Featured resources

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

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

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

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Happy Birthday to Susan Howe

Posted 6/10/2023

Today is the 86th birthday of iconic poet Susan Howe. Howe was an early supporter of the PennSound project and as a result her author page serves as an extensive documentation of her prodigious career, with recordings going back nearly fifty years. To celebrate her today, we'll explore some of those recordings.

Our earliest reading by Howe is a 1978 Segue Series reading at The Ear Inn — one of six total Segue sets between then and 2008. We also have readings, talks, performances, interviews, and lectures from the St. Mark's Poetry Project, the Kootenay School of Writing, the New School, SUNY-Buffalo, the Naropa Institute, the 92nd Street Y, London's Southbank Centre, Paris' Double Change series, the Walker Art Center, Harvard University, the CUNY Graduate Center, Dia Art Foundation, and our own Kelly Writers House among others. Beyond that, it's well worth mentioning a few particularly special recordings. First, we must start with Howe's radio program on WBAI-Pacifica Radio, which ran from 1975–1981 and featured an all-star roster of poets including Helen Adam, Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein, John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Ted Greenwald, Barbara Guest, Eileen Myles, Bernadette Mayer, Maureen Owen, Charles Reznikoff, Adrienne Rich, and Audre Lorde. Next, there are Howe's electric musical collaborations with David Grubbs, which encompass both live performances and studio albums including Thiefth, Souls of the Labadie TractFrolic Architecture, and WOODSLIPPERCOUNTERCLATTER. Finally, for those looking for a solid introduction to Howe's life and work, we might point you towards Howe's reading and conversation with Al Filreis from her 2010 Kelly Writers House Fellows visit, or Howe's 1995 appearance on Charles Bernstein's LINEbreak radio program.

To start exploring PennSound's Susan Howe author page click here.

Vincent Katz: Green Arcade Reading (Recreated), 2022

Posted 6/2/2023

We wrap up this week with a new addition to our PennSound author page for poet Vincent Katz: a recorded recreation of his November 18, 2022 reading at San Francisco's Green Arcade Books alongside Norma Cole and Aaron Shurin

Running just shy of an hour, Katz's set is comprised of twenty-two titles in total, which show the breadth of his talents. There are generous selections from his most recent collection, Broadway for Paul ("Propensities," "Autumn Days and Hours," "Six Figures Fire," "Winter Window") as well as his current manuscript-in-progress ("Keys and Ripples," "Pulling Out," "The Sign on the Closed Theater Marquee," "Time Marches On," "Walk Beside You") and Previous Glances, a recent retrospective collection published in Italy ("Poem," "The Sky," "Wellsprings"). Katz also reads a pair of translations from the works of germinal Roman elegist Sextus Propertius.

Listen to this sprawling set on our Vincent Katz author page, where you'll also find a broad array of readings, talks, and films spanning the past forty five years. Click here to start exploring.

Happy Birthday to Walt Whitman

Posted 5/31/2023

This May 31st is the 204th birthday of Walt Whitman — one of the first truly authentic American poetic voices, and one which still resonates with readers more than century after his death. 

While Whitman left behind no recordings of his poetry — that much heralded wax cylinder with four lines of the late poem "America" is unlikely to be the poet himself — but that doesn't mean that we don't have recordings of Whitman's work for your enjoyment. Today we'll highlight performances and interpretations by three poets.

We start with UPenn professor emeritus John Richetti, who has recorded a wide variety of Whitman's work over the years, including "O Captain! My Captain!," "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," "The Sleepers," "Goodbye My Fancy," "I Sing the Body Electric," and "I Hear America Singing," and sections 1 and 2 of "Calumus." You'll find these tracks on a special page containing all of Richetti's renditions of Whitman's work, which also includes "Song of Myself" in its entirety,  among other titles. Sticking with "Song of Myself," we're also lucky to have a 1974 recording of Aaron Kramer reading sections I-XXXII of that poem, and Basil Bunting winds things up with a 1977 reading at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where he read "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" as part of a performance that also included work by Louis Zukofsky, Ezra Pound, Thomas Wyatt, and Edmund Spenser. You can click on any of the poets' names above to be taken right to the mentioned recordings.

Spend Your Memorial Day with Anne Waldman and Ted Berrigan

Posted 5/29/2023

Today is Memorial Day in the United States and at  PennSound we're marking the occasion by revisiting Ted Berrigan and Anne Waldman's collaborative masterpiece, "Memorial Day," and our recording of their May 5, 1971 reading of the work in its entirety at the Saint Mark's Poetry Project.

This recording is notable not only because "Memorial Day" is a landmark collaboration between two of the New York School's finest poets, but also due to its seeming rarity. Berrigan and Waldman were rumored to have only read the poem together and in its entirety once — in fact, "Memorial Day" was composed specifically for their joint reading in the spring of 1971 — and while the event was recorded, it would seem that the tape had been missing for several decades, presumably lost forever.

My brief Jacket2 essay from 2010, "Recovering 'Memorial Day,'"  is both a rumination on the poem itself and a retelling of its being lost and found again in the reel-to-reel tape collection of Robert Creeley. To listen to the recording directly, you can click here. In a wonderful twist, video footage of a 1973 reading of the poem by Berrigan and Waldman has since been located, and you can watch that here.

