Clark Coolidge: Two New Recordings

Posted 1/4/2010 (link)

We're kicking off the new year with a pair of vintage recordings of Clark Coolidge, our first new additions for 2010.

First off, courtesy of Tom Orange, whose Coolidge scholarship is second to none, we have a July 1977 reading of "American Ones" in its entirety, recorded at the Naropa Institute. The poet is introduced by Michael Brownstein, who tells the assembled audience of friends and colleagues, "I think of him as a space explorer, a sifter, a labeller, a synthesizer and a demolitions expert, who journeys through 3D stratifications of language, exploring galaxies of syntax, exploding supernovas of morphology and bending constellations of meaning." Coolidge begins by describing the poem, which is dedicated to Philip Whalen, as "a fast-moving vision and audition of this America, written last year," and gives a brief description of its structure before launching into it. Orange was kind enough to split the poem into its ten individual sections, all of which you can stream or download on Coolidge's PennSound author page, along with the complete seventy-minute reading.

We've also just added a link to a streaming version of Coolidge's appearance on Charles Armakanian's "Words Program", broadcast on Berkeley's KPFA-FM on January 9, 1969. The program notes recall that Coolidge "produced 17 remarkable one-hour programs of experimental audio pieces by himself and others in 1969 for KPFA. This is the first program, comprising two Coolidge works read in his own voice." Along with this recording, we've also added a second Armakanian link to our archives: a 1971 interview with Carl Rakosi on the KPFA program "Ode to Gravity".

Both of these new Coolidge recordings are available on our Coolidge author page. Click on the title above to start listening.

MLA Off-Site and On-Site Readings, 2009

Posted 1/6/2010 (link)

As promised, we're very excited today to present recordings of this year's MLA Off-Site and On-Site Readings, which took place a little over a week ago in Philadelphia. If you're looking for a worthwhile way to spend the next four hours, this might be exactly what you need.

First up, we have the Aldon Nielsen-chaired on-site panel, "Coming in from the Cold: Celebrating Twenty Years of the MLA Off-Site Reading," which took place at the Philadelphia Mariott from 5:15-6:30 PM. The final roster — which underwent several changes from what we originally announced last week — featured an all-star line-up of Elizabeth Willis, Tyrone Williams, Rodrigo Toscano, Rod Smith, Evie Shockley, Jennifer Scappettone, Bob Perelman, Laura Moriarty, Patrick Durgin and Charles Bernstein.

Those in attendance for the on-site event had half an hour to get across town to West Philly's Rotunda for the 7:00 PM start of the official off-site reading, which was ably organized by Julia Bloch and Michelle Taransky (who, as co-organizers for the Emergency and Whenever We Feel Like It reading series, respectively, know a thing or two about wrangling poets). This year's marathon clocked in at just over two-and-a-half hours and featured fifty-four poets from Philadelphia and around the world: Matthew Landis, Rodrigo Toscano, Carlos Soto Román, Kim Gek Lin Short, Jacob Russell, Angel Hogan, Ish Klein, Gregory Laynor, Nava EtShalom, Ryan Eckes, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, David Larsen, Norma Cole, Rod Smith, Frank Sherlock, CA Conrad, Aldon Nielsen, Bob Perelman, Suzanne Heyd, Emily Abendroth, Laura Moriarty, Evie Shockley, Pattie McCarthy, Ron Silliman, Thomas Devaney, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Tyrone Williams, Jenn McCreary, Carla Harryman, Kate Lilley, Steve Dolph, Chris McCreary, Jennifer Scappettone, Lisa Howe, Bill Howe, Charles Cantalupo, Julie Phillips Brown, Norman Finkelstein, Mel Nichols, Aaron Kunin, Jamie Townsend, Michael S. Hennessey, Chris Carrier, Eric Selland, Barrett Watten, James Shea, Sandra Lim, Mecca Sullivan, Danny Snelson, Michelle Taransky, Herman Beavers, Adrian Khactu and Julia Bloch.

