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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Congratulations to Canadian Jewish Literature Award Winner Gary Barwin

Posted 9/15/2021

Our week continues with another great honor for a poet we're proud to have as part of the PennSound archives. This time, we send our heartiest congratulations to Gary Barwin — a fine experimental poet and a talented fiction writer to boot — whose novel, Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy (Random House Canada), was just named a winner of the 2021 Canadian Jewish Literary Awards in Fiction.

In their citation, the judges hail Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy as "a work of unbounded imagination following a wannabe cowboy, Motl, as he and his mother flee Vilna and the Nazis massacre of the Jews." They continue: "The phantasmagoria of ensuing events, characters and horror are met by Motl with an equally bizarre set of puns and humorous absurdity in the face of tragedy. This original and moving exploration of genocide and persecution is filled with heartbreak and the enduring quest for hope in the face of horror of the Shoah." In conclusion, they find Barwin's "integration of tragedy and humour, in the Jewish tradition," to be "masterful."

You can read more about the Canadian Jewish Literature Award and Barwin's book here. PennSound's Gary Barwin author page — which is home to recordings spanning more than a quarter century, including a compact and useful "Selected Works 1994 – 2012," broken down by performance and text type — can be found here.


Johanna Drucker Wins AIGA's Steven Heller Prize for Cultural Commentary

Posted 9/13/2021

We start this week sending well-earned congratulations to Johanna Drucker who was recently announced as a winner of AIGA's Steven Heller Prize for Cultural Commentary. The American Institute of Graphic Arts, which has awarded the prize since 2017, presents it to individuals "who best exemplify the tradition of prolific writing and boundless curiosity established by Steven Heller — who has contributed and inspired engaging commentary about design and culture for the past three decades." The Heller Prize "celebrates critical thinking about design and the profession, and encourages development in the next generation of design voices through a variety of media (i.e., curators, podcasters, filmmakers)."

Drucker's citation honors "her prolific yet unpredictable work as a leading scholar of graphic design, print culture, and book history as well as her impact through graphic design history textbooks to shape students and welcome the next generation of designers" and certainly, given the scope of Drucker's artistry, it is richly deserved.

For those eager to learn more about Drucker, we point you in the direction of her PennSound author page, which is home to a wide variety of recordings — including talks, performances, and interviews — from the mid-1980s to the present. Click here to start browsing.


Lila Zemborain Reads from Her 9/11 Poem, 'Rasgado/Torn'

Posted 9/10/2021

Tomorrow our nation will mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks. To mark the occasion, Charles Bernstein has posted a new video, made especially for PennSound, from Argentinian poet and critic Lila Zemborain. 

Together with Lorenzo Bueno, Zemborain reads from Rasgado/Torn (Buenos Aires: Tse-Tse, 2006), a poetic diary written one year after 9/11. This reading, presented by Rebel Road, was recorded in New York on August 25, 2021. Bueno, Zemborain's son, is also the translator of the book, which also featured additional translation by Rosa Alcala. 


Poet and critic Lila Zemborain (Argentina) is the Director of Creative Writing in Spanish at NYU. She is the author of several poetry collections: Abrete sésamo debajo agua (1993); Usted (1998); Guardianes del secreto (2002), translated into English as Guardians of the Secret (2009/2015); Malvas orquídeas del mar (2004), translated into English as Mauve Sea-orchids (2007); Rasgado (2006), translated into French as Déchiré (2013); El rumor de los bordes (2011); Diario de la hamaca paraguaya (2014); Materia blanda (2014); and the chapbooks Ardores (1989) and Pampa (2001). We thank her for sharing this video with us and our listeners.

Mad Mammoth Monster Poetry Readings: Ginsberg, Lamantia, McClure, Meltzer, Welch, Wieners, Whalen

Posted 9/8/2021

Today we're proud to announce newly added recordings from the Mad Mammoth Monster Poetry Readings, which were convened by Auerhann Press in San Francisco on August 29, 1963. They include brief but very exciting sets by a total of seven noteworthy Bay Area poets, many of whom had been published by the press. Because we have no context clues to establish the reading order we're presenting these tracks in alphabetical order. Clicking on each poet's name will take you directly to their poem(s).

First up we have Allen Ginsberg, who read "Patna-Benares Express" and "May 22 [1962] Calcutta," followed by Philip Lamantia, who read "Rest in Peace, Al Capone" and "All Hail Pope John XXIII." Michael McClure read from Dark Brown and Ghost Tantras, while David Meltzer read several short pieces: "Baby's Hands," "Rain Poems," "Nerve Root Poem," "Two Poems to My Wife," and "Poem for Lew Welch." For his own set, Welch  read from Hermit Poems, while John Wieners read "A Poem for Cocksuckers" and "A Poem for the Old Man." Finally, we have Philip Whalen bringing our new recordings to a close with an excerpt from "The Art of Literature."

It's a fascinating snapshot of the Bay Area's poetry scene at that time as the late Beat Generation heyday slowly started to give way to the burgeoning Summer of Love ethos. To listen to any of the individual poets listed above, just click their names to be taken to their PennSound author pages.