George Quasha Reads 'flayed flaws & other finagled opacities,' 2023

Posted 5/26/2023

We wrap up this week with another installment of PennSound Contributing Editor Chris Funkhouser's long-running project to document the poetry of friend and neighbor George Quasha. So far this year we've had two previous batches of recordings from Quasha's Waking from Myself — tuning by fire and ripping scales — and today we continue with the flayed flaws & other finagled opacities segment of that book. As usual, this session, recorded on May 5th, runs around 90 minutes.

You'll find these recordings on PennSound's George Quasha author page, along with lengthy selections from many of his books including Not Even Rabbits Go Down This Hole, Dowsing Axis, Hearing Other, The Ghost In Between, Verbal Paradise, Glossodelia Attract: Preverbs, The Daimon of Moment: Preverbs, Scorned Beauty Comes Up Behind: Preverbs, Things Done for Themselves: Preverbs, and Polypoikilos: Matrix in Variance: Preverbs, among others. Click here to start listening.

Remembering Lew Welch

Posted 5/23/2023

Fifty-two years ago today Lew Welch disappeared into the California wilderness, never to be found, which makes it an excellent occasion to revisit our PennSound author page for the poet. Though modest, it nevertheless represents much of the most notable work of his tragically brief career.

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

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

Shakespeare Milton
Shakespeare Milton

Shelley as well
Shelley as well

Sarah something Teasdale
Sarah something Teasdale

Edith M. Bell
Edith M. Bell

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

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

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

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

PoemTalk #184: on John Giorno's "Everyone Is a Complete Disappointment"

Posted 5/22/2023

Today we launched the latest episode in the PoemTalk Podcast series, which focuses on an excerpt of John Giorno's  twenty-six minute performance of "Everyone Is a Complete Disappointment," taken from the 1977 Giorno Poetry Systems release John Giorno and Anne Waldman: A Kulchur Selection. For this program, host Al Filreis was joined by a panel that included (left to right) Brooke O’Harra, Michelle Taransky, and Christopher Funkhouser.

In his Jacket2 blog post announcing the new episode, Filreis traces the panelists' reckoning with Giorno's daunting fugal interplay of recursive verbiage and tape echo doppelgangers: "At one point in the conversation about the way the piece registers on our ears, Brooke said to Al: 'When you said "PoemTalk" earlier, I misheard it as PunkTalk.' Brooke's own auditory state was being conditioned by Giorno's furiously edgy cacophony: 'It has a rage feeling.'" He continues, noting that he had just asked the group "about tonal indications of madness (meaning mania or psychosis), and at this moment Brooke was turning toward 'mad' as a tone carried by sound rather than a narrator-speaker's state of mind. 'He's mad. [Maybe] it’s internalized. Or he’s processing the world in that way.'"

Listen to this latest program and learn 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.

Etheridge Knight Reads 'Prison Poems,' c. 1968

Posted 5/20/2023

We bring this week to a close by highlighting a fascinating recording of Etheridge Knight reading from Prison Poems at the Indiana State Prison. While we don't have precise info regarding the date of this event we believe that it took place towards the end of his incarceration, which ended in 1968. Of the eight years Knight served for armed robbery, he has said, "I died in 1960 from a prison sentence, and poetry brought me back to life."

When these segmented tracks were first introduced, our own Al Filreis commented that the "recording is marred by — or indeed perhaps enhanced and positively complicated by — the loud music playing in the background." You can judge for yourself. 

Altogether, there are twenty-eight tracks, including an introduction and the following titles among many others: "Cell Song," "Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane," "To the Man Who Sidled Up to Me and Asked: How Long You In Fer, Buddy?," "Poems for Black Relocation Centers," "For Malcolm, A Year After," and "Apology for Apostasy." You'll find these tracks, along with Watershed Tapes' album, So My Soul Can Sing and video footage of a 1980 reading for the Friends of the Scranton Public Library Poetry Series on our Etheridge Knight author page.

Happy Birthday to Robin Blaser

Posted 5/18/2023

May 18th is the birthday of beloved poet Robin Blaser (1925–2009). Our own Charles Bernstein, in his afterword to The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser, begins by noting that "Robin Blaser's poems are companions on a journey of life, a journey whose goal is not getting someplace else, but, rather, being where you are and who you are — where you is always in the plural." You can see that focus in action by browsing through the four decades' worth of recordings archived on PennSound's Robin Blaser author page.

The earliest document there is a 1965 reading in Vancouver, BC, which features "The Moth Poem" and "The Translator: a Tale." From the following decade, we have recordings from the University of British Columbia in 1970 and the San Francisco Poetry Center in 1976, along with the original raw audio for The Astonishment Tapes, recorded in Vancouver in the spring of 1974 and edited for eventual publication by Miriam Nichols under the title The Astonishment Tapes: Talks on Poetry and Autobiography with Robin Blaser and Friends (University of Alabama, 2015). Next, there's a 1986 appearance at the Portland Poetry Festival and Blaser's 1987 appearance at SUNY-Buffalo to deliver that year's Charles Olson Memorial Lectures, which concluded with a March 29th reading from his own work. Blaser would return to Buffalo for readings and lectures in 1991, 1993, and 1996, which are also available on his author page. 

