Featured resources

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

  1. Charles Bernstein, "Phone Poem" (2011) (1:30): MP3
  2. Caroline Bergvall, "Love song: 'The Not Tale (funeral)' from Shorter Caucer Tales (2006): MP3
  3. Christian Bôk, excerpt from Eunoia, from Chapter "I" for Dick Higgins (2009) (1:38):  MP3
  4. Tonya Foster, Nocturne II (0:40) (2010) MP3
  5. Ted Greenwald, "The Pears are the Pears" (2005) (0:29): MP3
  6. Susan Howe, Thorow, III (3:13) (1998):  MP3
  7. Tan Lin, "¼ : 1 foot" (2005) (1:16): MP3
  8. Steve McCaffery, "Cappuccino" (1995) (2:35): MP3
  9. Tracie Morris, From "Slave Sho to Video aka Black but Beautiful" (2002) (3:40): MP3
  10. Julie Patton, "Scribbling thru the Times" (2016) (5:12): MP3
  11. Tom Raworth, "Errory" (c. 1975) (2:08): MP3
  12. Jerome Rothenberg, from "The First Horse Song of Frank Mitchell: 4-Voice Version" (c. 1975) (3:30): MP3
  13. Cecilia Vicuna, "When This Language Disappeared" (2009) (1:30): MP3
  1. Guillaume Apollinaire, "Le Pont Mirabeau" (1913) (1:14): MP3
  2. Amiri Baraka, "Black Dada Nihilismus" (1964) (4:02):  MP3
  3. Louise Bennett, "Colonization in Reverse" (1983) (1:09): MP3
  4. Sterling Brown, "Old Lem " (c. 1950s) (2:06):  MP3
  5. John Clare, "Vowelless Letter" (1849) performed by Charles Bernstein (2:54): MP3
  6. Velimir Khlebnikov, "Incantation by Laughter" (1910), tr. and performed by Bernstein (:28)  MP3
  7. Harry Partch, from Barstow (part 1), performed by Bernstein (1968) (1:11): MP3
  8. Leslie Scalapino, "Can’t’ is ‘Night’" (2007) (3:19): MP3
  9. Kurt Schwitters, "Ur Sonata: Largo" performed by Ernst Scwhitter (1922-1932) ( (3:12): MP3
  10. Gertrude Stein, If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso (1934-35) (3:42): MP3
  11. William Carlos Willliams, "The Defective Record" (1942) (0:28): MP3
  12. Hannah Weiner, from Clairvoyant Journal, performed by Weiner, Sharon Mattlin & Rochelle Kraut (2001) (6:12): MP3

Selected by Charles Bernstein (read more about his choices here)

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Happy Birthday to Lew Welch

Posted 8/16/2022

This August 16 would have been the 96th birthday of San Francisco Beat pioneer Lew Welch, who sadly disappeared into the California wilderness in 1971, never to be found. We first launched our Welch author page in the spring of 2009, with two key recordings representing some of the most notable work of his tragically brief career.

The centerpiece of our Lew Welch page is an April 1967 reading at Santa Barbara's Magic Lantern — a luxuriously long performance in which the poet reads practically all of his major works (save, perhaps, his "Taxi Suite"), including "Chicago Poem," "A Round of English," "Winter," "Graffiti," and "Maitreya Poem," as well as the entire sequence of Hermit Poems and most of its complementary volume The Way Back. Many of the poems are preceded by lengthy introductions (often longer than the poems themselves) in which Welch gives background information on his works and discusses topics as varied as politics, linguistics and popular music (some listeners might be familiar with Welch's stepson Hugh Cregg, whose stage name, "Huey Lewis," honors the father figure who took him to his first rock concerts).

Welch's musical interests — he was a former music major, and loved everything from Charlie Parker to James Brown to the Quicksilver Messenger Service with equal fervor — are on full display here, in pieces performed a cappella like "Graffiti" and "Supermarket Song," as well as sung portions of poems such as "A Round of English," which are marked off by musical notes (♪) in the printed texts. In one section of that poem, a somewhat unremarkable passage:

Shakespeare Milton
Shakespeare Milton

Shelley as well
Shelley as well

Sarah something Teasdale
Sarah something Teasdale

Edith M. Bell
Edith M. Bell

yields a breathtaking performance when Welch sings it to the tune of "Frère Jacques," going so far as to emulate the effect of multiple voices singing the lines in a round: "Shakespeare Milton / Shakespeare Milton / Shelley as Milton / Shelley as Milton / Shelley as Well / Sarah something Shelley as / Sarah something Shelley as / Sarah something Teasdale / Sarah something Teasdale / Edith M. Bell / Edith M. Bell." For Welch, poetic language was purely a spoken vernacular full of idiosyncratic American rhythms and melodies. He tells us: "A poet has his material absolutely free. It's coming out of the mouth of every American in the world. All he has to do is clean his ear out, listen to it, and put down what he has on his mind out of that material, because there is no other material."