Spend Labor Day with Berrigan and Waldman's "Memorial Day"

Posted 9/6/2021

Today at PennSound we're marking the Labor Day holiday and the unofficial end of summer by thinking back to the holiday that started the summer off: Memorial Day. Specifically, we're thinking of Ted Berrigan and Anne Waldman's collaborative masterpiece, "Memorial Day," and our recording of their May 5, 1971 reading of the work in its entirety at the Saint Mark's Poetry Project.

This recording is notable not only because "Memorial Day" is a landmark collaboration between two of the New York School's finest poets, but also due to its seeming rarity. Berrigan and Waldman were rumored to have only read the poem together and in its entirety once — in fact, "Memorial Day" was composed specifically for their joint reading in the spring of 1971 — and while the event was recorded, it would seem that the tape had been missing for several decades, presumably lost forever.

My brief Jacket2 essay from 2010, "Recovering 'Memorial Day,'"  is both a rumination on the poem itself and a retelling of its being lost and found again in the reel-to-reel tape collection of Robert Creeley. To listen to the recording directly, you can click here. Subsequently, video footage of a 1973 reading of the poem by Berrigan and Waldman has been located, and you can watch that here.

John Richetti reads Robert Frost, 2021

Posted 9/3/2021

Beloved UPenn professor emeritus John Richetti is back with a new set of recordings made just for PennSound. This time around, Richetti is lending his stentorian tones to the works of Robert Frost, with a session encompassing forty-three titles in total, recorded at home over two days this August. Here's the introduction he wrote for this new batch of tracks:

Robert Frost (1874–1963) became the most widely known American poet during his long lifetime, although the poems most familiar to the public during his later years, especially "The Road Not Taken," presented a somewhat misleading view of him as a benign rural sage who offered simple, folksy consolations drawn from Nature. But in fact his poetry uses the closely-observed natural world to evoke situations and images that explore moral and philosophical issues with rigorous clarity. As the critic, Lionel Trilling observed Frost's poetic universe is in fact "terrifying." His often disturbing poetic insights are delivered in a straightforward, conversational style that uses traditional metrical organization as well as rhyme.

Frost was born in San Francisco and worked as a New Hampshire farmer only briefly before deciding to move to England in 1912 to pursue a career as a poet. He published there his first book, A Boy's Will (1913) and came to know the American expatriate poet, Ezra Pound, as well as many other prominent writers while in England, including William Butler Yeats, who remarked to Pound that Frost's first book "is the best poetry written in America for a long time." Upon his return to the United States, he bought a farm in New Hampshire. In 1917 he settled in Amherst, Massachusetts and for a number of years taught at Amherst College, the beginning of a life-long affiliation with the school.

All the poems in this selection are drawn from the Library of America edition of his works, Robert Frost: Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays, ed. Richard Poirier and Mark Richardson.

Numerous previous sessions with Richetti are available on PennSound Classics, spanning more than a decade. They include his prodigious "111 Favorite Poems for Memorizing," "The PennSound Anthology of Restoration & 18th-Century Poetry," and his audio anthology of English Renaissance Verse. Richetti has additionally recorded selections from Matthew Arnold, W.H. Auden, William Blake, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Emily Dickinson, John Donne, John Dryden, George Herbert, Ben Jonson, John Keats, Andrew Marvell, John Milton, Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Walt Whitman, William Wordsworth, and William Butler Yeats. These lovingly-made recordings, rendered in Richetti's distinctive tenor, are a tremendous resource for the classroom or for any lover of poetry.

With the exception of the aforementioned anthologies, PennSound Classics is divided by author, so you can see Richetti's ample contributions alongside those of many other poets and scholars. To start browsing, click here. You can go directly to Richetti's Frost recordings by clicking here.

Gregory Corso Reads at the Fantasy Records Studios, 1969

Posted 9/1/2021

Today we're highlighting a very exciting new addition to the site from legendary Beat poet Gregory Corso: tracks from a 1969 recording session at Fantasy Records' San Francisco studios on Natoma Street.

In total there were eight tracks recorded for this session, ostensibly for a planned album release that never materialized — you'll recall that Fantasy also released records by Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Kenneth Rexroth, among others. They include "In the Fleeting Hand of Time," "Vision of Rotterdam," "The Last Warmth of Arnold," "Mexican Impressions," "Botticelli Spring," "Sun — A Spontaneous Poem," "Ode to Coit Tower," and, perhaps most exciting of all, "I Am 25."

We launched our Gregory Corso author page in June 2017, with assistance from Raymond Foye. There, you'll find five full readings plus one individual poem recorded between the 1970s and 1990s. The earliest recording is an April 1971 reading at Duke University, which is followed by an August 1985 appearance at the San Francisco Art Institute as part of their "Art of Poetry" series. Jumping forward to the 90s, there's a March 1991 Brooklyn College reading notable for the appearance of Corso's iconic late poem "The Whole Mess ... Almost" and for the half-hour candid conversation recorded in the car on the way home. From December 1992, there's a stellar reading in New York City also featuring Herbert Huncke, John Wieners, and Allen Ginsberg, and finally, from March 1993, we have a half-hour reading from Rutgers University including "I Met This Guy Who Died," "Earliest Memory," "Youthful Religious Experiences," and "Friends," among other poems.

Click here to start listening to this new Fantasy Records session on PennSound's Gregory Corso author page.


