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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Jeff Preiss Discusses the Jon Lovitz / Charles Bernstein Yellow Pages Ads, 2019

Posted 12/7/2022

If, like 57.19% of the world's population, you have seen Charles Bernstein's cult-classic Yellow Pages ads from the late 1990s, you might reasonably have some questions: Did Charles hurl a bottle of improperly-chilled spring water at a hapless PA? Is Jon Lovitz really just two children in a rubber suit? What is a Yellow Pages? You'll find all the answers you need in this 2019 recording in which Jeff Preiss, who conceived and directed the spots, shares how they came to be.

It all started with a well-received ad Preiss directed for the NBA starring Bill Murray. "Then the Yellow Pages — poor Yellow Pages — they were about to just die. There was no saving the Yellow Pages. Yellow Pages were on life support and they hired an agency to try to figure out a way of keeping the Yellow Pages relevant. Now in hindsight it was really just hopeless." That "absolutely terrible" idea was disposing with the beloved "let your fingers do the walking" slogan and imagery and switch their iconography to a light bulb, thus making the book "a kind of an inspirational text and a work of literature, where it gives you ideas." "A beautiful idea, but a doomed one," as Preiss recollects.

Because the Yellow Pages didn't have the money to get Bill Murray they wound up with Jon Lovitz instead, but Lovitz was reluctant because "the scripts [weren't] funny," though working together Preiss and Lovitz were able to revise them into something workable. Now they needed a literary critic to deliver a few lines, "and I had this idea to cast Charles and I figured Charles, it's so perfect for him, he'll be able to just go for it." Everyone at the agency was please with the results — "Charles is amazing ... like, it's beyond" — to the extent that they wrote and shot a second series of spots starring Bernstein exclusively.

They then took all of this back to the Yellow Pages, and that's where things start to break down. Listen in to hear the company's reaction, Preiss discussing his long friendship with Bernstein facilitated through filmmaker Henry Hills, and more. We're very proud to be able to host the full set of radio and TV ads Preiss made, along with outtakes, which are well worth checking out whether you already know and love them or if you're just seeing them for the first time. We're also grateful to Davide Balula, who made the recording and serves as interlocutor throughout, for sharing this with us. Click here to start listening.

Douglas Kearney on PennSound

Posted 12/5/2022

We start this week off by taking a look at our author page is for poet, performer, and librettist Douglas Kearney, whose 2022 Griffin Poetry Prize win we celebrated back in June.

The majority of the recordings you'll find there come from Kearney's fall 2018 visit to our own Kelly Writers House, which included a two-part Close Listening reading and conversation with Charles Bernstein recorded on October 22nd, along with an appearance alongside Brian Goldstein for a "City Planning Poetics" event. This sixth installment in the series, organized by Davy Knittle, was titled "Urban Revitalization" and took place the following day.

In addition to these recordings, which are available in MP3 format or streaming video, we also have video from a trio of recent readings, including a September 2017 reading at the Poetry Center at the San Francisco State University, and a pair of undated recordings from Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art and Harvard University's Vocarium Reading Series. A 2005 appearance on LA-Lit is our earliest recording, while a set of home recordings made this October for a future episode of PoemTalk rounds out the collection.

You can check out all of the aforementioned recordings on our Douglas Kearney author page. Click here to start listening.

PoemTalk #178: on Matvei Yankelevich's 'Dead Winter'

Posted 12/2/2022

Last week we released episode #177 in the PoemTalk Podcast series, which focuses on four poems/sections from Matvei Yankelevich's book-length work Dead Winter (Fonograf, 2022): "Winter comes calling" (7), "Winter have I lost your thread?" (12), "In a disjunctive age, disconsolate, without connection" (21), and "Winter and one more mine is the other guilt" (27). For this show, host Al Filreis was joined by a panel that included (from left to right) Ahmad Almallah, Huda Fakhreddine, and Kevin Platt.

Filreis' Jacket2 blog post announcing the new episode you'll find links to the texts for all four poems as well as segmented tracks from a special session recorded just for this program. That post also includes links to a video recording of a conversation with Matvei himself about Dead Winter — joined by Kevin, Ahmad, and Al as well as a dozen or so of Ahmad's students."

You can listen to this latest program and read more about the show here. PoemTalk is a joint production of PennSound and the Poetry Foundation, aided by the generous support of Nathan and Elizabeth Leight. Browse the full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, by clicking here.

In Memoriam: Doug Lang (1941–2022)

Posted 11/30/2022

We wrap up our trio of memorials for recently-deceased poets by honoring Doug Lang, who passed away on November 22nd at the age of 81. Born into wartime poverty in Swansea, Wales, Lang first distinguished himself as a novelist before moving to the US for a teaching appointment in 1973. Soon thereafter he was key conspirator in Washington, DC's burgeoning poetry scene, where he coordinated a much-beloved reading series, and formed relationships that would last a lifetime.

