Introduction for a reading by Bob Perelman

Kirsten Thorpe
January 25, 1999

let me begin by saying that i don't believe i actually know one tenth of who bob perelman is or what he has accomplished as a poet, but what i do know is enough to thrill me as a student, as a poet, and as an excited member of the writers house community who is proud that bob is sharing his newest work with us tonight.

i remember clearly being a freshman and sitting in bennet hall reading a poem called "A Literal Translation of Virgil's 4th Ecologue" (the poem with all the footnotes) in a creative writing class, and feeling like this was the secret they had been keeping from me in high school—that poetry was still actually happening (and in a sharp way). i remember thinking to myself, "wow. this guy is somewhere right now doing this stuff that is totally pushing, opening up, playing some new game." then class ended and as i walked outside i noticed the office across the hall with the label "bob perelman" on the door—apparently i hadn't read the biography in my norton very carefully.

bob perelman has an overflowing collection of accomplishments including the publication of ten books of poetry and four books of criticism. he has left a lasting impression on the san francisco poetry scene where he lived for fourteen years before coming to philly. he has also made a lasting impression on a genre of language poetry, in part as the coordinator of the original Talks series in san fran. bob perelman has received the acclaim of many other respected poets and critics, and because i could only attempt to describe the impact he has had on poetry let me quote for you some of what they have had to say about him:

Jerome McGann wrote that BP is "probably the best satirist now writing poetry in America"
Marjorie Perloff wrote BP "won't let us get away with anything. he forces us to see it new"
John Ashbery wrote "most poets define poetry by creating it. BP creates it by defining it, and is thus one step ahead of all the poets under the sun."

and, my favorite from the back of this new book

Michael Gizzi wrote "BP hursls his line at high inside information speed, putting his own version of socio-poetic English on the air. An unsedated, highly educated wiseguy—wise in the Biblical sense—Bob knows we've been had..I for one am glad he's out there pitching word strikes for the future state of our condition."

and so, it is such a treat to have a writer like bob in the midst of this organism of creative writing at penn, as well as with us here tonight. it is great that i know that this man who understands some of the finest nuances of poetics and how to make poetry work, eat, breath, dream, and remember can't start class without a large cup of coffee and never gets to all that he wants to get through in an hour and a half. it's also great that i have heard this inspiring poet referred to as "frenzied bob" once or twice around the house in the most loving, yet observably accurate way. but, the best thing of all is that i was able to borrow a copy early of The Future of Memory, this new book and read through it about four times eagerly and can assure you whether you are a student, a hubster, another poet, or all three that in a few moments you will hear just how directly bob perelman has his finger on something—and that something is fresh new poetry.

thank you, bob, for sharing with us tonight...