Our poem is Kit Robinson’s “Return on Word,” collected in Robinson’s 2002 book, The Crave, which was published by Lyn Hejinian and Travis Ortiz at Atelos Press.
Rae Armantrout was in from San Diego and joined Linh Dinh, Tom Devaney and host Al Filreis for our conversation this time. At turns the group interprets the poem as a satirization of the referentially super-confident language of marking; as a critique of Language poetry (an aesthetic gathering with which Robinson has long been identified); as an expression of skepticism about the monetization and militarization of American rhetoric. Linh wishes Robinson had pushed the poem’s anti-marketing tendencies a bit further. Rae, who is a fan of Mad Men and herself knows a thing or two about poetically torquing flattened idiomatic speech, admires the way “all we need is a few good words” plays upon military linguistic merchandizing. Tom is positively devastated by the notion that thought might take “a contract out on” words.
Finally, the group agreed that the poem is about words’ value, seen through the dystopia of their devaluation at the hands of economic sectors in which referential certainty is guaranteed to get carried away – in which a good (profitable) year is anticipated by, maybe even determined by, the right people in the room thinking up just the right dead language for the moment.
If we look in the direction
these words will have to do adding to the enormous burden of words
The entire concept is entirely too conceptual all we need is a few good words
Anybody can relate to to declare an identity no one can take away
But which ones a handful of interest several people in a room
For several hours couldn’t come up with the point is to decide
Then move as one up and down in an altered state
This is easier said than done we are getting close, very close we are getting better
We are going to have a great year there is going to be hell to pay it’s gonna be a fuckin bloodbath
Then the return to words thought has taken a contract out on in order to move them around
I produced a new PennSound podcast, the sixth in the series; it presents an overview of PennSound, its mission and its pedagogical assumptions and implications. In discussing how students, teachers and readers can use PennSound's materials, I use as an example Rae Armatrout's poem "The Way," about which I've written in an earlier entry here.
After we put up the Ezra Pound recordings, we got a raving fan note from poet Peter Gizzi (who has his own PennSound author page), and here is what Peter wrote:
I LOVE, I mean LOVE that Pennsound has put up all the Pound material. I have it all in bootlegs and tapes of course but it is wonderful to have it there, finally, I mean it is THE MOST OUT there of anything on that site or ubu web! EP is the best. I used to listen to those tapes over and over in my car in the late 70’s when I was a teenager. To me it was Punk. And hearing it now it brings back summer and my youth! Listening to the Spoleto recording, maybe my fav for its restrained intensity, I am taken aback just how his late syntax has totally effected me. Liz and I were listening and we could hear my poem Homer’s Anger loud and clear for instance. Amazing. And Richard’s head note makes me want to listen further.