PennSound

PennSound is an online archive of recordings of modern and contemporary poets housed at the University of Pennsylvania.

He Caused a Poetry War in Poland

Piotr Sommer Is Added to PennSound

Piotr Sommer

Thanks to Phillip Barron, we now make available recordings of Piotr Sommer who read from Continued at the National Humanities Center in 2005--poems in Polish and his own translations in English. Sommer has been responsible for giving Polish readers access to Allen Ginsberg and Frank O'Hara.

Will Alexander on Rothko

Reads and Discusses a Poem

Will Alexander
Will Alexander

Will Alexander reads "Rothko" in 1993[ MP3]. And then he takes a minute to discuss that poem. (These sound files are part of a reading recorded in 1993, segmented for the first time today. These and more are available on Alexander's PennSound page.)

Mark Nowak

New PennSound Author Page

Mark Nowak
Mark Nowak

Today PennSound launched its newest author page — for recordings of Mark Nowak. Included here is an eighteen-minute reading from Coal Mountain Elementary — recorded at Mills College in 2009.

Gary Barwin

Comes to PennSound

Gary Barwin
Gary Barwin

Gary Barwin traveled from Hamilton, Ontario, to spend the day at the Writers House the other day. Gary is a poet, fiction writer, composer, and performer, whose many books of poetry include The Porcupinity of the Stars (newly published), Outside the Hat and Raising Eyebrows (all from Coach House), and whose music has been performed by, among other groups, The Vancouver Chamber Choir, The Bach-Elgar Choir, and by the Windtunnel Saxaphone Quartet. Along with Danny Snelson and Ammiel Alcalay, we recorded a session of PoemTalk on a poem by John Wieners. Then I induced Gary into an hour-long recording session for PennSound. And now, already, lo and behold, we have a new Gary Barwin author page at PennSound: here. I had first met Gary at Banff a year ago and enjoyed his company a great deal.

Gary is also the Serif of Nottingblog - which is to say, runs a blog going under that title. He blogs on average once every other day. I recommend it as a digital destination.

Gary is Jewish, and the family's path runs like this: Lithuania, South Africa, Ottawa. His Lithuanian family fled the holocaust. His great-uncle Isaak Grazutis is a holocaust survivor, and also, now, a painter. "In 1941, at the age of eleven, Isaak was forced to flee his native village in advance of Nazi occupation. After his parents were taken away by the invading forces, he was brought to live in an orphanage in Ural, and later, Moscow where he spent his formative years." Here is much more from Gary's blog. At right you see one of Isaak's oil paintings.

four new Creeley recordings

Thanks to the work of Henry Steinberg, we’ve just added four new recordings of Robert Creeley reading his poems: “The Dishonest Mailman,” “Please,” “After Lorca,” and “The Ballad of the Despairing Husband.” We’ve also included links to four YouTube video clips of the same reading.

Six Poets Each Teach a Poem to High-School Students

Video and Audio Recordings Avaiable

In May we hosted a visit by a class of high school students from Friends' Central School, a second annual gathering co-organized by me and Liza Ewen of the FCS English department. (Liza teaches an elective quarter-long course each spring on poetry.) I invited six poets each to teach a single poem in just 20 minutes. Rivka Fogel taught "This Room" by John Ashbery, a beautiful indirect memorial to Pierre Martory and non-narrative meditation on absence as presence. Sarah Dowling then came in and taught a section of "A Frame of the Book" by Erin Moure. Jessica Lowenthal then taught Harryette Mullen's "Trimmings." Randall Couch taught a very early poem by John Keats before revealing that it was Keats. John Timpane taught an Yvor Winters poem about the emotional complication of saying farewell to an adult child at an airport; Wintersean restraint and emotional distance abound here and strike one (strike me, at least) as a refreshing sort of illiberalism in an age of gobs of conventionally sentimental parent-child verse. Tom Devaney may have taken the pedagogical prize on this day, presenting William Carlos Williams' "The Last Words of My English Grandmother"--a seemingly easy poem for h.s. students to grasp. Yet it also does everything a modern poem does, and makes a remarkably good scene of instruction.

Each of the six 20-minute presentation is now being made available in PennSound as downloadable audio, streaming QuickTime video, and the texts of the poems are available as PDF's (digital copies of photocopies handed out to the students).

It's our hope that by presenting such materials, grouped together and well organized, PennSound will be useful to teachers and others looking for an introduction to poetry and poetics - and also to the phenomenon of the poet teaching poetry.

Here is your link to the PennSound page. It includes the six presentations from 2009 as well.

Charles Olson and the westwardness of everything

A new PoemTalk

Today we are releasing episode 34 of PoemTalk. In this one I and three PoemTalkers talk about one of Charles Olson's Maximus poems, "Maximus to Gloucester, letter 27 (withheld)." Go here for much more about the episode and link to the show itself. Below is a YouTube clip of Olson reading (over-reading?) the poem.

down the line from Williams and Pound


The Pennsylvania Current is now running a story about the legacy of poetry at Penn: "Penn’s rich poetry legacy," by Tanya Barrientos. It features a nice mention of the Kelly Writers House and of PennSound.

new recordings

My own PennSound page is being updated with recent recordings--interviews, introductions and discussions. Soon I hope to add the recording of the talk on Henry Rago and the Chicago Poetry scene 1955-60, delivered in Chicago in mid-April.

Wallace Stevens comes to PennSound

After months--several years--of digitizing, consulting, traveling, etc., we at PennSound are now ready to make available the recordings of Wallace Stevens reading his own poetry. We begin our new Stevens author page with two readings he gave at Harvard near the end of his life. Our friends at the Woodberry Poetry Room at Lamont Library (though organizationally Woodberry now is part of the Houghton Library system) have shared these with us. Peter Hanchak--only child of Holly Stevens who was the only child of Wallace and Elsie Stevens--has given us at PennSound permission to make available whatever Stevens recordings we can find. I'm personally very grateful to Peter, who clearly understands that PennSound is all about noncommercial, educational use. Thanks to Joan Richardson and John Serio who helped me work with Peter on this; and thanks to Christina Davis, new director at the Woodberry, and Don Share, former director there, for their help and advice as we've moved forward. It's our hope, of course, that the way Stevens is taught will at least somewhat change now that his own way of reading the poems is widely and freely available. Long live open access!

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