J. C. Cloutier, Michelle Taransky, and Clark Coolidge joined Al Filreis to talk about Jack Kerouac’s Old Angel Midnight, a sprawling work of prose poetry consuming forty pages of the Library of America Kerouac: Collected Poems. A recording of Kerouac performing the first page is available here. His model was Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Up late in the Low East Side, he listened for sounds coming through a tenement window from the court below and made words of them. Such making is the plot of the book. The effort sometimes results in what Clark Coolidge has called “babble flow.” Old Angel Midnight is an interlinguistic record of voices augmented by “neologisms, mental associations, puns and wordmixes” and “nonlanguages.”
Laynie Browne, Rodrigo Toscano, and Michelle Taransky joined Al Filreis to talk about Robert Fitterman’s Sprawl, where (as K. Silem Mohammad once observed) “the mall hasn’t been this scary since Dawn of the Dead.” It’s Dantesque, notes Rodrigo in this conversation. The arrangement of the parts wants its readers to be lost, says Laynie, exactly as mall developers and architects encourage consumer misdirection and dislocation.
In “Book Reviews: A Tortured History,” published in The Atlantic in April 2012, Sarah Fay outlines a modern history of book review culture in which the primary question, as it tends to be today, is whether overly glowing book reviews or completely damning ones are ever productive ways to become aware of or understand literature.
What constitutes conceptual writing is still up for debate. For more than a decade, poets and critics have been claiming, reclaiming, or disclaiming the territory of conceptual writing. Who's in? Who's out? What are its limits? Isn't all writing somewhat conceptual? Or, conversely, doesn't the very act of writing preclude any kind of pure conceptuality? But in all the back and forth, two facts remain firm. One, that conceptual writing — however we define that term — has come to represent a new avant-garde in poetry and poetics. And two, that the term conceptual writing alludes to Conceptual art. Now that we're at least eight minutes in to conceptual writing’s fifteen minutes of fame, it’s time to query that relationship. Is poetry just 50 years behind the art world? Or are so-called conceptual writers up to something else? — Katie L. Price
On March 17, 2014, Julia Bloch hosted a conversation about the relevance of the Beats in contemporary poetry, with Frank Sherlock, Michelle Taransky, Maria Raha, Chris McCreary, and Thomas Devaney. The session was webcast live, and was tweeted with the #PhillyBEATS hashtag. The video recording is available here, and the audio recording of the session is available here.
In October of 2000, Lisa Robertson presented along with Steve McCaffery at the seventeenth episode of PhillyTalks. She read from a then-new work, The Weather, just a few months before the book’s publication by New Star in Vancouver (2001). Here are the segments from that 2000 reading: “Monday” (2:10): MP3; “Tuesday” (7:06): MP3; “Wednesday” (2:14): MP3; “Thursday” (6:38): MP3; “Friday” (9:16): MP3; “Saturday” (4:02): MP3. The book-length project, organized as such by days of a/the/every week, was in part stimulated by the poet-researcher’s experience during a six-month Judith E. Wilson Visiting Fellowship at Cambridge University: as a non-local, she found herself listening to late-night weather and shipping reports on the British radio, discerning there and elsewhere a specifically localized language that seemed abstract and was yet radically precise.
Poets Sarah Dowling (until recently of Philadelphia; now of Seattle; originally of Regina, Saskatchewan) and Michelle Taransky (of Philadelphia; originally of Camden, New Jersey) used Google Hangout to visit my William Carlos Williams class last month to talk about their relationship to WCW, modernism, and Spring and All.