring excerpts from "To Not to Die" and Helen Keller or Arakawa), a 2001 set at Double Happiness (including "Poetics or Architectonics," "Electron Transport Chain One," "Spaghetti A," "Spaghetti A,'" and "Krebs Cycle"), a 2007 set at the Bowery Poetry Club (with selections from Making Dying Illegal, Architecture Against Death: Original to the 21st Century and parts one and two of "A Work of Procedural Architecture"), and finally a 2013 set at Zinc Bar (including "This Poem Precedes Its Title," "Why Don't I Have The Courage of the Wind of My Bones," "Krebs Cycle," "This Deeply Poignant Poem," "An Introduction to Elementary Biotopology," and "What The President Will Say and Do," along with excerpts from Hellen Keller or Arakawa). Finally, we have Gins' 1995 appearance on LINEbreak, where she read the "Th" section from Hellen Keller or Arakawa, and a brief track, "Reversile Destiny Decaration," recorded circa 2013 by Léopold Lambert.

You can check out all of the recordings mentioned above by clicking here.

New Segue Series Readings at Zinc Bar, 2016–2019

Posted 9/24/2019

We recently made extensive additions to our series homepage for the Segue Series at Zinc Bar (its home since 2012). In total, there are recordings from several dozen events that took place between 2016 and 2019. Poets taking part in these readings include Korakrit Arunanondchai, Nathan Austin, Amelia Bande, Caleb Beckwith, Chase Berggrun, Mahogany L. Browne, Marie Buck, Allison Cobb, Charity Coleman, CAConrad, Jorge Ignacio Cortinas, Natalie Diaz, Anais Duplan, Farnoosh Fathi, Dia Felix, Jennifer Firestone, Jack Halberstam, Saidiya Hartman, Angela Hume, Lucy Ives, Sasha Aisha John, Mark Francis Johnson, Krystal Languell, Lonely Christopher, Matt Longabucco, Anna Moschovakis, Angel Nafis, Fred Moten, Eileen Myles, Precious Okoyomon, Jasmine Reid, Evelyn Reilly, Sarah Riggs, Ed Sanders, Sophie Seita, Christopher Stackhouse, Diamond Stingily, Stacy Szymaszek, TC Tolbert, Wendy Trevino, Simone White, Uljana Wolf, Wendy Xu, and Stephanie Young

You can browse through these new additions and many more recordings from the Segue Series at Zinc Bar by clicking here. Don't forget that the series' complete archives are available on PennSound, starting with the Ear Inn (1978–1998), and continuing through HERE Cafe (1998), Double Happiness (1998–2001), and the Bowery Poetry Club (2001–2012).



H.D. Reads from "Helen in Egypt"

Posted 9/20/2019

We close out this week by digging deep into the archive to highlight a very interesting recording of H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) reading an extended series of excerpts from Helen in Egypt. Altogether, there are a total of forty-six tracks, which include ten selections from the book's "Palinode" section, eleven from "Leuké," and eleven from "Eidolon," along with fourteen tracks of commentary by the poet scattered throughout the set.

As Aliki Caloyeras observes in her notes that accompany these recordings, "H.D. made these recordings of Helen in Egypt in Zurich in 1955. In a letter dated February 3, 1955, to her friend and literary executer, Norman Holmes Pearson, H.D. describes the recordings: 'I am so happy about the disk-work [sic], went in yesterday by car and E[rich Heydt] came along and helped me.  I did just 21 minutes this time, some of the first section with captions.  It came up quite well — the first set, of Jan. 26, sent surface, is really the second disk, in time.  The first one I did is more lyrical and has sections from Eidolon; this one of Feb. 2 has Egypt and Some Leuke; one side of disk is Achilles, the other, Paris. . .'" She continues, "Since these recordings were made before Helen in Egypt was completed and published, the ordering of the sections read does not exactly coincide with the subsequent published text version.  The prose sections were not yet written (as H.D. came up with the idea of adding the prose sections while making the recordings).  So, in the recordings, the lyrics are interspersed with H.D.'s preliminary commentary, which she later reworks into the published prose sections." Thanks to Caloyeras, we're also able to provide page numbers for each excerpt in New Directions' edition of Helen in Egypt.

