New Emergency Series Readings: Lee, Stackhouse, Abendroth, Audia

Posted 12/1/2008 (link)

Since its inception in 2006, the Emergency Reading Series has sought to answer the question, "what does it mean to be an emerging poet in America today?" by inviting pairs of poets to share their work and enter into dialogue about their aesthetic practice, the state of contemporary poetics and poets relations to the world around them. Based at the Kelly Writers House, and winner of the third annual Kerry Sherin Wright prize, the series brings together a well-balanced roster of young voices from the Philadelphia area and beyond.

Today, we present the first two Emergency Series readings for 2008, organized by the founding duo of Julia Bloch and Scott Glassman, who're joined by Sarah Dowling for this season. We begin on October 2nd with the formidable pairing of poets and scholars — Philadelphia's own Sueyeun Juliette Lee and Brooklyn (and Boulder)-based Christopher Stackhouse. This is followed by a November 6th reading by Emily Abendroth and Jason Audia, co-curators of the local Moles Not Molars series, which shares similar aesthetics with the Emergency ethos.

Be sure to visit PennSound's Emergency Series page, where you can listen to a half-dozen previous readings, featuring Jena Osman, Thomas Devaney, erica kaufman, Noah Eli Gordon, Dorothea Lasky and Matthew Rohrer, among others. There, you'll also find a link to the Emergency Series blog, where you can get more information on past readers and upcoming events, as well as a broader explication of the series' philosophies.

Michael Heller: New Author Page

Posted 12/3/2008 (link)

Today, we're launching a new PennSound author page for poet and scholar, Michael Heller, which features a number of wonderful recordings from all spheres of his creative endeavors.

Heller was one of the featured speakers at last April's Celebration of George Oppen's 100th Birthday at the Kelly Writers House — a definite highlight of our spring programming — where he delivered the lecture, "Oppen's Thematics: What Are Poets For?" This was followed, one day later, by another Oppen Centennial event (co-organized by Heller) at New York's Poets House, "The Shape of Disclosure", which featured lectures and readings by an equally-impressive roster of poets. These insightful talks are complemented by a pair of 1987 recordings from Naropa University, in which he discusses the work of George Oppen and Louis Zukofsky.

On the creative side, you'll find a pair musical collaborations with composer Ellen Fishman — "Heteroglossia" and "Freedom After All" — plunderphonic, delay-based pieces which deconstruct Heller's texts, recontextualizing them alongside voices of popular culture. There's also a pair of lengthy readings from Milwaukee's famed Woodland Pattern Book Center, recorded in 1992 and 2007, and a early appearance (circa 1974) on WNYC's "The Writers Almanac." Taken together, these three readings serve as a broad survey of Heller's poetic career, from his 1973 debut, Accidental Center, through to his most recent collection, Exigent Futures: New and Selected Poems. Click on the title above to begin listening.

Lytle Shaw: "Olson's Archives: Fieldwork in New American Poetry"

Posted 12/5/2008 (link)

We're very excited to be able to present Lytle Shaw's lecture, "Olson's Archives: Fieldwork in New American Poetry," delivered at the Kelly Writers House as part of the Theorizing series on October 22nd. This talk is a chapter from one of Shaw's two ongoing book projects, Field Authorities, which examines "site-specific poetry and art as forms of experimental historiography and ethnography," tracing the shift from "a future-oriented poetics of place" (as seen in Williams and Olson) to a contemporaneously lived aesthetic (he cites Creeley, Baraka and Snyder as examples). In particular, Shaw is "interested in the way that poets who wanted to account for actual empirical places found themselves having to trespass beyond poetry proper to poach some of their authority from other disciplinary fields."

On Shaw's PennSound author page, you'll also find his December 2004 Segue Series Reading at the Bowery Poetry Club, along with a pair of 2006 recordings: his November 11th appearance on Cross-Cultural Poetics, and October's "Barbara Guest Praise Day", which also features Charles Bernstein, Lewis Warsh, Kristin Prevallet and many more. In addition, you'll want to be sure to check out the Line Reading Series, which Shaw curated at the Drawing Center in New York from 2000-2006.

Ben Lerner at the Kelly Writers House, 2008

Posted 12/8/2008 (link)

As the fall semester nears its conclusion, we continue to add some of its most exciting events at the Kelly Writers House. Today, we have Ben Lerner's September 30th reading, which anchors his new PennSound author page. The author of two critically-acclaimed collections, The Lichtenberg Figures and Angle of Yaw, Lerner is also one half of the editorial team behind No: a Journal of the Arts.

