In Memoriam: Hugh Walthall (1948-2015)

Posted 11/2/2015 (link)

Today brings the sad news of the passing of poet Hugh Walthall. You might not be familiar with him — I admit I wasn't — but he has a true friend and advocate in A. L. Nielsen, who passed along a recording he made of Waltham in Washington, D.C. on July 23, 1989 (as part of his Heatstrings archive) and has penned a tribute to his friend for his Heat String Theory blog. Here, he describes their first meeting:

"Years ago I found myself sitting next to Hugh Walthall at a Richard Howard poetry reading. As Howard walked to the front of the room to begin, he paused at our row, laid a hand on Hugh's shouler, and with a warm smile asked why he hadn't seen more of Hugh's poetry in print just lately. ' I don't want to risk losing my amateur standing,' Hugh replied. Laughing, Howard told Hugh he was no amateur.

How was it that Richard Howard knew of this poet you've probably never heard of? A very young Hugh Walthall burst into print (after first publishing letters to Downbeat magazine as a precocious teen critic) with poems in places like American Review, a lit journal you could buy at a drug store magazine rack."

You can read more of Nielsen's recollections, along with several samples of Walthall's poetry, here.

Moving on to the 1989 recording of Walthall, his rollicking twenty-seven minute set includes the poems "Advance and Be Recognized," "The Perfect Name for a Racehorse," "There Is No Mud in Joyville," "Mister Crudity," "Revodnem," "Frantic Ease: An Examination," "from 'Admiral Bly's Pacific Journal,'" and a brief snippet of "Insolubilia," before concluding with "A Spell in the Pokey."

After reading Nielsen's tribute and listening to this wonderful set, Walthall has one more fan in me, and you'll probably feel the same way. To start listening, click the title above.

Rodrigo Toscano at the Kelly Writers House, 2015

Posted 11/5/2015 (link)

The one and only Rodrigo Toscano read at our own Kelly Writers House on October 5, 2015. Video and segmented audio files are now available on his PennSound author page.

Al Filreis led off the event by lauding those in the audience who'd not taken heed of that day's warnings from federal authorities about non-specific threats to Philadelphia-area colleges and universities, before transitioning into a very personal introduction to the evening's guest, beginning with Toscano's first appearance at the Kelly Writers house, not long after its inception, for a 1998 Philly Talks broadcast. He then moves on to praise Toscano's work, Collapsible Poetics Theater in particular, recommending that those in the audience "take the procedure of this dramatization and its polyvocality — its principle of polyvocality and drama — and go back and read the other work, imposing on it the polyvocality that has always been there," seeing as a way to achieve a profound understanding of Toscano's poetics.

Toscano's own opening comments are brief, indicating that the evening's reading will be drawn from the forthcoming Explosion Rocks Springfield (Fence Books, 2016), noting that "it's a book of eighty-plus sections and I'm going to read about thirty-seven of them." You can listen to the entire reading by clicking the title above.

Another Side of Clark Coolidge at Jacket2

Posted 11/9/2015 (link)

You certainly know Clark Coolidge as a poet, and perhaps you know of his stint as drummer in Serpent Power, a San Francisco folk-rock group of the late 1960s led by David and Tina Meltzer, but you probably didn't know about the poet's long history as a cave explorer. That's the subject of Rachel M. Wilson's fascinating new Jacket2 essay "Clark Coolidge's Cave Art," which begins by acknowledging that "while Coolidge's work is more commonly read in the context of his musical practice or his connections to the visual arts, geological influences on the poetry have hardly gone unexamined."

"The Cave, The Crystal Text, A Geology, Keys to the Caverns, Mine: The One That Enters the Stories, Quartz Hearts, Smithsonian Depositions, Solution Passage: Even a brief survey of the titles of Clark Coolidge's poetry collections reveals a sustained engagement with geological motifs, among which caves take pride of place." "Extending this survey to individual poems," Wilson continues, "one finds similar themes recurring, for example, in 'The Death of Floyd Collins,' 'Machinations Calcite,' and 'Up the Escarpment' from Coolidge's first book, Flag Flutter & U.S. Electric (Lines / Aram Saroyan, 1966), in 'The Caves' and 'A Geology' from the recently published A Book Beginning What and Ending Away (Fence Books, 2013), or in 'Bowling for Agates' and 'Down at Granny's Cave' from 88 Sonnets (Fence Books, 2012)."

You can read more of Wilson's article here, and don't forget to browse PennSound's Clark Coolidge author page, which is home to a wide array of recordings made between the late 1960s and 2000.

Your Pop Culture / Poetry Round-Up, Fall 2015

Posted 11/11/2015 (link)

Autumn has officially gotten off to a strange start when it comes to poetry finding its way in mainstream news.

