Finding the words

Responses to crisis from the Marianne Moore papers and Philadelphia poets

Marianne Moore

This program, co-sponsored by the Rosenbach Museum and Library, was held on November 7, 2001. It featured a reading by poets from the Kelly Writers House: Bob Perelman, Susan Stewart, Greg Djanikian, Jena Osman, and Tom Devaney--and introduced by Kelly Writers House Faculty Director Al Filreis.

During the Second World War, the American poet Marianne Moore sent and received letters describing the thoughts, fears, and actions of a people in crisis. H.D. writes from a London wracked by the Blitz. Joseph Cornell recounts his commute to a munitions factory. Elizabeth Bishop laughs about her inept volunteer work for the Navy. And William Carlos Williams explains the uses of art at a time of disaster. On November 7, The Rosenbach Museum & Library will share these letters with poets from The Kelly Writers House. Reading work that addresses the themes of Moore's correspondence--witness, anger, humor, home life, and uses of art--the poets will provide a voice for our own responses to the current crises.

With the Writers House poets, the program included a reading and exhibition of the Moore letters. On November 11, an expanded exhibition opened at The Rosenbach Museum & Library. It included additional letters from the Moore archive, as well as documentation of the poets' readings and response, and Al Filreis's introduction. After the event, Tom Devaney wrote a message to the Kelly Writers House "hub" -- a word of thanks.

The Rosenbach Museum & Library houses the literary papers, library, and furnished living room of Marianne Moore. The Rosenbach is at once a historic house, a museum with a regular schedule of changing exhibitions and programs, and a research library that attracts international scholars. This 1865 townhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and holds a world-renowned collection of rare books, manuscripts, and fine and decorative arts.

The entire program in RealVideo format

Jena Osman

On "Finding the Words"

"The title of this programs is 'Finding the Words.' Every day I look in the newspapers. I keep sensing the presence of what's not being told... 'Help me come up with a strategy to get through this white noise.' I don't have that strategy, except to call attention to components of that white noise so we can hear it for what it is. In the spirit of Marianne Moore, who often incorporated what she was reading into her poems, I'm going to read a piece made of words I found when I read transcripts of press conferences given by Bush, Ridge, Rumsfeld, and Cheney in the last few days. I read the transcripts, printed them out, I tore them up, and then I stood on a chair, and then I bombed my office floor with them as if they were leaflets and the leaflets told me what to do. So this piece is called 'Dropping Leaflets.'"


Jena Osman has published six books of poetry: Jury (Meow Press, 1996), Amblyopia (Avenue B, 1993), The Lab-Book (Poetics Program at SUNY Buffalo, 1992), Balance (Leave Books, 1992), Underwater Dive: Version One (Paradigm Press, 1990) and Twelve Parts of Her (Burning Deck Press, 1989). Her poetry has also been anthologized in The Art of Practice: Forty-Five Contemporary Poets, as well as Subliminal Time and Writing From the New Coast: Presentation. She is the co-editor (with Juliana Spahr) of Chain, a journal that investigates language in its various presentational frames. Also see her online works:

Thomas Devaney sends thanks to the Hub after the event

Dear Hub,

I am writing a note of thanks to everyone who helped make the "Finding the Words" collaboration with the Rosenbach Museum and Library a success last night. By one count there were over 80 people at the house. The program was also webcast. So a sincere and warm thank you to all for a very successful program!

Teresa Leo: Who fielded the first call from the Rosenbach people and who provided leadership in the most meaningful sense of that word. Her strong support for the program and her personable and serious style made it a reality in the very much condensed time-frame of just over one month.

Al Filreis: who spoke aptly at the very mid-point (or what felt like the fulcrum) of the program. Al's brief talk provided a serious and meaningful discussion of the Moore correspondence. His own words served as the connective tissue among the letters, the poets: (Bob Perelman, Susan Stewart, Greg Djanikian, Jena Osman, and myself) and the meaningful collaboration between the Rosenbach and the WH. Read Al's introduction here.