You can read more about the recordings and listen in by clicking here. Selections from Helen in Egypt from this session were the subject of PoemTalk # 84, which you can listen to here

Double Change Reading Series: Tengour, Joris, Bernstein (2019)

Posted 9/18/2019

Maybe you didn't get to summer in Paris this year, but you can take a brief vacation, via video, by checking out our recently-added set of bilingual recordings from the formidable Double Change reading series. This June 25, 2019 reading at Atelier Michael Woolworth featured sets by Habib Tengour, Pierre Joris, and Charles Bernstein, with most of the participants serving as both poet and translator.

Tengour is first, reading excerpts from "Caesura" alternating with Joris' English-language translations (these were first published by The Brooklyn Rail in 2011). He concludes his set by reading another long poem, "Seul Qui Envelope."

Next the tables are turned for Joris' set, where he reads selections from his 2013 book, Meditations on the Stations of Mansur Al-Hallaj, written during the United States' war with Iraq, while Tengour provides French translations.

Finally, Bernstein takes to the podium to read his poem "Me and My Pharaoh" from Near/Miss, with Tengour once again providing translations, taken from his just-published volume of Bernstein's work, Pour ainsi dire (Just To Say).


In Memoriam: Steve Dalachinsky (1946–2019)

Posted 9/16/2019

Sadly, we start this week off with disheartening news from the poetry world: beloved NYC poet Steve Dalachinsky died early this morning at the age of 73 after suffering a stroke following a reading on Saturday. 

Particularly given his outsized presence in the poetry scene and the massive outpouring of grief following his sudden passing, it's surprising that we did not have a PennSound author page for Dalachinsky and that we have very little in the way of recordings of him within our archives. We've remedied the former today, by creating a page for the one reading that we do have, and hopefully we will fix the latter soon enough. That one recording is a brief set from Radio Poetique's Poetic Brooklyn, the Susan Brennan-hosted program that's "committed to promoting the work, career, and presence of poets from and visiting the Brooklyn community." That show — which aired on December 23, 2003 and also included Dalachinsky's wife, the poet and artist Yuko Otomo, reading two pieces — featured three poems by Dalachinsky: "Trial & Error: Museum," "The Lynching," and "The Phone Call (First)." Listen in by clicking here, and watch this space, where, with any luck, we'll have more recordings to report in the near future.

Robert Fitterman: Newly Segmented Readings from 'Sprawl'

Posted 9/13/2019

Thanks for the hard work of PennSound staffer Hannah Judd, we're able to present a pair of recently-segmented recordings of Robert Fitterman reading from his 2010 Make Now Press collection, Sprawl. One of these — a 2007 appearance on Leonard Schwartz's Cross Cultural Poetics program — features twenty selections from the project in total, including "The Body Shop," "Banana Republic," "Kate Spade," "LensCrafters," "Panda Express," "Eddie Bauer," "Zen 5," and "Sears," some of which either didn't make it to the finished book or appeared in a noticeably different form.

Sprawl was the subject of an episode of PoemTalk, which addressed five titles from the book: "JC Penney," "Kay Jewelers," "China Buffet," "Sbarro." and "Lacoste." These recordings were taken from a Segue Series Reading at the Bowery Poetry Club made just a month or so before his CCP appearance. As Al Filreis notes, "Fitterman appropriates demotic speech and writing from various sources (overheard conversations, presumably in stores; Internet bulletin board review-ish commentaries and rants, etc.) and creates for each store and mall design element a collage of voices befitting and/or juxtaposing the putatively branded socio-economy of each retail message." "But how are we then to discern the many identities of the many voices?," he asks. By way of an answer, he quotes panelist Michelle Taransky, who observes that "Sprawl gives us what Whitman calls 'the day among crowds of people' where the nascent democratic self 'receiv'd identity.'" 