Late October brought us the odd pairing of Rachael Ray and our own Charles Bernstein, when — according to People's "StarTracks" column — the television chef and her husband John Cusimano renewed their vows at the same Tuscan castle where they were first wed ten years ago: "Ray and Cusimano both recited poems to each other in lieu of vows with her reading 'All the Whiskey in Heaven' by Charles Bernstein," the magazine reports. Bernstein has posted a Jacket2 commentary with full coverage of the event, including the People clipping, a link to a Huffington Post interview, the complete text of the poem, and audio of Bernstein reading it at Harvard in 2009.

Things got even better yesterday, when intrepid Graywolf Press executive editor Jeff Shotts caught a glimpse of a woman in the audience at a rally by tonsorially-challenged presidential hopeful Donald Trump reading one of his press' most critically-acclaimed recent publicationsClaudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric (as seen in a screencap above). The news was then picked up by Buzzfeed, allowing it to reach a much wider audience. Given Trump's long history of racially-insensitive and outright xenophobic statements on the campaign trail, this is some grade-A trolling and we salute the anonymous woman!

Update (11/12/15): Mystery solved! The Citizen reader has been identified as 23 year-old Johari Osayi Idusuyi, and you can read her interview with Jezebel here.

Philip Metres at Xavier University, 2015

Posted 11/12/2015 (link)

If you weren't fortunate enough to catch Philip Metres' astounding reading at Xavier University in Cincinnati earlier this week, then it's your lucky day, since it's one of the latest additions to the PennSound archives.

After an introduction by Tyrone Williams Metres offers some opening comments of his own. His set then begins with a multi-vocal rendition of "Cell/(ph)one (A simultaneity in four voices)" with the help of three student volunteers. His hour-long reading samples widely from his published work, including the collections To See the Earth (Cleveland State, 2008), A Concordance of Leaves (Diode Editions, 2013), and his latest, Sand Opera (Alice James Books, 2015), including "Antibodies (for Adele)," "Love Potion #42," and several selections from the "hung lyres" section of Sand Opera — "in the cell of else . . .," "She asks, is that man crying . . .," and "What does it mean, I say . . ." — before concluding with a performance of his translation of Lev Rubinstein's "Unnamed Events" (first silently, "Subterranean Homesick Blues"-style, shuffling through a series of large cards with the poem written upon them [see below], and then reciting the poem).

The reading concluded with a lengthy question-and-answer period, however the entire set was one long introduction to Metres' poetic and ethical sensibilities, with each individual poem prefaced or followed by a lengthy commentary.

You can listen to this complete reading, along with a number of other audio and video recordings from recent years, on PennSound's Philip Metres author page.

'Poems for the Millennium' Vol. 5 Launch Reading, 2015

Posted 11/16/2015 (link)

Now in its twentieth year, the Poems for the Millennium project — edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris (with co-editors Jeffrey C. Robinson and Habib Tengour) — has truly lived up to its monumental name.

After tackling modern and postmodern poetry, romantic and postromantic poetry, and North African literature, Rothenberg and John Bloomberg-Rissman are back with a fifth volume in the series (and its first published by Boston's Black Widow Press): Barbaric Vast & Wild: a Gathering of Outside and Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present. Rothenberg offers up a description of the volume in a Jacket2 commentary post:

Barbaric Vast & Wild is a continuation and a possible culmination of the project that began with Jerome Rothenberg's Technicians of the Sacred in 1968 and led to the first four volumes of Poems for the Millennium in the 1990s and 2000s. In this new and equally groundbreaking volume, Rothenberg and John Bloomberg-Rissman have assembled a wide-ranging gathering of poems and related language works, whose outside/outsider and subterranean/subversive positions challenge some of the boundaries to where poetry has been or may be practiced, as well as the form and substance of the poetry itself. It also extends the time frame of the preceding volumes in Poems for the Millennium, hoping to show that, in all places and times, what the dominant culture has taken as poetry has only been part of the story.

A launch reading for the new volume was held at the St. Mark's Poetry Project on October 14, 2015, featuring brief sets from Rothenberg, Charles Bernstein, Jennifer Bartlett, Cecilia Vicuña, Gary Sullivan, and Anne Waldman, along with comments by Rothenberg and Simone White. You can listen to segmented MP3s or the complete reading on our Poems for the Millennium series homepage, where you'll also find similar celebratory events for several of the previous volumes in the series.

