Commentaries - October 2009

I will be giving a paper at this conference.

Seen this morning on the London tube. And photographed by Lily A., a veteran of the English 88 WCW wars and now always on the look-out for modernist hunger.

Joe Milutis writes: "So is it now 'I have eaten and which forgive me,' and 'I have eaten you were probably so sweet.'? They've unintentionally turned Williams into Queneau thru bad graphic design. (What's the permutation? 9! That's 362,880 plums.)"

Last night Becca Kantor gave a presentation at the Kelly Writers House about her grandfather - the architect Louis I. Kahn. With a grant from us (KWH and CPCW) she traveled to Estonia, where Kahn was born and where he briefly returned as an adult, and imagined his beginnings personally and architecturally. Soon we'll have links to the audio and video recordings of the event. I was pleased to see a full house: Becca's former high school teachers, many Kahn scholars and admirers, several members of the Kahn family who have, like Becca, been tracking and thinking about Kahn's unusual, partly elusive, life. An article in today's Daily Pennsylvanian describes the scene. Becca is writing a novel about all this (having worked with Max Apple during her Penn days).

Cid Corman, "Enuresis"


Back in 2001 the people of the Kelly Writers House wanted to bring Cid Corman--long by then a resident of Kyoto, Japan--to Philadelphia to be with us, give a reading, meet some of his readers. But one thing or another--cost, Cid's health--made this impossible. So we set up a combination of a phone link to Cid in Kyoto and a live audiocast feed; in this way, the fifty of us in the Arts Cafe of the Writers House and another 75 or so listening on their computers around the world were able to enjoy a reading by Cid, ask him questions, and make at least that limited sort of contact with the founder of Origin, crusty prolific exile, author of tens of thousands of poems. The November 2001 event was moderated by PoemTalk's producer and host, Al Filreis, along with Frank Sherlock, Fran Ryan and Tom Devaney.

Fast forward. Cid Corman died in 2004. Bob Arnold, Philip Rowland, Jack Kimball, Joe Massey and others have worked hard to keep Cid's poems within the view of readers--especially Bob Arnold whose Longhouse Press published The Next One Thousand Years, the Selected Poems of Cid Corman. And then, as part of the PoemTalk series, we staged a mini-reunion of the November 2001 Cormanite moderators, Fran, Tom, Frank and Al, to talk about one of our favorite poems, "Enuresis."

It means bed-wetting. The poem puts forward this audacious claim to understanding: I know the terror you've experienced in the midst of war because as a child I held my urine close to me for fear of my parents' terrifying enmity. The claim is made with such poetic consciousness (at the level of word choice and meter - and in the spoken performance) that one hardly doubts the power of the homefront psychic terror being remembered.


Terror--Ed--is not
Sitting in one's piss.
I know--I've sat there--

I've slept there and did
Most of my childhood.
That was warmth--in fact--

And comfort--in spite
Of the unconsealed

Smell. Terror? That was
And always will be
Mother cursing Dad

And there there I am
Alone in that night
Hearing that door slam.

Barbara Brody Avnet's drawings are so elaborately and insistently decorative as to be (sometimes) abstract. They're not all like this, but the ones I admire most are. Some of the works you can view on her web site have been recently exhibited. I've had the pleasure of seeing the work right there in her studio. If you click on her inspirations link, you'll have the sense that in some instances the studio itself (gorgeous) marks the start of the work. Here is an artist with a constant aesthetic sensibility: the way she lives.