Lang's dear friend Terence Winch posted a tribute to Lang at the Best American Poetry blog, which speaks in part to his presence in the local scene: "He was known as a catalyst on the Washington poetry scene.
An accomplished poet himself, he also ran a nationally celebrated poetry reading series in DC at Folio Books in Dupont Circle, attracting many of the leading poets of the day, who were usually paired with a local poet." Lang's dedication and kindness also extended to generations of his students:
The Corcoran [College of Art] hired him, and Doug stayed for the next 37 years, becoming the most loved and respected member of the Corcoran faculty. His colleagues and his thousands of former students felt a tremendous debt to Professor Lang for his prodigious ability as a teacher and his generosity of spirit in all his interactions. In the literary world, he was known as a poet of fierce linguistic energy and technical skill. To his friends, he is an irreplaceable man of wondrous talent.
Introducing Lang at the St. Mark's Poetry Project in 2011, Stacy Szymaszek reached for remarkably similar words to encapsulate his talents: "I’ve been thinking a lot about the poem’s ability to alter our perception of time, and one thing that impresses me is that Doug's poems don’t play with pace as much as they are delivered as pure energy." "Past present and future aren’t part of his measuring system," she observes. "The poem is the sequencer of events, and throws the intervals between them into the realm of our own bodies."

We welcome you to visit to visit our PennSound author page for Lang, which starts off with a couple of vintage recordings from his earliest years in the states: a 1978 Segue Series reading at the Ear Inn and Xa, a collaboration with Tina Darragh released in 1979 on germinal cassette poetry label Widemouth Tapes. We then jump forward to another Segue set at the Ear Inn, this time from 1989, before finishing with a sprawling multi-part interview between Lang and Winch conducted in 2014. Taken together, its eight installments run roughly six hours in length. You can listen to any and all of these recordings by clicking here.

We send our sincere condolences to Lang's close personal friend Sandra Rottmann and family members, along with the generations of students and poets that will feel his loss acutely.

In Memoriam: Michael Rothenberg (1951–2022)

Posted 11/28/2022

Today we say goodbye to poet, editor, publisher, and environmentalist Michael Rothenberg, who passed away after a long battle with lung cancer on November 21st. Like Bernadette Mayer, Rothenberg is a poet that will be remembered as much for his service to the genre as much as his own work — a "good citizen" of the poetry world whose selfless hard work benefitted us all.

Those endeavors included the long-running press and web journal Big Bridge, Jack Magazine, the organization 100 Thousand Poets for Change, and their associated project "Read A Poem To A Child." You'l find an encyclopedic listing of links to those efforts and more on Rothenberg's homepage at the Electronic Poetry Center, which also houses a healthy sampling of his writing across genres. Our newly created PennSound author page for Rothenberg is home to a trio of recordings of the poet in performance: a 2007 reading in Tucson as part of the POG Sound series, and a pair of videos of the poet reading in Petaluma, CA in 2009.

We send our condolences to Rothenberg's family, fans, and collaborators worldwide. Click here to start browsing through the aforementioned recordings.

In Memoriam: Bernadette Mayer (1945–2022)

Posted 11/24/2022

This week has been been devastating for the poetry community, with three beloved poets dying in short succession. We want to honor each one individually, and today we start with Bernadette Mayer, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer on November 22nd, a little over a year since her diagnosis.

There is perhaps no better indication of just how beloved Mayer was within the world of contemporary poetry, the long shadow cast by her work and her ideas, than seeing her mourned equally for her prompts and experiments as her poetry itself. Indeed, along with a deep sense of loss, I most saliently feel a sense of gratitude for her presence in my classrooms throughout my teaching career: from teaching latter-day collections like Scarlet Tanager and Poetry State Forest in Contemporary American Poetry to discussing her innovative approach to the sonnet in Forms of Poetry and the way in which my Creative Writing Pedagogy students  (many of whom have little familiarity with non-traditional poetry) are captivated and inspired (and a little freaked out) by her iconic "Experiments List." 

Mayer was truly the patron saint of the empty page, whose poems not just delighted her fans, but — through their meta-poetic bent, their evident conceptual or ludic processes — challenged them to pick up a pen and try their hand at writing. "Experimental" is a word we throw around easily, and often to describe authors that settled into an established style decades ago, but Mayer truly never stopped blazing new trails, finding new forms, and empowering passive readers to think of themselves actively as poets. I've always drawn inspiration from her line "Let's get on with our non-paying work as always" (from "Sonnet Welcome"), for the way in which it demystifies the writing life: if you're waiting around for a visit from the muse you're not going to write many poems. There's serious work to be done; roll up your sleeves, start a new journal, let's go!

Bernadette was also a beloved member of the Kelly Writers House family, starting with a day-long celebration of her and her work in 1998, with subsequent visits in 2007, 2014, 2018 (as a Kelly Writers House Fellow), and 2019. Her early support for PennSound is reflected by the more than 200 individual files you'll find on her encyclopedic author page, which starts with "Complete Music of Webern, A Movie" from Eduardo Costa and John Perreault's groundbreaking 1969 album Tape Poems, and continues through at least three dozen individual events up to a February 2021 Zoom reading for the University of Glasgow. Particularly for a true poet's poet like Mayer, there is no better way to honor her legacy by connecting with her work, whether on the page or in your headphones. We send our condolences to Philip Good and Mayer's children, her friends, and generations of fans throughout the world.

PennSound Presents Poems of Thanks and Thanksgiving

Posted 11/23/2022

With the US celebrating Thanksgiving this week, it's time to revisit a perennial PennSound Daily tradition that started way back in 2010: a mini-mix of poems of thanks and thanksgiving — some old, some new — taken from the PennSound archives.

