I’m always interested in the physical, digital, and in-between spaces audio recordings document and inhabit. This playlist samples some combinations of various recording environments, paying a bit of attention to often overlooked aspects such as tape hiss and telephone distortion, as well as considering sonic contexts like the classroom and direct-to-digital readings.
beneath the Highway 24 overpass, on MacArthur Blvd. between Telegraph and MLK
I’ve been thinking about the recent and hopefully temporary closure of 21 Grand, an interdisciplinary arts spaced forced to vacate its most current location at 416 25th St. after a battle with the city of Oakland over a cabaret permit, a permit it operated without for 10 years. (Here is a decent re-cap of the whole nightmare.)
It’s still feels weird that 21 Grand is gone for-the-time-being-fingers-crossed, given how important a space it’s been for so many Bay Area arts communities. And I’m thinking of the hundreds? could it be hundreds? of poetry readings I've attended there, how poetry was part of its interdisciplinary focus from the beginning, in 2000, with David Horton’s first series at the original location on 21 Grand Ave., followed by New Brutalism at the 449B 23rd St. spot, and finally New Yipes and the New Reading Series at the last address on 25th St.
Readers here will know by now that one of my obsessions is the representation of the 1930s in the 1950s. I suppose you could say I collect these bits of (usually politicized) retrospectives. At right is an oil-and-charcoal painting by Robert Motherwell about the Spanish Civil War - done in 1958-60. Look over at my 1960 blog for more.
Christa Malone, Marvin Malone's daughter, has taken up the cause of the Wormwood Review. She's created a new web site which features, among many other things, tributes to Marvin's editorship. My 1960 blog, a while back, took a look at Wormwood's founding in 1960.
Some months ago I read Eleanor Cook's Reader’s Guide to Wallace Stevens (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. xiv, 354. $24.95 paperback). New readers of Stevens must own this book, the ideal guide for starting out into the sometimes abstractly allusive, sometimes philosophically argumentative, sometimes indirectly referential verse of this essential American modernist.
Most of the poems are annotated here, presented in order of publication, book by book through Stevens’s career; a readable index of title directs you, alternatively, by the poem. Cook’s succinct summaries and annotations are confidently expert. If you are reading “Prelude to Objects” and come across the reference there to the S. S. Normandie, you will know from Cook that it was a famous French transatlantic passenger liner (136). Of course, even an inexperienced Googler would have that annotation in a quarter of a minute. In the same poem, if coming upon the “Ideas of Order”-like phrase “foamed from the sea” you take “foamed,” as in the idiom “foamed up,” to mean arising sea-like out of the sea, you could proceed through the verse satisfactorily. But having Cook’s guide by your side, you would also learn that this is certainly a reference to Aphrodite, whose name, etymologically, means “born of the foam” (136). You are still left with the problem of reconciling such a mythological idiom with Stevens’s famous “guerilla I,” the poem’s stealthy and aggressive subjectivity, but with Cook’s help you are several steps further along than you would otherwise be.
Long admired for her attention to syntactical word-play, Cook has a fine way here of describing meter as an aspect of form. This one sentence on section 1 of “Peter Quince at the Clavier” does the critical work of many another commentator’s full page: “Tetrameter tercets with occasional rhyme, a clavier interrupted by bass violins playing pizzicati” (74). A masterfully wrought eight-word sentence on the first three stanzas of “The Idea of Order at Key West”—“Their argument is tight, their rhythm is ocean-like” (94)—again precisely describes the rhetoric and form but also presents the poem’s main tension between rationally organized content of human experience and oceanic feelings about the power of the muse.