Stephen Metcalf, Anna Strong Safford, and Ahmad Almallah joined Al Filreis to talk about one of the most well known poems in English of the twentieth century — Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” What hasn't already been said about this poem? Well, to our ears at least, this conversation goes in several unusual and, we think, fascinating new directions. What exactly is the nature of the poem’s (or anyway the speaker’s) cultural conservatism? Can the wall really be read geopolitically? Is it more about what is being walled out than walled in? Do the stalwart iambs themselves form a wall that is hard for readers to get across? Are the gaps in the wall wide enough for new readers to get through?
Stephanie Burt, Bonnie Costello, Anna Strong Safford, and Al Filreis met up at the Woodberry Poetry Room in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to record a special episode of PoemTalk about Tonya Foster’s A Swarm of Bees in High Court. A section of that book, published in 2015 by Belladonna*, is a sequence of haiku pairs. The group focused on five pairs — those on pages 38, 39, 42, 46, and 50. The haikus on page 50 form the final entries in a long part of the book titled “In / Somniloquies.” Tonya Foster made a special recording of these poems just for use in this PoemTalk episode; they will also be added to her PennSound page.
Angela Carr, Anna Strong Safford, and Mytili Jaganathan joined Al Filreis to discuss a poem published in Divya Victor’s book Kith (2017; BookThug/Book*hug). The last section of Kith includes a long alphabetical poem called “Foreign Terms.” The “W” poem in this sequence is “W Is for Walt Whitman’s Soul,” and that is the work we ponder in this episode of PoemTalk. At the autumn 2017 Book*hug launch, Divya chose the read this poem; a video is available.
Al Filreis, Anna Strong Safford, Zach Carduner, and Chris Martin took PoemTalk on the road where they met up with Stephen Willey and Luke Roberts at Birkbeck University of London for a discussion of Sean Bonney's Happiness. Twenty pages of Happiness were included in Letters Against the Firmament. The group focused on the first four pages or poems or sections of Happiness (pp. 120—23). Sean Bonney’s PennSound author page hosts three different recordings (two audio and one video) of his readings from this long poem (1, 2, 3). The version used here was the one recorded in London in 2011.