Commentaries - May 2011

Duncan: what is today's beauty, c. 1970

These are the opening lines of “Quand le Grand Foyer Descend Dans les Eaux”' a section of Robert Duncan's anti-war Passages. In 1982 Duncan went to Buffalo to read poems mostly from the "Regulators" sequence of Passages, published in Ground Work II: In the Dark. Duncan began with a nearly 18-minute preamble: a talk about the imagination, nationhood, Christendom and Dante's Divine Comedy, Ludwig Wittgenstein, being a “poet of the spirit,” being a “Christian non-Christian,” language mysticism, and prayer. He ended with what he called a “sermon” (21 minutes).

Someone at Buffalo had the presence of mind to record this event — and the recording has been added to PennSound — and (thanks to the amazing Jenny Lesser) it's been segmented into individual portions and poems.

Self-help Stevens

A Long Island-based psychotherapist who blogs quotes Wallace Stevens out of context — as self-help gloop. Renders the partly regular iambic blank-verse couplet into hyperlineated bloggy mush and even chooses a so-you-can't-miss-it mustard font color for the key phrase but (at least by implication) seems to get it right. What does mind-body psychotherapy and meditation have to do with the poem “Man Carrying Thing”? What does that poem, a gradually intensifying wintry all-nighter pulled by the poet, have to do with any of the good doctor Crew's other entries: always shop from a list, he urges us; how to stretch your hamstring; have a clear conscience and feel good? Well, not much, but that this man would be attracted to these particular Stevensean lines did, surprsingly, get me thinking freshly about the poem, so I suppose trawling the blogosphere for 21st-century Stevens has its occasional rewards.

In the morning, we suddenly see what we had not been able to see before: “A horror of thoughts that suddenly are real.”

We must endure our thoughts all night, until
The bright obvious stands motionless in cold.

See freely beyond (or, really: after) the sight-obscuring blizzard of uncertainties, as the uncertainties themselves have kept hidden from us the terror of truth; thus see that that enactment is inescapable. This is his turn from the torment of difficulty toward lucidity. Description is revelation, yes, but better still is the poem that describes the process through which the writer can get (in the clear light of day) to the point of being able to describe with some confidence.

As Bruce Andrews's world turns

Bruce Andrews

One day, on the street, Bruce Andrews found several thousands of pages of scripts from the soap opera, As the World Turns. He then created an untitled piece we might call “This Is the 20th Century” (using its first line). It was apparently written to serve as a preface or blurb for a book by Johanna Drucker (Dark Decade). Andrews uses phrases from the TV scripts and also some language from Drucker. He read this stray-ish piece at an Ear Inn reading in 1994. Here is the recording — from PennSound's Bruce Andrews page where this '94 reading has been segmented (thanks to the talented Jenny Lesser). The blurb did not appear on or in Drucker's Dark Decade and remains unpublished.

Primo Levi, civic read

--from a profile (really, a snappy Q&A;) of me done by the Philadelphia Inquirer in January 2007.

Kenny Goldsmith to perform at the White House

The May 11 program will be vieweable by live video stream.

Below is a statement just now released from the White House. Kenneth Goldsmith, who teaches in the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing (CPCW) at the University of Pennsylvania and is a close affiliate of the Kelly Writers House, will be among the poets performing at the May 11 event. And with Michelle Obama, he will lead a poetry workshop for children.

Kenny has been teaching a Creative Writing workshop called “Uncreative Writing” for a number of years at Penn. And every other year (continuing in 2011–12), he teaches an innovative year-long contemporary art/writing seminar that is a collaboration of CPCW and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA).

For more on Kenny:

http://writing.upenn.edu/cw/faculty.php#Goldsmith
http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Goldsmith.htm

- - - - -

“An Evening of Poetry”
 
Event Continues Arts Education Series at the White House on May 11th
 
The President and Mrs. Obama will host a celebration of American poetry and prose by welcoming accomplished poets, musicians and artists as well as students from across the country to the White House next week. Participants include Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins, Common, Rita Dove, Kenneth Goldsmith, Alison Knowles, Aimee Mann and Jill Scott who will read, sing, and showcase the impact of poetry on American culture. The President will make opening remarks at this event held in the East Room, which will be pooled press and streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.
 
As part of this special event, Mrs. Obama will host a daytime workshop for hundreds of students from California to New York on May 11th at 2:00 p.m. ET, where students will work with and learn from many of the evening’s performers.  First Lady Michelle Obama and administration officials will deliver brief remarks to highlight a new study detailing the importance of arts education. This event will be streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov and students all over the country will be invited to watch the workshop. This event is open press but space is very limited so please RSVP to firstladypress@who.eop.gov.
 
First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off the White House Music Series in 2009 with a Jazz Studio, and since then has hosted a celebration of Country Music, Classical Music, Motown, a Fiesta Latina, a salute to Broadway, Music of the Civil Rights Movement and a dance tribute to Judith Jamison. Many of these events included evening performances as well as daytime educational workshops designed to educate and inspire talented young people to use their gifts to develop a future for themselves in the arts community whether as a hobby or as a profession.