'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.

Find me the rage (PoemTalk #149)

Kamau Brathwaite, 'Negus'

Kamau Brathwaite in the early 1990s. Credit: New York University archive.

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Al Filreis convened a conversation with Amber Rose Johnson, Jacob Edmond, and Huda Fakhreddine about Kamau Brathwaite’s “Negus.” The poem was included in the book Islands, published by Oxford in 1969. “Negus” appears as part six of a section of the book titled “Rebellion” within Islands, and Islands, in turn, is part two of The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy, which includes Rights of Passage and Masks as the first and third volumes. Brathwaite’s PennSound page — which has been curated by one of our PoemTalkers, Jacob Edmond — features just one recording of Brathwaite performing this poem. On May 1, 2004, in his Segue Series reading at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City, the poet chose to read “Negus” as a kind of prefatory piece to the whole forty-three-minute reading. It certainly seems to introduce several of Brathwaites major concerns.

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.

G R G W R G R B R B R B W G W G R B B B B

Reflections on Bernadette Mayer’s ‘Studying Hunger Journals’

Bernadette Mayer visiting the Kelly Writers House on March 26, 2018.
Bernadette Mayer visiting the Kelly Writers House on March 26, 2018, for a Fellows reading. Photo by Kelly Writers House staff.

In the reflections that follow, I refer to media-archaeological reassessments of psychoanalytic theory as a way of opening American poet Bernadette Mayer’s Studying Hunger Journals (1972–1975) to new readings. If, as argued by the likes of Jacques Derrida and Friedrich Kittler, among others, psychoanalytic models of the human mind, from the “psychic apparatus” of Sigmund Freud to the schema of Jacques Lacan, are in fact underwritten by the media-technical conditions of their respective historical eras, then how might this insight shift perspectives on Mayer’s book, a project undertaken not only as an aid to psychoanalysis, but also at the dawn of the so-called Information Age? 

Jacques (Lacan) has wise words 4 me, it’s 2 good to B true, you’re 2 good to B’dette.  Bernadette Mayer, Studying Hunger Journals[1]

Saying it all is literally impossible. — Jacques Lacan, Television[2]

Episode 5: Brent Wahl

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

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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.