Other 90s-era recordings include a 1994 set at the Albany Writers Institute, 1995 readings at the University of British Columbia and the Kootenay School of Writing (where he'd also read in 1997), a 1997 appearance on the BBC Radio 3 program Night Waves hosted by Patrick Wright, and a lecture on Dante Alighieri delivered at Universita d'Annuzio that same year. The final years of Blaser's life are documented via a 2003 reading at Vancouver's Cultural Centre, a reading and talk at Woodland Pattern in 2004, and a 2008 conversation with Robert Hass at UC Berkeley, courtesy of Cloud House Poetry Archives, along with a trio of appearances on Cross-Cultural Poetics in 2003, 2004 and 2007 (a transcription of the first interview was published by Jacket2 in 2015), and in conjunction with that last visit, we've recently added video of Blaser's reading at Evergreen State College (home base of Cross Cultural Poetics and host Leonard Schwartz), which Leonard was kind enough to send our way. Last but certainly not least, Blaser's poem "A Bird in the House," was the subject of PoemTalk #113, featuring Kristin Prevallet, Jed Rasula, and Brian Teare, You can listen to all of the recordings mentioned above by clicking here.

Robert Ashley: Music with Roots in the Aether (1974)

Posted 5/15/2023

We start this new week off by taking a look at one of the most remarkable series housed on our PennSound Cinema page: Robert Ashley's seven-part "opera for television," Music with Roots in the Aether. We've hosted a copy of this series for many years, and replaced our original lo-fi copies with new remasters in January 2011. Here's how Ashley describes his ambitious project, first released in 1974:
Music with Roots in the Aether is a music-theater piece in color video. It is the final version of an idea that I had thought about and worked on for a few years: to make a very large collaborative piece with other composers whose music I like. The collaborative aspect of Music with Roots in the Aether is in the theater of the interviews, at least primarily, and I am indebted to all of the composers involved for their generosity in allowing me to portray them in this manner.

The piece turns out to be, in addition, a large-scale documentation of an important stylistic that came into American concert music in about 1960. These composers of the "post-serial" / "post-Cage" movement have all made international reputations for the originality of their work and for their contributions to this area of musical compositions.

The style of the video presentation comes from the need I felt to find a new way to show music being performed. The idea of the visual style of Music with Roots in the Aether is plain: to watch as closely as possible the action of the performers and to not "cut" the seen material in any way — that is, to not editorialize on the time domain of the music through arbitrary space-time substitutions.

The visual style for showing the music being made became the "theater" (the stage) for the interviews, and the portraits of the composers were designed to happen in that style.
The seven installments focus on the work of (in order) David Behrman, Philip Glass, Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma, Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley and Ashley himself — representing the vanguard of contemporary composers — and include both lengthy interviews as well as performances. We've also included a link to a 2004 essay in The Brooklyn Rail by Kenneth Goldsmith: in it, Goldsmith appraises Music with Roots in the Aether as "a great snapshot of the period," and observes that "we're lucky that someone went through all this trouble to preserve a very valuable piece of musical history."

Two Rudy Burckhardt Films Featuring Kenneth Koch

Posted 5/12/2023

Today we're revisiting two remarkable films by Rudy Burckhardt, featuring his New York School compatriot Kenneth Koch that you can see on our PennSound Cinema page for filmmaker and photographer.
The earlier of the two, The Apple (1967), features a lyric and spoken interlude written by Koch, which was set to music by Tony Ackerman and Brad Burg, and sung by Kim Brody. In stop-motion and live action, it traces the sprawling adventures of its titular fruit. Running just one minute and fifty-four seconds, the film is nevertheless the subject of a marvelous essay by Daniel Kane — "Whimsy, the Avant-Garde and Rudy Burckhardt's and Kenneth Koch's The Apple" — in which he praises it for "the ways in which ideas of temporality, spontaneity, childishness, and parody are expressed within this tiny little film work," thus "revealing the latent and hilarious power of the whimsical affect."

The latter film, On Aesthetics (1999) has a sense of finality about it, coming during Burckhardt's last year and not long before Koch developed leukemia that would ultimately take his life in 2002. Running nine minutes and taking its name from the last poem in Koch's 1994 collection One Train, On Aesthetics — charmingly presented by "KoBu Productions" — features the poet's voice-over reciting the various micropoems contained under that title, from "Aesthetics of the Man in the Moon" and "Aesthetics of Creating Light" to "Aesthetics of Being with Child" and "Aesthetics of Echo," while Burckhardt's camera eye finds appropriate accompanying images, whether literary or abstract.

We're grateful to be able to share this work with our listeners, along with two other Burckhardt films: — The Automotive Story (1954) and Central Park in the Dark (1985) — which you can find here. Our Kenneth Koch author page also houses these films, along with a 1998 reading at our own Kelly Writers House and a few brief recordings from the St. Mark's Poetry Project.

Boise State MFA Series: 3 New Readings, 2023

Posted 5/11/2023

Today we've got a new batch of recordings from the Boise State University MFA Reading Series, all of which took place this past spring.

First up, we have a March 31st reading by Clyde Moneyhun, poet, translator, and BSU faculty member, who read from his latest book in translation, Witch in Mourning, by Catalan poet Maria Mercè Marçal. That was followed by an April 13th reading by Gothataone Moeng, author of the celebrated short story collection, Call and Response. Finally, poets Alli Warren and Brandon Brown brought the spring reading series to a close with a double-bill on April 28th.

