A new PennSound podcast features Robert Creeley talking with me and others in April 2000. He was, that spring, a Kelly Writers House Fellow. During the conversation we talk about his love poetry; Bob Perelman asks him why if in his early writing he wanted to "Make It New" he seemed now to want to make it old; Stuart Curran asks about content as an extension of form*; Marjorie Perloff calls in from California; he plays a recording of his voice-recognition robot reciting his poems; etc. The event was originally webcast live.
* In "Projective Verse" Charles Olson quotes Creeley's remark that "Form is never more than an extension of content."
John Cayley can be called a a digital poet or an artist-programmatologist. He sometimes calls himself "a literal artist." I like that. His remarkable site is titled "P=R=O=G=R=A=M=M=A=T=O=L=O=G=Y." He was born in Ottawa and spent years in London before moving to Brown University. He published a book of poems (and translations), Ink Bamboo (1996), and he's published translations of a Chinese fantasy novel (he's a sinologist in addition to everything else). But mostly in recent years his work is all done online - indeed it's not really printable. His most exciting work, to me, is ambient time-based poetics. In such works, there's a stable text underlying a continuously changing display (seen on the computer screen, I should add) and this text occasionally rises to the surface of normal legibility in its entirety. Sometimes the rising text is randomly managed by you - by move of the cursor. For the work called Overboard we have this description further: "It does this by running a program of simple but carefully designed algorithms which allow letters to be replaced by other letters that are in some way similar to the those of the original text. Word shapes, for example, are largely preserved. In fact, except when 'drowning,' the text is always legible to a reader who is prepared to take time and recover its principles. A willing reader is able to preserve or 'save' the text's legibility."
If you go to Cayley's site and scroll down on the left frame until you see "recent works," you'll come upon one I really like - Circulars. The image above is a screenshot I caught while I was "reading"/playing Circulars.
Cayley has said: “What will or will not emerge as a widely recognized genre of writing from all the ephemeral new forms and experiments that proliferate across the Net and on the screens of our electronic familiars? How will all this change our notion of what writing is and how writing is made? Writing in and for a 3-D virtual world? It’s here now, and it will come.”
Yes, here's Patti Smith reading the recent Cambridge Companion to Wallace Stevens. The photograph was taken by Lawrence Schwartzwald, who just happened to see this and marvel at the apt juxtaposition.
I've got an essay in that collection, right around where Patti has the book opened. I like to think she's reading me.
There aren't a lot of Stevensean lines in Patti Smith - nor his tone or sensibility (to be sure!) - but I am thinking of these:
"The boy was in the hallway drinking a glass of tea..."
"There's a little place, a place called space..."
"...undulating in the lewd impostered night..."
Courtesy John Serio. The title of this entry is that of an early poem by Stevens.
Brice Brown and Trevor Winkfield edit The Sienese Shredder, an irregular series/journal printed on medium-gloss thick-stock paper in Verona Italy for Sienese Shredder Editions on West 23rd Street in NYC. I am holding #2 in my hands. Absolutely gorgeous. "Submissions by invitation only." Short essays, poems, a few pieces of art history with fabulous reproductions, photographs, a CD of Charles North's poems in a sleeve, and - a real treat - Brice Brown's own short piece on John Ashbery's upstate home. Among the contributors: Francis Naumann (on Florine Stettheimer), Raphael Rubinstein, Simon Cutts, Ron Padgett, William Corbett (who should be the poet laureate of Boston), Jasper Johns, James Schuyler, Tom Devaney ("The Empty House"), and Naomi Savage (her photographs called "Toilet Rolls").
Simon Cutts: his work here is collected under the title "Household Poems - installed in Tipperary." And there's Cutts, in cap and sunglasses, painting words on the side of a house. A photo shows another cream-colored stucco wall of this country house, ivy growing up over words painted which read (but you can barely see this) "the ivory veins of ivy." And a photo of the garden and big wooden garden table in the sun seen through an open window from inside the house, and just below the sill on the inside you can read this: "only a table is the right height". And also this (see below), the piece called "no ideas but in things," a neon installation dated 1999 and 2002, mounted on a wall of what looks to be a study or workroom.
"Before the days of television and mass media, the folksinger was often a traveling newspaper spreading tales through music. There is an urgent need for Americans to look deeply into themselves and their actions, and musical poetry is perhaps the most effective mirror available. Every newspaper headline is a potential song."
That's Phil Ochs, introducing to "The Marines Have Landed on the Shores of Santo Domingo" on Phil Ochs in Concert and There But for Fortune.
photo dated 1966