Commentaries

Cold-war poetry

At Franklin & Marshall's Writers House on March 10, 2010: A Lecture and Conversation: Al Filreis on "Some Poems of the Cold War: The Tranquilized 50s".At Franklin & Marshall's Writers House on March 10, 2010: A Lecture and Conversation: Al Filreis on "Some Poems of the Cold War: The Tranquilized 50s". "Come out from under your desks. In this hands-on session, Al Filreis will present several poems to explore together with participants within the milieu of the Cold War culture. Filreis is a Kelly Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, the founder and Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania, and Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing. Filreis is the author of 5 books on poetry, as well as numerous academic articles and essays. This event is free and open to the public." More...

Bob Kaufman

An early photo of poet Bob Kaufman. More...

at the Ear Inn

Charles Bernstein standing in front of the Ear Inn. It was January 4, 1992, before or after a reading at 326 Spring Street, Manhattan. That day he read with Ann Lauterbach. [Photo credit: Lawrence Schwartzwald.]

turn left in order to go right

From his book Turn Left in Order to Go Right, Here is a poem I greatly admire: "I'd Like to See It." The refrain--"I'd like to see it that way"--is offered every four or five lines. It seems to me the perfect meditative and yet arbitrary structure to frame an otherwise random series of hoped-for conditions, which range from intensely and obscurely personal to geo-political. "So I could relax, put on my enormous suit / And ring your doorbell holding my breath and flowers." And also: "For the good of the nation behind bars" and "In order to be able to end war..." The refrain itself, rather than closing off possibilities in the serial quality of the remarks and thoughts, doubles the meaning each time: (1) It would be nice if it were so; I would like to make it so; and (2) This is how I would like to see or perceive or understand this or that part of my world. There's both agency and fatedness.

We at PennSound have a recording of Fischer reading this poem aloud--beautifully. I urge readers of this blog to read the text while hearing Fischer's Zen-ish performance. Charles Bernstein describes Fischer as "incandescently tranquil" and I cannot think of a better example of this hard-to-achieve tone than this poem.

Americans read or hear 100,000 words per day

Americans on average read or hear 100,000 words per day.Americans on average read or hear 100,000 words per day. Anyone who has read Kenneth Goldsmith's Soliloquy can compare that figure against one talkative avant-gardist's one-way talk (just Kenny going out, leaving aside what's coming in and not including his reading) for a week; just divide by seven. Here is your source for the factoid. The media "reporting" of the study that produced this information implies that it's all a disaster and that it's qualitatively as well as quantitatively new.

Oh, yes, and despite all the doomsaying about the end of reading and writing: people are reading and writing more than they did in 1980. Reading somewhat more and writing a whole lot more.