Click on the dates above to be taken directly to each respective reading on PennSound's Boise State University MFA Reading Series homepage. While you're there, check out our repository of recordings made between 2010–2013 under the curation of Martin Corless-Smith, including sets from Alan Halsey, Susan M. Schultz, Ben and Sandra Doller, Forrest Gander, Charles Bernstein, Michael Palmer, Jennifer Moxley, Bhanu Kapil, Myung Mi Kim, Renée Gladman, Tom Raworth, Lisa Robertson, Alice Notley, and Maggie Nelson. We thank current coordinator Sara Nicholson and grad student Adam Ray Wagner for their help in reviving the series page this academic year and look forward to future readings.

"The Book Undone: Thirty Years of Granary Books"

Posted 5/8/2023

Today we're highlighting recordings from three events surrounding "The Book Undone: Thirty Years of Granary Books," which was held at Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library during the fall/winter of 2015–2016.

First, there's audio from the launch event, which took place on September 16th. After an introduction from Sean Quimby, Rare Books Curator, and opening remarks from exhibition curators Karla Nielsen and Sarah Arkebauer, Granary Press founder Steve Clay took the podium. After his comments, the even continued with brief presentations from Charles Bernstein, Johanna Drucker, Vincent Katz, Daniel Kelm, Emily McVarish, Jerome Rothenberg, and Buzz Spector. 

Cecilia Vicuña and Jen Bervin were part of a second event connected with the Granary celebration at Columbia on November 17th. Billed as "The Book as Performance", this performance and discussion session is available as both audio and video with links to HD video on Vimeo.

Finally, we have audio from the exhibition's closing event on January 26, 2016. Billed as "The Plan Without a Plan," this conversation between Steve Clay and Karla Nielson was introduced by Sean Quimby. Timestamped questions from the Q&A session that followed accompany this recording are also available, with participants including Phil Aarons, Duncan Hannah, Tom Damrauer, Jan Herman, and Robert C. Morgan, among others.

You can find audio from the opening and closing events on PennSound's Threads Talk Series page, also curated by Granary Books editors Steve Clay and Kyle Schlesinger, where many of those gathered to celebrate the press have given talks over the year. Vicuña and Bervin's performance is available on their individual author pages.

Mimi Gross and Red Grooms: 'FAT FEET' (1966)

Posted 5/5/2023

We wrap up this week with a classic recording from our PennSound Cinema page: FAT FEET, a groundbreaking short film made by the then-husband-and-wife team of Mimi Gross and Red Grooms.

In addition to the twenty-minute film, we've assembled remembrances from Gross and Yvonne Andersen (who served as photographer, artist and editor, as well as constructing sets and props). Here's Gross describing the film's origins and inspirations:
As I worked with Red at various intervals of time and projects, from 1960-1976, our collaborations became increasingly intense, and often lost the boundaries of ideas, aesthetics, and in the real time of making, craft and painting.

FAT FEET (1965-66) was directly inspired by the early animated films of Georges Melies, Emil Kohl, and the marvelous movie, The Invisible Moving Co, all of which we saw from the collections of Joseph Cornell (via Robert Whitman and Rudy Burckhardt). In 1962-3, together with Rudy Burckhardt, we made a 16mm film called Shoot the Moon. It is a direct homage to Georges Melies. There are some brief scenes with stop-action animation. Red and I made little cut outs, and Rudy showed us how he filmed the scene. A few years later, we experimented with animating life-sized props with live actors (long before "green screens").

When Yvonne Andersen and Dominic Falcone visited us in New York, we planned to make a film together the following summer where they lived near Boston. Red and I had just moved into lively "Little Italy" (1964), a neighborhood where daily fires, violence, and long term elderly residents lived near the Bowery, filled with bums, and (pre-immigration quota) Chinatown. I was busy drawing in the streets, and making objects based on street life, and Red was obsessively chasing fires, fire engines, street life, he was incorporating into his work.

The explosion of making FAT FEET resulted from our excitement living in the new neighborhood. Later, we made an ad, and called FAT FEET: "A day in the life of 'nervous city'!"
And here's Andersen describing the spirit of collaboration among friends that guided the project:
Each morning the four of us along with Dominic and our two children Paul, 7 and Jean, 5 went to the studio to build the sets and props. We painted cartoonish black and white buildings on the paper walls of the set, painted and and constructed 3/4 size flat automobiles with movable wheels from heavy building cardboard. Red built a dog which could be animated to walk in front of a live person.

Red was creating a cartoonish atmosphere depicting the types of city people who might be seen walking the street of a big city. For this reason the people wore giant shoes to connect them to the sidewalks. Those shoes were heavy! A normal shoe was screwed into a giant shoe manufactured by Red.

In the beginning this was supposed to be a four person project, but people heard about it. Each night people came to be in the winter crowd scenes. Some were friends of Red and Mimi, some were my animation students and neighbors. We got old coats from Morgan Memorial and there was a large make up table. People could come in, put on a coat, do their own make up, and become who they wanted to be for the evening.
From a personal perspective, it was truly wonderful to finally get to see this charming film when we initially announced it over a decade ago, since I had first heard about (along with its creators) under strange circumstances from my childhood. My grandfather spent many years working as a printer for the Curtis Publishing Company, and one of the few concrete mementoes from his time there (aside from the missing tip of one finger) was a copy of the February 8, 1969 Saturday Evening Post (shown at right) — the magazine's final weekly edition after seventy-two years of publication, which featured Red Grooms on the cover and a lavish article on Grooms and Gross inside. Their technicolor art and lifestyle was immediately appealing to me, connecting with my kindergartener logic (as did the work of Keith Haring, who I likely discovered around the same time), and I found my first favorite artists.

