Editorial note: The following conversation has been adapted from an episode of PoemTalk recorded in 2016 at the Wexler Studio in the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia. The episode features Al Filreis, Yolanda Wisher, Charles Bernstein, and Patricia Spears Jones discussing Akilah Oliver’s poem “is you is or is you ain’t” from Oliver’s collection the she said dialogues: flesh memory (Smoke Proof/Erudite Fangs, 1999).
This essay originally appeared in Foreign Language Studies (Wuhan, China, April 2017, 39:2) and is forthcoming in a Chinese translation in Poetry Exploration (诗探索, Beijing). It is reprinted here with the permission of the author.
Abstract: This essay explicates three principles of Charles Bernstein’s avant-garde poetics while reflecting on his new book Pitch of Poetry, highlighting the contribution of Bernstein, as a leading figure of language poetry, to avant-garde poetics in the West. The first of the three principles is nonstop exploration. Bernstein is now a well-established figure. However, he insists, “Our journeys don’t end, our business is unfinished,” and has been consistently carrying out exploration in the field of avant-garde poetics. The second is poetics of organization.
Ron Silliman, Rachel Zolf, and Charles Bernstein joined Al Filreis to talk about two poems by Naomi Replansky. The poems are “In Syrup, In Syrup” and “Ring Song.” The latter is the title poem of a volume nominated in 1952 for the National Book Award. “In Syrup,” first published under the antiwar title “Dulce Et Decorum” in 1947, its title recalling Wilfred Owen, was revised before Ring Song. “Ring Song” itself was revised for a 1988 chapbook Twenty One Poems Old and New. Replansky’s PennSound page features recent readings of both poems and indicates her final preferences for the revised versions.
On April 12, 2016, Charles Bernstein gave a reading from his new-new book Pitch of Poetry at the Kelly Writers House. I gave the introduction. Earlier I published a version of that introduction here in my Jacket2 commentary series, titling it “Clumsy, erroneous, freakish, foreign.” Now, thanks to the video editing of Dylan Leahy of the PennSound staff, I am able to make available at video recording, below. And below that is a second video clip from the Pitch event — Bernstein's finale: a selection from the aphorisms that appear toward the end of the book.
Below is a video clip from Li Zhimin’s recent reading at the Kelly Writers House, introduced by Charles Bernstein. It was edited by PennSound’s Dylan Leahy from the full video recording of the event. There is also, of course, an audio recording. For more information about the reading, click here.
Li Zhimin is a poet writing in both the English and Chinese languages. He has published numerous chapbooks of poem since 2001. His most recent collection is Zhongalish: Think and Feel Globally (August 2016). Currently, Li serves as Chief Professor of Western Literature Studies at the School of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou University, and is Director of both its Modern Poetry Studies Centre and Foreign Languages Training Centre.
After the unfathomable swarm that was the Women’s March in D.C., I find it both difficult and necessary to return to thinking about the small, local, intimate actions that are the focus of this series of posts. Necessary because massive gatherings, though exhilerating, are also largely symbolic and affective (unless they actually shut things down), while the actions I am writing about are concrete, direct, and (inter)personal. Difficult because actions both small and slow provoke feelings of panic in a time of such painful crisis.
Al Filreis brought together Yolanda Wisher (Monk Eats an Afro; the new poet laureate of Philadelphia), Charles Bernstein (Pitch of Poetry; codirector of PennSound), and Patricia Spears Jones (Lucent Fire: New & Selected) to talk about a poem by Akilah Oliver. It’s a prose poem to be found (on pp. 43–44) in Oliver’s bookthe she said dialogues: flesh memory (1999) and is reproduced here below: “is you is or is you ain’t.” PennSound’s Akilah Oliver author page includes a recording of her performing this poem during a Segue Series reading at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York on January 6, 2007.
To celebrate the one hundredth episode of PoemTalk — the series began in 2007 and is ongoing — producer and host Al Filreis convened seven poet-critics who had participated in previous episodes: Herman Beavers, Maria Damon, William J. Harris, erica kaufman, Tracie Morris, Steve McLaughlin, and Charles Bernstein. These seven were asked to listen again to the series and choose two episodes that in particular stimulated new thinking or the desire to revise, restate, reaffirm, assess, and/or commend.