Happily, we inaugurate Jacket2. For all the complexity of the work in poetry and poetics you’ll read on these screens, what we’re doing here is I think explained rather simply. We want to preserve what John Tranter has done with Jacket in its first forty issues, and to a significant extent — although in a somewhat new mode and a somewhat different context — continue and extend it. The new mode? A site pushing technically past what’s been called 2.0, with all the vaunted interoperabilities: collaborative editing and rostering of new articles; a rotation of three-months-each guest commentators, able themselves to post contemporaneous responses to various poetics scenes they “cover”; a means of laying out features that enables readers to see at once all diverse elements of materials and responses to a single poet or topic as gathered by a guest editor; an image gallery for uncluttered viewing of many images associated with an article or feature; podcast series (such as PoemTalk and Into the Field) both streamable right on the page and downloadable for free; video players both inline and linked; a Reissues department for making otherwise inaccessible archival material available in full digital facsimile; advanced searching through both new Jacket2 pieces and every single article, review, and announcement ever published in old Jacket; and seamless server-side linked cross-relations between critical responses written for J2 about readings and recordings on one hand and, on the other, all the digital audio (and video) stored in the vast archive known as PennSound. Even as we just get started, dig around and you’ll find a great deal here — and tons of potential.
Jean-Michel Rabaté describes Oulipo at an event called "the Oulipolooza"--at the Kelly Writers House on March 15, 2011. The organizers of the event wrote the following:
Come help us celebrate the continuing potential of literatures by attending the Oulipolooza, a Kelly Writers House-style celebration of all things Oulipo. The OuLiPo, or "Ouvroir de littérature potentielle" (workshop of potential literature), is a group of experimental French poets founded in 1960, devoted to exploring the potential of literature, language and freedom through the lenses of different constraints. Oulipolooza will include readings about the Oulipo by Penn's own Jean-Michel Rabaté and Katie Price, a reception full of Oulipo-inspired foods, and the launch of "An Oulipolooza": a collection of oulipian texts.
I spent the last two days with Edward Albee, whom I hosted as a "Writers House Fellow." I was able to persuade him to read my favorite speech in all of his 30 plays--the pre-elegy given by A (modeled on Albee's adoptive mother) to the audience at the very end of Three Tall Women. My second favorite (while we're on favorites...): Martin trying to describe his feelings for the goat in The Goat (Or: Who Is Sylvia?), an attempt that breaks down because such longing is an experience of non-relation. He cannot "relate" it because it doesn't not "relate to anything," a foregrounding in a surface of halting words the key double meaning of (in my view) all great writers. Relation = to connect (or--mostly--not) and to describe in words (or--mostly--not).
After many years of hosting our Writers House Fellows program (since '99) and teaching the Fellows seminar each spring, I think I've experienced my share of challenges--challenges typically at once programmatic and intellectual. The project of squeezing into the little cottage some very giant personalities, intellects, and--yes--literary egos is no inconsequential venture. Some I expected to be difficult (John Ashbery--not an ego but shy and sometimes reticent) turned out to be easy. Other folks I'd heard would be sweet and accommodating presented all kinds of problems--requiring hard work but always (fortunately; so far) successful. I must say that the Writers House itself does a good deal of calming and charming. The late Susan Sontag, who spent three days with us in April 2003, wss generous with her time, focused on the students, and truly pleased that so many attentive readers surrounded her. But, as anyone who met her knows, her intellectual rigor is unforgiving. This made me a little nervous, understandably, since her first meeting would be for three uninterrupted hours with a group of 22 undergraduates--none of whom had read anything by her prior to our month-long series of readings and discussions. Toward the end of her stay, I interviewed her and hosted a public conversation with her--our typical Tuesday morning Fellows event. About a third of the way through the interview, Jennifer Snead, then our Director, asked a complicated question, which Susan immediately appreciated, and it caused her to praise the Writers House scene in a way that is completely memorable to me, and (obviously) pleasing. Click on the video player above and watch a grainy copy of the old RealVideo file we made back then. The audio is fine and you can watch the whole recording or listen to audio (the whole or segments) by going to our Sontag page.