New at J2: "A Short History of Tom Weatherly"

Posted 9/11/2019

Last Friday saw the launch of a truly astounding feature at Jacket2: "A Short History of Tom Weatherly," lovingly edited by David Grundy. Here's how he begins his introductory note:
We're familiar by now with the designation of neglected writers as "poets' poets" — essentially, an excuse for their continuing neglect. And we are, or should be, even more familiar with the neglect heaped on African American innovative writers, especially those who refuse to be easily pigeonholed into secure ideological or formal categories. Thomas Elias Weatherly (1942–2014) fits both categories. Since his death, on July 15, 2014, his work has continued to occupy the cracks, lost in the shadows, just another one of the ghosts of American poetry. It shouldn't be this way. Born in Scottsboro, Alabama, in 1942, Weatherly turned to poetry at the age of eight after seeing a vision of Homer, who instructed him to become a "wekwom teks," or "weaver of words." This experience inspired his first poem: "It did seem / That he said / Sing until dead." Weatherly would heed this call throughout his life. 
What follows an unstinting, encyclopedic justification of his estimation of Weatherly's importance. Grundy has gathered, very nearly, everything written about or by Weatherly over his thirty-five year writing life. That includes the complete text of his long out-of-print books Maumau American Cantos (Corinth Books, 1970) and Thumbprint (Telegraph Books, 1971), along with his joint publication with Ken Bluford, Climate/Stream  (Middle Earth Books, 1972), selections from the still in-print Short History of the Saxophone (Groundwater Press, 2006), and a lavish selection of uncollected poetry from his earliest mature poems to what's likely the last poem written before his death in 2014. A selection of critical writings is included as well, most notably his introduction to Natural Process (Hill and Wang, 1970) — an important anthology of African American poetry co-edited with Ted Wilentz — and "Black Oral Poetry in America: An Open Letter," published in Alcheringa in 1971. In fact, our Jacket2 Reissues copy of that issue of Alcheringa was missing one page, naturally in the midst of Weatherly's essay, and Grundy was able to get us a scan to complete our archive.

All of the aforementioned materials would be, in and of themselves, would be more than a worthy tribute to Weatherly's talents and a delight for readers. They are, however, merely one part of the overall feature. Once again, I'll let Grundy explain:
Forming a companion to this work by Weatherly is a series of longer critical essays and shorter tributes. Burt Kimmelman's essay on Weatherly, "The Blues, Tom Weatherly, and the American Canon," shows Weatherly as a blues poet par excellence, carefully tracing his emergence in the New York poetry scene, the importance of his Southern background, and the technical innovations of his work. Ken Bluford's "Essay with Tom Weatherly in It," first published alongside Weatherly's work in Lip magazine in 1970, further points out how Weatherly's use of Southern vernacular traditions both sets him alongside and contrasts him to better-known poets of the Black Arts Movement. My own essay focuses on Weatherly's first book, the Maumau American Cantos, concentrating on Weatherly's writing of the American South and his figurations of sexuality. The piece by Evelyn Hoard Roberts reprinted from the Dictionary of Literary Biography provides a detailed and invaluable biographical overview of Weatherly's early career. 
The shorter tributes he mentions are part of a third sub-section containing all sorts of fascinating ephemera: " fond reminiscences, poems, and obituaries from Akua Lezli Hope, Eugene Richie, Janet Rosen, Aram Saroyan, M. G. Stephens, Rosanne Wasserman, and the late John Ashbery," along with contemporaneous reviews of his work, examples of the poets own "illuminated manuscripts," and a whole slew of audio-visual materials. That includes a newly-unearthed 1968 reading at the St. Mark's Poetry Project that, along with a 1971 reading in Grand Valley, Michigan, can be found on PennSound's new Tom Weatherly author page. When we first added the 1971 recording, not long after Weatherly's death, Charles Bernstein offered this summation of its contents: "Weatherly reads the complete serial poem 'Mau Mau American Cantos' for the first ten minutes of the reading ... after that he reads various poems, including 'Lady Fox' from Thumprint but nothing else from that book or Mau Mau." He also hailed Weatherly's work as "powerful, brilliant, often volatile (and distressingly unacknowledged)." Well, now you certainly have the opportunity to evaluate his judgment. 