We'd like to thank Aldon Nielsen for recording both sessions, as well as for his photos from the evening, some of which are shown above. If you couldn't make it out to Philadelphia for this year's reading, hopefully these recordings will impart some sense of the spirit of the evening, even if you can't share a few drinks with the readers afterwards. We'll see you in Los Angeles in January 2011!

Kenneth Irby: New Author Page

Posted 1/8/2010 (link)

We're closing out this week with a new addition from late last year that we didn't want to slip through the cracks: a new author page for Kenneth Irby, which brings together a pair of vintage Segue Series readings with a new, as-yet-unidentified recording.

We begin with the first of two Segue Series dates at its original hope, the Ear Inn, recorded May 12, 1984. Introduced by Eric Mottram, who praises Irby, noting "for us in England, he represents something very particularly about America — this constant attempt by a number of American poets to ascertain where they are, this continuous exploration of, 'what is my identity in this particular place?'" Irby's set begins with a lengthy performance of works from the at-the-time obscure British modernist writer, Mary Butts. After a break, he continues, reading his own work for approximately 40 minutes. Jumping ahead, we have another Segue Series event, recorded December 12, 1987, which features a sampling of work written during the past three or four years (or the approximate interval between these two readings).

Finally, while digitizing tapes from the archives of Bob Perelman, we came across a new 45-minute recording of Irby reading. While we were unable to identify its date or location — even after consulting with both Perelman and Irby — we wouldn't want to keep this gem away from our listeners. You can hear to all three of the aforementioned recordings on Irby's PennSound author page, which you can visit by clicking on the title above.

Susan Howe: Rachel Blau DuPlessis Class Visit, 1986

Posted 1/11/2010 (link)

The newest addition to PennSound's Susan Howe author page comes to us through the beneficence of Rachel Blau DuPlessis, who had the forethought to record the poet's visit to her Temple University classroom in December 1986. As Al Filreis writes in a blog post today, DuPlessis recently rediscovered the tape in her archives and handed it over to us for digitization, and thanks to the work of Jenny Lesser — who's broken the ninety-minute recording into eighteen thematic segments — its even easier to make use of this resource. Nearly a quarter-century later, this lengthy and lavish recording offers wonderful perspectives from both poets on the work of authors such as Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Plath, Lorine Niedecker, Emily Dickinson, Mary Rowlandson and Wallace Stevens, along with startling insights into Howe's contemporary work, including "The Defenestration of Prague" and "The Liberties," and her work methods.

Howe will be the second of this year's Kelly Writers House Fellows — bookended by Joyce Carol Oates and David Milch — with a two-day visit planned for March 22nd and 23rd. You can read more about Howe's visit here, and for general information on the Kelly Writers House Fellows, including how you can attend in person or watch a live webcast of the events, visit the 2010 program homepage.

Steve Benson: Two New Improvisational Performance Videos, 2009

Posted 1/13/2010 (link)

Today, we're very glad to announce the addition of two new videos to PennSound's Steve Benson author homepage, which document improvisational performances in New York City and Berkeley last winter.

In both pieces, the poet makes use of large-scale projections of his word processor screen, which he fills with a quasi-transcription of his performance. In the first video, recorded last Valentine's Day at the Bowery Poetry Club as part of the Segue Reading Series, computer-synthesized speech is is incorporated into the performance. The second film (produced by Konrad Steiner) was shot at the University of California at Berkeley during "Medium and Margin: Multiplying Methodologies and Proliferating Poetics," a two-day conference which took place last March. In this iteration, Benson's spontaneous text is married to pre-scripted fields of words and visual imagery, while he takes advantage of the full stage space.

On Benson's PennSound author page, you'll find both of these videos, along with a wide array of audio documentation spanning four decades. In addition to no less than seven readings as part of the Segue Series — working backwards from last February's reading, Benson also participated in events in 2003, 1993, 1990, 1985, 1984 and 1979 — you'll find a 2003 appearance at the Kelly Writers House, a set of 1991 recordings with Splatter Trio and the Widemouth Tapes release, "Steve Benson on His Own" b/w "The Other Side of Steve Benson." There are also a number of key recordings from the archives of Bob Perelman, including the talks "Views of Communist China" and "Careers in the Arts," along with his 1978 collaboration with Carla Harryman, "Terms of Address."

