To mark the occasion of the digital reissue of Big Allis, editors Neilson and Grim have written the following introductory notes alongside commissioned reflections on the magazine by designer Jean Foos and a few of the magazine’s many contributors.
The idea of bringing Big Allis to a new readership occurred to me one summer afternoon last year while combing the Jacket2 Reissues archive. I am grateful to Danny Snelson for deeming Big Allis worthwhile to “go big” and be added to the J2 bill. Danny and Amelia Bentley have been artful and meticulous with getting Big Allis safely stored in a user-friendly repository.
On March 14, 1979, Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein visited the studios of WBAI in New York and were interviewed by Susan Howe, host then of the Pacifica Radio Poetry Show. This installment in the PennSound podcast series, introduced again by Amaris Cuchanski and based on editing done by Nick DeFina, features an excerpt from that interview focusing on a discussion of opaque as distinct from transparent language and of language’s materiality.
PennSound has replaced the low-res version of these tapes, so now possible to see in full-screen. The program took place at the Whitney's Philip Morris space, across from Grand Central terminal in New York.
Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, and Ron Silliman’s tape for an unrealized transcript captures a wealth of improvisatory high-level thinking about particulars of contemporary American class structure and poetry. The result manifests a sustained thread about social formations in contemporary American poetry with strong relevance for the present. Near the end, a phone call is received from Ray DiPalma clarifying details about the group reading of their collectively authored LEGEND four days later.
Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, and Ron Silliman Bernstein’s apartment, New York City, March 6, 1981 Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein’s interview with Susan Howe captures their early poems and thinking about Language writing poetics: L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E was just over a year old with Number 7 to be published that month. I will investigate this formative moment for the ideas that continue to be crucial, that were effaced, and that enter into productive crisis in the present.
Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein Susan Howe’s WBAI-Pacifica radio show, New York City, March 14, 1979
Andrews and Bernstein sketch the by-now-familiar program of Language writing, an invocation of writing’s “modernist project […] an exploration of the intrinsic qualities of the media […] which from our point of view is language […] not some concocted verse tradition […] through academic discourse and […] book reviewers in The New York Times.” The “repression of knowledge” through such academic and publishing institutions contributes to a deficiency in “people’s awareness of what poetry and what other writing forms there are.” In addition, Andrews and Bernstein interrogate the very idea of genre in writing and propose “less intrinsic reasons for [the novel, philosophy, and poetry to be] separate than for music to be thought of as separate from painting or painting from writing.”
This photograph of Bruce Andrews, Michael Lally, and Ray DiPalma was taken by Elizabeth DiPalma in early September 1975, in Michael Lally's then Sullivan Street apartment. The print of the original photo, now among Ray DiPalma's papers at Yale, is 8"x10". We at J2 are grateful to Ray DiPalma for making this reproduction available to us and our readers.
I just now listened (for what must be the third time overall) to a triple reading given by Andrews, Lally, and DiPalma together at the Ear Inn in New York on November 10, 1977. DiPalma read “Exile,” “It makes of nonsense,” and “I am in the mountains,’ and also a 4-minute section from The Birthday Notations. Andrews read mostly from Moebius (published as a chapbook much later, in 1993); one of these Moebius poems became the focus of an episode of PoemTalk ("Center"). As for what Lally read that night, I'm sorry to say that PennSound's Lally page needs work; it's not clear which recording is the November '77 reading (we'll work on fixing it).