Lerner's reading showcases several excerpts from his new manuscript in-progress, Mean Free Path, which continues the oblique scientific inspirations of his previous collections — the title, he tells us, is a physics term related to particle collisions, an appropriate guiding notion for these brief fragments which bounce back upon themselves. He begins with a lengthy selection from the first section, which is followed by a suite of poems entitled "Doppler Elegies." These pieces pose a particular challenge, since their "lines are often out of order or belong to a plurality of possible orders and so when you read them on the page, you kinda have to choose your own adventure or articulate the stanzaic space;" however when performed, a venue which demands linearity, they tend to privilege one particular reading over others. He concludes not with his own work, but an excerpt from Stephen Crane's 1899 collection, War is Kind, which is followed by a question and answer session.

We're very glad to be able to present this reading, and hope to add more recordings to his new author page in the future. Click on the title above to start listening.

George Brecht (1926-2008)

Posted 12/10/2008 (link)

The death last week of Fluxus-pioneer George Brecht — a monumental loss which seems to have scarcely been acknowledged — has moved us to make some small tribute with the resources we have at hand.

Brecht's "events" — minimalist works which vigorously dissolve the boundaries between poetry, visual and performance — have no doubt inspired generations of writers and artists (this author included). These deceptively simple works fully embody the creative tensions present in the best Fluxus art: guided by high-minded conceptualism, they remain aggressively democratic works, in that they aestheticize the events of everyday life, and invite open participation from their audiences. There's also a haunting lyricism present in some of Brecht's more abstract pieces. Consider, for example, 1961's "Three Gap Events":

  • missing-letter sign

  • between two sounds

  • meeting again

  • PennSound's only holding with any proximity to Brecht is the Segue Series' 1979 Six Fillious reading at the Ear Inn — a celebration of the raucous six-way collaboration between Brecht, Robert Filliou, Steve McCaffery Dick Higgins, Dieter Roth and bpNichol published the previous year. Starting with Filliou's "14 Chansons et 1 Charade," a set of bawdy rock lyrics from a decade earlier, the book collects several homolinguistic translations of varying reliability, from French into English and German (and back to English again), with hilarious results. In the recording presented here, excerpts are performed by McCaffery, Higgins, Alison Knowles, Charles Bernstein, Paul Dutton and Rafael Barreto-Rivera. You can read more about Six Fillious in our PennSound Daily entry announcing its addition last January.

    We also direct listeners to our partner-site, UbuWeb's George Brecht page, where you'll find a number of texts, including selections from The UbuWeb Anthology of Conceptual Writing and the indispensable 1978 collection, Book of the Tumbler on Fire. You can also hear an excerpt from "Exit" — a collaboration between Brecht, James Tenney and George Maciunas — on Tellus #24: Flux Tellus, also on UbuWeb.

    Writers Without Borders: New European Poets

    Posted 12/12/2008 (link)

    Recorded September 23rd, at the Kelly Writers House, this celebration of New European Poets is the latest event from the ambitious new series Writers Without Borders to be added to PennSound. Answering a challenge by Penn's provost, Ron Daniels, and supplemented by a start-up grant by Seth Ginns (C'00), the series seeks to bring writers, "whose voices — whether because of regional unrest, cultural turmoil, aesthetic misunderstanding, the difficulty of travel, problems of translation, etc. — have not been much heard" to UPenn and the greater Philadelphia writing community.

    Moderated by co-editor Wayne Miller, the evening celebrates the recent publication of Graywolf's New European Poets, an anthology showcasing the best of contemporary European verse, and includes conversations with and readings by four of the anthology's translator-editors: Adam Sorkin, Marella Morris-Feltrin, Murat Nemet-Nejat and J.C. Todd. The panelists discuss the volume's editorial ideologies, the particular stresses and joys of the translation process, their introduction to translation and their experiences in the countries whose work they brought to life for the collection. They also share some of their favorite poems, and there's a brief question and answer session as well.

    The Writers Without Borders series kicked off in grand fashion with last spring's reading by Cecelia Vicuña, which you can hear on her PennSound author page. Stay tuned to PennSound Daily for news on two upcoming additions from the series: a lunchtime reading and discussion with M. NourbeSe Philip, and a reading by poet, novelist and activist Breyten Breytenbach.

