Obsidian Blues, to quote Herman Beavers quoting Ralph Angel, is itself “a still life and a way to get home again.” The poems in this powerful collection often present still lives of stilled lives. The speaker can see “Apples. / The way the light / betrays them” in a poem,“Obsidian Blues 43,” about a guitarist whose stringy wail (“strings judding like a systolic ghost swaggering”) sings a song of variation that reqpeatedly requires renaming. One such tentative title is “Still Life with Guitar and Heartstrike”; another is “Landscape with Skull and Banjo.”
On September 9, 2017, at the Kelly Writers House, Herman Beavers read poems from his new book, Obsidian Blues. HERE is a link to the video recording of the event, and HERE is a link to the audio-only recording.
Editorial note: The following conversation has been adapted from an episode of PoemTalk recorded in 2016 at the Wexler Studio in the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia. The episode features Al Filreis, Yolanda Wisher, Charles Bernstein, and Patricia Spears Jones discussing Akilah Oliver’s poem “is you is or is you ain’t” from Oliver’s collection the she said dialogues: flesh memory (Smoke Proof/Erudite Fangs, 1999).
Ross Gay, Josephine Park, and Herman Beavers joined Al Filreis to talk about Patrick Rosal’s “Instance of an Island.” The poem was collected in Rosal’s book Brooklyn Antediluvian (Persea, 2016). Our recording of Rosal performing the poem comes from a Wexler Studio reading done at the Kelly Writers House in March of 2016, just weeks before the book was published. This episode of PoemTalk, number 112 in our ongoing podcast series, is being made available in two versions — the usual audio, downloadable from this Jacket2 page, through iTunes, and on the Poetry Foundation site; and an uncut video recording (see below).
On April 12, 2016, Charles Bernstein gave a reading from his new-new book Pitch of Poetry at the Kelly Writers House. I gave the introduction. Earlier I published a version of that introduction here in my Jacket2 commentary series, titling it “Clumsy, erroneous, freakish, foreign.” Now, thanks to the video editing of Dylan Leahy of the PennSound staff, I am able to make available at video recording, below. And below that is a second video clip from the Pitch event — Bernstein's finale: a selection from the aphorisms that appear toward the end of the book.
Michael Hennessey, one of the founding participants of the PennSound archive, and now its editor, stopped by the Wexler Studio of the Kelly Writers House a few months back. He and Al Filreis played and discussed five recordings Mike chose from among the tens of thousands of recordings available in the archive: Bernadette Mayer, “Chocolate Poetry Sonnet”: LINK; Allen Ginsberg, “After Lalon”: LINK; Lew Welch, “A Round of English”: LINK; Harryette Mullen, “Sleeping with the Dictionary”: LINK; and Tuli Kupferberg, “The Hidden Dissuaders”: LINK.
A short talk I gave at Banff, Alberta — at the Centre for the Arts there — in February 2010 was later published by No Press in Calgary, edited and typeset by Derek Beaulieu (a poet, teacher, and Poet Laureate of Calgary 2014-16). I’m grateful to Derek for having made this beautiful chapbook available. I was asked to prepare something of a manifesto for the final panel of the several-day conference called “In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge.”
Click on the images of the chapbook pages below to see larger scans.
To celebrate the one hundredth episode of PoemTalk — the series began in 2007 and is ongoing — producer and host Al Filreis convened seven poet-critics who had participated in previous episodes: Herman Beavers, Maria Damon, William J. Harris, erica kaufman, Tracie Morris, Steve McLaughlin, and Charles Bernstein. These seven were asked to listen again to the series and choose two episodes that in particular stimulated new thinking or the desire to revise, restate, reaffirm, assess, and/or commend.
Eileen Myles’s recent visit to the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia as a Kelly Writers House Fellow featured, among other public events, an interview-conversation moderated by me. The video recording of the one-hour conversation, which was live-streamed as a webcast, is now available here. Generally these were the works covered in the discussion: Inferno, The Importance of Being Iceland, Chelsea Girls, the essay “Foam,” and some of the poems gathered for I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems. The session concluded with Myles's reading a passage in Inferno in which she contemplates her return to Harvard to give a reading, a dislocated homecoming that leads to painful memories of what Harvard's complaints about her father's drinking signified.
On September 10, 2015, Jerome Rothenberg re-visited the Kelly Writers House to give an evening reading. A few hours earlier, Ariel Resnikoff and Al Filreis met Rothenberg in the Wexler Studio for an extended interview/conversation that ranged across many epochs, poetic modes, and topics.