Commentaries - December 2007

Paal Bjelke Andersen this past summer organized a poetry/poetics festival associated with nypoesi. Paal wanted to feature various projects in digital poetry, sound poetry and digital archiving - and asked that PennSound be represented in the catalogue or proceedings. I wrote a piece which was translated into Norwegian. Here you can get a sense of the contributors. In January the nypoesi people will put up a sound archive of Scandinavian poets reading their work, using PennSound as a model. Eventually both sound files and many of the essays will be published and presented in a book/CD set. Here is a link to the essay in English.

I look at Beth Kephart's blog because every entry includes a photograph that is placid or tentatively terrestrial or fragmented yet spiritually whole or purely tonal (and often moody) or mildly ominous or lonely yet sanguine about it or artifactual (is that a word?) or having a quality of being a piece of this world or natural yet slightly obscure or still-lifeish — and sometimes indeed all of the above. Beth's sentences (in her books and on her blog) cast a dream over the page. Typical (of the blog): "I have been thinking about how long people live, even after they're gone. In the songs that bring them back. In the gifts they'd given, long ago. In the emails that still sit in your bin, all full of nobody but them." Notice how the word "nobody" feels empty and negative and yet in the meaning of the line becomes the sign of somebody, of presence.

Anyway, it's such a darned I-centered world: on the day I'm plugging Beth's blog, she's already plugged me. Her entry today is about me and PoemTalk. I cherish especially this outrageous compliment: "[H]e's so ridiculously inventive and innovative that it is frankly difficult to keep up with all that he gives straight back to the world."

It's Jenny and her friends, hanging out at The Off Beat. Jenny rebels because ... well ... because her father is a modernist. Look what you modernist fathers have wrought: girls that run into the arms of the beatniks. MORE >>>

I'm not entirely sure what the blog Push the Key is really all about, but it says it's meant to "improve the book industry, while improving YOU" — and "written and published by experts in the book industry — contains refreshingly irreverent, bull's-eye insights for book industry professionals."

Anyway, Andrew Grabois, one of the book-industry folks who contributes to this blog saw the Times piece about the Writers House and decide that what we are doing is a blow against Ayn Rand's rational individualism and laissez-faire creativity. Or perhaps he was (merely) referring to the Wharton School (which, he says somewhat accurately, dominates Penn) as Randian, with, thus, the Writers House set against it.

"Some good news from the University of Pennsylvania.

"The New York Times reports that in the midst of this huge research institution anchored by the famed Wharton School of Business, a fragile and unlikely flower has bloomed.

"The Kelly Writers House, a three-story Tudor that used to be home to the university chaplain, has become a community and oasis for aspiring writers and those who care about writing. Kelly House hosts readings, workshops, seminars, conferences, high-school clinics, and other events. A number of noted writers have given readings at Kelly House, including Richard Ford, John Updike, and Cynthia Ozick.

"Al Filreis, an English professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is the faculty director of Writers House, and the one responsible for its success. Dr. Filreis not only acts as a den mother, mentor, and advocate, he also aggressively recruits literary souls for Writers House."

Here's your link.

"So, what kind of ideas/initiatives can we adapt for our own purposes here? We'll probably never have the level of funding they have, but why not be creative and think about how we can learn from what Dr. Filreis has accomplished?" MORE >>>