Among the last things Wallace Stevens wrote was a metapoem, a poem in which a man — a reader and presumably a poet too — does not write a poem but picks his way among the aspects of an old poem, the poem that had once helped him by standing in for a mountain. He composes (or rather “recompos[s]”) the objects and perspectives of the way or path up the mountain. It had been a “direction.” Was it now again?
PennSound’s partnership with our colleagues at the Beinecke Library has led to the wide availability of recordings made many years ago by Lee Anderson. Today we introduce our PennSound/Beinecke page within the PennSound web archive. Many thanks, once again, to Nancy Kuhl at Yale.
Some years ago, while reading around in the Poetry magazine archive in the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, I ran into a stack of letters to and from Lee Anderson. Anderson had just made an arrangement to present his archive of reels of audiotape to the Beinecke Library of Yale University. He would deliver recordings he'd made of poets to that date, and then would continue to record and deposit subsequent reels later. I took a mental note, but then forgot all about the project. Then, later, came PennSound; we began of course to collect and borrow recordings to add to the quickly growing online archive. More years went by. Last year I was back at the Regenstein, as it happens, giving a talk on Henry Rago at a conference there, and met the poet-archivist Nancy Kuhl, another of the presenters. Nancy is one of the head librarians at the Beinecke; we talked; then the fact of Lee Anderson's recordings came back to me. I asked Nancy about them, and, as it happens, she'd already started the process of digitizing a few of the old reels. Were we interested in perhaps requesting some as a priority? Yes.
Nancy Kuhl and her colleagues at the Beinecke Library, Yale University, have been discussing with us at PennSound for many months the treasure trove of recordings that Lee Anderson had made and collected and eventually donated to Yale. First the Beinecke folks have begun to preserve the recordings by transferring them from old media to digital files. Then, happily, through a pilot project with PennSound, we are together making a selection of them available for everyone. The first of these readings is was given by Robert Duncan and recorded in 1952. Today for the first time, PennSound and the Beinecke together make available segmented files of 12 poems Duncan read that day. Here is your link to PennSound's Duncan page and this new recording.