Jumping forward several decades, I should add that I'm still very fond of the work that Grooms and Gross produced in the 1960s, and, for that matter, I still have that issue of The Saturday Evening Post, stored next to the 2004 Rizzoli retrospective of their art. Seeing FAT FEET for the first time, that childlike awe is certainly rekindled by its Chaplin-esque grace, its engaging bustle, the warmth of its handmade aesthetic and its dizzying juxtapositions (of black-and-white and color, two- and three-dimensional forms, live actors and stop-motion animation). Check out the film on our FAT FEET homepage and perhaps you'll have the same magical experience.

Series Spotlight: Poetry in Conversation at The Centre for Stories

Posted 5/4/2023

Today we're proud to offer our listeners another Series Spotlight, this time focusing on "Poetry in Conversation," which was hosted at the Centre for Stories in Northbridge, Western Australia between 2017 and 2019. Curated by Robert Wood — whose terrific ongoing Jacket2 feature, "On Australian Aboriginal Poetry," we recently mentioned in this space — the series sought "to tell good stories in the hope of strengthening connections between people and encouraging a more inclusive and informed community."

Recordings archived at PennSound include nine readings held between July and September 2017, with a tenth recording of Wood being interviewed by Dennis Haskell in Febuary 2018. Poets giving solo readings, each running from 50–60 minutes, include Amanda Joy, Susan Bradley Smith, Sampurna Chattarji, Siobhan Hodge, Jeremy Balius, James Quinton, Caitlin Maling, and Lucy Dougan, with one shorter Westerly Reading featuring Amy Hilhorst, Chris Arnold, and Wood himself.

You can listen to any and all of the aforementioned recordings by clicking here. From 2015 to 2016, Wood curated the Poets in the Cafe Reading Series at the School of Life: Melbourne, with sets from Autumn RoyalMelinda BuftonKent MacCarterMatt Hall,  Jess WilkinsonLuke Beesley, and Bonny Cassidy can be found here.

Steve McCaffery, "Wot We Wokkers Want" b/w "One Step to the Next"

Posted 5/1/2023

I couldn't think of a better recording for May Day than Steve McCaffery's "Wot We Wokkers Want" b/w "One Step to the Next," This album was released on LP and cassette in 1980 by the Underwhich Audio Collective, a small Canadian independent label (based in Toronto, Ontario and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) that also issued small run releases (usually about 100 copies) by the likes of Owen Soundthe Four HorsemenPaul DuttonBob Cobbing, Susan Frykberg, Larry Wendt, and DUCT, among others.

Better known by its full title, The Kommunist Manifesto or Wot We Wukkerz Want Bi Charley Marx un Fred Engels, the leadoff track is McCaffery's translation of The Communist Manifesto into the dialect of West Riding of Yorkshire, or, as he puts it, "Redacted un traduced intuht’ dialect uht’ west riding er Yorkshuh bi Steve McCaffery, eh son of that shire. Transcribed in Calgary 25 November to 3 December 1977 un dedicated entirely to Messoors Robert Filliou and George Brecht uv wooz original idea this is a reullizayshun." You can read the piece in its entirety here as part of the PECP Library. Side A also includes "Mid●night Peace" ("a nostalgic translation of the Dadaphony of hell") and "A Hundred And One Zero S One Ng," which is McCaffery's translation of Brecht's translation of the closing section of Robert Filliou's 14 Chansons et Charade.

Side B starts with "One Step Next to the Next," co-created with Clive Robertson, which centers around turntable manipulations of a National Geographic flexi-disc on the Apollo space flights. The closing track, Emesin which "a phrase is intercepted, reversed, synthesized, and obsessively repeated as a stolen micro-unit." As the liner notes explain, "it represents McCaffery's first theft from himself." Listen in to all of these tracks here.

PennSound and Jacket2 Resources on Australian Poetry

Posted 4/28/2023

It seemed fitting to wrap up this week by highlighting Australia-centric content from both PennSound and Jacket2.

There's no better place to start than our Australian Poets anthology page, which is home to a comprehensive anthology of contemporary Australian voices, organized by the indispensable Pam Brown and first unveiled in 2013. In addition to links to preexisting author pages for Kate Lilley and John Tranter, it includes (then-)new recordings from a total of twenty-five poets: Adam Aitken, Ali Alizadeh, Judith Bishop, Ken Bolton, Bonny Cassidy, Stuart Cooke, Laurie Duggan, Kate Fagan, Michael Farrell, Liam Ferney, Duncan Hose, Jill Jones, Kit Kelen, John Kinsella, Peter Minter, Tracy Ryan, Jaya Savige, Pete Spence, Amanda Stewart, Ann Vickery, Corey Wakeling, Alan Wearne, Fiona Wright, Tim Wright, and Mark Young. This astounding collection of recordings is amazing in and of itself, but even more so when you realize that it's a supplement to an even more momentous Jacket2 feature: "Fifty-One Contemporary Poets from Australia", also organized by Brown, which was released in five installments over the course of 2012. Here's how she she opens her preface to the collection:
When it comes to poetry anthologies, I agree with David Antin's long-ago quip — "Anthologies are to poets as zoos are to animals" — and I think that journals and magazines are probably better indicators of what's current in any country's poetry than grand, often agenda-driven anthologies. Here I am presenting the work of fifty-one contemporary poets from Australia. My aim was to make it broadly representative by including innovation and experimentation alongside quasi-romanticism, elegy, and the almost-pastoral. No one in this group writes like another. The common link is simply that each poet is an Australian whether by birth, residence or citizenship.
She continues: "This collection could probably be read as an anthology, and so I grant a comment on omission. There are many other poets writing and publishing in Australia, probably around four hundred, who aren't included here. A problem for any editor assembling a collection of writing from Australia is the inclusion of multiracial poetries. At the outset, I should say that there are no Australian indigenous nor Torres Strait Islander poets in this selection of poems." That omission, however, is answered somewhat by Robbie Wood's astounding 2012 Jacket2 feature "On Australian Aboriginal Poetry: 'The Last Evening Glow Above the Horizon.'" Unlike typical Jacket2 features, which publish all of their content in one shot, Wood has filed new addenda to his anthology in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and I presume we might have further installments to look forward to in the future as well.

