Commentaries - July 2007
"I LOVE, I mean LOVE that Pennsound has put up all the Pound material," wrote Peter Gizzi to us not long after the Ezra Pound recordings were added to PENNsound. He continued: "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 Sieburth’s headnote makes me want to listen further." For more praise of PENNsound, see this.
Does the ubiquity of recordings of poets reading their own poems change the way we teach modern and contemporary poetics? On April 23, 2007, I had a good conversation with Steven Evans about this in my office at the Writers House. Here is a slightly edited recording of that conversation: this link takes you directly to a downloadable mp3 file. Steve's Lipstick of Noise site is subtitled "listening and linking to poetry audio files." I visit the site at least twice weekly.
At an event we called "7 Up on Gold"--featuring seven people speaking for seven minutes each about gold, the color or the element--I chose to speak about the chapter entitled "Gold" in Primo Levi's brilliant book, The Periodic Table. I've taught the book a number of times in my course on the Holocaust. My "7 Up on Gold" talk about the chapter was recorded in audio. You can go here and see the link to the audio (downloadable MP3 file). I was once asked to write a paragraph about a book I've read and re-read many times. I chose Levi's The Periodic Table, and here is what I wrote:
By now I have read Primo Levi's The Periodic Table a dozen times. It defies categories. It is partly a scientific treatise, partly post-Holocaust ethics, and partly a modernist prose-poem of fragments. For me the book always bears re-reading, inspiring me toward true interdisciplinarity and an ethical modernism. Neither at Auschwitz nor during most of the years afterward did Levi fit well as a person. His writing, certainly at first, similarly fell between categorical cracks. He dared to see in organic chemistry, the "lesser" of the chemistries, a powerfully figurative organicism. In this very special case, organicism--usually thought to be about wholes rather than fragements--served to enact a modernist sensibility in the very leaves of a book telling autobiographically but non-narratively of the dangers of inertness, and, finally, of the wonderful possibilities of the shifting present discernible in the marks we put here and now on the page.
This last point ("here and now on the page") refers to the stunning ending of the final chapter, "Carbon." Oh, blog-readers, read that!
I happily host two podcast series. One is PENNsound podcasts and features recordings from that vast archive of poetry recordings. The other series, Kelly Writers House podcasts, presents excerpts from various sorts of programs, events, seminars and discussions at the Writers House. Please listen and let me know what you think.