Commentaries

Teaching imagist revision

Resources for Williams Carlos Williams's 'Young Woman at a Window' (two versions)

For three decades I have been presenting my students with two versions of William Carlos Williams’s “Young Woman at a Window.” How was the poem revised? Do the versions disclose the method of revision? Does one version better befit Williams’s apparent aims at condensation, action rather than explication? And what and where is the poem’s subject position? I sometimes have led a discussion by asking others to decide which of the two versions they prefer, assuming they prefer modern poems to do in themselves, as writing, what they say. There is of course no need to prefer one version of this or any poem to another, but the preferential exercise decenters the teacher-presenter in ways I have found very productive.

Jerome Rothenberg & David Antin: A First Interview with Kenneth Rexroth (1958), Redux

The memory of Kenneth Rexroth goes back into my distant past. I had been aware of him since the 1940s but with renewed interest during the 1950s & the emergence of the San Francisco Renaissance & that early Beat Generation for which he was an older spokesman. With David Antin & others, circa 1958, I was coming into contact with poets outside of our immediate neighborhood &, as with Kenneth, outside of our own generation.

I think our first meeting with him was under the pretext of doing an interview for Chelsea Review, during its early period, when Robert Kelly & George Economou were among the co-founders & editors.

Poetry leader to Joe McCarthy: 'Good job!'

I wrote this commentary post back on September 27, 2007 and I thought I would reprise it tonight:

There’s a story on the front page of the arts section of today's New York Times that begins by the usual condescending reference to "[t]he cloistered community of American poetry." After that, the lead is: “The board of the 97-year-old Poetry Society of America, whose members have included many of the most august names in verse, has been rocked by a string of resignations and accusations of McCarthyism, conservatism, and simple bad management.” (And there's "august": is that word ever used unironically any more? Made more ironic here by its being rocked by "rocked.")

The story is: the conservative orientation - conservative in the sense of aesthetically cautious, and conservative (here and there) in the sense of right-of-center political views — of the PSA led to an award given to John Hollander, which led to resignations, which led to interest at the Times. Here's the whole article.

The Sensory Experience

Sampling the Archive

When I last wrote about the Black Writers Museum, I discussed how its unique mission was embroidered in every aspect of its physicality. When I returned to delve into the archive itself and bring forward some of its collection, I realized the best way to describe it was to offer it up in its collaged, multivalent reality.  It’s a lot like being in a poem--an intense, challenging poem. There’s a sense of the disjointed collecting itself into something more powerful than its constituent words, lines or images.

Ginsberg & Burroughs talking with Studs Terkel (audio)

New at PennSound

Ginsberg & Burroughs talking with Studs Terkel — a PennSound recording now segmented into topics. It is now available at PennSound’s Allen Ginsberg page. (Many thanks to Domenic Gibby Casciato, PennSound staffer, for expertly doing the segmenting.)