Robert Grenier: "PennScans" Drawing Poems from October KWH Visit

Posted 1/15/2010 (link)

Last November, we announced that audio and video recordings from Robert Grenier's October 27, 2009 visit to the Kelly Writers House had been made available. Given the nature of Grenier's recent work (which takes the form of multi-colored textual "drawing poems"), having video footage of the event was an important (if imperfect) development, allowing listeners to interact with the images along with the poet. That having been said, we're very happy to hear that Grenier has made all seventy-one works assembled for that evening's performance — "[m]any too many to 'get through' on one occasion, as usual, & just thrown together," he notes — available through Whale Cloth Press, along with an introductory note, which we've linked on our Grenier author page.

Al Filreis wrote about the scans on his blog earlier this week, and highlighted a quote from the poet which offers some insights into his methods: "Whether drawing poem texts like 'the one about crickets' (no. 39) accomplish (or help accomplish) whatever it is they are otherwise 'saying'—so that seeing/reading "crickets" a reader may hear 'crickets themselves' (& even be able to literally go ('by ear') "across/the/road"?)—remains an animating question."

Also, since it didn't get a proper announcement when it was first added, we'd like to draw listeners' attention to another fascinating recording from the same day, featuring Grenier in conversation with Filreis, Bob Perelman and Ron Silliman, in which he discusses his formative years, including two stints at Harvard, where his early poetic development was guided by (among other) Robert Lowell, and a his time on the West Coast, where he met Robert Creeley. You can hear both recordings from last fall, find links to Grenier's drawing poems, and listen to thirty years' worth of readings and talks on PennSound's Robert Grenier author page.

PoemTalk 27: Robert Duncan's "Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow"

Posted 1/17/2010 (link)

Late last week, we released the new year's first new episode from the PoemTalk Podcast Series (and the twenty-seventh overall), a discussion of Robert Duncan's beloved poem, "Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow," the prologue to his 1960 volume, The Opening of the Field. Joining host Al Filreis for this program are his PennSound co-director, Charles Bernstein and the co-editors of Poems for the Millennium, Volume 3: Romantic and Post-Romantic Poetry: Jerome Rothenberg and Jeffrey C. Robinson.

Filreis begins by asking Robinson to consider the opening dichotomies between "made / made-up" and "mine / not mine." In regards to the latter pairing, he comments on Duncan's focus as being "something that comes from some other place, and maybe is in a language that is not his, but that speaks directly to him and is very much of him," thus imparting the notion that, "the self is more than what one is immediately conscious of." What's "mine," isn't quite so clear, however, and Rothenberg makes light of the poet's "hesitancies," particularly towards the end of the reading, observing that, "Duncan put a great emphasis on the hesitancy of composition and the hesitancy of reading."

Bernstein then addresses Duncan's "made place," an important notion within his poetics, framing his response through Robinson's earlier comments: "as Jeffrey said initially, it's that doubling, not paradox, that that which is made by us, that we construct, is that which connects us to something that is not ours and is beyond us, so that the mind is a made place, and not mine." He also draws attention to Duncan's use of "folded," a term that also has great resonance for Duncan's San Francisco compatriots, Robin Blaser and Jack Spicer: "fold [...] has to do with some conception of seriality" — not Blaser's reading of Deleuze through Liebniz as "pleats and folds," but rather "the fold of the dead in the field," an Old Testament "Adamic scene" taking place in "the meadow of Abraham." Rothenberg adds Duncan's use of the term "open field" (not unlike Charles Olson's notion of "projective verse") to the conversation.

Filreis provides some necessary context for the poem by explaining Duncan's "Atlantis dream," a recurring dream from childhood in which "the dreamer stands in a meadow with all the blades of grass bent towards the west, and suddenly in a panic, the dreamer realizes that there's no wind and that the blades and bowing and pointing in his direction; in another sequence of the dream, he's surrounded by dancing children." To him, "the Atlantis dream parallels myths central to the Romantic imagination: the loss of Eden, the dissolution of the Atlantean continent itself, Psyche's search for Eros, the need to restore a pre-lapsarian state," and therefore seems "very 'un-New American Poetry / un-postmodern-like in its demand for mythic metaphysics." Bernstein notes that Duncan's inspiration goes beyond the Romantic back to biblical roots, and drawing from the poet's lectures, observes a connection between the Adamic focus on patriarchal lineage and Duncan's inability, as a homosexual, to directly take part in that ritual (a concern which also worried Allen Ginsberg during the same time period).

