Commentaries - January 2013

Ashbery on the decision to write short vs. long poems (& more)

New at PennSound

Thanks to Anna Zalokostas, PennSound’s vast Ashbery page now includes links to segments of a recording of his appearance on The Book Show in 1992. Hosted by Tom Smith, The Book Show was produced by the New York State Writers Institute at SUNY Albany. On this program, Ashbery discusses Flow Chart (1991) and Hotel Lautréamont (1992).

  1. reading "Light Turnouts" (0:43): MP3
  2. introduction (0:56): MP3
  3. the writing of Hotel Lautreamont and the figure of Lautreamont (3:43): MP3
  4. discussing the title poem and the implications of the hotel (3:58): MP3
  5. when the poems in Hotel Lautreamont were written in relation to Flow Chart (1:21): MP3
  6. deciding to write short v. long poems (2:55): MP3
  7. the evolution of Flow Chart (1:10): MP3
  8. Ashbery describing his writing process (3:44): MP3
  9. cultural noise as inspiration and all-inclusivness as an overriding aesthetic concern (3:15): MP3
  10. abstract expressionism in relation to his poetry (2:13): MP3

Carl Rakosi, 1903-2004

In Jacket 1 and Jacket 25

Carl Rakosi, San Francisco, March 1989, photo John Tranter
Carl Rakosi, San Francisco, March 1989, photo John Tranter

Poet Carl Rakosi died on Friday afternoon 25 June 2004 at the age of 100, after a series of strokes, in his home in San Francisco. [Some eight months before,] My wife Lyn and I were passing through California in November 2003, and we stopped by to have a coffee with Carl at his home in Sunset. By a lucky coincidence, it happened to be his 100th birthday. He was, as always, kind, thoughtful, bright and alert, and as sharp as a pin. We felt privileged to know him.
Here are some poems and other bits and pieces in Jacket magazine, starting with a poem from Carl in 1996:

[»»] Poem: “The Citizen"
[»»]
Carl Rakosi in conversation with Tom Devaney, with Olivier Brossard
[»»] Carl Rakosi: audio recordings at U Penn (a note from Al Filreis, University of Pennsylvania)

Outsider poems, a mini-anthology in progress (51): From 'The Library of Unwritten Books'

001. The End, by Anon.

 I think I’d have to write a very short book. Yes, I have wanted to write lots of books before. I think my first book would be about actually how to get into the position of having to write a book in the first place.…

 The book would be red and white. That’s all I know. The colour of snow. I don’t think it would have pictures.

 And yes, it is about isolation. Maybe the whiteness is the blank page. Maybe it’s the blank page.

 (Recorded at Brompton Cemetery May 2001)

 116. This Is a Story, by Anon.

 … My dream would be to write it in a column. I’d have a big book but only write in an inch and-a-half space down the middle, with lots of paper on either side so you can draw pictures. If you are writing in short blasts, like I was saying, you can fill out the details with little stick figures doing stuff. If you can’t figure out how to write it, you can do it visually.

Susan Howe's 'Thiefth'

Susan Howe’s “Thorow” and “Melville's Marginalia” performed by Howe along with music and sounds composed by David Grubb. These recordings are available on PennSound. Click here.

Thiefth was the first collaboration between Howe and musician and composer Grubbs. The two were brought together when the Fondation Cartier proposed a collaborative performance. Grubbs had been an ardent reader of Howe’s for more than a decade, and the opportunity to work with Howe’s poetry and her voice immediately intrigued. In late 2003, the two set about to create performance versions of “Thorow” and “Melville's Marginalia,” two of Howe’s longer poems. Drawing from the journals of Sir William Johnson and Henry David Thoreau, "Thorow" both evokes the winter landscape that surrounds Lake George in upstate New York, and explores collisions and collusions of historical violence and national identity. "Thorow" is an act of second seeing in which Howe and Grubbs engage the lake's glittering, ice surface as well as the insistent voices that haunt an unseen world underneath. “Melville's Marginalia” is an approach to an elusive and allusive mind through Herman Melville’s own reading and the notations he made in some of the books he owned and loved. The collaging and mirror-imaging of words and sounds are concretions of verbal static, visual mediations on what can and cannot be said.

The kind of poetry I want

Jennifer Bartlett, John Godfrey, Jackson Mac Low, Miekal And, Robin Brox, Luxorius, Yugen

cover by Susan Bee