Writers House Fellows

Marjorie Perloff's talk on the exhibition context for Duchamp's 'Fountain'

Marjorie Perloff visited the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia for most of four days this week – as a Kelly Writers House Fellow. For three hours on Monday, she met with 21 undergraduates in the so-called Writers House Fellows Seminar; they had read and discussed her writings for the previous five weeks. That evening – April 25, 2011 – she gave a 55-minute talk that, in part, offered the full context for Marcel Duchamp's attempt to exhibit his pseudonymous readymade, "Fountain" (1917). 

Robert Coover

Is experimental writing dangerous?

I ask Robert Coover if experimental writing is dangerous and necessary.

Asking Creeley about Williams

Robert Creeley as a Kelly Writers House Fellow, 2000

Interview and discussion in April 2000:

FILREIS:
Now back to Williams, your initial response to Williams—-according to something you said at Camden in December [1999]-—was that what mattered to you in reading Williams, particularly The Wedge, was that the work was driven by anger. This is what, at least, Ron Silliman posted to the Buffalo poetics listserv afterwards. And then he went on to comment at how Williams had a huge impact on him as well, but it was a very different Williams. So, if anger is not quite operating as much, what’s your Williams now? How does Williams animate you now?

CREELEY:
Back to Ron’s point, that that wasn’t the Williams he read, he reads the later Williams.

FILREIS:
The Desert Music.

CREELEY:
Yeah. Which is not an unangry poem, so to speak. But it certainly isn’t nearly as angry as the poems he was writing in the thirties or twenties. Spring and All, for example. Or the "Descent of Winter," or "March First." Many of the early poems are really angry, and their emotional base is their revulsion and anger at the world he finds around him.

FILREIS:
So, now when you look back at Williams, how does it feel?

CREELEY:
Well, it feels very much like my own life. I, when young, felt a dismay, let’s put it, that such things as the Holocaust or the Second World War or the depression or many other factors in one’s real life, that these could be so unremarkable to the body politic, that it seemed not to matter.

Tony Kushner, 2001

As a Writers House Fellow

Tony Kushner, near the beginning of our interview/discussion in the spring of 2001 when he visited as a Writers House Fellow: "To return all of the outrageous compliments, I've really been impressed with the faculty and students I've

Creeley on prosody and pacing

Back in 2000 I interviewed Robert Creeley in front of a live audience of 80 people or so at the Writers House. The recording (video and audio both) of the interview have long been available, but recently Michael Nardone has begun to draft a transcription. Note that it's not by any means finalized yet. Toward the beginning of the discussion Creeley brought out a small laptop which had loaded in it a software program called "Libretto." It was a primitive version of the much better voice transcription programs or voice recognition programs now available. In this early version a rudimentary avatar would speak a piece of text fed into it. Creeley was experimenting with prosody and wanted to dehumanize (for instance) the ballad stanza, to hear the words performed without subjectivity--as a machine would sound them. In this part of the transcript we find Creeley struggling a bit with the machine. Once it works, we hear the ballad (but it is by now unrecognizable so we've left out the verse itself in the transcript) and then Creeley discusses. (Here is a link to the audio segment transcribed.)

CREELEY:
It will come. I still have to get the appropriate file. I just took two verses from actually a very — it doesn’t use the syncopation quite at all very much, but I am also interested in pacing, what the intervals apparent are. Again, as I say this voice is in no way expressive or interpretive. I was visiting in a pleasant school, masters school, in just Dobb’s Ferry in New York and one pleasant teacher there, a Chinese-American, said “Sounds just like my uncle.” So here we go.

Wait a minute.

Speak.

COMPUTER MONOLOGUE READS:
[INAUDIBLE]

CREELEY:
Wait a minute I’m sorry. Let’s start again.

FILREIS:
In the room, if Aaron does some—-

CREELEY:
Let me just stop this. Abort.

I haven’t got the speaker turned on.

I’m an old man. I’m totally confused.

FILREIS:
He’s an old man with a libretto playing a voice synthesizer.