Robinson then asks whether Duncan might be "experimenting with the possibilities of [...] a Romantic discourse in 1960 to see how much it would hold," and notes that the evidence here (and throughout The Opening of the Field) is mixed. Filreis brings Duncan's correspondence with Denise Levertov into the discourse — pointing out how field, a compositional term, is related to "feel" — and Robinson concedes that a central question here is "how much of a certain kind of sentimental affect is perfused in the language of contemporary poetry and how much of that can be carried across?" Rothenberg points out the "shared myth-making, myth-using" in the contemporary work of Levertov and Robert Creeley as well as Duncan, and recalls Duncan's parents telling the young boy that in a previous life he'd been a poet in Atlantis. "How could a poet who's being so consciously literary create a poem that seems to have been written by feel?," Filreis asks. Bernstein replies by pointing out the "anti-Romantic ideology" present in the poem, "specifically in its respect to its approach to the ego of the poet speaking or what's sometimes called agency," as related to Spicer's notion of "dictation, that you receive things," making a distinction between Duncan's poem, and a more traditionally Romantic take on the same situation: "I go to the meadow, I restore myself."

The discussion then turns to the poem's contradictory ending line, the "everlasting omen of what is," which simultaneously focuses on future potential and the present, in Filreis' conception. Bernstein sees this "zen-like aspect" as what "makes it [...] specific to its place and time" — "all the mythopoetics is being directed toward a different aim, not to some other place, some heaven or paradise that's outside of us, but rather imaginative realms, realms almost of the Lacanian imaginary, which make up our perception of the everyday, but which we don't have access to if we try and strive to get to." Before coming to the panelists' final comments, Filreis comments upon the importance of this poem's placement as a prologue to The Opening of the Field, serving as "a program, it's a calling out, it's saying 'this is the poetics I'm interested in.'" Rothenberg acknowledges the poem's role as "a poetics, a manifesto in itself, and then maybe an encouragement also," leading into the full body of work, and recalls his growing enchantment with Duncan and his work, noting that he "may have been a little thrown at that point by the poetic rhetoric in here [...] when others were flattening the language, Duncan was coming in with some very poetic or archaic turns of phrase, the inversions that turn up in here." "We weren't doing very many wherefroms," he concedes.

After Bernstein briefly discusses the sympathies that exist between Duncan and Wallace Stevens, Robinson returns to the relation between poem and book, noting, "even though this poem dwells in the realm of very traditional and very literary language and references, and is suffused with mythopoetic references [...] in the course of the book, this is able to serve a very contemporary poet with a sense of the way that the history, for example, of American presidents, have narrowed both the social lives and the imaginations of people, so that it has a service which is extremely contemporary and social in its function, which seems to me a very powerful understanding of poetic activity." Bernstein focuses on the penultimate stanza ("Often I am permitted to return to a meadow /as if it were a given property of the mind / that certain bounds hold against chaos"), framing "chaos" against the poem's historical contexts and finding a hopeful striving on Duncan's part: "he's holding to this idea that there might be a property of the mind — the imagination in particular — of poetics that might hold against the absolute further destructive anarchy and chaos that he's experienced. That's why the poem is so moving, in that sense, because it's only the act of the imagination in 1953 that could possibly allow you to think that." Rothenberg concludes by finding facets of his own work which draw upon Duncan's tremendous influence, placing him alongside the aleatory influences of Jackson Mac Low and John Cage.

PoemTalk is a co-production of PennSound, the Kelly Writers House and the Poetry Foundation. If you're interested in more information on the series or want to hear the previous twenty-six episodes, please visit the PoemTalk blog, and don't forget that you can subscribe to the series through the iTunes music store. Our next episode will feature a panel including Filreis, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Julia Bloch and CAConrad discussing Jack Spicer's early poem, "Psychoanalysis: An Elegy." Stay tuned also for future programs in the series which will address poems by Kit Robinson, William Carlos Williams, Robert Grenier, Susan Howe, Fanny Howe and Sharon Mesmer. Thanks, as always, for listening!