In a classic recording of "Thanksgiving" [MP3] from the St. Mark's Poetry Project, Joe Brainard wonders "what, if anything Thanksgiving Day really means to me." Emptying his mind of thoughts, he comes up with these free associations: "first is turkey, second is cranberry sauce and third is pilgrims."

"I want to give my thanks to everyone for everything," the late John Giorno tells us in "Thanx 4 Nothing" [MP3], "and as a token of my appreciation, / I want to offer back to you all my good and bad habits / as magnificent priceless jewels, / wish-fulfilling gems satisfying everything you need and want, / thank you, thank you, thank you, / thanks." The rolicking poem that ensues offers both genuine sensory delights ("may all the chocolate I've ever eaten / come back rushing through your bloodstream / and make you feel happy.") and sarcastic praise ("America, thanks for the neglect, / I did it without you, / let us celebrate poetic justice, / you and I never were, / never tried to do anything, / and never succeeded").

"Can beauty save us?" wonders Maggie Nelson in "Thanksgiving" [MP3], a standout poem from her marvelous collection, Something Bright, Then Holes, which revels in the holiday's darker edges and simplest truths: "After dinner / I sit the cutest little boy on my knee / and read him a book about the history of cod // absentmindedly explaining overfishing, / the slave trade. People for rum? he asks, / incredulously. Yes, I nod. People for rum."

Yusef Komunyakaa gratefully recounts a number of near-misses in Vietnam — "the tree / between me & a sniper's bullet [...] the dud / hand grenade tossed at my feet / outside Chu Lai" — in "Thanks" [MP3], from a 1998 reading at the Kelly Writers House.

"I miss everything / all the time, even / what's in front of me," Kate Colby reflects in "Home to Thanksgiving (1867)" [MP3], ably mimicking the sense of loss that simultaneously haunts and heightens the holiday season for many of us.

Kenneth Irby begins his 1968 poem, "Thanksgiving Day and Lowell's Birthday" [MP3] with a succinct synopsis of the holiday's meaning: "This is / the day set aside / for public harvest's / gratitude, / giving back of all the energies of devotion /for an instant equal / to the energies gathered / of earth's sustenance given / or what was attended / watching the slow shift of season / knowledge thankful for to have gathered /before the shift — not so slow and more like a / sudden awareness come on too late — / before cold winter." You can read along with Irby at Jacket2, where the poem was published as part of the career-spanning 2014 feature, "On Kenneth Irby."

While many might be familiar with Charles Bernstein's delightfully-thorny "Thank You for Saying Thank You," I'm offering up a recording of his 2015 mutation of that poem, "Thank You for Saying You're Welcome" [MP3], which inverts the sentiments of the original: "This is a totally / inaccessible poem. / Each word, / phrase & / line / has been de- / signed to puz- / zle you, its / read- / er, & to / test whether / you're intel- / lect- / ual enough — / well-read or dis- / cern- / ing e- / nough — to ful- / ly appreciate th- / is / poem."

Finally, we turn our attention to the suite of poems that concludes Mark Van Doren's Folkways album, Collected and New Poems — "When The World Ends" / "Epitaph" / "Farewell and Thanksgiving" [MP3] — the last of which offers gratitude to the muse for her constant indulgence.

To keep you in the Thanksgiving spirit, don't forget this 2009 PennSound Podcast (assembled by Al Filreis and Jenny Lesser) which offers "marvelous expressions of gratitude, due honor, personal appreciation [and] friendship" from the likes of Amiri BarakaTed BerriganRobert CreeleyJerome RothenbergLouis Zukofsky and William Carlos Williams.

For the Holiday Travelers: Kenneth Goldsmith's 'Traffic' and 'The Weather'

Posted 11/22/2022

We start off this holiday week by revisiting a Thanksgiving-themed post from the very first year of PennSound Daily. Published this week in 2008, on a day when many of our listeners in the US might have found themselves enduring some challenging conditions on the roads — whether they were traveling across state lines or merely going over the river and through the woods — we presented some unconventional but calming listening material. — MSH

On the busiest travel day of the year, when most Americans are glued to their televisions and radios for the traffic and weather report, you can remain tuned in to PennSound for Kenneth Goldsmith's Traffic (2006) and The Weather (2005).

This imposing pair of book-length poems (transcriptions of a year's worth of traffic and weather reports, respectively, from New York's 1010 WINS radio) plays tricks with listeners' perceptions and attention spans over the course of the three or four hours it takes to listen to them from beginning to end. Goldsmith's soothing tone, an amalgam of John Cage's confident narration and a well-oiled radio baritone, threatens to lull us into distraction, with only the transcribed (and deliberately pronounced) ers, ahs and ums breaking through the narcotic flow of narration — the vital, yet ubiquitous information which fills our daily lives becomes background noise, while the syntactical glitches command our attention. However, with repeated careful listening, this transmutation is reversed as the seemingly ephemeral events (Hurricane Isabel, Game 1 of the World Series, a run of bad grammar puns celebrating "Be Kind to Writers and Editors Month") begin to recur, along with the rather limited parlance of the reports themselves, giving the poems a sense of continuity, of design through iteration.

Highly conceptual? Yes, but also eminently engaging and listenable. Click on the title above to visit Goldsmith's PennSound author page, where you'll find both Traffic and The Weather, complete with links to the complete text of both books, and much, much more.

