Clark Coolidge

Crowdsourced close reading: Four members of the ModPo community discuss Clark Coolidge's (and Charlie Parker's) 'Blues for Alice'

Anika Lani and Raymond Maxwell during the November 1, 2015 discussion for ModPo

One of many collaborations you’ll find in ModPo’s collection of crowdsourced close readings: Raymond Maxwell, Colleen Knight, Anika Lani, and Mark Snyder meet by GoogleHangout to discuss Clark Coolidge’s “Blues for Alice” (in the context of Charlie Parker and more): link to YouTube. (Note that the discussion starts at 5:35.) If you are enrolled in ModPo (free; enroll here), go to the ModPo CCCR (“Community Crowdsourced Close Readings”) syllabus here.

'Reading List' 2016

 

I was asked to write this piece in late December for the January issue of the Harriet blog The Reading Lista feature of Poetry magazine’s Editors’ Bloga

'It felt like many lifetimes'

The last issue of Angel Hair

Angel Hair 6, cover art by George Schneeman

“Only three years had passed,” Lewis Warsh writes of publishing the journal Angel Hair, “but it felt like many lifetimes.” By 1969, when the last issue of Angel Hair appeared, Warsh and Waldman had begun publishing books--mainly because many of their poet friends needed publishers for their book-length collections, but also because The World, a new magazine published by the Poetry Project, was covering much of the same ground as Angel Hair. “I also felt,” Warsh says, “that we had made our point in trying to define a poetry community without coastal boundaries--a community based on a feeling of connectedness that transcended small aesthetic differences, all the usual traps that contribute to a blinkered pony vision of the world.” 

Poetic protocols

An interview with Craig Dworkin

Craig Dworkin (left) and James LaMarre (right).

Note: Craig Dworkin, author of Parse (Atelos, 2008), No Medium (MIT Press, 2013), and founding senior editor of Eclipse sat down with me on July 21, 2015 for a conversation in Salt Lake City as part of the one on one podcast series.

Clark Coolidge's cave art

Clark Coolidge, “Knox Cave: Sketch-Map By Clark Coolidge (NSS 1294)” [click for larger image], June 1956. Image courtesy of Clark Coolidge and 'The Northeastern Caver.'

Face an inch from the earth, fingers
ground down clenched into it.
Crawling, try to push the
earth off me so I can stand
away from it.
— Clark Coolidge and Philip Guston, Baffling Means

Whelm lessons (PoemTalk #60)

Clark Coolidge, "Blues for Alice"

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Brian Reed (in from Seattle), Maria Damon (Minnesota), and Craig Dworkin (Utah) joined Al Filreis at the Writers House (Philadelphia) in a rare and — we think — rather fluid convergence of poetic minds prepped to figure out how to talk about an instance of verse bebop. The bop was Charlie Parker’s, as a model for languaged sound (by poet Clark Coolidge), and the template song was “Blues for Alice” (Coolidge’s poem uses the title), and among the possible Alices are Alice Coltrane, Alice Notley, and Alice in Wonderland.

Whelm lessons (PoemTalk #60)

Clark Coolidge, 'Blues for Alice'

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Brian Reed (in from Seattle), Maria Damon (Minnesota), and Craig Dworkin (Utah) joined Al Filreis at the Writers House (Philadelphia) in a rare and — we think — rather fluid convergence of poetic minds prepped to figure out how to talk about an instance of verse bebop. The bop was Charlie Parker’s, as a model for languaged sound (by poet Clark Coolidge), and the template song was “Blues for Alice” (Coolidge’s poem uses the title), and among the possible Alices are Alice Coltrane, Alice Notley, and Alice in Wonderland. We speculate about Alice Coltrane and Alice in Wonderland, but as for Notley: Brian Reed finds evidence that Coolidge meant to dedicate his poem version of the standard bop dedication indeed to Notley. This leads Maria Damon to wonder about all these women dedicatees – these recipients or objects of blues syllabics — in light of such strong male performative struggles, or attempts to “get in on the try,” managed by creative men: Coolidge and Parker, or course, but perhaps Ted Berrigan too, and surely also Jack Kerouac, whose bop-inspired babble flow is very much part of the PoemTalk conversation. The key source for Coolidge’s working out of Kerouac is his important 1995 article published in American Poetry Review on Kerouac’s babble flow and his improvisation generally.

Crystal gazing

Clark Coolidge's 'Crystal Text'

Clark Coolidge photo by Celia Coolidge.

“That mind artifact is mutable, thank the lord” — Clark Coolidge[1]

A few facts about crystals:

Once only mined (mind), most quartz crystal now is grown.

Quartz is the most common mineral on Earth.

Many crystals are piezoelectric: they emit a (thin) electric charge under pressure.

Crystals rotate the plane of polarized light.

Editorial selections from 'Combo'

Combo no. 4 detail

Culminating in an all-Flarf twelfth issue, Combo is known to have been the first print publication to gather a full collection of Flarf poems. Published in the same year as K. Silem Mohammad’s Deer Head Nation (poems from which were also first published in Combo) the magazine stands as the original print vehicle for the listserv-generated poetry movement. Magee’s Flarf manifesto “Mainstream Poetry” is first published here, and the editor’s and contributor’s notes are ideally suited to the collection (see Combo no. 12). As Jordan Davis writes in his 2004 Village Voice article “O, You Cosh-Boned Posers!”:

Magee's small-press magazine Combo broke the flarf story first, in early 2003. A significant finding in that issue, currently required reading for Charles Bernstein’s literature students at the University of Pennsylvania, is that Google searches on the phrase "aw yeah" yield more socially acceptable results as the number of w's in "aw" increases.

Complete works

Image by Noah Saterstrom

This playlist includes recordings of authors reading the entirety of a book or chapbook. I find that longer recordings allow me to become immersed in the textures of the work, to register the ambient sonic environment, and to perceive other small shifts and variations within and between pieces. I sometimes listen to one long recording that allows me to settle into a particular mode of listening and then follow it by listening to another recording that suggests another form of attention. I like the feeling of becoming engrossed and hypnotized by a recording and then using another recording to snap myself out of the experience so that I can see the initial recording with more critical distance.

While listening to the following recordings over the last few weeks, I was reminded of Christine Hume’s review/essay “Carla Harryman’s Baby: Listening In, Around, Through, and Out” published in How2.

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