Fatemeh Shams on PennSound

Posted 8/30/2021

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.


PoemTalk #163: on Daphne Marlatt's Steveston, B.C.'

Posted 8/27/2021

Today we release episode #163 in the PoemTalk Podcast series, which is focused on Daphne Marlatt's iconic poem “Steveston, B.C.” For this program, host Al Filreis was joined by a panel that included Davy Knittle, Jane Robbins Mize, and Karis Shearer.

"The poem is in a sense — although not quite exactly — the title poem in a much-admired book published in 1974," Filreis notes in his Jacket2 blog post announcing the new episode, before giving us a little geographic context: "Steveston sits at the mouth of the South Arm of the Fraser River, near Vancouver, British Columbia." He also discusses the publication history of the poem and offers this interesting note regarding something relatively unprecedented in PoemTalk's history: "This time we're returning to the poetry of Daphne Marlatt just fifteen months after an episode about her poem 'Arriving' from Here and There of 1981. Those fifteen months not unwittingly bracket either side of the several collateral-effect crises caused by the 2020–21 pandemic and several new rounds of global awareness about impending climate change and its causes."

You can listen to this latest program and read more about the show here. PoemTalk is a joint production of PennSound and the Poetry Foundation, aided by the generous support of Nathan and Elizabeth Leight. You can browse the full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, by clicking here.


Mimi Gross and Red Grooms: FAT FEET

Posted 8/25/2021

Today we're revisiting another classic recording from our PennSound Cinema page: FAT FEET, a groundbreaking short film made by the then-husband-and-wife team of Mimi Gross and Red Grooms.

In addition to the twenty-minute film, we've assembled remembrances from Gross and Yvonne Andersen (who served as photographer, artist and editor, as well as constructing sets and props). Here's Gross describing the film's origins and inspirations:
As I worked with Red at various intervals of time and projects, from 1960-1976, our collaborations became increasingly intense, and often lost the boundaries of ideas, aesthetics, and in the real time of making, craft and painting.

FAT FEET (1965-66) was directly inspired by the early animated films of Georges Melies, Emil Kohl, and the marvelous movie, The Invisible Moving Co, all of which we saw from the collections of Joseph Cornell (via Robert Whitman and Rudy Burckhardt). In 1962-3, together with Rudy Burckhardt, we made a 16mm film called Shoot the Moon. It is a direct homage to Georges Melies. There are some brief scenes with stop-action animation. Red and I made little cut outs, and Rudy showed us how he filmed the scene. A few years later, we experimented with animating life-sized props with live actors (long before "green screens").

When Yvonne Andersen and Dominic Falcone visited us in New York, we planned to make a film together the following summer where they lived near Boston. Red and I had just moved into lively "Little Italy" (1964), a neighborhood where daily fires, violence, and long term elderly residents lived near the Bowery, filled with bums, and (pre-immigration quota) Chinatown. I was busy drawing in the streets, and making objects based on street life, and Red was obsessively chasing fires, fire engines, street life, he was incorporating into his work.

The explosion of making FAT FEET resulted from our excitement living in the new neighborhood. Later, we made an ad, and called FAT FEET: "A day in the life of 'nervous city'!"
And here's Andersen describing the spirit of collaboration among friends that guided the project:
Each morning the four of us along with Dominic and our two children Paul, 7 and Jean, 5 went to the studio to build the sets and props. We painted cartoonish black and white buildings on the paper walls of the set, painted and and constructed 3/4 size flat automobiles with movable wheels from heavy building cardboard. Red built a dog which could be animated to walk in front of a live person.

Red was creating a cartoonish atmosphere depicting the types of city people who might be seen walking the street of a big city. For this reason the people wore giant shoes to connect them to the sidewalks. Those shoes were heavy! A normal shoe was screwed into a giant shoe manufactured by Red.

In the beginning this was supposed to be a four person project, but people heard about it. Each night people came to be in the winter crowd scenes. Some were friends of Red and Mimi, some were my animation students and neighbors. We got old coats from Morgan Memorial and there was a large make up table. People could come in, put on a coat, do their own make up, and become who they wanted to be for the evening.
From a personal perspective, it was truly wonderful to finally get to see this charming film when we first announced it a decade ago this month, since I had first heard about (along with its creators) under strange circumstances a very long time ago. My grandfather spent many years working as a printer for the Curtis Publishing Company, and one of the few concrete mementoes from his time there (aside from the missing tip of one finger) was a copy of the February 8, 1969 Saturday Evening Post (shown at right) — the magazine's final weekly edition after seventy-two years of publication, which featured Red Grooms on the cover and a lavish article on Grooms and Gross inside. Their technicolor art and lifestyle was immediately appealing to me, connecting with my kindergartener logic (as did the work of Keith Haring, who I likely discovered around the same time), and I found my first favorite artists.

Jumping forward several decades, I should add that I'm still very fond of the work that Grooms and Gross produced in the 1960s, and, for that matter, I still have that issue of The Saturday Evening Post, stored next to the 2004 Rizzoli retrospective of their art. Seeing FAT FEET for the first time, that childlike awe is certainly rekindled by its Chaplin-esque grace, its engaging bustle, the warmth of its handmade aesthetic and its dizzying juxtapositions (of black-and-white and color, two- and three-dimensional forms, live actors and stop-motion animation). Check out the film on our FAT FEET homepage and perhaps you'll have the same magical experience.