We've had the privilege of publishing some truly groundbreaking work at Jacket2 over the years, and this is definitely one of the projects I'm most proud of. Start reading now by clicking here.

Harryette Mullen Discusses 'Recyclopedia' with Erica Hunt, 2007

Posted 9/10/2019

Here's a fascinating recording from a dozen years ago that just made its way into our archive. Recorded on November 15, 2007, in conjunction with Harryette Mullen being awarded the Beyond Margins Award from PEN America (known as the PEN/Open Book Award since 2009) for Recyclopedia — Greywolf's 2006 collection that gathers three complete books from the 1990s that had gone out of print: Trimmings (1991), S*PeRM**K*T (1992), and Muse and Drudge (1995) — this event features Mullen in conversation with Erica Hunt.

After introductory comments by Hunt, Mullen starts with a brief reading from Recyclopedia, starting with excerpts from Trimmings, her reinterpretation of the poetic modes of Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons that explores questions of fashion, followed by a few selections from S*PeRM**K*T, a book that explores "the supermarket as an environment of language" in a similar fashion. 

From there, their conversation begins in earnest, and it's truly wonderful to hear a writer as formidable as Hunt, who can ask incisive questions of Mullen rooted in her own life and poetic practice, offering the audience (both in person, and now us listening in) useful perspectives on the work, and drawing revealing insights from her interlocutor. "Who do you write for?" Hunt asks, about midway through the discussion. "I write for anyone who's interesting in reading what I've written," Mullen answers, before continuing, "That is really who I'm writing for. But I do think, because I'm African American and because I'm a woman, I think about women, I think about African Americans, I think about people of color, I think about people who are poets and writers and academics, creative people, but really I'm writing for anyone who cares to pick up a book of poetry or listen to a podcast or go to a reading and thinks that life is somehow enriched by this process, this complicated process, of reading, writing, and thinking." Click here to listen to this conversation in its entirety.

Remembering President of the United Hearts

Posted 9/7/2019

Imagine, if you will, a time when the political scene in America seemed as bad as the present, though hindsight tells us that it was shockingly genteel by comparison. Today, we want to remember the Midwest-based poetry collective President of the United Hearts and their 2007 Factory School book, The Big Melt: a book written from the fall of 2004 into the spring of 2005, which ably captures America's tempestuous social climate surrounding the Bush v Kerry presidential contest, the ongoing war in Iraq, and a growing domestic dissatisfaction with politics as usual.

Our President of the United Hearts author page is home to an October 2007 Segue Series Reading at the Bowery Poetry Club — which includes readers Claude Copeland, Elizabeth English, Belle Gironda, Robert Kocik, and Andrew Levy — along with a solo reading by Levy at the St. Mark's Poetry Project earlier that spring largely comprised of selections from The Big Melt (though, he notes "I only take responsibility for those parts for which I'm responsible, and I only take partial authorship for these pages"). Poet Tisa Bryant, who describes the collection as a "dystopian chronicle from a seemingly utopian project," observes that "each poem is a floe of traumatic memory, eulogy, poetariat backtalk, flippantly humorous. But what also seems to melt down is an awareness of address: who speaks to whom in these poems, with what ultimate intention, what unified sense of connection?" That poly-vocality, which imbues The Big Melt with a Whitman-esque, democratic spirit, is showcased well in the round-robin Segue set, while Levy's solo performance reframes the material in a very different, much more intimate fashion.

When CAConrad awarded The Big Melt the "Sexiest Poem of the Year" award for 2007, they professed, "it's a poetry with a massive embrace on the problems in front of us, around us, deeply within us. It's not seeing a chain of events but a web of, an undeniably accurate web of, connecting every single action to its resulting deprivation, as accurate as any smart bomb, hopefully even smarter." A dozen years later, in the midst of dire times, the insights here are as sharp as ever and every bit the tonic they were in those heady post-9/11 days — perhaps even more so. You can click here to start listening.