Congratulations to National Book Award Winner John Keene

Posted 11/21/2022

The past 365 days have been quite auspicious for poet John Keene, starting with the publication of his latest, Punks: New & Selected Poems (The Song Cave), on December 1st of last year. Since then, he's won the 2022 Lammy Award in Gay Poetry from Lambda Literary and his journey from National Book award long-list to finalist came to an end last week when Punks was named this year's poetry winner. Publisher's Weekly provided this coverage of Keene's victory:
Poet Kwame Dawes, chair of the jury for poetry, announced the category winner was Punks: New & Selected Poems by John Keene (The Song Cave). Keene dedicated the award to 'all the readers out there and the ancestors on whose shoulders I stand… particularly the black, gay, queer, and trans writers, especially those we lost to HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s." He implored attendees to "support workers in the publishing industry and in every industry," and to "support writers who speak up and face political censure and oppression." Keene ended his speech by reading a few lines from “one of my favorite poets,” Robert Hayden.

Rutgers University Newark, where Keene is both Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Africana Studies department, provided this charming snapshot of an astonished poet struggling to process his feelings: "As he stood at the dais after receiving the award and searched for a sentiment to capture his feelings, Keene said, 'I'm actually crying. I'm in shock!' much to the delight of the audience." He continued, "I put together some notes because I said, in the improbable instance that I actually receive this award, all the words — I work with words, right? — would fly right out of my head.” 

You can celebrate and connect with Keene's work through his recently-created PennSound author page. The most recent recordings there come from Keene's visit as a 2019 Kelly Writers House Fellows: a reading on the evening of February 11th and his Q&A session with Al Filreis the following morning. Audio and video footage from both events is available. Beyond that, you'll also find another Philadelphia reading for the Housework at Chapterhouse series in 2011, a pair of Segue Series readings at the Bowery Poetry Club in 2009 and 2005, and a 2009 panel from the Belladonna* collective's ADFEMPO conference in which Keene took part.

You can listen to all of the aforementioned recordings by clicking here. Again, we send our heartiest congratulations to John Keene for a year full of momentous and well-deserved honors.

Vincent Katz at Blacksmith House, 2022

Posted 11/18/2022

Our latest addition to the site is a new reading from Vincent Katz, recorded this past April 11th at Cambridge's famous Blacksmith House, which comes to us courtesy of Amy Rupert. Running just shy of half an hour, Katz's set is available as one file or segmented MP3s for each of the poems read. This set consists of twenty-two titles in total, including "Rudy's Movie," "Spring Frost," "Thought," "Broadway," "Lincoln Plaza" I-VI, "Maine Hours and Days," "Calligraphy at the Beach," "Woman in Green," and "Keys and Ripples."

You'll find this recording on PennSound's Vincent Katz author page, which is also home to a wide array of readings, talks, performances, and films that stretches back forty-four years to an appearance by the young poet on Public Access Poetry. PennSound listeners will also remember Katz's two astounding filmic collaborations with Vivien BittencourtHanuman Presents! and Jack Kerouac's "Mexico City Blues," which were added to the site in 2020 and 2010 respectively. Click here to browse all of the aforementioned recordings.

Julie Patton: Two Short Films by Ted Roeder

Posted 11/16/2022

Today we're revisiting a marvelous pair of videos of Julie Patton performing her poetry, which were made by Ted Roeder circa 2013. Filmed in an intimate domestic setting, traffic noises and birdsong drifting through open windows, Patton sits comfortably in a chair before the camera, reading from typescript pages, a pen poised in one hand. She performs in a fluid sprechtstimme, easing in and out of accents and personas, casually adding various musical accompaniments from time to time: she forces the knob on a toddler's toy music box, galloping through the lullabye at a hectic gait, then backs off, plinking it forward in little tonal constellations; she reaches down, offscreen, to plunk a guitar note or stroke the strings behind the nut, producing glassy little accents; her foot settles into a restless and insistent rhythm that resonates through the room. Papers flutter as pages turn, her hands trace and stretch notes through the air. She stares you down, then returns to the poem.

These remarkable clips demand and reward your attention, whether you're watching or simply listening in, the various sonic elements creating one sort of experience with their visual counterparts and a different one without. You'll find these two films here on PennSound's Julie Patton author page, which is also home to a wide variety of audio and video recordings of readings, performances, panel discussions, interviews, and more, from 1997 to the present.

David Antin Discusses Kathy Acker, 2002

Posted 11/14/2022

Here's a hidden gem from our archives that deserves your attention: a half-hour video of David Antin discussing Kathy Acker — who he calls "a dazzlingly charming and funny and brilliantly powerful writer, whose work I've always felt very close to" — as part of a symposium on her work held at New York University on November 8, 2002.

"Let me point out I knew Kathy before she was the Kathy Acker you all know," Antin begins, discussing his first meeting her at UC San Diego in 1968, when she was working as a teaching assistant and associating with other "refugees from Brandeis," along with her husband Robert (nominally a student of Marcuse). He goes on to discuss "the climate in which Kathy came to be a poet" — specifically "the proclaimed sexual revolution" and "the year of the assassinations" (Antin's arrival in the city coincided with Robert Kennedy's murder and Valerie Solanas' shooting of Andy Warhol) — then recalls the guidance that he provided to young and aspiring writers like Acker, Mel Freilicher, and others from their social circle, the conceptual art projects he worked closely with (including a Fluxus retrospective), and associations with figures like his wife, Eleanor, Jerry and Diane Rothenberg, Lenny Neufeld, George Quasha, et al., all of which proved to be very influential. "She was exposed to all of these people in various ways that were useful to her," he observes. 

