PoemTalk

Trained listener (PoemTalk #35)

Bruce Andrews, "Center"

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The range of Bruce Andrews’s work is fairly well represented by the recordings available on his PennSound page. The earliest recorded reading we have dates from late 1977, the most recent (as of this writing) is from 2008. Generally it is true that PoemTalk’s format – the choice of a single short poem for which a recording exists – will tend to misrepresent the whole of the poet’s work. Fortunately it’s not the aim of PoemTalk to represent the whole, but to have a good and earnest listen and look at the single instance along the way, Having done this 35 times in this series, we find, mostly to our surprise, that tenable general statements of a poet’s mode and aesthetic disposition do come through the back door of low conceptual expectations. Surely that’s what happened here, when Tan Lin, Chris Funkhouser, Sarah Dowling and Al Filreis took on a single poem from Andrews’ sequence called Moebius. Moebius was written in the late 1970s but not published until 1993, when a chapbook appeared from the Generator Press in Ohio. On November 10, 1977 Andrews came to the Ear Inn in New York, performed at a reading alongside Ray DiPalma and Michael Lally, and gave us fine readings of many of the Moebius poems, including “Center,” which is the piece we discuss in PT35.

First we found something we took to be unusual in Andrews: the emphasis on distancing goes along with a tone of softness and wistfulness (as Sarah suggests), perhaps even vulnerability notwithstanding the aggressive idiom (“I make the rules here”). But soon we sensed we were seeing the Bruce Andrews we would know from later works. Naturally one asks if the speaker of these masculine phrases--all this deliberate 70s guy talk--is an individual, a single subject. No, Tan Lin suggests, the poem’s phrases comprise not those of an individual speaker but identify the language production we associate with a particular kind of speaker. So the poem is a meta-statement on how language is generated and that, in turn, constructs a kind of identity, although that identity is never really offered. As Chris points out, the poem feels like an aggressive encroachment on the white space of the page. The poem, spiraling down the page, forces one to think of a moebius shape which claims centrality (has a center but yet doesn’t quite). Such a claim, because of the moebius, will seem repeatedly arbitrary, and so does the normative standard for the discernment, by socio-linguistic cues, of a fixable speaking identity, and so that (the emptiness of that effort) is your center. (Which is to say: what center? why are you looking here for one?)

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.

we talk flarf

Nada Gordon, Kenny Goldsmith and Steve McLaughlin join me for the 33rd episode of PoemTalk, released today.

the 32nd PoemTalk

From left to right: Marcella Durand, Jessica Lowenthal, Jennifer Scappettone. They're in my office at the Writers House, having just finished discussing Susan Howe's reading of Emily Dickinson's "My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun." It's the 32nd episode of the PoemTalk podcast. Please have a listen.

25 minutes talking about sentences

Today we are releasing episode 31 of the PoemTalk series. This one is a discussion of Robert Grenier's Sentences. Jena Osman, Bob Perelman and Joseph Yearous-Algozin joined me. I can't remember a more challenging project: to talk about this box of 500 poem-cards in 25 minutes?

going around on Moebius

Chris Funkhouser, Sarah Dowling and Tan Lin joined me yesterday at the Writers House to talk about a Bruce Andrews poem - "Center" from Moebius. This PoemTalk session will be released a few months from now.

January's favorite PoemTalks

Not including the most recent PoemTalk episode on Robert Duncan, below are the 18 most often listened-to episoNot including the most recent PoemTalk episode on Robert Duncan, below are the 18 most often listened-to episodes in the last month. Creeley seems to be in the lead every month lately. The Duncan show had by far the most listenings this month, but that's mostly because we widely announced its availability during this period; and it's still prominently featured on the front page of the Poetry Foundation site. We'll see where it fits next month. Is this of real interest? value? Not really. Such stats are subject to the vagaries of web site and blog cross-linking.

1. Robert Creeley
2. Adrienne Rich
3. William Carlos Williams
4. Wallace Stevens
5. Ezra Pound
6. Vachel Lindsay
7. Allen Ginsberg sings William Blake
8. Barbara Guest
9. Louis Zukofsky
10. Amiri Baraka
11. Alice Notley
12. John Ashbery
13. Ted Berrigan
14. Jaap Blonk
15. Gertrude Stein
16. George Oppen
17. Charles Bernstein
18. Lyn Hejinian

PoemTalk update

Who's counting? Well, but...Who's counting? Well, but... Here are the most often listened-to PoemTalk episodes in the last two weeks: 1) W. C. Williams, 2) Robert Creeley, 3) Wallace Stevens, 4) Jaap Blonk, 5) Cid Corman, 6) Allen Ginsberg singing Blake, 7) Amiri Baraka, 8) Ezra Pound, 9) Barbara Guest. I'm not counting the new Vachel Lindsay show; it received the largest number of hits but was just released, so its traffic resulted in folks responding to a widespread announcement. We'll see next month if people are still listening to the Lindsay. I certainly hope so.

Bengali poetry/electro-magnetics guy

The Cincinnati-based engineer Aryanil Mukherjee has built a web site featuring translations of Bengali poetry. Aryanil listened to the recent PoemTalk episode on Zukofsky and responded as someone knowledgeable about electro-magnetics. Word from PennSound's Managing Editor Mike Hennessey is that we will soon have a Aryanil Mukherjee author page (readings of translations). So stay tuned.

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