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Steve Benson

Segue Series Reading at the Zinc Bar, February 16, 2013

  • Complete Recording (31:53): MP3

"All Words Spoken Represent Words Being Read," Eastern Michigan University, February 16, 2010

Begins with Carla Harryman's introduction (in mediasres), after which Benson reads verbatim, choosing improvisationally what to read when, from a variety of texts on a long table before him.

Complete Reading (36:30): MP3

Improvisational performance, March 14, 2009, Berkeley [video]

This video was filmed and produced by Konrad Steiner. Benson's performance that Saturday night was the closing event for "Medium and Margin: Multiplying Methodologies and Proliferating Poetics," a two-day conference at the University of California at Berkeley (in the Maud Fife Room, Wheeler Hall). The introduction was given by Lyn Hejinian. [ link to video ]


Steve Benson at Berkeley, March 2009

Segue Series Reading at the Bowery Poetry Club, February 14, 2009

Complete Reading (30:11): MP3 | video


Steve Benson improvised both typing on his laptop and orally into a microphone, partially on the basis of notes he'd written in the past day or two, so that amplifiers and projection made his speech and writing present to the audience. Filmed by Brandon Downing and produced by Konrad Steiner.

Reading at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, Buffalo, NY, February 5, 2008, in the Poetics Plus series, out of the State University of New York at Buffalo

Jon Cotner introduces Steve Benson's reading of a unpublished manuscript that he had previously read on 10/28/1995 at the Ear Inn in New York City, entitled "Essay(s) ['What I want why not (a dream)']", while listening to the earlier reading on earphones, at first.

Recording courtesy of Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center.

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Reading at the Kelly Writers House, University of Pennsylvania, February 11, 2003

Without prepared text or notes, Steve Benson orally improvises a long poem composed entirely of questions, and then he responds to questions and comments from the audience. His transcript of this performance appears in his book Open Clothes (Atelos, 2005) as "If you stop to listen to yourself think" and "Is your thinking about the words."

Complete reading (1:27:42): MP3, RealAudio

Excerpt 1 (2:25): MP3
Excerpt 2 (1:42): MP3
Excerpt 3 (2:27): MP3

Segue Series Reading at the Bowery Poetry Club, February 8, 2003

Without prepared text or notes, Steve Benson improvises a long poem composed entirely of questions. His transcript of this performance appears in his book Open Clothes (Atelos, 2005) as "Did the lights just go out" [text].

Complete Reading (29:25): MP3

Excerpt 1 (2:55): MP3
Excerpt 2 (2:37): MP3

Reading at the Ear Inn, New York, May 24, 1997

Segue Series Reading at the Ear Inn, New York, February 16, 1993

Reading of what appears to be one untitled and unpublished work, with spoken elaboration.

Complete Reading (19:07): MP3

Recordings with the Splatter Trio (Dave Barrett (saxophones), Gino Robair (percussion), Myles Boisen (guitars), 1991

  • Part One (32:36): MP3
  • These recordings were all improvised in studio. "I Was an Absent Alien" (solo on three tracks, 12/91), followed by six tracks improvised as a quartet in studio (2/91) and an excerpt from an improvised performance at New Langton Arts in San Francisco (2/91).

  • Part Two (33:22): MP3
  • "Put Your Hand In Here" (8/91) excerpted by Benson from live KPFA show Mob Ecstasy (producer Ben Lindgren).

Segue Series Reading at the Ear Inn, New York, May 20, 1990

Benson improvises reading while writing longhand in three-line stanzas, recites from memory a paragraph from Huizinga's book on Erasmus, makes speeches on the basis of notes, and reads five stanzas from his poem "Reverse Order" while making and wearing paper masks.