In Memoriam: Jack Hirschman (1933–2021)

Posted 8/23/2021

Sad news out of the San Francisco Bay Area to start off this new week: Jack Hirschman, the city's one-time poet laureate and a major force in its poetics scene for decades, has passed away at the age of eighty-seven.

Tributes are already pouring in, including one from the legendary City Lights Books — just a stone's throw away from Caffe Triesete, above which Hirschman resided for many years — who remembered, "Jack made regular visits to our store and publishing office before the pandemic, brightening our day with a joke or a story. His presence in North Beach will be missed so much. He was steadily reading poetry up until today at various virtual events. We love you, Jack."

While we did not previously have a PennSound author page for Hirschman, we've created one now particularly because our holdings from the poet are somewhat diffusely scattered throughout our archives. By far the recording you'll want to check out is Hirschman's inaugural reading as San Francisco's poet laureate, which comes to us through the graces of the Cloud House Poetry Archives. Running more than an hour, this film is a fine tribute to Hirschman's long affiliation with the city and its literary life. 

We also have Henry Hills' 1981 film, Kino Da!, which features Hirschman in the lead role. Here's Hills' own description of that project: "KINO DA! (ah, key, key) KINO DA!/The Dead die die dada low king quanto zhong/MOVE! (ur, ur)/Grey todays it-a clear to the quick ear, quicker z'heels/The Poe (pay, po, pee, pick-pick), nuf of "D" yet/Call Vertov/(beep, beep)/Eisenstein even/& viterulably cheeness of a ram innerwear/(airs; when)/Time, Time, Money/d-d-d/ junk rock did travel & falls/(spring)/Fall/Spring is the simplest inflationary dime.///Be in everything Joy, in experimental & proletarian & wwea air of airs/at this school of poetry-painting/CUT! "To know/toe/no! no! MONTAGE (nadazha), in any instant (instant) of the writing of Stein & the facts of that (tle) kind./FEEL (the steak)/yes, ache, in trends & whatevers./Mmmm-pah-ah, Cops, man, in case (nnn), man (nnn)./(KO) be-a mayu po pony; (KO) be-a what?) o-long kind.//GO! (be what) OM, prose, Pentacost; be what this there the (pause) & (serious pause) the neb with a gram of ire illia-it's still justs Jah.//Viparko r-rrr re ad adici, yes!/YES!//ssssssssssane! /mmmm vidda pot re-a-uschious of a ship. Viparko Roma Schoma Schlav keybo z'Krushchev. (wink)"

Finally, Hirschman makes a brief appearance in the recently-announced Bob Kaufman, Poet: the Life and Times of an African-American Man (1992), and we've also included a link to the EPC, where you can read the poet's 2012 translation of Yitzhak Katzenelson's 1945 anthology, Dos Lid Funem Oysgehargen Yidishn Folk / The Song of the Massacred Jewish People — the first English-language version of this crucial text.

We send our deepest condolences to Hirschman's family, friends, and fans, in the Bay Area and worldwide. To start listening to the recordings found on PennSound's Jack Hirschman author page, just click here.



Lee Harwood on PennSound

Posted 8/20/2021

We close out this week by revisiting our PennSound author page for British poet and translator Lee Harwood, whose work crossed the Atlantic to find affinities with the poets of the New York School.

When Harwood passed away in the summer of 2015, he was remembered by The Argus for his dedication to both poetry and politics, serving "as a union official and as a member of the Labour Party during its most radical years." John Harvey offered up a recollection of his long friendship with Harwood, including the memory of an event in the last year of the poet's life when they both read their work with jazz accompaniment, conjuring up memories of Harwood's formative experiences in New York during the 1960s. Finally, Enitharmon Press, publishers of Harwood's most recent collection, The Orchid Boat hailed him as "not only a highly gifted and skilled poet, but a man of immense kindness and thoughtfulness."

The heart of our Lee Harwood author page is his career-spanning Rockdrill  album The Chart Table: Poems 1965-2002, which showcases twenty titles from across his career, including "As Your Eyes Are Blue," "Linen," "Animal Days," "Summer Solstice," "African Violets" and "Gorgeous." Another highlight is "Chanson Tzara," a twenty-seven minute audio composition that serves as an ambitious and fully-dimensional tribute to both Tzara and the chaotic spirit of Dada made contemporary, starting with a hectic sound collage of found samples, ring modulated radio noise, music, and text-to-speech voice generation, which eventually gives way to a touching and elegiac voiceover by Harwood that weaves together memories, translations, and the young poet's conversation with Tzara. Finally, we have Harwood's half hour set from the Shearsman Reading Series at London's Swedenborg Hall in June 2008.You can listen to all of these recordings by clicking here.



Barbara Henning reads from 'Digigram,' 2021

Posted 8/18/2021

Today we're highlighting a recent video of poet Barbara Henning reading from her 2020 United Artists collection, Digigram. We're very glad to be able to present this recording, which was made and originally hosted in July 2021 by Don Yorty. Here's how he set up the video:

Barbara Henning’s new book of poems, Digigram, chronicles a dreary year, the abominable 2016, yet it is full of insights by an aware observer who takes the time to look. These poems are so good, they make the ordinary day to day extraordinary.

