Commentaries - June 2011

Plus this

Additions, updates, & singles

Image by Noah Saterstrom

I want to backtrack a bit and link to some recordings related to earlier commentaries. Rather than update the older posts, I’ll periodically add new tracks to expand previous playlists. I’ll also make some new unthemed playlists of singles segmented from longer recordings that I came across while browsing PennSound’s reading series pages.

Additions and updates:

Listen to Prageeta Sharma read an epistolary excerpt from her book Bliss to Fill recorded at the Belladonna Series in 2000. Read about and hear other recordings related to letters in an earlier post, Dear Pennsound.

Listen to Sina Queryas read Numb is more natural, from her book Lemon Hound, at a 2006 Belladonna Series reading. Hear the entire reading. Read about and hear other recordings related to questions in the post, What is a question?

Thanks to James Sanders, who emailed Jacket2 to let me know about a recording of Joseph Ceravolo reading against a soundscape of other conversations. Ceravolo’s piece is included in Tape Poems, a 1969 audio anthology edited by Eduardo Costa and John Perreault. The introduction to the anthology begins: “This is the first collection and the first ‘publication’ of works created specifically for stereophonic tape. The works exist completely in terms of aural phenomenon, rather than in terms of visual systems of signs, thus beginning a new art of the tape recorder that has in common with written literature the fact that it refers to real language.” Here is link to the UbuWeb page for that anthology. Ceravolo’s recording begins roughly at the 26 minute mark. Read about and hear other recordings related to ambient recording environments in the post, Hearing Spaces.


Singles segmented from PennSound's reading series pages:

Cedar Sigo, The Emerald Tablet. Listen to the entire reading on A Voice Box, Small Press Traffic in 2010.

Genya Turovskaya, In order to speak honestly. Listen to the entire reading from the Whenever We Feel Like It Series presents Supermachine, The Rotunda, April 17, 2010.

Carla Harryman, from Baby. Listen to the entire reading at the Segue Series in NY in 2006.

Akilah Oliver, from The She Said Dialogues: Flesh Memory. Listen to the entire reading at the Belladonna Series in NYC in 1999.


More work by artist Noah Saterstom here and here.

Kaplan Harris responds to Tim Jacobs's response

We are pleased to publish Kaplan Harris's response to Tim Jacobs's response to Kaplan's article “The Small Press Traffic school of dissimulation: New Narrative, New Sentence, New Left,” which we published on April 7, 2011. Here is the new response:


My thanks for this opportunity to elaborate on Tim Jacobs's column and to clear up any misunderstandings. Jacobs's column "Ramble" is preceded by five years of Poetry Flash contributions that cover readings and events throughout the Bay Area. They are an invaluable resource for anyone — like myself — interested in mapping what Jacobs rightly identifies as “a literary culture that was very diverse and growing rapidly” throughout the 1970s. The tone of the coverage is particularly important because it can allow one to track the shifting alliances and divisions in the poetry community at large, especially the faultlines that separate aesthetic, activist, and institutional affiliations.

The early coverage is frequently given to flashes of ridicule and scorn — or what today might be labeled snark. To be sure, there are other tones as well, many of them displaying effusive praise. Poetry Flash founding editor Jon Ford, however, expressed a certain pride that his newsletter had acted as "conscience for the Bay Area": "not just to let audiences know there was someone out there listening, but to let audiences be warned about sloppy productions and poets who had nothing new to offer" (Poetry Flash 121, April 1983). These “warnings” were hardly couched in bourgeois politeness. On the contrary, Ford was pleased that a “free-swinging, plain speaking, even hostile attitude” had characterized the newsletter's early coverage. The tenth anniversary issue even republished a compilation of barbed comments from staff contributors, among them Ford, Richard Silberg, Joyce Jenkins, Alan Soldofsky, Joe Flower, and Tim Jacobs himself. The compilation was like a badge of honor. No wonder that staff member Jana Harris (no relation to me) elsewhere recalls that early issues had earned the newsletter monikers like “Poetry Flush” and “Hot Flash.”[1]

But I am happy to clarify that Jacobs tends to be one of the more generous and tolerant contributors, his reviews often humming with accolades not seen elsewhere in the early years of the newsletter. Perhaps Jacobs sought to act as a counterbalance to the hostility with his more positive commentaries, like the one I quoted from his review of Robert Glück and Bruce Boone at the Grand Piano. That said, even Jacobs indulged in biting critique on repeated occasions. My favorite might be his cautionary parable about the types of people encountered at poetry receptions, like “The Level Stare,” “The Historian,” “The Flatterer,” and “The Surmiser.”[2] Jacobs also once described his role as the “community gossip” (Poetry Flash 69, December 1978) — and it was based on moments like these that I came to understand his column. — Kaplan Harris

* Tim Jacobs's response to Kaplan Harris's article
* Kaplan Harris's article on Small Press Traffic


1. Jana Harris, “Poetry Flash Meet NYC Poetry Calender,” Contact II 1.6 (January-February 1978), 8.

2. E.g., the Historian: “maps your life in detail for you, tell you exactly what you learned, where you learned it, from whom you learned it, and exactly what you don't know about the subject, even though this creature has absolutely no previous knowledge of you or your connection with the matter at hand.” Tim Jacobs, Poetry Flash 80 (November 1978).