Happy Birthday, John Cage!

Posted 9/5/2019

September 5th is the 107th birthday of John Cage, a singular talent who made world-changing contributions to the world of poetry as well as music. To mark the date, we've assembled a group of Cage-related recordings from the PennSound archives for your listening pleasure. It includes everything from Cage's own writings, poetry and performance inspired by Cage, excerpts from conversations and interviews in which poets discuss Cage's influence on their work, and even full-length lectures by noted Cage scholars:

Jerry Rothenberg reads Cage's "Lecture on Nothing" (2:10): MP3

Marjorie Perloff's talk, "Watchman, Spy and Dead Man: Frank O' Hara, Jasper Johns, and John Cage in the Sixties" (1:01:24): MP3

Perloff discusses "The Poetics of Indeterminacy" and John Cage (15:02): MP3

Chris Funkhouser discusses John Cage and Jackson Mac Low's poetry (1:28): MP3

Bruce Andrews discusses John Cage (1:47): MP3

Joan Retallack's lecture, "John Cage's Anarchic Harmony: A Poethical Wager" (55:16): MP3

Danny Snelson discusses Cage's Cartridge Music (5:21): MP3

Anne Waldman reads from "Pieces of an Hour (Dear John Cage...)" (5:45): MP3

Jackson Mac Low and Ann Tardos perform "Phoneme Dance; in Memoriam John Cage" (5:05): MP3

Mac Low reads "Phoeneme Dance for John Cage" (5:11): MP3

Mac Low reads six poems written for the occasion of Cage's 79th birthday:
  • "A Breather" (1:21): MP3
  • "Intention Disappears" (1:47): MP3
  • "Rebus Effort Remove Government" (2:32): MP3
  • "They Didn't Whir He Gave No Advice" (3:03): MP3
  • "This Occasion" (1:34): MP3
  • "He Never Relaxed for a Moment" (1:12): MP3

Mac Low reads "Rebus Effort Remove Government" in a later session (2:32): MP3

Mac Low discusses the influence of Cage's chance-composed music and Buddhism (5:50): MP3

Ron Silliman on John Cage's influence (2:57): MP3

M.C. Richards reads "For John Cage on His 75th Birthday" (4:06): MP3

Clark Coolidge reads "For John Cage" (23:08): MP3  

Coolidge discusses Cage and his work (4:18): MP3
and finally, don't miss PoemTalk #135, which addresses Cage's "Writing for the Second Time through Finnegans Wake"

"Clark Coolidge's Cave Art" at Jacket2

Posted 9/3/2019

It's a good day to revisit Rachael M. Wilson's strange and wonderful article, "Clark Coolidge's Cave Art," which we had the privilege of publishing at Jacket2 roughly four years ago. As I noted in our original PennSound Daily post announcing it, "You certainly know Clark Coolidge as a poet, and perhaps you know of his stint as drummer in Serpent Power, a San Francisco folk-rock group of the late 1960s led by David and Tina Meltzer, but you probably didn't know about the poet's long history as a cave explorer."

Wilson starts her piece by acknowledging that "while Coolidge's work is more commonly read in the context of his musical practice or his connections to the visual arts, geological influences on the poetry have hardly gone unexamined." She continues: "The Cave, The Crystal Text, A Geology, Keys to the Caverns, Mine: The One That Enters the Stories, Quartz Hearts, Smithsonian Depositions, Solution Passage: Even a brief survey of the titles of Clark Coolidge's poetry collections reveals a sustained engagement with geological motifs, among which caves take pride of place. Extending this survey to individual poems, one finds similar themes recurring, for example, in 'The Death of Floyd Collins,' 'Machinations Calcite,' and 'Up the Escarpment' from Coolidge's first book, Flag Flutter & U.S. Electric (Lines / Aram Saroyan, 1966), in 'The Caves' and 'A Geology' from the recently published A Book Beginning What and Ending Away (Fence Books, 2013), or in 'Bowling for Agates' and 'Down at Granny's Cave' from 88 Sonnets (Fence Books, 2012)."

