Evie Shockley’s first reading of NourbeSe Philip’s Zong! #6 is the first of five we will publish in this second set of short essays in the new series. We will soon add first readings of Philip by Arlene Keizer, Meta DuEwa Jones, and Kathy Lou Schultz, among others. — Brian Reed, Craig Dworkin, and Al Filreis
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If I remember correctly, my first first reading of NourbeSe Philip’s Zong! was a listening. In that I was lucky, because Philip is a beautiful reader of her own work, reciting in a quiet, steady voice that makes even the harshest, most guttural sounds in the English language (“l/anguish”) sound comforting — and also because hearing parts of Zong! read aloud gives one assurance that it can be read on the page.
Steve McLaughlin represented the Kelly Writers House on a committee steering the University of Pennsylvania through its “year of sound” (2013-14). Needless to say, sound is right down our audiophilic alley. Steve organized an event as part of the theme year at the Writers House — held on February 4, 2014 — and it featured experimental radio host and producer Benjamen Walker. Audio and video recordings of the full program are available, but today we are releasing a Kelly Writers House podcast, number 35 in the series, that offers a 15-minute excerpt of the hour-plus-long program. The excerpt was edited by Matt Bernstein.
1997 was a relatively quiet time, between the first and second Intifadas, in Israel/Palestine (Wiki here): a period of sustained tensions but relatively few new acts of violence after the 1998 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, with 1100 air strikes, Hezbollah counterattacks, and numerous civilian casualties, which led to the 1999 election of Ehud Barak and withdrawal of Israeli troups. In 1997 there had been three major suicide bombings in Israel, one at a centrally located cafe in Tel Aviv in March, and two in Jerusalem markets in July and September.
[EDITOR'S NOTE. My own concern with minimal forms of poetry & verbal composition goes back to the 1960s & discoveries I was making & creating in Techncians of the Sacred and Shaking the Pumpkin & connecting to experiments in our own time by poets like Ian Hamilton Finlay & others connected most specifically with what we were then speaking of as concrete poetry. That there was a complexity of thought & act behind this was another point I had to make – both “there” & “here” – & still that point seemed obvious enough. I called it, for Finlay & others, “a maximal poetry of minimal means,” & where I got into it myself, I found it helped to cool off, to set another temperature for what was otherwise my work. It’s with thoughts like this in mind that I approach Seymour Maynes’s long-running project of what he calls & practices as “word sonnets.” In their one-word verticality I’ve found a strong resemblance too to the look & feel of Chinese poetry that led Ernest Fenellosa to see in the immediacy of the Chinese graphic/visual ideogram (set one per line) “a splendid flash of concrete poetry.”