Not detainable (PoemTalk #130)

Gwendolyn Brooks, 'Riot'

From left: Amber Rose Johnson, Tonya Foster, Davy Knittle

Amber Rose Johnson, Davy Knittle, and Tonya Foster joined Al Filreis to discuss the poem “Riot” by Gwendolyn Brooks. “Riot” is the title poem in the (now rare) chapbook published by Dudley Randall’s Detroit-based Broadside Press in 1969, and has been collected variously, including in the book Blacks (1994). The Eclipse site offers a PDF copy of the original Riot chapbook. The recording used as the basis of this PoemTalk conversation comes from a reading Brooks gave at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City on May 3, 1983. 

Runes in the noise menagerie

A review of Claire Marie Stancek's 'Oil Spell'

“… to find logical narrative in the ‘masscrash’ mindset … would be to yield to the grammatical hierarchy that engenders dehumanizing social structures — structures that objectify human subjects and contaminate land with oil.” Above: NASA Satellite photo of an oil spill on the Mississippi Delta, via Wikimedia Commons.

For Stancek, “conformism” refers to the linear patterning of English grammar as well as today’s most popular experimental poetics: she subverts all trends with poems that feel entirely new. Other topics include industrial and media pollution, covert drone wars, heterosexist oppression, and police brutality. Stancek montages visceral imagery related to each of these subjects throughout, implying that all such problems stem from the hierarchical social ordering inherent to the oil that fuels our industrialized minds and the greed that borders them.

“[N]ight escape[s] from the menagerie / song fragment”[1] of Claire Marie Stancek’s searing second book, Oil Spell. With occultist “opening noise” and irritated lyric, Stancek warns that “darkness spreads fucks        up borders between things” (8).

A conversation between poet-grammarians

Excerpts

Photo of Serena Chopra (left) by Kasey Ferlic. Photo of Aditi Machado (right) by Siddarth Machado.

We speak, in this cointerview, of our books — Serena Chopra’s Ic (Horse Less Press, 2017) and Aditi Machado’s Some Beheadings (Nightboat Books, 2017) — of epiphany and performance, the sociopolitical import of the line break, of decapitation, autoeroticism, and the sensorium. In so speaking, we discover that we are both, and proudly, grammarians.
 

I mean the sign 
Is fucking full of it[1]

When two matters interact should I hope to keep my skin.[2]

Medievalists and madmen

A review of Paul Blackburn’s ‘Proensa’

Image by Archie Rand, from a piece which appears on the cover of ‘Proensa: An Anthology of Troubadour Poetry.’ This image is part of Rand’s ‘Montale Motets’ series.

The surviving poetry of the Old Provençal troubadours ranges from magnificent epics and beautiful lyrics to wickedly scatological satire. Their homeland, in the region that became southern France, is the source of the word Proensa, the title of Paul Blackburn’s anthology of troubadour lyrics in translation. Thanks to a re-edition of Blackburn’s translations by New York Review Books, we twenty-first-century readers have a new opportunity to read truly dazzling English versions of the troubadours.[1]

Distances quickly crossed

A review of Larry Eigner's 'Calligraphy Typewriters'

Photo of Larry Eigner © Alastair Johnston.

In 2010, Stanford University Press published The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner and the book’s faithful editors, Curtis Faville and Robert Grenier, had every right to expect both showers of attention and hosannas of praise. Though Eigner did not win any awards in his lifetime, he enjoyed a remarkable succes d’estime, first amongst the Black Mountain poets and then with the Language school.

The gifts her ancestors gave

The Women’s March and black erasure

“One marcher from Chicago, Cheryl Thomas-Porter, summed up the communitarian, participatory, and engaged nature of the march in an interview with CNN: ‘This march is us. We made this march. … The march is the contribution of every single woman of African descent.’” Above: marchers gathered on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on October 25, 1997, for the Million Woman March in Philadelphia.

Feminista Jones opened her speech at the January 21, 2017, Philadelphia Women’s March by reminding the crowd that the erasure of black women’s voices by white feminism is antithetical to feminism itself: “I am a black feminist, and they need to have at least one of them in this space, cause y’all don’t have feminism without us.”

Feminista Jones opened her speech at the January 21, 2017, Philadelphia Women’s March by reminding the crowd that the erasure of black women’s voices by white feminism is antithetical to feminism itself: “I am a black feminist, and they need to have at least one of them in this space, cause y’all don’t have feminism without us.” Jones — a Philadelphia-based activist, social worker, and writer whose work revolves around poverty alleviation, the fight against hunger, sex positivity, and mental health advocacy — had been early to point out that

On being 'ill'-informed

H.D.'s late modernist poetics (of) d'espère

Image of H.D. above originally published in 'Tendencies in Modern American Poetry' by Amy Lowell, 1917; accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

In The H.D. Book, Robert Duncan aptly terms the work that H.D. produced during and after World War II a poetics of “testimony.”[1] In the last twenty years of her life, she experimented with new hybrid forms in both poetry and prose, writing major innovative works that bore witness to the public and shared trauma of World War II and responded to the ensuing rise of the Cold War. She was also increasingly chronicling the private trauma of disabling conditions following the war.[2

Illness is not a metaphor. — Susan Sontag

Illness is a kind of knowledge. — Anonymous 

I

'Pulverized language'

Bill Berkson in conversation with Carlos Villa

“There’s another kind of poem […] where there’s a kind of interchange between […] scratching around with the words or following the word, and some sense of what’s actively present in the environment, like the fog bank is very Bay Area. Especially if you are living in the country and the fog envelops you. You have no point of reference.” Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The following conversation between poet Bill Berkson and artist Carlos Villa was recorded in 2004, in San Francisco. It was transcribed by Michael Nardone. Recordings of this interview can be found here and here.

Note: The following conversation between poet Bill Berkson (1939–2016) and visual artist Carlos Villa (1936–2013) was recorded on September 4, 2004, in San Francisco at the KUSF studios. It was transcribed by Michael Nardone and edited for publication. Audio recordings of this interview can be found here and here.

'But most by numbers judge a poet’s song'

A review of Randall Couch's 'Peal'

review
Photo of bells in Uzbekistan (left) by Adam Jones, via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Couch (right) courtesy of Randall Couch.

“Amongst other Diversions and Recreations practiced by, and delightful to, the Inhabitants of this Island; none is more diverting, ingenious, harmless and healthful, than the ART OF RINGING, used and practiced with Discretion,” writes Fabian Stedman in his 1677 book Campanalogia, or, The Art of Ringing Improved.[1

“Amongst other Diversions and Recreations practiced by, and delightful to, the Inhabitants of this Island; none is more diverting, ingenious, harmless and healthful, than the ART OF RINGING, used and practiced with Discretion,” writes Fabian Stedman in his 1677 book Campanalogia, or, The Art of Ringing Improved.[1] Stedman is widely considered to be the father of “change ringing,” a practice that emerged in sixteenth-century England when new methods of hanging sets of church bells on whole wheels enabled ringers to control the speed and order in which the bells we