Complete Reading (48:17): MP3

Reading at EyeMediae in Ann Arbor, MI, October 27, 1986

The first set includes a number of pieces, some with prepared audio back-up on cassette tape, half on them including improvised material. The second presents one continuous work. For this set, Steve Benson sat at a table facing the back wall, where Super8 rolls and 35mm slides he had shot over the previous 20 years were projected very large, while he used notes he had brought on scraps of paper, the images in the video, and associations that occured to him at the time to improvise orally. This piece is documented in Blue Book under the title of "Voice-overs."

First set

  1. introduction (0:30): MP3
  2. letter to Victor (4:58): MP3
  3. vanity mirrors (14:37): MP3
  4. Echo (4:40): MP3
  5. The Busses (excerpt) (6:30): MP3
  6. On Time (7:09): MP3
  7. That Was Yesterday (5:54): MP3

Second set

Voice-overs (31:06): MP3

Complete Reading (1:15:51): MP3

Segue Series Reading at the Ear Inn, New York, May 25, 1985

Improvisation based on transposing fragments from memorized prose taken from two-page spreads in published work of Henry Thoreau, James Barrie, Cabeza de Vaca, Samuel Johnson and Johan Huizinga (described and transcribed into Blue Book [The Figures/Roof, 1988] as "The Town of He").

Complete Reading (38:17): MP3

Segue Series Reading at the Ear Inn, New York, April 28, 1984

Reading includes "Aposiopesis," followed by excerpts from "Quartets," "About the Subject," and "Briarcombe Paragraphs" interspersed with remarks and re-phrasings of "Speech is...," bracketed by two paragraphs written in the Southwest.

Reading (Ends Prematurely) (49:54): MP3

"Talking Leaves Reading," Talking Leaves Books, San Francisco, CA, March 27, 1981

Begins with Benson making community announcements of other poets' up-coming readings and then proceeds to a dialogue between text he had written in recent weeks into a notebook and, after reading each page, spoken improvisations. Later transcribed and collected in Blue Book as "Talking Leaves Reading."

Complete reading (31:27): MP3

"Steve Benson on His Own" (b/w "The Other Side of Steve Benson" by chris cheek), 1979-1980

published by Widemouth Tapes (#8606)

  • "Steve Benson on His Own," improvised in June 1979 on producer Chris Mason's tape recorder on his kitchen table for cassette publication (39:18): MP3

Reading at the Ear Inn, New York, April 4, 1979.

  1. Oral commentary on translation (2:37): MP3
  2. Translations (0:58): MP3
  3. Translations 2 (0:53): MP3
  4. Translations 1A (1:16): MP3
  5. The Ex-Communist Manifesto (3:04): MP3
  6. Me the blue purple black a shot in the dark . . . (2:15): MP3
  7. An oral story about taking a walk the evening before (2:02): MP3
  8. Oral commentary on telling and commenting (1:21): MP3
  9. Non-Events (9:49): MP3
  10. A multidimensional reading of Vanity Mirrors (incomplete) (4:52): MP3

Steve Benson and Carla Harryman: Terms of Address, July 22, 1978

From the Bob Perelman tapes.
  • Complete Recording (21:54): MP3

Talk: Careers in the Arts, in the Talks Series curated by Bob Perelman, February 16, 1978, 80 Langton Street Gallery, San Francisco

  • Complete Recording (1:32:45): MP3 (The tape flips over around 45:00, and the end is cut short.)
  • Benson's full transcript and notes, along with examples of survey responses by solicited writers and artists, can be accessed here.

Talk: "Views of Communist China" at 1220 Folsom Street, San Francisco. May 19, 1977.

From the
Bob Perelman tapes. Benson's transcript is available in The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater 1945-1985, edited by Kevin Killian and David Brazil (Chicago: Kenning Editions, 2010).

  • Complete Recording (1:17:37): MP3 (Break around 45:00 when the tape flips over.)

Also on PennSound

Steve Benson on PennSound Daily

These sound recordings are being made available for noncommercial and educational use only. All rights to this recorded material belong to the author. © 2008 Steve Benson. Used with permission of Steve Benson. Distributed by PennSound.