If you read this article when we first published it, then it's a great time to revisit it. If you've never heard of it before, especially if you're a fan of Coolidge's work, then you need to check it out right away, because it will offer a fresh, new perspective on his long and prodigious career. Click here to start reading, and while you're at it, why not pop over to our Clark Coolidge author page to spend a little time with the wide array of recordings found there.






On Bill Berkson's 80th

Posted 8/30/2019

Today would have been the eightieth birthday of the one and only Bill Berkson, a legendary poet, editor, critic, curator, and teacher, who passed away three years ago. While we're lucky to have had more time with Berkson than we might have initially expected — he lived for roughly a decade after a risky and rare double lung transplant in the mid-oughts, producing some of his very best work during that period — that doesn't mean that his loss is not still dearly felt in the poetry community.

Our Bill Berkson author page is an impressive tribute to both the longevity of his creative life and his diverse talents. Our holdings there start in 1969 with a joint reading in New York City with Kenward Elmslie and continues with dozens of readings and talks — at the St. Mark's Poetry Project, San Francisco's Intersection for the Arts, the Grand Piano, 90 Langton Street, Bolinas, The Kootenay School of Writing, the Bowery Poetry Club, Paris' Double Change Reading Series, our own Kelly Writers House, the CUE Art Foundation, Berkeley's Moe's Books, Slaughterhousespace, Maison de la Poésie in Paris, and Dia Art Foundation — along with a handful of wonderful radio appearances. There's also a 2015 Close Listening program with Charles Bernstein, and two marvelous recent films: Mitch Temple's The Air You Breathe from 2017 (on Berkson's collaborations with his painter friends) and Citizen Film's Bill Berkson, School of Poets from 2016. You can explore the numerous wonderful recordings mentioned above, and many more, by clicking here.



Kathy Acker: SUNY-Buffalo Talk and Creeley Interview, 1979

Posted 8/28/2019

Here's a terrific recording from our archives that is well worth another listen. On December 12–13, 1979, Kathy Acker was a guest of Robert Creeley's at SUNY-Buffalo. Over those two days she read from her own work, delivered a talk on French novelists, and was interviewed by Creeley. These events have been segmented, and are available on our Kathy Acker author page.

After introductory comments by Creeley, Acker begins with "Tangier," a long chapter (the recording is forty-six minutes long) from Blood and Guts in High School about meeting Jean Genet in Tangiers. She and Creeley then talk briefly about Erica Jong before the first day's event ends. 

The second day begins with Acker offering introductory comments on the pair of French novelists "whose work I'm absolutely fascinated with" that she'll be discussing in this session: Pierre Guyotat and Laure (the pen name of Colette Peignot). "You can't get these books in this country. Don't even try," Acker warns, however she explains that "I wanted to present what I'm doing with their work to you" — even though her translations are rough first drafts and "my French is very bad," ("I knew it enough to know I didn't know it," she later tells the audience) — because of how captivated she became with these authors on a recent trip to France. Specifically, this interest ties into language: both her experience of their language and mediation inherent to encountering a foreign language of which one only has a basic knowledge, but also concerns that have followed her for much longer: "It seemed to me that more and more — I've lived in New York for the last seven years — [that] language is almost impossible now. It's as if ... to have a language, to be able to really speak to someone, seems to be almost like total freedom, in my mind."

She then reads brief translations from each author's work: an excerpt from Guyotat's novel, Eden, Eden, Eden, followed by a piece by Laure about her childhood.  A half-hour lecture on the two authors comes next, with a discussion session of about the same length wrapping up the event. That conversation has been segmented into five thematic parts: "on self-expression," "on self-reflection," "on subjectivity and perception," "on the writer's perspective," and "on the divided self." You can listen in by clicking here



PoemTalk #139: Worker's Tanka

Posted 8/27/2019

Today, we released the 139th episode in the PoemTalk Podcast Series, a very special program that addresses six tankas by Christine Yvette Lewis, Lorraine Garnett, and Davidson Garrett of the Worker Writers School. For this show, host Al Filreis gathered a panel that included Mark Nowak (who co-curated this episode), Husnaa Hashim, and Meg Pendoley.

