Back in 1998, my employer, the University of Pennsylvania, created a mortgage incentive plan: the idea was and is to encourage Penn-affiliated families (staff and faculty) to choose to live in Penn's neighborhood rather than the Main Line or South Jersey. I had wanted my family to live in West Philly and this was just indeed the incentive I needed. I was the first Penn person to use the plan; probably that is why The Philadelphia Business Journal came out to the house to do a story on the program featuring my move. If one goal of this project was to induce faculty to be more present on campus and more involved in the life of the university's neighbors, I think it surely worked in my case. The main force behind this innovative program – and the mortgage incentive system was just one part of it — was Judy Rodin, then president of the university. In the fall of '06 I invited Judy back to Penn (she'd left to run the Rockefeller Foundation) to give a talk about the urban university. We recorded this talk, and I also produced a podcast about it.
In 2003 I corresponded with the cultural director of a Portuguese foundation. He responded to the possibility that my family's name is indeed Portuguese. I'm not sure what the origin of this family assumption is — perhaps it's been passed down to my father's older brother through his father or his brother who passed through western Europe on the way to Brooklyn twice in the 1910s and '20s (once before WW1 and once again after). Western Europe — France, we assume — where one of these Filreises made contact with French or Spanish/French Filreises and learned of the ancestral connection to Iberian peninsula. We put that "news" together with the clear sense that the families were part of a Sephardic community in Warsaw and have assumed that they were part of the exilic migration away from Spain to northeast Europe in the late 15th-century and early 16th. It is very difficult to track this but since Jewish families typically bred very closely within the Jewish community, there is probably a way of following the lineage. I haven't figure out how yet. I suppose first would be to find out definitely where the members of the Warsaw family were killed during the Holocaust; I'm 99% sure it was at Treblinka, the killing camp that destroyed Warsaw's Jews in 1942 and '43.
PENNsound includes a page that lists and links audio and video files of me conducting interviews, giving introductions, and teaching poetry. The page is here and includes links to audio and video of my interviews with Laurie Anderson, John Ashbery, Cid Corman, Robert Creeley, Donald Hall, June Jordan, Carl Rakosi, Adrienne Rich, Lyn Hejinian, Richard Sieburth, Steve Evans, and others. These are just the poetry-related interviews.