In the Vimeo below, at her home across from Prospect Park, Barbara settled down to read from Digigram. We were both doing other things and running around, but I’m glad we got it done because these poems offer optimism to the reader and listener; in the middle of creation is the will to go on. Enjoy.

Maureen Owen, who went on a rollicking poetry tour with Henning in the spring of 2019, hailed Digigram for "follow[ing] the path of Barbara Henning's daily orbit into the roar and stammer of the universe just outside her apartment door—the politics of the hour, the wandering populace, the upheavals and intervals of all the treasured ordinary." To her mind, Henning is "an engaged participant and insightful commentator," that "defines her times with riveting staccato observation and claims her place as part of that manifold citizenry." If those testimonials don't have you raring to listen to these poems, then I don't know what will! Click here to check out this new video, and all of the other remarkable recordings you'll find on PennSound's Barbara Henning author page.


Robin Blaser: 1987 Charles Olson Lectures Now Segmented

Posted 8/16/2021

PennSound summer staffer Alex Moon has been editing up a storm recently, yielding a number of fantastic newly segmented recordings from our archives. Today we're taking a look at Robin Blaser's three Charles Olson Memorial Lecture Series events from SUNY-Buffalo. Totalling four hours in length, the trio of talks took place between March 23–27, 1987.

Blaser's first lecture starts with introductory remarks by Robert Creeley before Blaser makes his own preliminary comments. He starts in earnest discussing "poetry and positivisms," reading Olson's poetry, and the work of Lucretius before switching his topic to "silence, the word, and the sacred," which is cut off by the tape being flipped. In the first lecture's second half Blaser starts with god and human nature and the question of violence before turning to "the fragility of goodness" and the search for the poetic before concluding with discussion of Hölderlin and Broch. 

The second lecture starts off with "the 'no thing'" before its first half continues with "relations to words" and "moving forward." Blaser reflects upon the lecture up to that point to reach the midpoint. He begins again by talking about his own past and cosmology, along with the work of Robert Duncan, Ernst Kantorowicz, and Hannah Arendt, concluding with "the theological metaphysical past.

Blaser's final lecture starts with a reading from "The Death of Virgil," before moving on to examples of positivisms and discussion of Mallarmé (including "Mallarmé's problem") before wondering "what shall we do now?" The lecture's second half starts with the topic of Olson and myth, inlcuding passages from the poet and their comparison to Talmudic texts. He then shifts gears to talk about Spangler on god and music, along with Bach's Passacaglia, before bringing the discussion "from Bach to Olson" to close. 

Blaser's Olson Lectures visit to Buffalo concluded with a poetry reading on March 29th, which has also been segmented. Running nearly an hour, his set includes the poems "Further," "The Pause," "Romance," "Gathering," "Robert Graves: In Memoriam," and "To Whom It May Concern." To listen to any of the aforementioned recordings, click here.



Lisa Samuels Reads 'Tender Girl'

Posted 8/13/2021

We're wrapping up this week with a recording from Lisa Samuels, a multi-modal author and artist living and working in Aotearoa New Zealand. She recently sent along a recording, made by Tim Page between 2019–2020 at the Waipapa Taumata Rau Sound Studios, of her reading her novel Tender Girl (Dusie, 2015) in its entirety. 

Tender Girl, which you can read here, revisits the Comte de Lautreamont's Les Chants de Maldoror (1868), wherein "the hero copulates with a female shark in the frenzied sea of a shipwreck." Samuels' novel is the story of that "visceral Little Mermaid," who "comes out from ocean and crosses the land of the father, finding speech, sex, law, violence, and art."

Tender Girl has been segmented into a total of sixteen MP3 files, corresponding to its introduction and prelude, fourteen chapters, and post-lude, making it even easier to listen to on your commute or while on a jog. It's one of several recordings you'll find on PennSound's author page for Samuels, including a Segue Series reading at Zinc Bar from 2015, a Heatstrings recording from the 2015 Modernist Studies Association conference, two appearances on LA Lit, and the two-CD set Tomorrowland (Deep Surface Productions, 2012), along with external links to a number of projects. Click here to start listening.



John Ashbery: Confrontation Interview Now Segmented

Posted 8/11/2021

We're revisiting our PennSound author page for John Ashbery today, thanks to a classic recording that's recently been broken up into segmented MP3 files by according to theme.

Originally taking place on May 27, 1973, this seventy-minute interview with Ashbery was conducted by Brett Lauer, which eventually saw print in the fall 1974 issue of Confrontation. Split across three sides of two C60 cassettes, this wide ranging conversation starts off with a few topics that seem like natural points of entry for the notoriously challenging poet: "Ashbery's Biography," "How Does One Read Ashbery's Poetry?," "An Ideal Reader," and "Opaqueness." From there it moves into questions of translation and the essential nature of American poetry, along with the impact of Ashbery's Guggenheim Fellowship and his general influences.

As Lauer flips the tape he starts getting into close readings of some of the poet's best-known work, including "The Tennis Court Oath," "Europe," "Some Trees," and Three Poems, as well as discussing the influence of his fellow New York School compatriots, the influence of his work as an art critic, and the shadow cast by Auden. The interview concludes in an ekphrastic mode with more talk of the links between the visual arts and poetry, as well as how music shapes Ashbery's work. 

