Commentaries - July 2011

Recording of Robert Creeley's responses to Martin Duberman's questions about Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College

We at PennSound are grateful to Jeff Davis for helping us make this recording available from the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, with permission from the Creeley family. The recording was made apparently in the late 1960s. It is available on PennSound's growing Robert Creeley page.

What brought you to Black Mountain? (1:17): MP3
In what capacity were you there? (2:32): MP3
What were your first impressions? (5:43): MP3
Did they subsequently change? (3:22): MP3
Who among the faculty or students impressed you? (2:17): MP3
Is it accurate to refer to a Black Mountain school of poetry? (8:44): MP3
What were BMC's particular strong and weak points? (4:55): MP3
Anything about the school's tone or procedures you wish were otherwise? (2:32): MP3
What satisfactions and tensions resulted from living at such close quarters?(5:07): MP3
What accounts for perennial faculty splits at BMC? (3:34): MP3
Did good relations exist between the college and the community? (9:40): MP3
Why did the college finally close? (1:07): MP3
How would you evaluate BMC's influence on your artistic growth? (11:16): MP3

Confluence of influence

“If activities and people are assembled, it is possible for individual events… to stimulate one another. Participants in a situation have the opportunity to experience and participate in other events.” (Jan Gehl, Life Between Buildings) When positing this simple idea, Danish architect Jan Gehl was imagining the kinds of urban architectures and public spaces that can encourage confluence and assembly, yet this is exactly what Margaret Christakos has created through Influency Salon: a space and structure where, on one hand, poetries and poetic practices can assemble, interact, exchange, and then disperse, though altered and affected by this exchange, while on the other, the exchange itself engenders active participants, i.e. responsive and engaged readers.

Craig Saper: Something more intimate to what is called thinking

When we at the Writers House brought Craig Saper back to Penn in 2001 to give a talk about Fluxus, some of us attended because we are fascinated by Fluxus and really admire Craig's way of discussing such art. A few Writers House regulars came in spite of not having experienced Saper's brilliance at first hand, but because it was known around the House that he had praised KWH as a learning community (see below).  Others came because they still by then lamented the loss of Craig from the Penn faculty (by denial of tenure). On that occasion Joshua Schuster — he was by then a grad student but he'd known Saper from his days as an undergrad too — gave a fine introduction. Here is that introduction, in its entirety:

I have this vision stuck in my head of Craig Saper, at the University of Pennsylvania, in 1996, pulling up an essay by Walter Benjamin and reading: "I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am." It was a storybook beginning to a storybook class. We were confronted from the outset that there was a crises in criticism and that we were going to have to invent our way out of it. At stake was a way both in and out of criticism itself. Benjamin was a model; that the act of unpacking one's library could be the very model for a form of scholarship and knowledge. Where else could we find models? With adrenaline and a hallucinatory focus, and perhaps anything could serve as the conceptual apparatus from which to generate new ways of thinking. How can an event be a model of thought? How do you think a handshake or a barricade or a letter being passed through a postal system? All that is solid melts into air-there, capital in its own act of disguise was exposed as a model for new ways of thinking. Or a telephone call, that brings one to the question of what is called thinking? Or to take tonight's topic Fluxus, the art movement, could it secretly be the code by which a university could be built anew?

A poetry staycation

Recently received for review

It's the truth. Summer in the Jacket2 office is not a vacation. Because I'm still here, and not there (on the beach or looking at the beach).  So, I'm calling this what it is: a poetry staycation, where the poems come to me and they come from places I would like to travel to.

& it has been an amazing staycation so far: with books coming in over the past few weeks from locales including Toronto, Manchester, Brooklyn, Seattle, and Minneapolis. 

These poetry books are the many guided tours of the wonderful world of poetics.  They are tourist-adored maps of famous people's houses. They are waiting in line to get through airport security to not miss their connecting flight.  And they are stopping at a rest stop for rest.