He goes on to talk about her compositional use of constraint ("Her engagement was with so many things but she had to restrain herself to not be all over the place all at once."), her means of getting her work out to wider audiences, and the qualities that made her a singular talent: "Kathy had both intelligence and energy, and she had desire [...] It was the intensity of her desire for life." It's a gossipy, raucous recollection that also reveals deeper truths about how Acker came into her own. You can watch it here.

A New Disability Poetics Symposium, 2018

Posted 11/11/2022

Today we're highlighting A New Disability Poetics Symposium, which was recorded at the LGBT Center at UPenn on October 18, 2018. This ambitious, multi-part gathering was organized by Jennifer Bartlett, Ariel Resnikoff, Adam Sax, and Orchid Tierney, in collaboration with Knar Gavin, Declan Gould, Davy Knittle, and Michael Northen.

The proceedings began with the panel "Larry Eigner's Disability Poetics," moderated by Charles Bernstein, with talks by George Hart, Michael Davidson, and Jennifer Bartlett. That's followed by "Disability and Performance," moderated by Declan Gould, with contributions by torin a. greathouse and Camisha Jones; and "Poetic Experiment and Disability," moderated by Orchid Tierney, with panelists Sharon Mesmer and Gaia Thomas.

These talks are complemented by a number of readings, the first taking place as part of the symposium itself, with sets by Bartlett, Jim Ferris, Ona Gritz, Anne Kaier, Dan Simpson, and Brian Teare. There's a second set recorded at our own Wexler Studios with Kaier, Simpson, Ferris, Gritz, and Michael Northen reading their work. Finally, poet Kathi Wolfe was unable to take part in the symposium, but made home recordings of the pieces she would have read at the event, which we've made available to listeners as well.

Given both the significance of Disability Studies and the growing attention it's receiving from more mainstream audiences, this is a particularly important event, and one that we are very proud to be able to share with a wider audience. To start listening, click here.

Joseph Ceravolo on PennSound

Posted 11/9/2022

Today we're shining the spotlight on our holdings from beloved New York School poet Joseph Ceravolo (1934–1988), which we're very proud to be able to present through the generosity of his widow, Rosemarie.

Our earliest recording was made at the poet's home in the spring of 1968 and largely consists of poems from Wild Flowers Out of Gas (published the previous year) including "A Song of Autumn," "Drunken Winter," "Skies," "Happiness in the Trees," "White Fish in Reeds," and "Dangers of the Journey to the Happy Land." That's followed by "Poems and Background" from the 1969 album Tape Poems (ed. Eduardo Costa and John Perreault) and another set of home recordings from 1971. Running a little more than half an hour, this set also includes selections from Wild Flowers Out of Gas, plus "Ho Ho Ho Caribou" (here divided into its ten sections), the first three sections of "The Hellgate," and "Where Abstract Starts." 

Up next is a lengthy set of forty-nine poems recorded at the University of Chicago on May 11, 1976. Some titles included in this set: "Winds of the Comet," "Sleeping Outside My Mind," "The Spirit Mercury," "Interior of the Poem," "Kyrie Eleison," and "Good Friday." As Rosemary Ceravolo notes, there are some differences in titles between these recordings and the table of contents of 2012's Collected Poems since "Joe must have changed or added titles after he did the readings." Our last recording is Ceravolo's October 21, 1978 set at the Ear Inn that contains a number of poems-in-progress from the collection Mad Angels, often represented by a first line rather than its finished title, including "Tongues" and "Night Ride," along with a selection of early poems published in 1979's Transmigration Solo: "Sleep in Park," "Descending the Slope," "Romance of Awakening," and "Migratory Noon."

Along with these original recordings, we offer our listeners two marvelous complements. First, there's the September 2013 celebration of Ceravolo's work at the Kelly Writers House, organized by CAConrad, along with "The Lyrical Personal of Joe Ceravolo," an ambitious 2013 Jacket2 feature organized by Vincent Katz. Click here to listen to everything mentioned above.

PennSound Cinema: Ken Jacobs

Posted 11/7/2022

We start off this week by highlighting a number of stunning short films by Ken Jacobs that we're proud to include as part of our PennSound Cinema collection. They include a half-dozen silent micro-films, each the length of a television commercial, created in 2016: Writhing Cities, Central Park, Snow in Headlights I, Window Cleaner, Dead Leaves, and Deader Leaves. These silent meditations serve as an amuse-bouche to unfamiliar viewers, introducing them to Jacob's use of the Pulfrich effect — an early film theory based on the notion that a projected image reaches each eye at a slightly different time (those interested in learning more can read a wonderfully-detailed explanation by Miriam Ruth Ross here) — built upon looped images that rapidly alternate from positive to negative. The resulting films effect a visual equivalent to the Shepard scale, seeming simultaneously static and in-motion, and creating a lush, immersive three-dimensional image.