This newly segmented interview is but one of more than a thousand files you'll find on PennSound's Ashbery author page, which starts with a 1951 student presentation of his play Everyman in Cambridge  and ends with home recordings made not long before his death in 2017.  Click here to start listening to the aforementioned interview, and here to browse our Ashbery author page from the top.


Jerome Rothenberg: 2013 DIA: Chelsea Reading Now Segmented

Posted 8/9/2021

PennSound is glad to have summer staffer Alex Moon doing all sorts of great work for us over the break, and have already highlighted several projects they've worked on recently. Today we're taking a look at another new addition to the archives: segmented audio of Jerome Rothenberg's 2013 appearance as part of the Readings in Contemporary Poetry series at Dia Art Foundation, New York:Chelsea.

Rothenberg's reading, which took place on April 8th of that year, is typical of the sort of career-spanning performance that he offers up to rapt audiences (and which I've had the pleasure of seeing in person on several occasions) late in his writing career. Running thirty-five minutes in length it includes twenty-one tracks in total, taking extended dips into several late book projects, including The Notebooks, The Variations, and Divigations, with "A Cruel Nirvana," "From the Book of Palaces," "A Letter to Paul Celan in Memory," and "The 13th Horse Song of Frank Mitchell (White)" among some of the individual titles read.

Of course, PennSound's Jerome Rothenberg author page is a thriving testament to the poet, translator, editor, and anthologist's long and influential career. There's a comprehensive survey of his own diverse poetic modes, spread across numerous recordings, from album releases via S Press and Optic Nerve's Rockdrill series to myriad readings and even some of his musical collaborations. There are a number of recordings related to his editorial and translation projects, including launch readings celebrating several different volumes in the Poems for the Millennium series and milestone events for Technicians of the Sacred (both its 40th and 50th anniversaries). There are lectures, class recordings, and interviews with Rothenberg, as well as commentaries on his own work, including several PoemTalk episodes. With nearly 300 MP3s alone — counting individual tracks and complete recordings — not to mention videos, it's a fittingly encyclopedic tribute to Rothenberg's influence, as well as a useful resource for all sorts of classroom settings. Of course, our listeners will also enjoy Rothenberg's ongoing Jacket2 commentary series, "Poems and Poetics," which we've been honored to host for the past decade. You can listen to this newly segmented recording by clicking here.

Happy Birthday, Diane di Prima

Posted 8/6/2021

August 6th would have been the 87th birthday of Beat legend Diane di Prima, and is her first birthday since her passing last October. While we didn't have a PennSound author page for di Prima then, we are very glad to have one now, and while its contents are modest, they are nonetheless well worth your time.

First and foremost we have an hour-long 1992 interview with di Prima conducted in San Francisco with Billy Klüver. Writing at Topos, Julie Martin provides some background for the recording, noting that it came out of a collaborative book project focusing on New York City's postwar artistic communities between 1945–1965. She continues: 
During a trip to San Francisco in 1992, Billy reached out to Diane de Prima and requested an interview. He had studied at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1954 to 1958, before settling permanently in New Jersey just outside New York City, and had followed art, film and publishing activities on both coasts. He was familiar with di Prima’s work, and had in his archive numerous issues of The Floating Bear, the newsletter/magazine that she co-published from 1961 to 1969.

When I read of di Prima’s death on October 25th, I remembered the interview, and I was very pleased to accept the invitation of Jacob Kirkegaard, to prepare the 30-year-old tape of the interview and release it on his group’s artists website TOPOS.

di Prima's participation in the 1973 National Poetry Festival is extensively documented on our homepage for that event, though there are sadly no recordings of events she participated in available to us at this time. Finally we have audio of Pierre Joris reading di Prima's "Rant" at a Poems for the Milennium launch event, as well as Ammiel Alcalay and Ana Bozičević discussing the poet for Cross Cultural Poetics

With any luck, we hope to be able to expand our holdings in the near future. In the meantime, you can click here to listen to all of the aforementioned recordings on PennSound's Diane di Prima author page



In Memoriam: Janice Mirikitani (1941–2021)

Posted 8/4/2021

Sadly, the week continues with more tragic news from the world of poetry. Janice Mirikitani, a groundbreaking Asian American poet, former San Francisco poet laureate, and co-founder of Glide Memorial Church (whose mission was to serve the city's homeless and poverty-stricken residents), died suddenly on July 29th at the age of 80.

While we do not have the privilege of hosting recordings of Mirikitani at PennSound, we wanted to mark the passing of such an important figure in contemporary US poetry. To do so, we gladly point our listeners to Timothy Yu's 2015 Jacket2 essay, "Engagement, Race, and Public Poetry in America," one of the finest pieces we've published in the journal. Indeed, in our editorial board's note on publishing during the Covid-19 pandemic from last April we singled out Yu's essay in an effort to "support and amplify resistant and incisive writing by Asian American poets, scholars, and critics in our institutions and communities" in the face of rising hate crimes against the Asian community, noting that his essay "explores the significance of Janice Mirikitani, Ishle Park, and Cathy Park Hong." Click here to read this poignant exploration of the evolution of Asian American poetry through a turbulent 20th century. 