CREELEY:
Be that as it may.

David Milch visits

A series of dreams

David Milch was visiting us from Sunday morning through yesterday. An extraordinary experience, at every turn. Spellbindingly smart. The guy is both brilliant and supremely funny. Every story (about himself) he tells is both far-fetched and true, and the combination slays me.

I'd felt that I'd known him already from all those years of intense watching, starting of course with Hill Street Blues. HSB provided me, during the dimmest years of graduate school, an alternative universe on Thursday nights at 10; yet getting to know him in person now was nonetheless an adventure. What I hadn't yet realized about Milch was the extent of his generosity--a better word is an old one, charity. He had every reason to be distracted (pilot of the new show, Luck, is currently filming back in LA) but he focused on every person (and there were many, and they were various in kind) who came his way in our quite open space. He refused to take our honorarium, directing it instead to a campership program set up in the town (Arcadia, CA) where Luck is being filmed. He was still his hilariously acerbic self but he also had a kind word, a real ear, for everyone he met--and this was, in the course of days, many dozens.

On Monday evening he read the first 20 pages or so of the script for the Luck pilot. On Tuesday morning (yesterday) I interviewed him. Both these sessions are already available as audio recordings (mp3) and in video (streaming). All four files are linked here.

Anyone interested in my top four moments in all of Milch's TV-making? Probably not. But it's my blog and here they are:

4. Sipowicz has hidden his prostate problem from Sylvia and so she believes their not having had "relations" in a while was caused by the revelation of her traumatic experience with rape years earlier. She lovingly tells Andy that they are going to grow old together and their bodies will be what they will be, and that they should talk about it.

3. Mick Belker, in tears, standing in Frank Furillo's office doorway, saying he's 36 years old and can't afford to take care of his father.

2. Merrick reads aloud to the camp elders the contents of the simply and beautifully written letter Seth Bullock has composed to memorialize the life of a simple Cornish nobody who's been killed by Hearst.

1. The first 5 minutes of the final episode (#10) of John from Cincinnati. John and Shaunie reappear - surfing in from the far-off oceans, while all the characters in various places waken from a shared dream. The whole thing is covered (and unified) by Dylan's "Series of Dreams."

democracy and lists


Recently I listened again to my conversation with Ian (Sandy) Frazier, recorded in 2006. Now we've segmented this audio recording into topical segments. Go here here and listen to portions of the discussion on populism, Francis Parkman, the connection between democracy and the writing of lists, on the idea of an "open-hearted" American place.

are people getting better? Laurie Anderson tells us

When Laurie Anderson spent two days with us at the Writers House in 2003, I interviewed her and moderated her discussion with others. This morning we release the segmented edition of the audio recording of that session, dividing the whole into topical parts. Here is the list of topical segments, and here is the link to our Anderson Writers House Fellows page, where you can also find links to video recordings of Laurie's performance and also of the discussion session (in RealVideo format).

1. introduction by Al Filreis (3:19)
2. on the Nerve Bible and the body (4:06)
3. on the autobiographical nature of the Nerve Bible (1:57)
4. on time and responsibility (4:34)
5. on ending but not concluding performances (2:28)
6. on performing Statue of Liberty at the 2001 Town Hall performance (8:20)
7. on starting out as an artist and being in a commune (7:49)
8. on technology and media (8:57)
9. on Puppet Motel (2:52)
10. Anderson's favorite contemporary poets (6:37)
11. on the impossibility of technology being sensually subtle (6:27)
12. on Melville's bible and Songs and Stories from Moby Dick (8:33)
13. on whether or not people are getting better (3:51)

Susan Howe last night & this morning

This morning I interviewed and moderated a discussion with Susan Howe, and last night Susan read her work, including the opening pages of Melville's Marginalia, sections of The Midnight, and the poems in a series called "118 Westerly Terrace" (the address of Wallace Stevens's home). Click here for links to audio and video recordings of both events.

Susan Sontag, in the same zone

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