    Filreis Uncovers New Spicer Poems

    Posted 12/15/2008 (link)

    PennSound co-director, Al Filreis has recently posted a pair of entries on his blog detailing his re-reading the work of Jack Spicer (particularly Thing Language, as reprinted in the new volume, My Vocabulary Did This to Me: the Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer) and listening along on PennSound's Spicer page. In the latest, he discusses one of his favorite early poems, "Psychoanalysis: An Elegy," and explains how he uncovered a recording of that poem, along with "The Dancing Ape," mistakenly contained within a recording of "The Song of the Bird in the Loins":

    I noticed that we at PennSound have made available an undated 4 minute, 52 second recording of his reading of "The Song of the Bird in the Loins." Nearly 5 minutes to read that short poem. Hmm, too much time for that piece. Perhaps, I thought, he reads the poem and then offers some commentary. So I listened, eager to hear more than that one poem. Lo and behold: the recording is not just that poem but three early works. The other two are "The Dancing Ape" and..."Psychoanalysis: An Elegy." So there's my poem!

    Filreis was kind enough to amend the page, and you can now listen to the three poems individually, along with a great many other recordings from Spicer's all-too-brief writing life. In addition to selections from The Holy Grail and Book of Magazine Verse, along with two complete readings of his classic Language, you'll find Spicer's historic lectures at the 1965 Vancouver Poetry Conference, recorded two months before his death. You'll also want to check out both of Filreis' blog entries in their entirety, and stay tuned to PennSound Daily, where, in our next entry, we'll discuss another similar uncovering of new recordings — this one involving Philip Whalen.

    Two New 1971 Fragments From Philip Whalen

    Posted 12/17/2008 (link)

    Last week, in a very unexpected fashion, we solved a tape archiving mystery that had gone unanswered for nearly a year. Reel-to-reel tape #72 from the Robert Creeley archives — which had already yielded a number of wonderful recordings from Alice Notley, Philip Whalen and Allen Ginsberg — had two remaining fragments. Judging by the tape case notations (shown at left), they appeared to be San Francisco poets John Thorpe and Ebbe Borregaard, however we had no way of figuring out which was which, or verifying the identities of the readers.

    However, as PennSound managing editor Michael Hennessey graded the final essays for his Beat Generation class, he came across Blakely Slaybaugh's paper on Philip Whalen, which quotes the brief poem, "United Airlines," and recognized it as the opening poem on the second of the Creeley fragments. The version of the poem in this recording is about twice as long as its published form, and aside from "Horrible Incredible Lies: Keith Lampe Spontaneously" and "The Letter to Thomas Clark 22:VII:71 From Bolinas Where He Sat Beside Me To Help Write It," the tape also includes a number of seemingly unpublished works, including "The Winner's Song," "The Loser's Song" and "Power Song." It's preceded by another small fragment, which begins with "Homage to Robert Creeley" (hailed by Ron Silliman as "one of his best poems"), and includes "Small Tantric Sermon," along with two other pieces which don't appear in Whalen's recently-published Collected Poems. Our thanks go out to Blakely for unwittingly pointing us towards the correct poet, and allowing us to share these recordings with our listening audience.

    These two fragments appear to be from the same month as Whalen's reading of the first half of "Scenes of Life at the Capital," which appears on his PennSound author page, and might even be taken from the same reading. There, you'll also find a 1987 reading of "By and Large" in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a seventy-minute recording of Whalen's reading at the 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference. Click on the title above to start listening.

    Two Historic Recordings From Charles Bernstein

    Posted 12/19/2008 (link)

    We've recently added a pair of vintage readings by PennSound co-director Charles Bernstein, both dating from the early 1980s.

    We begin with Bernstein's December 11, 1980 reading at Harvard's Woodberry Poetry Room, which features poems from his current collection, 1980's Controlling Interests ("Simple Pleasures" and "Island Life") and the two volumes which preceded it — 1979's Poetic Justice ("Palukaville") and 1978's Shade ("Poem" and "For"). The poet also shares a number of works which would appear in future books, including "March," from the chapbook, Stigma, and a number of pieces from 1983's Islets/Irritations, including its title poem.

    While the Harvard reading presents a broad survey of Bernstein's work, from past to present, his October 17, 1983 reading at the St. Mark's Poetry Project is a thoroughly forward-looking affair, consisting almost exclusively of poems that would appear in 1987's classic, The Sophist, including "The Voyage of Life," "Searchless Warrant," and "Fear and Tresspass." The two exceptions are an excerpt from Resistance (a chapbook published that year), and the preface to the poet's first collection of essays, 1986's Content's Dream: Essays 1975-1984.

    These two latest additions join an encyclopedic archive of Bernstein's recorded work, which spans nearly forty years — from the 1969 recording of the poet's Flux-inspired performance piece, "1-100" to his most recent readings. In addition to numerous full readings and singles, you'll also find a number of lectures and videos, as well as the poetry programs, Close Listening and LINEbreak. You can start your investigations on Bernstein's PennSound home page.

