Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Theorizing the alphabet

On Steve McCaffery's 'Nichol's Graphic Cratylism'

Whenever Steve McCaffery talks, he opens areas of and occasions for research into poetry and poetics. Here he enters simultaneously into the career of bpNichol (his sometime collaborator until Nichol’s untimely and tragic death in 1988) and into the fraught question of the origins of written language. Nichol, a prodigiously creative poet and performer, original and boundless, seems to have cultivated a wild and naïve persona, and a casual, open-hearted approach to his multifarious creative occasions. 

Metaphor is the return of the repressed 4

Howling holy hell

Tetragrammaton

“… that which is sacrificed (the lamb, the deer, the ram, the boy, the girl, the body) and that to which it is sacrificed (the prima causa, but of course if it needs sacrifice to function then isn’t the sacrifice itself the prima causa?) call out to each other with images of flora and fauna…”

In his element

A review of 'The Astonishment Tapes'

Photo of Robin Blaser (left) courtesy of the Electronic Poetry Center.

Robin Blaser is in his element in these monologues in interview format — personable, pedagogic, and himself a “high-energy construct,” to not-quite-cite Charles Olson. By virtue of this book, the reader experiences Blaser as a unique force field of magnetic knowledge and charismatic charm. He is at home among the poets, themselves practitioners and friends, meeting in 1974 at someone’s house in Vancouver.

Stein's wedding cake

Rachel Blau DuPlessis with the Italian edition of Stein's 'Tender Buttons,' published by Liberilibri in Macerata in 1989 and 2006, translated by Marina Morbiducci and Edward G. Lynch, with an introduction by Nadia Fusini.

How can Stein’s Tender Buttons be one hundred years old? We are still eating the buttercream frosting and rosebuds from that three-tiered cake: “Objects,” “Food,” “Rooms.”

Poets at the house

Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Joey Yearous-Algozin, and Frank Sherlock — at the Kelly Writers House just prior to a reading given by Yearous-Algozin and Trisha Low on

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  • Fierce storehouses of articulation (PoemTalk #69)

    Rachel Blau DuPlessis, sections 16 & 29 of 'Draft 85: Hard Copy'

    Mary Oppen, George Oppen, Rachel Blau DuPlessis sitting on the deck of the DuPlessis house, 211 Rutgers Avenue, Swarthmore, PA, in 1979. Taken by Robert S. DuPlessis.

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    In a special long episode of PoemTalk, Ron Silliman, Jessica Lowenthal, Randall Couch and PoemTalk’s producer and host Al Filreis gathered to discuss two sections of “Draft 85: Hard Copy,” which is the 85th “draft” or canto in Rachel Blau DuPlessis's ongoing long poem Drafts.  “Draft 85” is itself a long poem, running from pages 42 to 71 in the book Pitch: Drafts 77-95This big draft was written between February and May of 2007. All forty sections of “Draft 85” were recorded by the poet for PennSound, in our studios, in October of 2007. We decided to focus on two of those forty sections — sections 16 and 29. The forty sections of “Draft 85” are mapped onto George Oppen’s important long poem, Of Being Numerous, a typescript copy of which Oppen in 1965 had sent to Du Plessis, and to which she responded then, and has, in a sense, been responding here and there since, although never more fully than here in “Hard Copy.”

    Silliman on the long poems of Zukofsky and DuPlessis

    Ron Silliman talks for six minutes about Louis Zukofsky's “A“ as a useful counterpoint to Rachel Blau DuPlessis's Drafts and the crisis of the long poem that is at the heart of its composition: MP3 audio.  Here is a link to the complete talk by Silliman. It was presented as part of a celebration of the poetry and criticism of DuPlessis held at Temple University in 2011.

    Girl head mostly eyes (PoemTalk #67)

    Catherine Wagner, 'This Is a Fucking Poem'

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    Rae Armantrout, Laura Elrick, and Rachel Blau DuPlessis joined PoemTalk’s producer and host Al Filreis to talk about Catherine Wagner’s “This Is a Fucking Poem.” The text of the poem is most readily available in Wagner’s book My New Job (Fence Books, 2011). It was previously collected in a chapbook, Hole in the Ground, published by Slack Buddha Press of Oxford, Ohio, in 2008 (5 1/2" x 8 1/2", 28 pages). The Hole in the Ground poems form a sequence, even beginning with a poem setting out “The Argument.”

    The day pours out space (PoemTalk #65)

    Lisa Robertson, 'The Weather' ('Monday')

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    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.<--break- />

    Frost's poetics and the mending wall

    A debate continues

    Screenshot of the ModPo "Mending Wall" live webcast, October 11, 2012. From left to right: Taije Silverman, John Timpane, Al Filreis (moderator), Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Bob Perelman.

    One October 11, 2012, I hosted a debate on Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” Well, not quite a debate, but I knew that I, sitting in the middle of four poets, would be on the fence, as it were, with two on a side.  The live webcast, hosted by the Kelly Writers House, was associated with the 36,000-person free online course "ModPo," and was viewed synchronously by dozens in the room with us and thousands watching digitally around the world. We made a recording immediately afterward, and have posted it to YouTube here (1 hour, 9 minutes). (And here is a recording of Frost performing the poem. We began our discussion by listening to it; the performance is certainly important to at least the beginning of the debate.)

    The differences between the sides, two versus two, didn't really emerge until the end of a fascinating discussion, but they did indeed emerge, Rachel Blau DuPlessis first finally expressing concerns about the attitude of the poem’s speaker, then Bob Perelman joining the view, pointedly. To be sure, all four poets — Bob, Rachel, and John Timpane and Taije Silverman — spent much of the time assembling a full close formal (and meta-poetic) reading of the poem. Its thematics — and politics — derived, as is apt, from the poem's quality as itself an instance in form of the speaker's impulse to have and also to keep apart from the stilled human object of his beautiful but empty annual cultural rite. Later John Timpane thought some more about his own position on the poem’s speaker; I'm pleased that he has given me permission to publish his statement here.

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