The republic of space (PoemTalk #140)

Barbara Guest, 'The Blue Stairs'

From left: Simone White, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Kirstin Prevallet

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Kristin Prevallet, Simone White, and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge joined Al Filreis to talk about Barbara Guest’s poem “The Blue Stairs,” title poem of the book published in 1968. It can be found on pages 61–63 of the Collected Poems, edited by Hadley Guest and published by Wesleyan in 2008, fifty years later. PennSound’s Barbara Guest page is, we think, a thing of beauty, featuring more than a dozen readings across decades, each reading-length recording organized into poem-by-poem segments. The Guest author page includes three different performances of “The Blue Stairs,” the first given at the Library of Congress in June of 1969; the second a studio recording made in 1984; the third in 1996.

Lineated time

Some thoughts on the line in poetry

Prague astronomical clock. Photo by Andrew Shiva.

Two problems, first of beginning, then of cohering, beset me as I worried the topic of this talk. Beginning and cohering, obviously, elementary features of typical expository forms, but problematic, more so for a topic that one finds, at the same time, fundamental and elusive, elusive because fundamental, in one’s own practice of reading and writing.

Two problems, first of beginning, then of cohering, beset me as I worried the topic of this talk. Beginning and cohering, obviously, elementary features of typical expository forms, but problematic, more so for a topic that one finds, at the same time, fundamental and elusive, elusive because fundamental, in one’s own practice of reading and writing.

But here are three thoughts to possibly begin with:

A short history of Tom Weatherly

We’re familiar by now with the designation of neglected writers as “poets’ poets”— essentially, an excuse for their continuing neglect. And we are, or should be, even more familiar with the neglect heaped on African American innovative writers, especially those who refuse to be easily pigeonholed into secure ideological or formal categories. Thomas Elias Weatherly (1942–2014) fits both categories.

Janky materiality

Artifice and interface

We live in machines but are not machines. Restless forms imagine new presents, where past and future meet. As becoming-digital beings, we retain and engage the problem of embodiment, which needs a world, needs other forms, needs to die. Death is our stake: neither early nor late.

Poetry is music, and nothing but music. — Amiri Baraka 

Poetry is heard; it is the heard thing. — Erín Moure

Materiality and embodiment

Dani Zelko with Jennifer Ponce de León

PennSound podcast #66

Photo by Dani Zelko.
Photo by Dani Zelko.

Argentine poet Dani Zelko was joined in the Wexler Studio at the Kelly Writers House by Jennifer Ponce de León to discuss North Border: forced migrations (Gato Negro, 2019)the latest installment of Zelko’s Reunión project. Zelko and Ponce de León’s conversation explores the Reunión writing procedure as a “reciprocal work,” the book as a political object, migrant and feminist agencies, and artistic production as means to form community.

The Duncan/Olson dichotomy

A review of two volumes

review
Photos of Robert Duncan (left) and Charles Olson (right) by Jonathan Williams, from the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection. Used with permission of Thomas Meyer.

Here are two elusive pieces of the context of midcentury American poetics. The Robert Duncan/Charles Olson letters have been available, until now, only in the brief reviews of each other that the poets extracted from them (“near-far Mister Olson” and “Against Wisdom as Such”), passages quoted by scholars who have been able to visit the archive at Storrs, and handfuls in Sulfur, Poetry, and Olson’s Selected Letters.

Caleb Beckwith and Suzanne Stein in conversation

'Political Subject'

Note: Caleb Beckwith and I have been corresponding about poetry, poetics, and poetry community since becoming friends sometime in 2015, shortly after he moved to the Bay Area from Philadelphia. Late in 2018, I suggested we have a more formal conversation about his new book, Political Subject, recently released from Roof Books. 

Note: Caleb Beckwith and I have been corresponding about poetry, poetics, and poetry community since becoming friends sometime in 2015, shortly after he moved to the Bay Area from Philadelphia. Late in 2018, I suggested we have a more formal conversation about his new book, Political Subject, recently released from Roof Books.

Wendy Trevino with Levi Bentley and Ted Rees

PennSound podcast #65

Left to right: Wendy Trevino, Levi Bentley, and Ted Rees.

Wendy Trevino joined hosts Levi Bentley and Ted Rees for this PennSound podcast, the first in a series of intimate conversations in Housework’s transition from reading series to recording series. Conversation topics included Barack Obama’s appearance in Best Experimental Writing 2016, post-arrest listmaking, “unequal collateral,” and further associations drawn from Trevino’s 2018 collection Cruel Fiction.

Against erasure

The silent citizen remembers in Alejandro Zambra's 'Multiple Choice'

Photo of Alejandro Zambra (right) by the Instituto Cervantes de Tokio, via Wikimedia Commons.

Zambra’s interactive hybrid text, attentively translated by Megan McDowell, parodies the form of the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test — specifically from 1993, the year he took the test — which students would take to apply to Chilean universities. 

In Multiple Choice, Alejandro Zambra asks us to remember a lot of things: 

A)   A lost love

B)   A dead friend

C)   A sixty-five-year-old woman who lost a breast to cancer, and never forgot she was missing a breast

D)   A curfew imposed in Santiago, Chile, under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship

'Intimate' texts against the state as emergency

“The ridiculous theatricality of deploying the occasion of death, and the personification of the door, a peripheral detail in the student protests, demands the audience to rethink the limits of its accidental shattering […] in the space transformed into a solemn funeral, no person is exempt from the gravity and intimacy of a death’s trauma.” Above: Magpies performing “In Loving Memory of ___________: Eulogies to the Library Door.” Image courtesy of Mannie Cagatulla.

Thousands of people in white started arriving in groups outside the building where Magpies, my self-publishing collective, was reading eulogies amid somber music, wreaths, candles, and donation envelopes in front of a small crowd in the University of the Philippines Los Baños.