In Memoriam: Roberto Calasso (1941–2021)

Posted 8/2/2021

We start this week off with the sad news that Italian author, translator, and publisher Roberto Calasso — hailed in his New York Times obituary for his "wide-ranging works [that] explored the evolution and mysteries of human consciousness, from the earliest myths and rituals to modern civilization" — passed away on July 28th at the age of 80.

It was Leonard Schwartz, host of the sorely-missed radio show Cross Cultural Poetics that brought this news to our attention, and therefore I thought it appropriate to ask him to share his thoughts on Calasso, who appeared twice as a guest on his show. Here is his reply, which came back in a flash:

The two conversations with Roberto Calasso were for me among the program's most memorable. I am still astonished by his discussion of Pound's poetics, and by the recognition of how deeply this consummate Italian intellectual was influenced by the notion from The Spirit of Romance that "all ages are contemporaneous". Whether writing about Baudelaire's influence on the painters, revivifying Greek and Roman myth, or pondering the unknowables of the Vedas, Calasso was illuminating. In Ardor he wrote "If the Vedic people had been asked why they did not build cities, they could have replied: we did not seek power, but rapture." He also wrote in Ardor: "the infinite is presented as a gradual, imperceptible expansion of the dominion of light." With his passing, a certain responsibility for the continued expansion of this light and this rapture shifts to us.

While Leonard mentions two conversations, Calasso actually appears on three episode of Cross Cultural Poetics. First there's program #265, "Baudelaire, Helen, and The Fugitive Gods," from 2013, where Calasso reads from and discusses his books, La Folie Baudelaire and The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony in each of the show's two segments. Calasso returned in 2015 at the time of Ardor's publication, and he discusses the book in program #317, "Ardor," while he reads from the book in program #318, "The Italian Friend." The late author also factored into 2013's program #283, "From the Italian," in which his own translator, Tim Parks, reads from Ardor for the audience.

We send our condolences to Calasso's family, friends, and fans worldwide and express our gratitude to Leonard Schwartz, for notifying us of the author's passing, for his lovely tribute, and for having the foresight to have Calasso as a guest on his wonderful show all those years ago.



Norman (N. H.) Pritchard: New Author Page

Posted 7/30/2021

We're incredibly excited to unveil a new PennSound author page for poet Norman (N. H.) Pritchard, which brings together some terrific new recordings with one classic track that had been in our singles database for years.

The centerpiece of these new additions is a September 11, 1978 interview with Pritchard conducted by Judd Tully. Charles Bernstein announced this recording with a Jacket2 commentary post earlier this week, in which he notes, "The ninety-minute conversation is informative and engrossing, offering more information about Pritchard than has been previously available." He continues, "Pritchard was a poet in the CETA / Cultural Council Foundation Artists Project in New York and Tully, a CETA writer, interviewed him as part of the program. PennSound is happy to make this recording, made as part of the Artists Project, available, thanks to Tully and to Molly Garfinkel of CityLore."

Bernstein's post goes further still — noting that Pritchard "reads an early poem and two recent poems (at the beginning of part two)" he goes on to break out MP3 tracks of these particular poems, and then provides an extensive list of resources on the poet that one can find online and in print, including versions of his two published books via the Eclipse archive, as well as rare photos and a biographical sketch. He also notes our pre-existing recording of the poet reading "Gyre's Galaxy" in 1967, but since his initial announcement, we've managed to get our hands on another recording of Pritchard, which we're very happy to share. That ten-minute recording, made in 1966, includes eight poems from the manuscript Destinations, including "Alcoved Agonies," "As Once Was," "These Dead," "From a Harlem Mourning Vantage," "Hue: Blue," "As Altar Is," "Constriction, " and an abbreviated version of "Aswelay."

With any luck, we can hope to get our hands on more recordings in the near future to add to this already-wonderful resource. You can check out the aforementioned recordings by clicking here.


Happy Birthday, John Ashbery

Posted 7/28/2021

Today would have been the 94th birthday of John Ashbery, who passed away in September 2017. 

Certainly, Ashbery's place in poetry's pantheon is well-established, and you get a sense of this by trying to take in the immense scale of PennSound's Ashbery author page, which is home to nearly a thousand individual MP3 files, along with countless videos and other resources that run the gamut from a 1951 student presentation of his play Everyman in Cambridge to home recordings made not long before his death. Ashbery held a special place for those of us at PennSound and the Kelly Writers House as well, as evidenced by the poet's rare honor of serving twice as a Kelly Writers House fellow (in 2002 and 2013). As for PennSound, I wrote at length on this day last year about the inarguable positive effects that Ashbery and David Kermani's enthusiasm for the PennSound project in its early years had upon our growth, which is well worth remembering.

It just so happens that on this Ashbery birthday, we have a new addition to his PennSound author page to share with our listeners: a November 27, 1972 television appearance as part of the Brockport Writers Forum. Dubbed "The Writing of John Ashbery," this program includes both readings (he starts with "Leaving the Atocha Station") and conversation with host A. Poulin Jr. and runs for more than an hour. Click here to start watching.


