Ominous pre-tingling (PoemTalk #150)

Terrance Hayes, 'MJ Fan Letter' and 'RSVP'

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Simone White, Dixon Li, and Jo Park joined Al Filreis in the Wexler Studio of the Kelly Writers House to discuss two poems by Terrance Hayes from his book Wind in a Box (2006). The poems are “MJ Fan Letter” and “RSVP,” and the texts are connected. The first begins with an address to Michael Jackson (“Dear K.O.P,” or King of Pop) and the second begins “Dear Michael,” although the opening of that versified fan letter is crossed out — single-line excising that makes it easy nonetheless to see and read what is meant to be excluded or second-guessed. And when the cross-outs finish in that passage of the second poem, the writing starts again with “Dear K.O.P.” We hear layerings of speaker, addressed figure, voices, subjective imaginings, and fantastic substitutions.

Varieties of silence, and near silence

(Jabès, Eluard, Celan, Kundera)

Edmond Jabès. Photo by Bracha L. Ettinger via Wikimedia Commons.

The aesthetic stridency of modernism was frequently accompanied by strong political stances, often with disastrous results. Among the innovative writers who managed to navigate the twentieth century without becoming entangled in its worst excesses was Francophone Egyptian poet Edmond Jabès (1912­–1991). Did Jabès’s attitude toward language offer some degree of immunity from totalitarian attitudes? An inscription in a pamphlet Jabès published in Cairo in 1953 connects to a controversy that pitted Paul Celan and Milan Kundera against Paul Eluard; retracing this historic thread leads to an appreciation of writing that embraces the neutral and the ambient, a writing that courts silence.

The aesthetic stridency of modernism was frequently accompanied by strong political stances, often with disastrous results. Among the innovative writers who managed to navigate the twentieth century without becoming entangled in its worst excesses was Francophone Egyptian poet Edmond Jabès (1912­–1991). Did Jabès’s attitude toward language offer some degree of immunity from totalitarian attitudes?

'the voice of a cricket in a museum of city sanitation'

An introduction to the work of Afrizal Malna

Asked about his conception of poetry in a 2001 interview with Spanish poet and translator Emilio Araúxo, Afrizal Malna wrote, “Poetry doesn’t live in itself. Poetry lives in the reader who is open to their own memories, their various private and social experiences. Everything that we consider fixed in its position, through the semiotic play of poetry, can attain new correspondences. Those positions open wide and defy us to join them together with fresh contrasts and combinations.”

The 'now what' question of music and poetics

Rodrigo Toscano with Clare Louise Harmon

Photo of Clare Harmon by Chloé Azzopardi. Photo of Rodrigo Toscano by Clare Welsh.

Note: I first met Rodrigo through a mutual friend at a gallery opening; I think I said something about being a classical musician, because, there, among the photographs, Rodrigo launched into a thick analysis of Frescobaldi and Couperin (the elder); I remember being completely shocked at the level of knowledge — something I hadn’t experienced since my days in graduate school. Maybe we talked about Ligeti’s Continuum (a favorite of mine), too.

Note: I first met Rodrigo through a mutual friend at a gallery opening; I think I said something about being a classical musician, because, there, among the photographs, Rodrigo launched into a thick analysis of Frescobaldi and Couperin (the elder); I remember being completely shocked at the level of knowledge — something I hadn’t experienced since my days in graduate school. Maybe we talked about Ligeti’s Continuum (a favorite of mine), too.

Queer treatments

A review of 'Each Tree Could Hold a Noose or a House’

I first read Ru Puro’s poetry on a cold concrete bench in my hometown, holding in my elbows to leave room for those around me. At the time, Puro’s meditations on the severity and occasional beauty of the manufactured modern landscape seemed to mirror my crowded, colorless surroundings, while their more personal poems echoed my discomfort at taking up space on the bench. 

I first read Ru Puro’s poetry on a cold concrete bench in my hometown, holding in my elbows to leave room for those around me. At the time, Puro’s meditations on the severity and occasional beauty of the manufactured modern landscape seemed to mirror my crowded, colorless surroundings, while their more personal poems echoed my discomfort at taking up space on the bench.

Navigating distance in locality

An interview with Tom Patterson, featuring photographs by Jonathan Williams

Photo of Tom Patterson taken by Jonathan Williams in 1980 at the Ocmulgee National Monument. Courtesy of Tom Patterson.

Note: I initially reached out to Tom Patterson in June 2019 with a research inquiry related to poets practicing in the American South during the late 1970s and ’80s. Although he’s now known primarily as a writer on contemporary art and an independent curator, Tom has served in multiple roles with small poetry presses over the years, perhaps most notably as the executive director of the Jargon Society from 1984–87, where he led Jargon’s Southern Visionary Folk Art Preservation Project.

Episode 5: Brent Wahl

Photo of Brent Wahl with ladders and color block wall art behind him

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Brent Wahl is a visual artist. In the summer of 2018, he completed a major public artwork for the Philadelphia Rail Park. Wahl’s photography, installation, and time-based work has been exhibited in a variety of venues and institutions in the US and Europe, including solo exhibitions at Vox Populi and Grizzly Grizzly (Philadelphia), and group exhibitions at the Esther Kline Gallery (Philadelphia), Temple Gallery, Tyler School of Art (Philadelphia), Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, Tate Modern (London), Oblong Gallery (London), #Rank Miami (Miami), X-Initiative (NY), Space (Portland, MA), University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), Dumbo Art Center (Brooklyn), and many more. 

The posthumous now

On Hillary Gravendyk's 'The Soluble Hour'

Photo of Gravendyk (right) courtesy of Benjamin Burrill.

How do we read the work of poets who die young? Recent books by Joan Murray and Max Ritvo have me thinking about the question with a special intensity. Ritvo died of Ewing’s sarcoma in 2016 at just twenty-five, with two posthumous volumes — The Final Voicemails: Poems and Letters from Max — published last year. Murray, who won the Yale Younger Poets award, died at nearly the same age, in 1942; Drafts, Fragments, and Poems: The Complete Poetry has just been painstakingly edited by Farnoosh Fathi and published by NYRB Poets.

How do we read the work of poets who die young? Recent books by Joan Murray and Max Ritvo have me thinking about the question with a special intensity.