The poets Bob Perelman, Susan Stewart, Greg Djanikian, Jena Osman, and myself read a selection of poems, with a range of moods and modes reflecting seriousness, boldness, sense of moment, honesty, and art, which impressed me greatly.

John MacDermott--Director for Instructional Technology: Thanks for his trouble (and straight) shooting re: webcast team in general, and for practical, graceful, brilliant and tactile approach to technology and real-live-people interface.

Jennifer Snead: Thanks to our wildly talented Administrative Assistant who actually found (thought of) the words for the title of the program, "Finding the Words." No doubt, a significant improvement upon "Words that Matter."

Randall Couch--Hub member: This was one of Randall's first solo webcasts. He arrived early and left late. We're lucky to have him around.

Speakeasy Staff: Thank you for moving your previously scheduled Speakeasy program to a different night so we could slot the Rosenbach collaboration into the schedule.

Russ Campbell--Penn University Communications & WH Hub member: Russ came to meetings with Rosenbach staff during the planning of the program. He scored a camera crew from CBS Eyewitness News channel 3. He also took his own camera down to center city to take pictures of the "crown of lights" atop the PECO building. We love Russ! Around 10:45 PM when Teresa and were driving home across the South St. bridge we didn't see the message, but Teresa turned on the flashers and we waited in outside lane in the middle of the South St. bridge and it finally came around: "FINDING THE WORDS: RESPONDING TO CRISIS 11/7 KELLY WRITERS HOUSE"--a great way to end the evening.

Thanks to Seth, An, Jennifer, and Sharon (aka the Transition Team!) Oh yeah, and Allie (who wasn't supposed to be working, but did) for the smooth transition from the Afro-American Studies "Book Talk" program on White Supremacy & Racism in the Post-Civil Right Era, which took place from 5:00 PM to roughly 6:50 PM. What I mean when I say "smooth transition," to name only a few things: a brilliant re-cycling of the hors d'oeurves from the "Book Talk" program, turning around the dinning room, and turning room 209 into a beautiful exhibition space for the Moore letters. (One more by the way, in this series of parentheticals) the above mentioned crew is also fly under the flag under of the "WH Catering Co.," or as Jen has been recently musing re" a nascent business plan: Eat Your Words!)

Seth, Aaron Couch, Teresa: who went to the basement when a grinding noise started to crescendo during the Afro-American studies program. I called facilities and they dispatched a man over to see what was the matter. Our hot water generator was out of alignment and was grinding in on itself, he couldn't fix, but stopped the noise. A team of people were working in the basement all day today!!!

Sharon Male--Publicity Diva: who helped Russ with the PR and gave a classic welcoming Writers House "grand tour" to McSweeney's writer Neal Pollack.

Blake, An, Seth, Jen: for the final activities of the evening, which might as well be called: "Finding the Brooms" or the spic-n'-span squad. Thank you for your care and commitment--You make the house shine!

Hannah Sassaman--resident Intern: for going to Fresh Grocer with Lauren to buy canolies, Jewish apple cake and fresh fruit to make great fruit salad, which I also just had for lunch!

Lauren Childs--work-study: for helping Hannah to make the fruit salad, for making the great flyer for the event and creating another beautiful and cool dry erase board, WH Welcome!

Gina Simoncini--work-study: who re-cut, weeded out, and beautifully arranged and re-freshed the flowers from last week's gala Gay Talese Soprano's event. I walked down to the kitchen and it smelled and looked like a florist.

Bernardo Aparicio--work-study: for postering the campus!

Fran Ryan--new hub member & member of Proposals Hublet committee: who helped me and Seth with some heavy lifting, that is, moving several tables into room 209 upstairs at the eleventh hour to make that room a perfect showcase and display for the Marianne Moore letters.

Thomas Devaney
Program Coordinator