PoemTalk #162: Two by Tuli Kupferberg

Posted 7/26/2021

Today we release episode #162 in the PoemTalk Podcast series, which focuses on two pieces by the legendary Tuli Kupferberg: "Morning, Morning," a classic track from his infamous poetry-rock band the Fugs, and the title track from his "nightmare of popular poetry," the 1966 LP, No Deposit, No Return. For this program, recorded at the Brooklyn home of Charles Bernstein and Susan Bee, host Al Filreis was is joined by a panel that included Bernstein, Lee Ann Brown, Rachel Levitsky, and Pierre Joris.

Along with contextual information on the two recordings, Filreis' PoemTalk blog post announcing the new episode include this brief summary of the group's sprawing discussion: "The conversation ranged widely, covering Tuli;s various debts to the poetic tradition; his under-recognized influence on avant-garde poetry today; his connections to European modernism and twentieth-century politics (depression, war, postwar); his role in 1960s culture. Yet the discussion kept returning to the central idea of 1966 (or '1968,' as the moment has come to be known). Charles argues at one point that 1968 in fact began, with Tuli's help, in 1960." To figure out what he means by that you're just going to have to listen.

You can tune in to this latest program and read more about the show here. PoemTalk is a joint production of PennSound and the Poetry Foundation, aided by the generous support of Nathan and Elizabeth Leight. You can browse the full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, by clicking here.


Raúl Zurita on PennSound

Posted 7/24/2021

We bring this week to a close by shining a spotlight on recordings from Chilean poet Raúl Zurita that you can find in our archives.

One clear highlight of our Zurita author page is his performance at the 2019 Rotterdam Poetry Festival. In this brief clip, he reads excerpts from his iconic Canto a Su Amor Desaparecido (Song for His Disappeared Love) in Spanish, while translations provided by Anna Deeny Morales are projected on the screen behind him (along with the original text). Originally published in 1985 in the midst of Pinochet's horrendous reign, Song for His Disappeared Love was published by the venerable Action Books in a 2010 bilingual edition with translation by Daniel Borzutzky. As Steven Karl notes in his review of that volume, Zurita envisioned the poem as a "[response] to the terror with a poetry that was just as powerful as the pain being delivered by the state." As an Academy of American Poets appraisal of the book acknowledges, the poet knew these atrocities all too well: "Zurita was arrested by the Chilean government and persecuted for being a possibly 'suspicious' poet, and his first volume of poems was tossed into the sea." Karl continues: 
Throughout the poem, Zurita examines and questions the binary opposition of life and death, often conflating the two into a sense of sameness. What does it mean to 'live' when your liberty has been confiscated, when you are silenced either by fear or force? How 'alive' are the oppressed when family has been kidnapped, beaten, abused, or murdered? How does one live a 'life' when the very idea of what constitutes 'life' is defined by a political ideology opposite our own?" 
Sadly, these questions every bit as pressing now as they were decades ago. 

Central to this archive are a half-dozen episodes of Leonard Schwartz's indispensable radio show, Cross Cultural Poetics. Four programs feature Zúrita reading his own work: in episode #219 he reads from Purgatory and Anteparadise (both translated by Anna Deeny and published by University of California Press), in episode #234 he reads from Inre (Marick Press), in episode #245 he reads from the aforementioned Song For His Disappeared Love, and finally in episode #271, he reads from Dreams for Kurosawa (also translated by Deeny and published by Arrow as Aarow).  The remaining two episodes feature other poets discussing Zúrita and his work — Isabel Cadenas Canon discusses translating his work into Basque in program #273, while episode #287 is wholly dedicated to Zúrita and features appraisals by poet and translator Forrest Gander and journalist Magdelena Edwards.

Wrapping things up, we have a quartet of VideoPoesia films made by Ernesto Livon Grosman as part of his 2009 "Sur & North" series: "Canto," "Desierto de Atacama," "Pastoral de Chile," and "Me Llamo ... Raquel," and "Inscripcion 15" — recorded in 2002 and presented as part of Rattapallax — rounds out the collection. Taken together, these recordings represent a generous introduction to the work of an important and uncompromising poet. Click here to start exploring.


Congratulations to Arts Molson Prize Winner M. NourbeSe Philip

Posted 7/21/2021

We send our congratulations to the one and only M. NourbeSe Philip, who was recently announced as one of two winners of the 2021 Arts Molson Prize

The $50,000 lifetime achievement award, granted annually by the Canada Council for the Arts and subsidized by the brewing magnate, recognizes the author's "invaluable contributions to literature." In lieu of formal commendations, the Canada Council has opted for brief interviews with the recipients. Philip offers this compelling advice to emerging writers: "Learn how to trust their gut instincts about their own work — sometimes the critics are wrong; be willing to risk — failure or success; and have someone in your life who loves what you do and will critique your work honestly." You can read more about the Arts Molson Prize and Philip here.

As is frequently the case, good news like this gives us the perfect opportunity to revisit that author's work, or for the uninitiated to get to know her a little better. Towards that end we direct you towards PennSound's M. NourbeSe Philip author page, where you'll find a dozen recordings from 1995 to the present, including two visits to our own Kelly Writers House. You'll hear Philip read from and discuss her work at venues throughout the US and Canada along with radio interviews, conference presentations, and a PoemTalk podcast addressing her poetry. Click here to start listening.



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