The gaps I mean (PoemTalk #146)

Robert Frost, 'Mending Wall'

From left: Anna Strong Safford, Ahmad Almallah, Stephen Metcalf

Stephen Metcalf, Anna Strong Safford, and Ahmad Almallah joined Al Filreis to talk about one of the most well known poems in English of the twentieth century — Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” What hasn't already been said about this poem? Well, to our ears at least, this conversation goes in several unusual and, we think, fascinating new directions. What exactly is the nature of the poem’s (or anyway the speaker’s) cultural conservatism? Can the wall really be read geopolitically? Is it more about what is being walled out than walled in? Do the stalwart iambs themselves form a wall that is hard for readers to get across? Are the gaps in the wall wide enough for new readers to get through?

'The performance of freedom'

Close Listening with Tonya Foster and Charles Bernstein

Photo by Al Filreis.

Editorial note: The following conversation is from Close Listening, a program hosted by Charles Bernstein and produced by Clocktower Radio, in collaboration with PennSound, on June 18, 2013, at Studio 215 in New York. It was transcribed by Mariah Macias and subsequently edited for publication. The conversation, between Charles Bernstein and Tonya Foster, discusses Foster’s then-forthcoming poetry collection, Swarm of Bees in High Court (Belladonna*, 2015), as well as topics surrounding Foster’s writing process and African American poetry communities such as Umbra and Cave Canem.

Editorial note: The following conversation is from Close Listening, a program hosted by Charles Bernstein and produced by Clocktower Radio, in collaboration with PennSound, on June 18, 2013, at Studio 215 in New York. It was transcribed by Mariah Macias and subsequently edited for publication. The conversation, between Charles Bernstein and Tonya Foster, discusses Foster’s then-forthcoming poetry collection, A Swarm of Bees in High Court (Belladonna*, 2015), as well as topics surrounding Foster’s writing process and African American poetry communities such as Umbra and Cave Canem.

Cripping global queer, antiracist, and decolonial coalitions

A review of 'Crip Times' after 'Beauty is a Verb'

McRuer’s book, for instance, in many ways mirrors and departs from Beauty is a Verb: like the anthology, it opens with a historical excavation of policy change and arts-based responses, even overlapping with key figures, such as Petra Kuppers, who appear in Beauty is a Verb. However, it departs from an Americanist context of poetry, opening instead with a European-based history of neoliberal propaganda that he contrasts with emergent arts forms from crip activists.

A politics of austerity, I conclude, will always generate the compulsion to fortify borders and to separate a narrowly defined ‘us,’ in need of protection, from ‘them.’ Crip Times, and crip times, however, can and will only end with an aspiration to the outward-looking vision proffered by the indignant ones — Robert McRuer, Crip Times[1]

Elysian weather

A review of Joyelle McSweeney's 'The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults'

“I am a Futurist,” writes Joyelle McSweeney, describing the strange historical allegiances of her work: “But I am a Futurist of 1909 rather than a Futurist who believes or anticipates a Future as envisioned by, say, TED talk panelists or believers in the progressive motion of literature as a reinforcement of political/capitalist bona fides.” Above: ‘The City Rises,’ an early Futurist work by Umberto Boccioni, 1910.

As declarations of avant-garde intent go, McSweeney’s is deliciously paradoxical: an anachronistic investment in a movement that militated against anachronism, that made war on the past and its pious preservation. 

“I am a Futurist,” writes Joyelle McSweeney, describing the strange historical allegiances of her work: “But I am a Futurist of 1909 rather than a Futurist who believes or anticipates a Future as envisioned by, say, TED talk panelists or believers in the progressive motion of literature as a reinforcement of political/capitalist bona fides.”[1] As declarations of avant-garde intent go, McSweeney’s is deliciously paradoxical: an anachronistic investment in a movement that militated against anachronism, that made war on the past and its pious preservation.

Black/women are alive after tomorrow

A review of 'Letters to the Future: Black Women/Radical Writing'

Above: detail from cover art of ‘Letters to the Future.’

The most provocative mark in this anthology may be the virgule or forward slash that separates the last quarter of the title — Radical Writing — from the opening three quarters of the title — Letters to the Future: Black Women. I’ve analyzed elsewhere the function of the colon, a staple in academic article and book titles, so I won’t discuss that here.

Ídolos among us

The innovative aesthetics of contemporary US Latinx poets

Yo busco nuestra gente en las luces brillosas de un Google Search. Encuentro luminaries like Julia Álvarez, Isabel Allende, y Esmeralda Santiago. Más chingonxs surface on the screen: García Márquez, Neruda. But as I keep scrolling, it dawns on me that almost all are either fiction authors or from the Latin American continent. Their works are written in a language most of us learned orally from our parents, that we stumbled through in parties and visiting relatives. 

Ni de aquí, ni de allá: The US Latinx poet as overlooked

Davy Knittle with Rodney Koeneke

PennSound podcast #69

Photo of Davy Knittle (left) by Kelly Writers House staff; photo of Rodney Koeneke (right) by Anna Daedalus.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

In September 2018 Davy Knittle hosted poet Rodney Koeneke in the Wexler Studio to discuss his book, Body & Glass (Wave Books, 2018). Their conversation touches on Koeneke’s writing process and use of pronouns as a “distancing technique,” the role of poetry — particularly experimental forms — in America today, and how joy might emerge from work about loss. The two also examine the traditions that poetry assembles for itself, drawing comparisons between modernists like Joyce and contemporary poets. 

Transfer and estrangement

Gail Scott in conversation with Jane Malcolm

Photos of Gail Scott (left) and Jane Malcolm (right) courtesy of the authors.

Note: The following conversation unfolded over a couple of warm, sunny months in Montreal. I was inspired to interview Gail on the occasion of her recent retirement from the Université de Montréal, where she taught creative writing for fourteen years and was a cherished colleague and mentor to me and many others.

Note: The following conversation unfolded over a couple of warm, sunny months in Montreal. I was inspired to interview Gail on the occasion of her recent retirement from the Université de Montréal, where she taught creative writing for fourteen years and was a cherished colleague and mentor to me and many others. One night, over a lovely dinner, Gail and I began talking about her dual role as Montreal writer and experimental novelist and about the many life experiences that accompanied her engagements with Quebec feminism, New Narrative, and Language poetry.

Gelatin poetics

On Rachael Allen's 'Kingdomland' and the meatspace of contemporary feminist lyric

(Left) Rachael Allen’s Kingdomland; (right) Ventricle, oil-on-canvas by Maria Sledmere.

In Rachael Allen’s Kingdomland, shades of indigo and lilac leak through the pages like milk, in variant continuums of strangeness and shame. There is, however, a kind of “tint” to these poems that evokes not quite the Kristevan abjection of skin on milk, but something more like the translucent surface of a jelly left to slowly rot. 

Everything about you’s a bit like me —
in the same way that North Carolina’s a bit like Ribena
but rhymes with Vagina, which is nearly the same,
but much darker —
brutal and sweet like disease,
sweet as an asphalt dealer.
— Selima Hill, A Little Book of Meat[1]