On September 26, 2000, we were visited by the rare and remarkable Gerd Stern, who in the sixties designed one of the first multi-media discotheques, which he named "The World." Stern was a poet and multi-media artist (I say was; in recent years he has been a businessman--or, more properly, a businessowner). His book, First Poems and Others, was published in 1952. A second volume, Afterimage, appeared in 1965. During the early 1960s Stern started using cut-out words to create visual collages, and soon after that started making kinetic pieces using flashing lights, and electro-magnetic components to construct poem sculptures. These were first shown at New York's Alan Stone Gallery and in Stern's first one-person show at the San Francisco Museum of Art. The next phase of Stern's work included multi-channel word visuals and sounds cut out of the real world, titled "the Verbal American Landscape." Influenced by Marshall McLuhan's written work, Stern appeared with and was associated with McLuhan for a number of years. At the Writers House he came with one of his electro-boxes--a truly groovy relic of the pre-computer days of aesthetic psychodelia. And he explained, among other things, how we can all take the no out of now. Only after that can we take the ow out of now. We were all persuaded, at least for the moment, that this is the order of things. More about Stern and his Writers House visit here
We had the pleasure of hanging out with Patti Smith at the Kelly Writers House back on December 10. The highlight was an interview/discussion moderated by Anthony DeCurtis. The event was the fifth in our Blutt Singer-songwriter Symposia. Our previous Blutt visitors: Steve Earle, Suzanne Vega, Rosanne Cash, and Rufus Wainwright (Rufus is being rescheduled, actually). Some of these sessions were recorded so take a look at our Blutt page and enjoy.
On July 8, 1999, we at the Writers House held our first live interactive webcast. The discussion was all about William Carlos Williams's "To Elsie" (the pure products of America go crazy) from Spring and All. I hosted and was joined by Bob Perelman, Shawn Walker, and Kristen Gallagher. We fielded questions from people watching on the internet, among them Jena Osman and Terrence Diggory.
It was streamed as video in RealVideo format and preserved as a video later in the same format. (Those who have RealPlayers installed still can watch the grainy video.) Later we extracted the audio from the video and now we've segmented that audio into topical segments. Here are the segments:
 Bob Perelman reading "To Elsie" (2:21)
 Kristen Gallagher on facing alterity (4:30)
 Al Filreis on the poem's uncertainty (1:54)
 Bob Perelman and Al Filreis on "the pure products of America" and the issue of control (5:26)
 Shawn Walker, Al Filreis, Kristen Gallagher and Bob Perelman on Williams' position towards Elsie (6:44)
 Bob Perelman and Al Filreis on imagination (8:26) audience comments and Bob Perelman on "peasant traditions" (3:17)
 Bob Perelman on how the open architecture and "unsuccessful" quality of Williams' poems are relevant to poetics today
 Al Filreis on Williams' attraction to the new "mixed" American culture
Here is the link to the page with links to audio and video.
PennSound's Williams page includes eight recordings of the poet reading this poem.
My introduction to the recent symposium on poetry in 1960. It begins with a look at a late late 1959 essay by Stanley Kunitz predicting that the 1960s will in poetry be a time of consolidation and not of experiment--that experiment was all exhausted, played out.
Penn's student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, ran a story in this morning's paper about our efforts at the Writers House to find talented writers among high-school student candidates for admission to the university. Click on the title of this post for a larger view.
Curtis Fox does a weekly podcast show called "Poetry off the Shelf." One week, a program titled "Poetry 911," he featured our "dial-a-poem" service (215 746-POEM). Here's the audio. I spoke with him by phone and was winging it, but I think it came out okay, don't you? Of course Curtis sets up the context for this new phone service: John Giorno's "poetry systems". Go to Ubuweb for the best archive of the dial-a-poem poets.