PoemTalk 94: on CAConrad's "(Soma)tic Midge"

Posted 11/17/2015 (link)

Today we released the ninety-fourth episode in the PoemTalk Podcast series. The focus this time around is a pair of poems from CAConrad's (Soma)tic Midge (Faux Press, 2008): "Say it with Green paint for the comfort and healing of their wounds" and "From the Womb not the anus White asbestos snowfall on 911." For this program, host Al Filreis is joined by a panel that includes Trace Peterson, erica kaufman, and Gabriel Ojeda-Sague.

Filreis begins his write-up on the PoemTalk blog by explaining the constraints that guide this series of poems: "Each of the seven poems in the series was written while the poet was under the influence of a color — worn, ingested, or otherwise enveloped." He then goes on to encapsulate the spirit of their conversation: "As the group discovered during the course of a wide-ranging conversation, (Soma)tic Midge is about hyper-apathy, didacticism despite disempowerment, the relationships between resistance and (physical) occupation as between militarism and the environment, and what it means to be what we eat and to need a lover during wartime." You can read more about the program on Jacket2.

PoemTalk is a co-production of PennSound, the Kelly Writers House, Jacket2 and the Poetry Foundation. If you're interested in more information on the series or want to hear our archives of previous episodes, please visit the PoemTalk blog, and don't forget that you can subscribe to the series through the iTunes music store.

St. Bonaventure Readings: Halpern, Simonds, Pool (2015)

Posted 11/19/2015 (link)

After a brief hiatus, we were very happy to receive a set of new recordings from the St. Bonaventure Visiting Poets Series, which is curated by Kaplan Harris.

The series two fall events include an October 27th reading featuring sets from Sandy Pool and Sandra Simonds. Pool is a poet, editor, and visiting creative writing instructor at St. Bonaventure this year. After detailing her long list of publications, including an opera recently commissioned by Tapestry New Opera Works, Harris makes mention of Pool's answer to an interview question about her ideal writing environment. "A room with a roaring fire, warm lighting, cuddly cats, and maybe some good pizza and wine," she explains, "I like to have romantic evenings with my writing, apparently," which, Harris notes, should make Western New York's impending winter a productive time for her.

She's followed by Sandra Simonds, who was visiting classes at St. Bonaventure that week. Harris' introduction, framed by his own long-term enjoyment of her work focuses on how prolific a writer Simonds is, as well as how well-received her work is. He concludes with a word of praise from Catherine Wagner: "When I look out the window of my Winnebago, I want to see a Sandra Simonds poem on the billboard before I crash. Bless her cranky boots."

Next, we have a November 3rd reading by Rob Halpern (whose September reading at our own Kelly Writers House was discussed on PennSound Daily about a month ago). Harris' introduction makes a refrain of the observation that "Common Place is a work that asks difficult questions of artistic creation and the location of the artist." After citing the democratizing and inclusive nature of the use of the word "common" throughout the book, Harris goes on to situate Halpern's work through the tradition of the New Narrative movement, along with newer touchstones as his work has evolved over time.

You can listen to these recordings, along with six from the series' 2013 calendar, on PennSound's St. Bonaventure Visiting Poets Series homepage, and keep an eye out for spring readings featuring Kate Durbin and Hoa Nguyen.

PennSound Podcast 52: Jerome Rothenberg Interviewed

Posted 11/23/2015 (link)

This past September, Jerome Rothenberg returned to our own Kelly Writers House for a spirited evening reading — his fifth visit overall since 1998. Earlier in the afternoon, he met with Al Filreis and Ariel Resnikoff for a wide-ranging conversation covering his impressively long poetic career.

This conversation, running more than an hour long, has just been released as the latest (and fifty-second overall) episode in the PennSound Podcast series. In a Jacket2 post, Filreis details the many topics covered in their conversation: "the new young German poets of the mid- to late 1950s; the world of Jewish mystics Rothenberg discovered as a young poet; his time as a Masters student studying Dickinson and Whitman with Austin Warren at the University of Michigan in the early 1950s; 'the four great Jewish objectivist poets'; Armand Schwerner; somewhat sudden access to major commercial presses for his anthologies in the late 1960s; Robert Duncan's recommendation of Gershom Scholem; Paul Celan; and Rothenberg's forays into the problem of representing the unsayable of genocide."

To start listening, click the title above.