Taken together, these features represent some of my favorite PennSound and Jacket2 content over my long tenure with both sites. They also serve as an important reminder of the tireless work done by John Tranter — through Jacket, but also long before that through various publishing and broadcasting ventures — that both helped foster Australia's thriving poetry scene and also brought worldwide attention to it. Click on any of the links above to start browsing.

In Memoriam: John Tranter (1943–2023)

Posted 4/26/2023

Today we share the tragic news that poet John Tranter has passed away on April 21st, just days shy of his 80th birthday. While his loss will be felt worldwide, we are feeling it more acutely at PennSound's sister site Jacket2, which has archived and continued the mission of Tranter's germinal Jacket magazine since 2011. Julia Bloch penned this tribute on behalf of our editorial team:
We here at Jacket2 are mourning the loss of John Tranter, founder, publisher, and editor of Jacket magazine.

In 1997, John Tranter began publishing Jacket, one of the earliest all-online journals of poetry and poetics. Launched in what was still a field saturated with print, the original quarterly Jacket offered something different. Free, open-access, and impervious to the constraints of page count or paper bindings or subscription income, Jacket taught its readers how to engage with what was then a relatively new medium. As Tranter wrote on the site in its early days, “You can’t actually subscribe to the magazine — just drop by every few weeks. All the past issues will always be there, and the current number will be posted piece by piece until it’s full. You can also read future issues as they are posted piece by piece.” The journal’s first issue, in October 1997, included Philip Mead’s interview with Black Australian surrealist poet Lionel Fogarty, Susan M. Schultz’s essay on the Buffalo poetics program, and Kurt Brereton’s feature on “CyberPoetics of Typography,” which declared, “The page is no longer a flat surface but a virtual field unfolding in time. Words, sounds, images and graphics are now all part of the poetics of the web.”

In an essay called “The Left Hand of Capitalism,” which he originally published in 1999 in London’s Poetry Review, Tranter writes about how this paradigm-shifting moment in online publishing combined the sheer scope of the internet with the niche qualities of a poetry magazine to offer a different kind of economic model: radically accessible with seemingly infinite distribution. “Here’s an example of the reach of the Internet,” Tranter wrote. “In the first issue of Jacket, I published an interview I had recorded with the British poet Roy Fisher, and received an enthusiastic email from a fan. The fellow was grateful for the chance to read an interview with his favourite poet, he said, and went on to explain: ‘It’s hard to find material on Roy Fisher, up here in Nome, Alaska.’”

Jacket quickly grew in reputation not in spite of its DIY roots but by virtue of them. The Guardian lavished praise on the magazine’s aesthetic: “The design is beautiful, the contents awesomely voluminous, the slant international modernist and experimental.” Time called it “an Internet café for postmodernists.” And Lisa Gorton wrote in the Australian Book Review: “People often speak of poetry as a solitary undertaking. Tranter’s Jacket shows how it derives from conversations, allegiances and betrayals — from the human work of inheritance and innovation. Jacket is often playful but it is serious in this purpose: to serve as an archive not just for poems but for those poems’ particular worlds.”

Tranter himself was always forthrightly modest about the undertaking. In a 2013 PennSound podcast, Tranter told Jacket2 publisher Al Filreis: “My background is in book production and magazine production, and in a sense I see Jacket really as just a way of typesetting a magazine and distributing it instantly and cheaply all around the world. […] It solves completely and instantaneously the big problem of poetry, and that is distribution. How do you get copies of a litle book of poetry into a little bookstore in East London? It’s impossible; you can’t do it. But Jacket can do it.” Indeed, Filreis concurs: Jacket simply changed the way poetry could be distributed worldwide.

Tranter, who grew up on a farm and had a background in offset lithography book printing, told Filreis that baling wire was a fitting metaphor for the tools he used to launch Jacket single-handedly from his home office in Balmain, in the inner west of Sydney: “I found I had all these talents: I was an editor, I read widely, I was interested in literature, I was interested in photographic images, I was interested in the layout of the page, how you stuck bits together and got it to work properly, how to navigate from the contents page to the rest of the book, and so on. And when I realized I also had HTML skills, I thought, I happen to have all the skills you needed to tie together a whole lot of stuff you might need to make an issue of a poetry magazine.”

For forty monumental issues — each one archived at Jacket2 — Tranter assiduously curated thousands and thousands of pieces of poetry, essays, interviews, features, and commentary on modern and contemporary poetry and poetics. Pam Brown joined Tranter as an associate editor in 2004; in her Commentary series for Jacket2, Brown revisits a number of highlights from Jacket, including Maged Zaher’s feature on Egyptian poetry, Carolyn Burke’s “featurette” on Mina Loy, and “the mis-translations, mis-quotations and bricolage poetry of Sydneysider Chris Edwards.”

