Commentaries - March 2009

Steve Earle — yes, the great Steve Earle — stopped in at the Writers House two nights ago. He met with a group of about fifty people in the living room during a reception and then went into the Arts Cafe where Mingo Reynolds introduced and Anthony DeCurtis moderated a conversation — during which Earle played three of his songs and talked about them and lots else. We’ve caught the whole wonderful event as a downloadable mp3 audio and as a streaming video. And here are photos of the evening taken by John Carroll. The program is funded by a generous grant from Mitch and Margot Blutt. Previous singer-songwriters have been Rosanne Cash and Suzanne Vega. If you have ideas for next year, send ’em along.

Now you can follow the Kelly Writers House on Twitter.

The current “Poetry off the Shelf” podcast from the Poetry Foundation is a discussion of the current state of the manifesto. Mary Anne Caws (whose Manifesto I happily own and whose pages make me laugh out loud with delight) is interviewed by Curtis Fox, and we get to hear Charles Bernstein read from Marinetti’s great futurist manifesto at a recent MoMA birthday celebration. We’re celebrating 100 years since Marinetti published it.

Here are the first three ironic/unironic dicta:

1. We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness.
2. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.
3. Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy, and slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap, and the blow with the fist.

From Art in America’s coverage of the event at MoMA celebrating the 100th birthday:

The MoMa event was a collaboration between the newly established Modern Poets series (an attempt to revitalize Frank O’Hara’s legacy within the institution) and Poetry journal. The journal had commissioned eight new manifestoes on poetry, four authors of which, with different ideologies and stylistic approaches, were invited to the event. Joshua Mehigen, A.E. Stallings, Charles Bernstein, and Thomas Sayers Ellis each read Futurist manifestoes and finished the day performing their own works. It kicked off with Bernstein, a legendary L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet, declaiming in full, high-pitched throttle Marinetti’s original manifesto. Nonplussed by it all, the passing crowds simply stared at him.

Above is a reproduction of the manifesto as it appeared in Le Figaro on February 20, 1909.

Don Share of "Poetry" Magazine

Don Share’s blog is “Squandermania and other foibles.” Last month he wrote an entry about my book. He begins: “Like a number of folks I’ve been in touch with lately, I’ve been reading Al Filreis’s fascinating new book, Counter-Revolution of the Word: The Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 1945–1960, which shows that there was what we now call a right wing conspiracy against modernist poetry.” And ends: “Filreis’s forte is what he calls ‘detailed exploration of ideological antimodernism,’ and he’s done his homework, as you can see … And do not fail to check out his greatly entertaining and useful blog on the year 1960, called ‘1960.’”

Regular readers of this blog might recall the excitement I expressed at acquiring my Kindle, around six months ago. The excitement hasn’t abated. Reading articles, magazine issues (e.g. Slate), newspapers, dissertation chapters, and draft essays*, occasionally whole books on my Kindle has become part of my routine. Saves paper (especially those drafts!), carries with me most places … it’s the portable library its advocates claim.

Today a new iPhone application is being released — Kindle for iPhone (and iTouch). This means merely that through my iPhone I can read all the books that are stored for me by Amazon through my Kindle account. Not ideal for, let’s say, a weekend-long read of Ulysses. Nor would I ever, at home, pick up my iPhone to read these books when I can use my Kindle. But for the train, for waiting in long lines, for the days when I meant to bring my Kindle but have forgetten it, having this phone access to the library will be fabulous for me. And it would give me pleasure to ponder a page of Joyce in the supermarket. The phone these days is always in the pocket.

Here’s a passage from today’s NYT story:

Starting Wednesday, owners of these Apple devices can download a free application, Kindle for iPhone and iPod Touch, from Apple’s App Store. The software will give them full access to the 240,000 e-books for sale on, which include a majority of best sellers.

* Oh yes, as you might know, the Kindle set-up permits one to email oneself any text in familiar formats (e.g. Word, PDF, html). So if a colleague sends me the draft of a thirty-page paper for a quick read and response, I can email it to myself at my @kindle account and within minutes it will be on the Kindle, readable in book-like page view.