PoemTalk’s crew took to the road, wandering pretty much as far west as one can go on this continent, to a place Philip Whalen called, in a poem’s subtitle, “the last of California” — Bolinas, coastal spot famous as A congenial writer’s retreat. Stephen Ratcliffe, Joanne Kyger, and Julia Bloch gathered there with Al Filreis to talk about Whalen. Our poem was indeed written in Bolinas, in 1968, and finished in Kyoto in 1969. It’s called “Life at Bolinas: The Last of California.” Whalen’s PennSound page includes a recording of his performance of this poem.
LISTEN TO THE SHOW. Julia Bloch, Joseph Massey, and Michelle Gil-Montero joined Al Filreis to discuss four four-line poems by William Bronk. The four were selected from Bronk’s book Finding Losses, which was published by Elizabeth Press in 1976. The group seeks to describe Bronk’s strong rejection of the pathetic fallacy in a world unabettably bleak. That desolation will not be lessened by the writerly act of “compar[ing] trees to what it means to be human,” and these poems identify “an honest acknowledgement of how deep and challenging intimacy can be.” That challenge not only extends to poetry but is at the heart of it.
CAConrad returned to the Kelly Writers House on January 27, 2016, to visit the Wexler Studio to speak with Julia Bloch and to read from ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness, which appeared from Wave Books in 2014, as well as a number of new works generated from his ongoing performative and pedagogical practice of somatics and ecopoetics. CAConrad grew up in Pennsylvania and is the author of seven books, including ECODEVIANCE, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, The Book of Frank,and Advanced Elvis Course, all of which explore the place of poetry in social and political life. Eileen Myles wrote in 2010 in Jacket,“he’s the poet who always changes the room he enters. He’s poetry’s answer to relational aesthetics. Which is the movement camped out now at the center of the art world in which the audience becomes the inevitable workings of the piece.”
Conrad was a 2011 Pew Fellow and a 2015 Headlands Art Fellow, and has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, Banff, Ucross, and RADAR. He is currently living in Asheville, North Carolina. Conrad’s commitment to a poetic practice that can manifest change is legible as much on the page as it is in the actions and community workshops he leads around the country.
Maxe Crandall, Julia Bloch, and Sarah Dowling joined Al Filreis to talk about Gertrude Stein’s “How She Bowed to Her Brother.” It was written in late 1931. The text can be found in A Gertrude Stein Reader,edited by Ulla Dydo (564). On PennSound’s Gertrude Stein page, which has been edited and annotated by Dydo, one can hear a recording of Stein performing the first section of the three-section poem.
Gregory Djanikian is retiring at the end of this academic year from full-time work at Penn after many, many successful years as director of the Creative Writing program. Everyone who has worked with Greg will miss his generosity, patience, administrative ingenuity, his fine stewardship of the program, and his consistently superb teaching in poetry workshops. We won't have to miss him too terribly much, however, as he will be back each spring semester to teach a class.
Lyric, meaning "of or pertaining to the lyre," has a concertedly interdisciplinary origin rooted in its practice of bringing poetry together with music. As many critics—including those responding below—have shown, the lyric has had a long and complicated history, the term evoloving over the centuries to take on different valences, connotations, and even denotations. So what does lyric mean today and in our recent past? Does lyric retain in some way its relation to the lyre, pictured above in Henry Oliver Walker's Library of Congress mural Lyric Poetry (1896)? Where do we find lyric in modern and contemporary poetry? And what might the future of lyric look like? —Katie L. Price
Bernadette Mayer, Julia Bloch, and erica kaufman joined Al Filreis to discuss James Schuyler’s poem “February.” Schuyler read the poem at the Dia Art Foundation in New York on November 15, 1988. John Ashbery gave the introduction, emphasizing how reluctant Schuyler was to read in public. He noted: “As far as I know, this is the first public [reading] he has ever given.” One can tell from the tone of Ashbery’s remarks that he felt that he and the audience were in for a rare treat, a savoring for which years of waiting were worthwhile.
Julia Bloch, Dee Morris, and Annette Debo joined Al Filreis for this extended episode of PoemTalk, and their task — to give a sense of the whole of H.D.’s lyric epic Helen in Egypt through a discussion of five selected small parts — certainly pushed at the limit of PoemTalk’s scope and mode.
From left to right: erica kaufman, Julia Bloch, Bernadette Mayer, and Philip Good — at the Kelly Writers House, October 21, 2014, on a day when Mayer participated in a live webcast conversation with participants in the free, open online course called ModPo, recorded a session of PoemTalk on “February” by James Schuyler, and gave a reading with Philip Good. The recording of the webcast discussion is available here. The recording of the Mayer/Good reading is available here. The events are fully described here.