This is probably a good point to warn readers that due to this intense flickering effect we recommend that those with epilepsy and similar conditions triggered by light avoid watching these films. They can be challenging even for those without seizure disorders: I started to get a headache after about a half hour with the films, but it was a worthwhile tradeoff for the viewing experience.

After the super-brief clips, we have a trio of longer films: Capitalism: Child Labor (2006), Another Occupation (2011), and Seeking the Monkey King (2012). On the small scale, these films operate much like the aforementioned shorts in terms of their flickering using the Pulfrich effect, however the images are further embellished with color washes, inset details, and other distortions, and evolve over time rather than fixating on one image. They're also scored, with Rick Reed providing music for the first two — which showcase tremoloed drones that shift from peaceful bell-tones to harsh metallic squeals — while J.G. Thirwell's soundbed for the last blends dramatic blockbuster pomp with calmer passages. In Capitalism we meditate on a haunting Lewis Hine-like image of young textile workers, while Another Occupation recycles and degrades found footage of Bangkok, and in Seeking the Monkey King we explore dazzling jewel-like landscapes of crumpled tinfoil while pondering occasional intertitles that rail against the titular monarch.

You can view all of these films, and listen to a three-part 2009 Close Listening program with the filmmaker on our Ken Jacobs author page.

Henry Hills and Sally Silvers: 'Little Lieutenant,' 1994

Posted 11/4/2022

PennSound has been very happy to host work by filmmaker Henry Hills since our launch. Today we're focusing on one particularly interesting work from his complete filmography: Little Lieutenant, a 1994 collaboration with choreographer and co-director Sally Silvers. 

Here is how Hills summarizes the film on his website:
Little Lieutenant is a look back at the late Weimar era with its struggles and celebrations leading up to world war, a period piece. Scored to John Zorn's arrangement of the Kurt Weill song, "Little Lieutenant of the Loving God", and drawing its imagery both from the original song and its somewhat idiosyncratic rearrangement, the film presents an internal reading of Silvers' solo scored to the same musical piece, "Along the Skid Mark of Recorded History". 
Closely following the Zorn arrangement, the film was storyboarded in 30 scenes (the arrangement changes approximately every 4 measures) and principally shot in a small studio employing rear screen projection, with foreground movement choreographed to interact with the projected imagery which reflects themes apparent in the song and its arrangement (Weimar cabaret scenes, labor footage, empty industrial landscapes, water, slides of moody photographs by James Casebere, a kinescope of Silvers' performance of the solo at the Joyce Theatre, battle newsreels, Walther Ruttmann's film Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, and a restructured animation, The Youth Machine). Scenes range through a Citizen Kane-esque pan up a forboding structure, idyllic lovers in both pastoral and industrial settings, labor marches, a lonely walk down a deserted alley, a bar brawl, a Motown-ish girl group, a dream sequence, and a giddy animation, up to the terrors of war and a bittersweet conclusion: an elaborate music video.

Silvers and Cydney Wilkes portray dual aspects of the Salvation Army Lieutenant who sang the song in the Brecht/Weill play “Happy End”, with Kumiko Kimoto and Leonard Cruz as the lovers and Pilar Alamo and Toby Vann filling out the group. The film was conceived by Zorn, Silvers, and Hills, co-directed by Silvers and Hills, choreographed by Silvers, shot and edited by Hills, and funded by a grant from the NEA Dance Program, with assistance from the Segue Foundation and the loan of a rear screen by Ken Jacobs.  

On that same page you can also see Zorn's score and read "Catalysts: Little Lieutenant," a scene-by-scene explication of the film. To watch this film, and many more Hills works from throughout his career, visit PennSound's Henry Hills author page.

PoemTalk #177: Two by Maggie O'Sullivan

Posted 11/2/2022

On Monday we launched episode #177 in the PoemTalk Podcast series, which focuses on two poems from Maggie O'Sullivan's 1993 Reality Street collection, In the House of the Shaman: "To our Own Day" (from the section "Kinship with Animals") and "Hill Figures" (from "Prisms & Hearers"). For this show, host Al Filreis was joined by a panel consisting of (from left to right) Julia Bloch, Charles Bernstein, and Eric Falci. 

"Both poems, the group concurred, create soundings — and readings, to be sure," Filreis writes in his Jacket2 blog post announcing the new episode, "but aural qualities foremost — that enact and continue O’Sullivan’s resistance to the English of the UK south." He continues: "The hill figures, if they are personages (beings on the landscape), seem in part to form up that resistance through a certain located noise: “Crow-Shade / plumb, true / hemispheres / (dwell-juggling).” What does their “rolled-a-run / lettering” stand against poetically?" "Whatever originary sound is being made, or called for," he concludes, "it is aided by instruments accompanying the human voice."

You can listen to this latest program and read more about the show here. PoemTalk is a joint production of PennSound and the Poetry Foundation, aided by the generous support of Nathan and Elizabeth Leight. Browse the full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, by clicking here.

Halloween Poems: A Brief Playlist

Posted 10/31/2022

Since it's Halloween we thought we'd revisit our brief list of poems celebrating the spookier side of life. With a mix of poets both old and new you're bound to find something to set your nerves on edge.

