William J. Harris

What is poetry?

A review of 'What Is Poetry? (Just Kidding, I Know You Know)'

Left: illustration by George Schneeman on a 1974 booklet, via the Poetry Project.

Containing thirty-eight insightful and informative interviews with mostly innovative poets and a few non-poet fellow travelers, this big white book edited by Anselm Berrigan paints a clear picture of the Lower East Side avant-garde poetry scene. In these interviews, we are listening to the poets themselves, gaining an understanding of various avant-garde poetics straight from the horse’s mouth.

Containing thirty-eight insightful and informative interviews with mostly innovative poets and a few non-poet fellow travelers, this big white book edited by Anselm Berrigan paints a clear picture of the Lower East Side avant-garde poetry scene. In these interviews, we are listening to the poets themselves, gaining an understanding of various avant-garde poetics straight from the horse’s mouth.

Something in the way (PoemTalk #126)

Amiri Baraka, 'Something in the Way of Things (In Town)'

From left: Aldon Nielsen, Tyrone Williams, William J. Harris

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Tyrone Williams, Aldon Nielsen, and William J. Harris joined Al Filreis to talk before a live audience about Amiri Baraka’s poem “Something in the Way of Things (In Town).” The printed poem has been published in several versions; one version can be read below. It is best known as a cut on The Roots’ Phrenology album (2002). Baraka came to the lower Manhattan studio where The Roots were recording some of the album’s tracks; there Baraka performed the poem as the band backed him. The result can be heard here.

The hand's reach (PoemTalk #115)

Lorenzo Thomas, 'An Arc Still Open'

William J. Harris, Tyrone Williams, and Aldon Nielsen join Al Filreis to talk about a poem by Lorenzo Thomas. The poem is “An Arc Still Open,” written as a commemoration of the muralist John Biggers, who had died in January 2001. The poem was published soon after as part of a John Biggers memorial feature in a magazine produced at University of Houston-Downtown, where since 1997 there had hung a huge (10' x 27') Biggers mural Salt Marsh. Our text of the poem comes from the UHD publication, New Horizons, and our recording, now found on PennSound’s Lorenzo Thomas page, was made in San Diego in 2001.

A PoemTalk retrospective (PoemTalk #100)

PoemTalkers each respond to two episodes

From left to right: William J. Harris, Tracie Morris, erica kaufman, Steve McLaughlin, Herman Beavers, Maria Damon, and Charles Bernstein.

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To celebrate the one hundredth episode of PoemTalk — the series began in 2007 and is ongoing — producer and host Al Filreis convened seven poet-critics who had participated in previous episodes: Herman Beavers, Maria Damon, William J. Harris, erica kaufman, Tracie Morris, Steve McLaughlin, and Charles Bernstein. These seven were asked to listen again to the series and choose two episodes that in particular stimulated new thinking or the desire to revise, restate, reaffirm, assess, and/or commend.

Requiem so sweet we forgot what it lamented (PoemTalk #89)

Nathaniel Mackey, 'Day after Day of the Dead'

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Tsitsi Jaji, Herman Beavers, and William J. Harris joined Al Filreis in the new Wexler Studio at the Kelly Writers House to discuss a poem by Nathaniel Mackey, “Day after Day of the Dead” (text).  The poem appears about a third of the way through Mackey’s book Nod House (New Directions, 2011). As is typical of Mackey’s work, especially in recent years, the book includes poems that are individually new installments in one of two ongoing long poems, one called “Mu” and another called Song of the Andoumboulou.”

An interview with William J. Harris

PennSound podcast #49, with an introduction by Harris

William J. Harris with Susan Harris, 1969.

This interview tracks my genesis and early development as a poet and intellectual. My artistic and cultural education occurs during the late ’50s, the ’60s and the early ’70s and takes place primarily in and around academic institutions: the liberal college, Antioch, which is in my hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio, and the nearby black state university, Central State, in Wilberforce, and the story, if not exactly concluding, comes to “a momentary stay against confusion” at Stanford University in Northern California where I did my MA in creative writing and a PhD in English.

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