Commentaries - March 2011

Joan Retallack's "Not a Cage"

Reading (One's Own) Books around John Cage

Here is the text* of Joan Retallack's poem "Not a Cage." And here is a recording of Joan reading the poem at Buffalo in 1993.

* from How To Do Things with Words, Sun & Moon, 1998.

New Review of "Counter-Revolution of the Word"

I'm delighted by a review of my book, Counter-Revolution of the Word, which has just now come to my attention. Here [PDF] is a link. The relevant pages begin on page 922.

Anne Waldman Is in a Rogue State of Mind

A 2002 Reading in PennSound

from the Anne Waldman page at PennSound

Anne Waldman gave a reading at Belladonna on April 26, 2002. She read five poems. Thanks for our friends at Belladonna, we at PennSound have the recording. Yesterday we segmented the recording into singles, which include the powerful anti-George Bush chant, "Rogue State" (PennSound now has several recordings of this), and Waldman's singing of William Blake's "The Garden of Love." The latter is an arrangement that Allen Ginsberg composed for his album of Blake songs. One of PennSound's most popular pages, in fact, is the Ginsberg/Blake page. Here is Ginsberg singing "The Garden of Love," and here is an episode of PoemTalk featuring a 25-minute discussion of it.

Poetry Moves from the 1920s to the 1930s

An Audio Mini-lecture on the Transition from High Modernism to Radicalism

About a decade ago I recorded a mini-lecture about the transition from the American poetry of the 1920s to that of the 1930s. It gives some obvious dramatic examples of big changes, e.g. Isidor Schneider's move from latter-day imagist in the mid-1920s to communist poet of the 1930s. I left out any nuance here, but then the nuance became the subject of my most recent book, which in a sense refutes the standard description of the big change ("from modernism to radicalism"). However, I do stand by this little audio mini-lecture as a first foray into the topic for my students. And naturally, in the course, we read lots of examples.

Speaking of Political Poetry

Carl Rakosi

Carl Rakosi, younger and older

Speaking of the 1930s: Carl Rakosi was a member of the communist party and, when he was merely 99 years old, several of us at the Writers House asked him to talk about the problems and possibilities of writing a politically radical poetry. He gave a halting but very thoughtful response. Keep in mind that he was speaking in 2002 about the period 1938-41. It's hard to see clearly through the fog of warring politico-poesis. Many thanks to Henry Steinberg for editing this segment. The questioner is Thomas Devaney. The whole interview with the 99-year-old Rakosi can be found here.