John Ashbery: "Everyman" at the Poets' Theatre, Harvard University, 1951

Posted 1/19/2010 (link)

Thanks to the generosity of the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University, we're tremendously proud today to present a germinal recording from one of the most influential voices in post-war American poetics: the February 26, 1951 production of John Ashbery's one-act play, Everyman (or Everyman: a Masque). This performance was one of four that evening — the inaugural event for Cambridge's Poets' Theatre, organized by V. R. ("Bunny") Lang — alongside Frank O'Hara's Try! Try!, Richard Eberhart's The Apparition and Lyon Phelps' Words in No Time, and a collaborative spirit permeates the evening's events, with the poets' classmate (and O'Hara's dormmate) Edward Gorey providing costumes and sets, O'Hara composing the incidental music for Ashbery's play, Ashbery starring in O'Hara's play, and so forth. Directed by Mary Manning, Everyman's cast consisted of Connaught O'Connell as Columbine, David Bowen as Everyman and Jerry Kohn as Death. To date, the play has never appeared in print, though a brief except, "Song from a Play," was published in the Harvard Advocate in 1948, and later appeared in "Special Portfolio: John Ashbery Tribute," in Conjunctions #49 (2007).

With the recent resurgence in critical and popular attention to the medium of Poets' Theatre — including stagings last year of O'Hara's Try! Try! (alongside Kristen Prevallet's Clutter), Rodrigo Toscano's Collapsible Poetics Theater, Anne Waldman's Red Noir, and today's publication of The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater: 1945-1985 (an groundbreaking collection which promises to radically shift discourse on the topic and cultivate a new generation of readers) — our gaining access to this recording could've have come at a better time. Those interested in further exploration of Ashbery's dramatist side should also check out our recording of a March 2007 staged reading of his play, The Compromise, in Paris (you can read the PennSound Daily write-up of this recording here). Be sure to stay tuned for even more Ashbery treasures from the Woodberry collection, which should be appearing on the site in short order.

Charles Reznikoff Reads from "Holocaust," Plus Rare Photos

Posted 1/22/2010 (link)

Late last year, we were grateful to be contacted by filmmaker Abraham Ravett, who offered us a treasure trove of rare recordings he'd made of poet Charles Reznikoff reading from his final collection, Holocaust, along with a number of photographs. Recorded December 21, 1975, these eighteen tracks — which include a number of retakes and an audio check — were originally recorded for inclusion in the soundtrack to the recently-graduated director's debut film, Thirty Years Later, which he describes as an autobiographical document of "the emotional and psychological impact of the Holocaust on two survivors and the influence this experience has had on their relationship with the filmmaker — their only surviving child."

In addition to the recordings themselves, Ravett graciously shared his recollections of that day — noting, "Mr. Reznikoff's West End apartment was located within a high-rise apartment complex reminiscent of where I grew up during my teens in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, N.Y. He was very kind and gracious to a rather nervous young filmmaker fumbling with his Nagra tape recorder and Sennheiser microphone who hoped that everything would work as planned." — along with a series of eight photographs of the poet, including the stunning image at left.

While Holocaust, as a text alone, serves as a viscerally pointed indictment of Nazi atrocities during the Second World War, not to mention a marvelous example of documentary poetics, in these selections, the auratic resonance of these appropriated testimonies are amplified dramatically, particularly when framed by the frail yet determined voice of the seventy-nine year old poet — who would pass away a month and a day from the date of this recording session — lending the work a gravid anger, a grand sense of monumental enormity.

You can listen to these tracks by clicking on the title above, where you'll also find a link to a separate page housing Ravett's photographs, and don't forget to visit Reznikoff's main PennSound author page, where you can listen to the poet's 1974 reading at the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University (where he was famously introduced by his Objectivist compatriot, George Oppen) and his 1975 appearance on Susan Howe's Pacifica Radio program, "Poetry Today," among other recordings.