A Tribute to Paul Dutton, 2014

Posted 11/25/2015 (link)

While Canadians don't celebrate Thanksgiving at the same time as we do in the US — their holiday took place a month-and-a-half back — a number of Canadians have conspired to give our listeners a reason to be very thankful: video footage of a 2014 tribute event to author Paul Dutton, held on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

Recorded on March 4, 2014 at The Supermarket in Toronto, Ontario, this two-hour event was hosted by Gary Barwin, Jenny Sampirisi, and Stuart Ross, and features an impressive all-star roster of Dutton's friends, fans, and collaborators, including Phil Minton; Eric Schmaltz; Jay Millar; Mari-Lou Rowley; Steve Venright; Christian Bök; W. Mark Sutherland and Nobuo Kubota; Donkey Lopez (Ray Dillard, Stuart Ross, and Steven Lederman); a.rawlings; John Kamevaar; Karl Jirgens; Margaret Christakos; Chris Tonelli; Jenny Sampirisi and John Kameel Farah; Dan Waber, Gary Barwin, Gregory Betts, and David Lee; and Shannon McGuire, before concluding with a set from CCMC (Dutton, Kamevaar, John Oswald, and Michael Snow).

Barwin opens the show by highlighting the many hats Dutton has worn — "poet, novelist, musician, improviser, essayist, mentor, collaborator, soundsinger, critic, friend." "Over the past forty years," he continues, "Paul has created an impressive body of great work: sound poems, visual poems, collections of poetry, short fiction, a novel, CDs, countless performances (both as a solo artist and as a part of groups such as the Four Horsemen and CCMC). He has been a significant part of major works by R. Murray Schafer and has performed and collaborated with a wide array of other artists. Paul is a sensitive, exacting, witty, and inventive performer and explorer of language out of the human. As a writer, he has plumbed the musicality of the paragraph, the sentence, and the word. As an oral sound artist, Paul has helped redefined the musical potential of human utterance." You can listen to the rest of his introduction, and view all of these marvelous performances here. We'd also like to thank Laurie Kwasnik and ChromaSonic Pictures for making this footage available to us.

Appropriately enough, Barwin is also the editor of Sonosyntactics: Selected and New Poetry of Paul Dutton, released this month by Wilfrid Laurier University Press — a collection hailed for "demonstrat[ing] Dutton's willingness to (re)invent and stretch language and to listen for new possibilities while at the same time engaging with his perennial concerns — love, sex, music, time, thought, humour, the materiality of language, and poetry itself." And, of course, don't forget PennSound's Paul Dutton author page, which houses solo recordings from 1979–2001, as well as links to our Four Horsemen page and other collaborations, and a series of useful links to external resources. First created in 2005, our Dutton page was one of our earliest author pages, but its materials continue to surprise us.

New Video: James Schuyler at the Dia Art Foundation, 1988

Posted 11/30/2015 (link)

We start this week off with something truly historic that's sure to delight a great many of our listeners: very rare video footage of James Schuyler's November 15, 1988 reading at the Dia Art Foundation that comes to us courtesy of Raymond Foye (the executor of Schuyler's estate). While we've had segmented audio of this reading on our Schuyler author page for a little over two years, this video is entirely new and utterly breathtaking, only in part due to its rarity.

Schuyler materials are very hard to come by, largely due to the the ways in which his mental illness hindered his considerable talents. One oft-cited example: his first major collection of poetry, Freely Espousing, wasn't published until 1969 — long into the careers of his core New York School comrades John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and Frank O'Hara, and closer to when second-generation poets like Ted Berrigan, Ron Padgett, and Anne Waldman released their first books. Likewise, this reading, which took place not long after Schuyler turned 65, was his first ever; he'd die less than two-and-a-half years later.

Among many excited responses to this new video, one well worth checking out comes from New York School scholar Andrew Epstein, who offers some very useful contexts for the reading on his blog, Locus Solus: "Reclusive, plagued by intermittent bouts of severe mental illness, painfully shy, Schuyler had never before read his work in public, even though he'd been publishing since the 1950s. That evening, Schuyler's close friend John Ashbery gave a wonderful and incisive introduction (which can also be found in Ashbery's Selected Prose), and throngs of Schuyler's admirers from the literary and art world flocked to the Dia Center on Mercer Street." He continues, quoting David Lehman's The Last Avant-Garde — "For many in the audience it felt like a historic occasion. The line of people waiting to get in, many poets, writers, and artists among them, snaked around the corner" — and offering up Charles North's assessment: "The Dia reading was the most thrilling I think I've ever been to, the loudest applause I've ever heard — thunderous."

His authoritative report continues, observing that "the reading was a very big deal for Schuyler himself and his letters and diaries record the anxious build-up and the exhilarated aftermath of his debut performance," before offering up copious excerpts from those documents, concluding with Schuyler's estimation that "I was a fucking sensation." Epstein can't help but agree, and neither will you once you get a chance to see the venerable poet reading "February," "Empathy and New Year," "December," "Unlike Joubert," or other favorites.

Again, we'd like to thank Raymond Foye and the Dia Art Foundation for allowing us to share this remarkable document with our listeners.