Lewis Warsh, "Halloween" MP3

Kimberly Lyons, "Halloween Parade" MP3

Aaron Kramer, "Halloween" MP3

Robert Grenier, "Measure's Halloween" MP3

Cecilia Corrigan, "Christmas Halloween is in a body bag..." MP3

Elizabeth Willis, "The Witch" MP3

John Giorno, "The Wisdom of Witches" MP3

Lee Ann Brown, "Witch Alphabet, Mistranslation of Mayakovsky, Pledge & Love" MP3

Robert Duncan, "Witch's Song" MP3

Edgar Allan Poe (read by John Richetti), "Annabel Lee" MP3

Edgar Allan Poe (read by Jerome McGann), "The Raven" MP3

Yuri Andrukhovych, "Werewolf Sutra" MP3

Matthew Rohrer, "Werewolves" MP3

Adrienne Rich, "What Ghosts Can Say" MP3

Michael McClure, "Ghost Tantra #49" MP3

Bernadette Mayer, "Spooky Action from a Distance" MP3

Bob Kaufman (read by Chuck Perrin), "All Hallows, Jack O'Lantern Weather, North of Time" MP3

PennSound Student Staffer Wes Matthews in the Spotlight

Posted 10/28/2022

We bring this week to a close by highlighting a recent article in Penn Today profiling Wes Matthews, whose time as a UPenn undergrad is focused on "writing, music, research, and service." We're particularly proud to see Wes' achievements recognized because he's an invaluable member of the PennSound team, who's had a hand in processing most of our recent additions to the site.

As the article begins by acknowledging, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree: "His mother, poet Airea D. Matthews, is a Penn alumna and the current Philadelphia Poet Laureate. She’s the first to read his work. He’s the first to read hers." It also showcases his diverse talents: "Matthews shares his poetry as a spoken-word artist, rhythm driving his performances. Which is not surprising, since he is also a musician, self-taught on guitar and piano, and in a band with his childhood friends." That puts him in good stead with the PennSound team, where many of us (Chris Mustazza, Christopher Martin, and yours truly) see the influence of our experience as musicians as a big part of our work as sound editors and archivists. The article continues: "For him, music is inextricably linked to his poetry, academic research and journalistic writing. He has an extensive vinyl collection, heavy on 1960s and '70s Motown, the album covers as artwork on the walls of his West Philadelphia apartment." "“I love records," he says. "I want to hear what people heard back then, and it feels like an authentic music listening experience for me to listen to music of that time as it was intended to be listened to."

The article also discusses Matthews' work at PennSound: 
Arriving at Penn, Matthews says he wanted to be part of the Kelly Writers House and its diverse community. He applied for a job there his first semester and has been an assistant at the Wexler Studio ever since, working with Zach Carduner, coordinator of the recording studio. “Wes has done a great job with us,” says Carduner.

Matthews mixes and edits podcasts and student projects, and creates audio segments for the poetry archive PennSound, and the podcast PoemTalk. He helps video and record the Writers House speakers and programs and take photos at the events.

“I get to hear every word of the authors and writers and artists who come in and give talks,” he says. “I've come across all types of writing that have captured my interest in different ways and I've met people, writers, who I wouldn't have met otherwise.” 

We couldn't be happier to see Wes singled out for all of the things that make him so special. You can read more about him in Penn Today by clicking here

Birds of Metal in Flight: An Evening of Poetry with 5+5, 2015

Posted 10/26/2022

Here's another fascinating group reading from deep within the PennSound archives: "Birds of Metal in Flight: An Evening of Poetry with 5+5."

Recorded at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine on February 25, 2015, this event — presented in partnership with the Weatherhead East Asia Institute at Columbia University — served as a farewell to Xu Bing's exhibit "Phoenix." Ten poets in total, five from China and five from the US, shared work written in response to Xu's artwork. The roster of readers for the evening consisted of Bei Dao, Ouyang Jianghe, Xi Chuan, Zhai Yongming, Zhou Zan, Charles Bernstein, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Pierre Joris, Afaa Weaver, and Marilyn Nelson (the Cathedral's then-current Poet in Residence). Opening comments were made by The Very Reverend Dr. James A. Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral, and by event organizer Professor Lydia H. Liu from Columbia University; Xu offered closing remarks.

You can watch video footage of the complete event, along with segmented MP3 audio of individual readers on the special page we've put together for this event. Promotional images for the reading can be found in this Jacket2 commentary post by Bernstein.

Join Us for a Live PoemTalk Taping at KWH on 11/2

Posted 10/24/2022

You are invited to join us for a special live PoemTalk recording session on November 2nd. Host Al Filreis will be joined by panelists Kate Colby, Jonathan Dick, and Bethan Swann for a discussion of Hoa Nguyen's poem “Long Light” from her book Red Juice. Those in attendance will be welcome to share their thoughts at the end of the program and afterwards will join the panel for a catered lunch.

This event will start promptly at noon on Wednesday, November 2nd at the Kelly Writers House (3805 Locust Walk). Click here to register to attend and please feel free to share this event on Facebook. Can't make in person? Click here to watch live on YouTube.

PoemTalk is a joint production of PennSound and the Poetry Foundation, aided by the generous support of Nathan and Elizabeth Leight. Browse the full PoemTalk archives, spanning more than a decade, by clicking here.

In Memoriam: Peter Schjeldahl (1942–2022)

Posted 10/23/2022

It's shaping up to be a week marked by loss, starting with us acknowledging the passing of Alan Halsey, and ending with news that Peter Schjeldahl, chief art critic for The New Yorker and a member of the New York School's second generation, has died at the age of 80. 