John Ashbery: Two Newly Segmented Broadcasts, 1988 and 2009

Posted 1/26/2010 (link)

While there are still new John Ashbery recordings on the way from the archives of Harvard University's Woodberry Poetry Room, today, we're glad to unveil a pair of newly segmented recordings from our already-extensive archive of the poet's work.

First up, we have the poet's 1988 appearance on poet and Jacket editor John Tranter's Australian Broadcasting Corporation program, Radio Helicon, which we first announced during last October's John Ashbery week. This nearly two hour long celebration of the poet's life and work features several lengthy conversation segments between Ashbery and Tranter and appreciations by Imre Salusinszky and Philip Mead, along with a generous selection of poems: "Paradoxes and Oxymorons," "Two Scenes," "Picture of Little JA in a Prospect of Flowers," "Thoughts of a Young Girl," "Last Month," "The Painter," "Worsening Situation," "Forties Flick," "Soonest Mended," "And Ut Pictura Poesis Is Her Name," "My Erotic Double," "Or in My Throat" and "Purists Will Object." We've also included a link to an excerpted version of the Tranter/Ashbery interview, which appeared in Jacket #2.

Next, we have Ashbery's February 2009 appearance on The New York Review of Books Podcast, a wonderful sampler of the poet's more recent work, which we first announced on PennSound Daily last April. Drawing exclusively from poems Ashbery first published in the NYRB's pages, this half-hour podcast begins with four poems from the poet's most recent volume, Planisphere, before working backwards through the collections A Worldly Country ("Pavane pour Helen Twelvetrees," "Image Problem"), Where Shall I Wander ("Days of Reckoning," "Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse"), Chinese Whispers ("Mordred," "Random Jottings of an Old Man"), Your Name Here ("Crossroads in the Past" and "This Room"), Can You Hear, Bird? ("By Guess and by Gosh"), Hotel Lautreamont ("On the Empress's Mind" and "From Estuaries, from Casinos") and Shadow Train ("Qualm").

To listen to either of these newly segmented programs, click on the individual links above, or click on this entry's title to begin exploring our John Ashbery author page in chronological order, starting with the 1951 staging of Everyman: A Masque we announced last week.

Four New Cross-Cultural Poetics Programs

Posted 1/28/2010 (link)

When we recently congratulated Leonard Schwartz's Cross-Cultural Poetics on reaching its milestone 200th episode, we concluded with our wishes for another successful 200 hundred episodes and more. Today, that target grows 2% closer with the release of four new episodes.

Our first new episode is #201, "By the Sea," featuring a pair of guests with ocean-themed new titles: Matvei Yankelevich (who reads from his poetry collection, Boris by the Sea) and Bruce Benderson (who shares selections from his new novel, Pacific Agony). Episode #202, "Path and Counterpath," begins with Robert Kelly, who reads from his new long-form poem, "The Will of Achilles (the text of which is available on Web Conjunctions). He's followed by Tim Roberts and Julie Carr, co-editors of Counterpath, who discuss their editorial philosophies.

Next up is episode #203, "Performance," which begins with Richard Foreman, who talks about his latest work, Idiot Savant, along with actress Alenka Kraigher who discusses her role in the play. They're followed by Vit Horejs, puppeteer and director of the Czechoslovak-American Theater, who recently staged Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, and Seneca Garber, associate education director for The Seattle Opera, who discusses that company's commitment to Wagner and Verdi. Finally, in episode #204, "Soft Architecture and Other Cities," we have the formidable pairing of Lisa Robertson (who reads from her latest, Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture) and Nathalie Stephens (who discusses her trip to Germany and her book The Sorrow and the Fast Of It).

Cross-Cultural Poetics is produced in Olympia, Washington at the studios of The Evergreen State College's KAOS-FM. You can hear the programs mentioned above, and the series' full run (now entering a seventh year) by visiting PennSound's Cross-Cultural Poetics homepage, and while you're at it, be sure to check out our author page for CCP host Leonard Schwartz for readings from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and NYU along with a Segue Series Reading at the Bowery Poetry Club.