Also included in the Magic Lantern set is Welch's epic "Din Poem," an ambitious pastiche of poetry, prose and song which most completely achieves his poetic goals, ventriloquizing numerous parallel discourses — the language of business and patriotism, of faith and lust, of marriages in disrepair and psychological breakdowns, along with virulent hate-speech — which are eventually woven together into a thunderous wave of American noise, against which he sets a parable of hope and escape. In this raw and uncompromising masterpiece, we see a complex portrait of America at numerous societal crossroads, as well as the personal hells Welch eventually sought to escape.

Our other recording at launch was made at San Francisco's Renaissance Corner in the spring of 1969. In that set in which Welch reads his collection, Courses, in its entirety. This suite of micro-poems, each named after a different academic subject, showcases both the poet's wit as well as his propensity for potent and memorable phrasing, honed during his years working in the advertising industry. Both of these recordings came to us through the reel-to-reel collection of Robert Creeley. We also recently added a third recording of Welch, which comes from the Mad Mammoth Monster Poetry Reading organized by Auerhahn Press that took place on August 29, 1963. At this event Welch also read excerpts from his Hermit Poems series.

Inspired by the optimism of poet Tom Mandel, I'd like to think that Welch is still out there in the wilderness, living on locusts and wild honey and "wear[ing his] hair / as long as [he] can / as long as [he] can." As a New American Poet that embodied the spirit of San Francisco poetics, had one foot in the Beat era and the other squarely set in the Summer of Love, and looked forward to the advances of Language poetry, Welch is endlessly fascinating. Click here to start listening to his work.

Hennessey Celebrates 15 Years at PennSound

Posted 8/15/2022

Fifteen years ago today I stepped into the Kelly Writers House for my first day as the new managing editor at PennSound. My first post-MFA summer was terrifying and I imagined I'd return home to Philly and temp for a year but in short order I'd lined up two exciting jobs: an adjunct position at my alma mater, St. Joe's (a very strange experience to be on the other side of classrooms I still remembered well) and the job at PennSound, which I'd been a huge fan of since its public launch a few years earlier.
I'm so proud of the work that I've done alongside Charles Bernstein and Al Filreis and the rest of our wonderful crew, and am grateful that even after all these years the work is still fascinating and challenging. I've learned so much and look forward to all of the discoveries still to come.
In honor of the day I figured I'd repost this PennSound podcast Al and I did about five years back, where I was presented with the daunting challenge of choosing five recordings from the breadth of the PennSound archive. The story those selections tell is not just about my growth as a poet and archivist, but also sheds a lot of light on (to borrow a title from Donald Barthelme) "our work and why we do it." It's one of the many readings, talks, and experiments you'll find on my own PennSound author page.

'Hanuman Presents!' dir. Vivien Bittencourt and Vincent Katz

Posted 8/12/2022

We wrap up this week by taking a look back at Hanuman Presents!, a filmic tribute to Raymond Foye and Francesco Clemente's influential press of the same name, directed and produced by Vivien Bittencourt and Vincent Katz. The performances that form the heart of this film took place at the St. Mark's Poetry Project that took place on May 18, 1989. 

Introduced by Foye, the film was edited by by David Dawkins and Henry Hills, and features an impressive line-up of poets spanning two generations — Gregory Corso, Elaine Equi, Bob Flanagan, Amy Gerstler, Allen Ginsberg, Richard Hell, Herbert Huncke, Katz, Taylor Mead, Cookie Mueller, Eileen Myles, Rene Ricard, David Trinidad, John Wieners — reading from their work. As Foye notes in his opening comments, all of Hanuman's living authors are included in the event. While the poets and the poems are wonderful enough on their own, the performances are cleverly accompanied by abstract images from the films of Rudy Burckhardt

Running just shy of forty-three minutes, Bittencourt and Katz's film is both a stunning time capsule and testimony to the power of Foye and Clemente's innovative press. You can start watching by clicking here. Be sure you don't miss Bittencourt and Katz's tribute to Jack Kerouac's Mexico City Blues, filmed at the Knitting Factory in 1988, which is also available on the same page.

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