As Filreis explains at the start of his PoemTalk blog post on the episode, Nowak "is one of the few contemporary artists who has organiziationally sought a way to recontextualize working-class consciousness and activism within the American labor movement into the poetics and media art of the twenty-first century." He continues, "Mark's new labor poetics has led him to found Worker Writers, an institute that organizes and facilitates poetry workshops with global trade unions, workers' centers, and other progressive labor organizations," and three members of this worthy project — Christine Yvette Lewis, Lorraine Garnett, and Davidson Garrett — are the authors of the half-dozen tankas under discussion here.

You can find more here, including the full texts of all six poems, more info on Worker Writers, and video footage of the poets reading their work filmed by Zardon Richardson at the group's February meeting. The full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, can be found here.


City Planning Poetics #7: Carceral Justice

Posted 8/23/2019

Organized and hosted by Davy Knittle, "City Planning Poetics" holds events once a semester at Kelly Writers House "that invite one or more poets and one or more planners, designers, planning historians or others working in the field of city planning to discuss a particular topic central to their work, to ask each other questions, and to read from their current projects."

On March 21st of this year, Knittle convened the seventh event in the series, "Carceral Justice," with guests Emily Abendroth and Nina Johnson. Abendroth is a poet, teacher, and anti-prison activist, whose "creative work investigates state regimes of surveillance, force, and power, as well as individual and collective resistance strategies." Johnson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Coordinator of the Program in Black Studies at Swarthmore College. Her scholarly work addresses "the areas of inequality, politics, race, space, class, culture, stratification and mobility." 

You can stream video and download audio of their discussion here here. Previous events in the series, which started in the winter of 2016, include "What Is a Map? What Does a Map Do?" (with Jena Osman and Amy Hillier), "What Are the Tools That Shape the Built Environment? Where Did They Come From? How Have They Been Used?" (with Francesca Ammon and Jason Mitchell), "Queer Placemaking" (with Max J. Andruck and Rachel Levitsky), "Urban Memory" (with Simone White and Randall Mason), "Queer City" (with Jen Jack Gieseking and Erica Kaufman), and "Urban Revitalization" (with Brian Goldstein and Douglas Kearney). You can watch or listen to those events here.

In Memoriam: Steve Katz (1935–2019)

Posted 8/21/2019

We are sad to share the recently-discovered news that multi-genre author Steve Katz passed away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer on August 4th. Best known for his fiction — his 1970 short story collection Creamy and Delicious was hailed by Larry McMurtry as one of the hundred greatest books of the twentieth century — Katz's work was championed by iconic small presses including Fiction Collective/FC2, Sun & Moon/Green Integer, Ithaca House, and Starcherone Books, as well as major publishing houses like Grove Press; Holt, Rinehart and Winston; and Random House.

A longtime fixture at the University of Colorado Boulder (where he taught for a quarter century), Katz was remembered by that city's Daily Camera as a man who "lived a life of words." Their tribute quotes colleague Peter Michaelson who remembered Katz as an "incredibly creative and inventive" author, with a "great sense of humor." "He was fun to be around, a lively mind," he continued, "I'm going to miss him, I already miss him and the literary scene will miss him. But there's still his work … there's plenty around for people to read and they should."

PennSound doesn't have much in the way of recordings of Katz, but we're glad for what we do have. There's an hour-long reading [MP3] from January 25, 1979 from New York's Droll/Kolbert Gallery Series, which was curated by Ted Greenwald. Additionally, from the archives of Bill Berkson, we have a brief, undated recording of Katz reading "William Reichert" at the St. Mark's Poetry Project [MP3], which is likely — like many of the short, single-title recordings on that page — an unused track recorded for the album, The World Record: Readings at the St. Mark's Poetry Project 1969–1980, which Berkson co-edited with Bob Rosenthal. You can stream the aforementioned tracks instantly by clicking on the MP3 links.

Want to read more? Visit the PennSound Daily archive.