    Elizabeth Alexander at the Kelly Writers House, 2004

    Posted 12/22/2008 (link)

    As the American people (and the rest of the world) eagerly await a change of leadership in Washington, D.C., we've bided our time by scrutinizing President-Elect Barack Obama's cabinet picks as if we were choosing fantasy baseball teams. For our aesthetic community in particular, no choice has spurred more feverish discussion than the choice of Elizabeth Alexander as inaugural poet (continuing a Democratic tradition started by John F. Kennedy and continued by Bill Clinton; Jimmy Carter also had poet James Dickey take part in an event separate from the inauguration). While some folks are lamenting that Nathaniel Mackey or Harryette Mullen (or Rae Armantrout, John Giorno, Kenny Goldsmith or Linh Dinh) weren't chosen, others are wondering just who Elizabeth Alexander is.

    To allow you to get to know Alexander a little better, we're presenting her April 14, 2004 reading at the Kelly Writers House, as part of the Brave Testimony reading series. Alexander has ties to the UPenn writing community, having earned her Ph.D. at the university in 1992, and so the reading serves as a homecoming of sorts. The forty-minute reading begins with an excerpt from her essay collection, The Black Interior, and draws heavily from her poetry collections Antebellum Dream Book (2001) and American Sublime (2005). She concludes with a selection of the latter volume's "Ars Poetica" series, as well as "Tanner's Annunciation," and "Neonatology." You can read these last two poems, and many others on Alexander's website. We also direct you to Ron Silliman's blog, where he's gathered a number of links related to Alexander, including interviews, news reports and dissenting opinions.

    PennSound at the 2008 MLA Convention

    Posted 12/26/2008 (link)

    If you happen to be in San Francisco for this year's MLA Convention, please feel free to join us on Monday, December 29th for a pair of panels in which we'll be participating. First, from 12:00 noon to 1:15 p.m., there's Session #520, a Roundtable on Electronic Editions and Archives of Poetry (Continental 1-2, Hilton), organized by Cristanne Miller of SUNY Buffalo. Then, later that evening from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m., we'll also be taking part in Session #692, a Demonstration of Electronic Poetry Archives (also in Continental 1-2, Hilton).

    If you're free the evening before, you'll also want to check out this year's MLA Off-site Reading, which features an impressive roster of poets, including, Alan Bernheimer, Christian Bök, Carla Harryman, Patrick F. Durgin, Jerome Rothenberg, Kristin Prevallet, Barrett Watten, and many, many more. You can listen to past MLA Off-site Readings from 2004, 2006 and 2007 in preparation, and we hope to be able to present a recording of this year's marathon event once it's available.

    PennSound Marks Its Fourth Anniversary

    Posted 12/31/2008 (link)

    January 1st marks the fourth anniversary of PennSound's official launch, granting us the opportunity to look backwards and mark our progress over the past twelve months.

    Having started the site with a few hundred MP3s from a few dozen poets (some of which are shown at right), we can proudly report that our archives now contain well over 16,000 files, with increasing numbers of videos, documents and photographs to augment our audio offerings. Moreover, the site has had more than 20 million downloads in the past year alone, which doubles our figures from only a year ago. What's most exciting about that number is that it means that more listeners than ever are making use of our resources, whether it's teachers adding links to their class blogs and syllabi, young poets drawing inspiration from those who've gone before them, or people who might never think of buying a book of poetry, but can be convinced to listen for thirty seconds or download a few poems onto their iPod.

    In the past year, we've not only added hundreds of new recordings by authors already represented on the site, but have also created new author pages for a very exciting roster of poets, including Paul Blackburn, Barrett Watten, Walter Lowenfels, President of the United Hearts, Alan Bernheimer, Tom Mandel, Jonathan Williams, Brenda Coultas, C.D. Wright, Patrick F. Durgin, Eleni Sikelianos, Tyrone Williams and (last, but certainly not least) Louis Zukofsky. We've also added a number of fascinating new series, including Ceptuetics Radio, POG Sound, the Line Reading Series, the Key West Literary Seminar and LA-Lit.

    Another exciting development has been an increased amount of meta-critical engagement within the site itself, in the form of the PoemTalk podcast series, and PennSound Daily, both of which give PennSound's editorial staff the opportunity to comment upon, analyze and contextualize choice selections from our archives. In the coming year, we'll look to build upon these successes and strive to better meet the needs and wishes of our listening audience as we continue to stress the importance of close listenings alongside close readings.

    Finally, as we did last year, we'd like to invite you to reacquaint yourself with some of PennSound's founding documents, including the PennSound Manifesto and our launch press release, and stroll through archived snapshots of some of our previous incarnations, courtesy of the Internet Archive.

    We'd like to take the opportunity to thank our listeners for their continued support and wish each of you a very happy new year.