Clark Coolidge

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.

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 Mohammed’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.

Coolidge on Kerouac

Clark Coolidge's PennSound page is one I happily recommend. I think my favorite set of recordings there is from his March 2000 reading at the University of California at Santa Cruz, hosted by Peter Gizzi. Peter's introduction — also among the recordings — is itself a fine introduction to Coolidge's life and importance to contemporary poetics. After the reading Coolidge took a few questions. Someone asked about burn-out (a writer reaching the end of writing) and Coolidge responded by speaking of Kerouac's line, Where pain don't take you by surprise. Coolidge discusses Kerouac's line and Kerouac, and then he re-reads the poem in which Kerouac's idea occurs. The Coolidge-Kerouac connection is edifying. Here's the recording. And here is Coolidge's essay on Kerouac's sound or “babble flow,” which I ask my students to read. Here's a sampling of the babble flow: "Black black black black bling bling bling bling black black black black bling bling bling bling black black black black bling bling bling...." The essay was first published in the January/February 1995 issue of American Poetry Review.

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