For members of the New York School, arts criticism was practically an intramural sport, with Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, Bill Berkson, and Ted Berrigan all practicing the craft, The notable difference between Schjeldahl and his peers lie in the paths their lives took: while he continued to write and publish poetry into the 1980s, the art world became his primary focus with stops at The New York Times, The Village Voice, and ARTnews before arriving at The New Yorker in 1998. Fittingly enough, it was also in the pages of The New Yorker that Schjeldahl shared news of his terminal lung cancer diagnosis in a moving 2019 essay, "The Art of Dying."

While we do not have a proper author page for Schjeldahl, we are happy to draw our listeners' attention to two recordings from the author within our archives. First, in our Singles database, you'll find a November 28, 1973 reading in two parts, running just shy of a half hour. Then on our homepage for Bill Berkson's tape collection, you'll find a brief recording of Schjeldahl reading for the "Town Hall" at the St. Mark's Poetry Project on April 19, 1980. Follow the links above to listen in.

To Schjeldahl's family, friends, and fans — particularly those who aren't as familiar with his time as a poet — we send our deepest condolences.

John Keene: New Author Page

Posted 10/19/2022

We recently created a new author page for poet John Keene, whose career-spanning collection Punks: New & Selected Poems (The Song Cave) was recently named a finalist for this year's National Book Award for Poetry.

The heart of this new author page is Keene's 2019 visit to UPenn as one of that year's Kelly Writers House Fellows: a reading on the evening of February 11th and his Q&A session with Al Filreis the following morning. Audio and video footage from both events is available. Beyond that, you'll also find another Philadelphia reading for the Housework at Chapterhouse series in 2011, a pair of Segue Series readings at the Bowery Poetry Club in 2009 and 2005, and a 2009 panel from the Belladonna* collective's ADFEMPO conference in which Keene took part.

You can listen to all of the aforementioned recordings by clicking here. We'll be cheering on Keene when the National Book Award finalists are named next month.

In Memoriam: Alan Halsey (1949–2022)

Posted 10/17/2022

We start this week off on a sad note, marking the recent passing of British poet Alan Halsey at the age of 73. Beyond a prolific career as a poet, which included more than twenty books, Halsey's lifelong service to the genre included the press West House Books (which he co-founded nearly thirty years ago) and Hay-on-Wye's The Poetry Bookshop (which he opened in 1979 and ran until 1997). He is survived by his wife, the poet Geraldine Monk, with whom he frequently performed.

In honor of Halsey, we've assembled a PennSound author page for him, gathering materials previously scattered throughout the site. They include an October 1997 reading with Monk at SUNY-Buffalo, a 2006 appearance on Cross-Cultural Poetics — where he read from his Salt Selected Poems and discussed the modalities of British poetry — and a 2010 reading at Boise State University (also with Monk). In addition you'll find video of a 2011 performance of Carnival, Panel 3 by Steve McCaffery, where he was joined onstage by Halsey, Karen Mac Cormack, and Geraldine Monk.

We send our most sincere condolences to Ms. Monk, along with Halsey's family, friends, and fans. To listen to any of the recordings mentioned above, click here.

Frank Samperi on PennSound

Posted 10/14/2022

Today we take a look at PennSound's author page for Frank Samperi, which features a rare, career-spanning reading, a latter-day tribute event, and a number of his out-of-print books from the much-esteemed poet.

We'll start with Samperi reading at New York City's historic Ear Inn in 1987. This forty-seven minute reading offers listeners a wide-ranging survey of his poetic output, sharing selections from The Fourth (1973), The Prefiguration (1971), Morning and Evening (1967), Branches (1965) and Of Light (1965), among others. Gil Ott describes this historic event in an interview with CAConrad on the Philly Sound blog: "He gave a once in a lifetime reading at the Ear Inn. It's funny, because sometimes you meet people at the Ear Inn and you expect something from them that they're not. I guess that's true of many things. I expected this guy to look like a monk. And he shows up with his wife, who is wearing a frilly outfit, with fur around the edges. Everything I saw in them bespoke a struggle to maintain a middle class existence. Anyway, he sat down and read, and he read very softly. I have long-sought a recording of that reading, but apparently, due to the Ear Inn's technological failures, no recording is available. But it was beautiful! You really had to listen hard, because his voice was so soft, and the microphones weren't working."

Next up, we have a tribute reading recorded at Beyond Baroque in Venice, CA on March 10 2013. This seventy minute video features the poet's daughter, Claudia Samperi Warren, along with Conrad DiDiodato, Harry Northup, Phoebe MacAdams, S.A. Griffin, and Steve Goldman. Finally, you'll find four collections of Samperi's poetry in the PEPC Library: Quadrifariam (1971), The Prefiguration (1971), Lumen Gloriae (1973) and Day (1998), which was posthumously transcribed from 1970 notebook. 

We thank Claudia Samperi Warren, for her generosity in sharing these texts and recordings with us, and encourage our listeners to visit her wonderful blog dedicated to her father's life and work. Aside from the many wonderful resources there, Jamie Townsend's 2008 essay, "Spiritual Man, Modern Man: the Poetics of Frank Samperi, published in Jacket #36, is well worth your time.

Want to read more? Visit the PennSound Daily archive.