In 2011, Tranter retired from his intense daily work on Jacket. The complete archive of the magazine moved intact here to Penn, where it remains open and available to all readers. And then Jacket2 launched.

One of the first conversations we had about launching Jacket2 was how to honor the core of Tranter’s original aesthetic and material vision for Jacket: modernist, international, and published on a rolling schedule. We inherited the notion of a “feature” as a category or department that would collate a huge variety of content on a single topic or figure — often the equivalent of more than three hundred printed pages. We used our own baling wire, as it were, to expand the site by adding podcasts, streaming video, and galleries. And we hosted Tranter’s own Jacket2 Commentary series, in which he reflected on the forty issues of Jacket he edited.

Tranter, who was seventy-nine at the time of his death, published twenty-two collections of poetry and also worked as a radio producer with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, producing programs on history, archaeology, a documentary on carnival sideshow workers, interviews with poets and critics, and radio anthologies of poetry from Thomas Malory to Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery. He edited a number of significant print anthologies, including The New Australian Poetry, The Tin Wash Dish, and The Penguin Anthology of Modern Australian Poetry (coedited with Philip Mead), and his many honors and awards included a Queensland Premier’s Award for Poetry. He founded the Australian Poetry Library, and he was an honorary member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

But Jacket is surely Tranter’s biggest legacy. As Tranter’s daughter Kirsten recently wrote to us here in Philadelphia, “Jacket was something he was incredibly proud of — it was a culmination of his love of bringing people and poetry together, and his love of the creative potential of technology — and he was delighted when it went on to have another life at Penn.” We couldn’t have been more honored to offer Jacket its new home here.

We will miss you, John.
The impact Jacket had on my development as a poet cannot be understated. It gratified my burgeoning interests in an era when online literary resources were incredibly sparse and welcomed me into a living, growing literary community. Likewise, his notion of poetry as a "gift culture" greatly shaped my worldview, setting the stage for my work at PennSound, my pedagogy, my aesthetics, and more. To be entrusted with guiding Jacket in its second life is a humbling honor to this day.

Join Us in Conversation with Wayne Koestenbaum 4/25

Posted 4/25/2023

Please join us on Tuesday, April 25th at 10:30AM EDT as we bring the 2023 Kelly Writers House Fellows program to a close as  joins hosts Simone White and Al Filreis for an interview/conversation with poet, critic, novelist, artist, and performer Wayne Koestenbaum. You can tune in live via this YouTube link.

Born and raised in San Jose, California, Wayne Koestenbaum is a poet, critic, novelist, artist, and performer, having published nineteen books, including The Queen’s Throat, which was a national Book Critics Circle Award finalist. Praised by many for his work’s blend of risk and joy, Susan Sontag called The Queen’s Throat a “brilliant book.” His other books include Camp Marmalade, The Pink Trance Notebooks, My 1980s & Other Essays, Andy Warhol: A Biography, and Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting an Icon. In 2020, Koestenbaum won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award. Previously an Associate Professor of English at Yale, he is now a Distinguished Professor of English, French, and Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.

For more about Writers House Fellows, including the 22-year history of video recordings of Fellows' visits, please visit this site.

William Fuller: New Author Page

Posted 4/20/2023

Today we're highlighting our most recently created author page for William Fuller. Fuller is a classic example of the "poet with a day job" phenomenon, having released eight celebrated books of poetry over the last thirty years while spending much of the same time working in the financial services industry at the Northern Trust Corporation of Chicago.

Fuller joined us in the Wexler Studios on March 16th of this year to record a career-spanning set of thirty-three poems running just over fifty minutes, starting with 2003's Sadly and continuing through Watchword (2006), Hallucination (2011), Quorum (2013), Playtime (2015), and his latest, Daybreak (2020), before concluding with a selection from the forthcoming Signal Flow. Titles include "The Later Chapters," "Deceased Makers," "Hope for Happiness," "Agricultural Barometer," "The Circuit," "Evening Dies Insane," "Bolero," "Old Fuller Burying Ground," "Nottamun Town," "Writing Policy," "Tracate," "The Waterfall," "Windowpane," "Willow Willow," "Galaxy," and "Other Sky." Savannah Sparks engineered this session, which was edited by Zach Carduner.

You can listen to these new recordings, along with a classic Segue Series set from 1987, on PennSound's brand-new William Fuller author page. Click here to start browsing.

Happy Birthday, Bob Kaufman!

Posted 4/18/2023

April 18th is the birthday of Bob Kaufman, a quintessential San Francisco poet of the post-war period, who served as a vital bridge between jazz poetry's development during the Harlem Renaissance and its ongoing evolution during the Beat era on both coasts. Kaufman was an innovator in the surrealist tradition, as well as co-founder of the germinal journal Beatitude, and a vital voice that continues to inspire generations of writers. Born in 1925, Kaufman — who died in 1986 — would have turned 97 today.

PennSound's Bob Kaufman author page, curated by Raymond Foye — who co-edited 2019's Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman from City Lights with Neeli Cherkovski and Tate Swindell — is anchored by Bob Kaufman, poet: the life and times of an African-American man, a stunning 1992 audio documentary written and produced by David Henderson, which comes to us courtesy of Naropa University Audio Archive, Henderson, and Cherkovski. Extensive timetables have also been generated for both one-hour installments, providing details on the various speakers, topics discussed, etc. Individual poems read by Kaufman have also been broken out into their own MP3 files.