Bergvall in 'Wire' features PennSound

a screenshot of "Wire: Adventures in Modern Music" (6/2/11)

"A vast archive of historic and contemporary recordings of readings, podcasts, and now also videos, featuring a growing list of international poets (mostly English language focus). PennSound is co-run from Philadelphia by the poet, scholar and broadcaster Charles Bernstein and Al Filreis, director of Kelly Writers House." Link:

Toward a moxie politik

Kaia Sand:
What might a poetics of moxie politik look like? Unlike realpolitik's crushing pragmatism and cunning power grabs, a moxie politik might concern itself with exposing, critiquing and challenging concentrated power. A poetics that emphasizes equality, pursued with moxie, which is, as Jules Boykoff puts it, "pluck in the face of the muck, vim in the place of the grim.”

(center: Frank Sherlock & Linh Dinh handing out broadsides in a 2004 PACE action; right: Sidewalk Blogger holiday sign)

When Jules and I wrote Landscapes of Dissent, we explored some ways poetry exceeds a book. We began to think about public space as a context for poetry, when poetry moves out of its fortifying communities and into more vulnerable, unpredictable spaces with inadvertent audiences. Our process of writing Landscapes included extending our own poem-making through sign-making and other actions; theorizing about public space; and documenting projects — from the Poetry is Public Art (PIPA) actions that culminated in sign projects in New York City during the weeks after 9-11 when commercialism receded a bit, to the PACE actions in Philadelphia that moved poetry readings into commercial spaces, to the revamped holiday signs affixed to cyclone fences by the Sidewalk Blogger project in Kane'ohe, Hawaii.

Jules and I will write commentaries over the coming weeks that trace and extend our thinking since Landscapes was published. Inexpert investigation. Pedestrian poetics. Poetry projects recast for new contexts. Participatory poetry. Poetry as a social practice. Aesthetic spaces translated into activist spaces into aesthetic spaces. Accessibility rethought as 'affording entrance.' Political poetry that is fun, playful and, well, full of moxie.

Some of our commentaries will attend to place, and how local practices can afford entrace to specific audiences. With this in mind, I will sketch out the local context where we will compose many of our Jacket2 commentaries. At least some will be written in an attic with green walls in a home close to downtown Portland but in a southeast neighborhood. Five chickens roam outside, consistently pecking the ground and occasionally laying eggs. Nearby is a small meatpacking plant, a steepled Catholic Church, and the Aladdin theater.  Our street ends at the 24-hr Hotcake House backed up to a piano store. Our neighborhood is an island formed not by water, but by busy streets. To the north are industrial warehouses we bike among to head downtown. To the west, the Willamette River is very close, but access is severed by a highway. When we arrive at the nearby river trail by circuitous access, we come in contact with deer, osprey, occasionally bald eagles. To the east are train-yards, fissuring our neighborhood from the ones further east.  Scaling out further, to the west is the Pacific Ocean, and to the east, the Cascade Mountains. From the Brooklyn neighborhood in the city of Portland, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, we will post our commentaries in the coming weeks.

Sonia Delaunay

Abstraction & the rag trade

If any demonstration were needed that the rag trade was part of the invention of modernist abstraction, then “Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay” would do the trick (Cooper-Hewitt Museum, New York, closes June 19). Delaunay’s textitle design is so ingeniously inventive that her applied work confronts and transforms the achievements of her paintings. One of the greatest colorists of the period, rivaling Matisse and Mondrian, Delaunay’s dresses, hats, and scarves vibrate with the pulsating rhythm of “The Rites of Spring.”

I'm always on the alert for words in art. Nothing could ever top the Blaise Cendrars collaboration with Delaunay, The Prose of the Trans-Siberian (on display at the show). But I hadn't know about her "Poem Dress" (Robe poéme) series from 1922 and 1923.


Man Ray tapestry


Which brings to mind a favorite work of mine by Man Ray: "Tapestry" (1911, from the Pompidou) is made up of fabric swaths from his father's tailor shop.