Additionally, we're proud to be able to share a twenty-one minute recording made by A. L. Nielsen, for which we have no details regarding date or location, and a brief recording of Kaufman reading the poem "Suicide," which comes to us courtesy of Will Combs. Combs' recording forms the basis for PoemTalk #158, in which Christopher Stackhouse, Maria Damon, and Devorah Major join host Al Filreis for a discussion of the poem. Click here to start browsing.

PoemTalk #183: on Dodie Bellamy's 'Vomit Journal'

Posted 4/17/2023

Today we proudly release the 183rd episode in the PoemTalk Podcast series, which focuses on a series of excerpts from Dodie Bellamy's Vomit Journal. For this program, host Al Filreis was joined by a panel that included (left to right) Henry Steinberg, Chantine Akiyama Poh, and Murat Nemet-Nejat.

Originally published in 2015's When the Sick Rule the World, the excerpt from Vomit Journal under discussion consists of seven entries written between April and June 1997. As Filreis notes in his Jacket2 blog post announcing the new episode, Bellamy made a special recording just for this episode, which listeners can also find on her PennSound author page.
Listen to this latest program, peruse a PDF of Bellamy's work, and learn 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.

M.C. Richards on PennSound

Posted 4/14/2023

We might all aspire to lead lives as rich as that of M.C. Richards, the poet, potter, and translator whose eighty-five years included a stint teaching at the fabled Black Mountain College (where she also participated in the first happening), an early experiment in communal living at Stony Point's "the Land" (along with John Cage, David Tudor and others), and friendships with Jackson Mac LowCharles Olson, Paul Williams, Robert Rauschenberg and Franz Kline. Her vivacity undimmed by the passage of time, she devoted her later years to working with the developmentally disabled at the Camphill Village in Kimberton, PA.

On PennSound's M.C. Richards author page you'll find a 1997 recording made at Indre Studios in Philadelphia, which comes to us courtesy of a close friend, Jasper Brinton, who provided us with a little background to the session. "She made this tape essentially under some strain: she did not live to see it published to any degree; but understood its importance for her legacy," he notes. "The quality of the recording is excellent. Her voice strong. Earlier in 1991 Station Hill Press published Imagine Inventing Yellow: New and Collected Poems of M.C. Richards. The tape includes a few of these poems but also later work she saw fit to preserve."

We're very glad to be a part of that preservation process. You can listen to the seventy-five minute recording, consisting of nearly two dozen poems — including "March," "Strawberry," "Imagine Inventing Yellow," "Morning Prayer," "How to Rake Water," "Sweet Corn," and "For John Cage on His 75th Birthday" — along with plentiful fascinating asides and remarks by the author, by clicking here.

Charles Borkhuis: 1997 Ear Inn Reading Now Segmented

Posted 4/12/2023

Today we're glad to showcase poet, essayist, and playwright Charles Borkhuis' 1997 reading at the Ear Inn as part of the Segue Series with Kathleen Fraser, which was recently segmented by PennSound staffer Daniel Boyko.

Running just short of 35 minutes, Borkhuis' set starts with a brief introduction and his own opening remarks, including his apology that he "dressed like a refugee from a bad David Lynch film today." He then proceeds to read a total of 20 pieces, consisting of excerpts from Proximity: Stolen Arrows and Alpha Ruins along with individual titles including "Blank Page Already Black," "Touch My Money and Leave," "The French Disease," "Old Ladies Meet (for Cynthia Hogue)," "Sight Lines," "Pebbles in the Mouth," "Eye to Eye," "Intimacy," "Bitter Than Dead," "Write What I Say," and "Cold Pillows."

You can listen to the aforementioned tracks on PennSound's Charles Borkhuis author page, which is home to a modest collection of recordings that demonstrate the author's diverse talents. Starting with this Ear Inn recording, you'll find Black Light: Two Radio Plays from 2002, a 2004 appearance on Cross-Cultural Poetics, another Segue Series reading from the Bowery Poetry Club in 2006, a 2014 set for Dia's Readings in Contemporary Poetry, and a 2022 virtual reading as part of the LCP Salon. Click here to start exploring.

Kenneth Rexroth on PennSound

Posted 4/10/2023

We start off this new week by revisiting our modest collection of recordings by groundbreaking San Francisco poet, translator, and editor Kenneth Rexroth.

Among many notable achievements, it's easily forgotten that Rexroth was a pioneer of poetry on the phonograph, as evidenced by "Thou Shalt Not Kill," his paean to the late Dylan Thomas, which served as the A side to the 1957 Fantasy LP Poetry Readings in the Cellar, with Lawrence Ferlinghetti on the B side, and accompaniment by The Cellar Jazz Quintet throughout. That twenty-two minute track is joined by a one-and-a-half minute recordings of "Climbing Milestone Mountain, August 22, 1937," for which we have no information regarding its date or location. 

In time, we hope to be able to make more recordings from this pioneering figure in the fields of both poetry-in-performance and poetry on record available. We're grateful to Bradford Morrow, who oversees the Rexroth estate, for granting us permission to share what we have, and also to Ken Knabb, who initially contacted us about the absence of a Rexroth PennSound author page, which started the process leading to the creation of one. You can listen in to the aforementioned recordings by clicking here.

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