the voice of no

The newest episode of PoemTalk is being released today. Elizabeth Willis, Julia Bloch, Jessica Lowenthal and I talk for about 25 minutes about Erica Hunt's marvelous poem, "The Voice of No," from her mid-90s book Arcade.

Erica is the executive director of the 21st Century Foundation. "In recent years, 21CF has taken a leadership role in promoting new models of Black philanthropy that support donors who want to develop the skills, commitment and imagination to address pressing issues impacting Black communities."

The poem ends with a horrible flood, to which the response from "us" (all of us, including the poem's speaker) is insufficient. The drowner is handed a ladder to paddle. The poem was written a decade before Katrina but since Erica and her foundation have been very involved in that and similar recoveries, we couldn't help but talk about the politics of nature during our PoemTalk session.

Go here for more on this PoemTalk. There you'll see a link to the text of the poem, to a recording of Hunt reading the poem, and to the PoemTalk discussion, of course.

paddling ladders (PoemTalk #11)

When a poet asserts she has the voice of no, does that mean she has it - has got that voice down, can do that voice - and wants to know it from the inside in order to get past it, or wants to doubt it, so that she and we can get on to the positive change we seek? Or is, finally, that voice her voice? A withering critique of present conditions (21st-century-style hyper-mediation; disorientation and alienation; natural disasters in response to which there are human-made failures): is that what this voice of no voices?

Well, you can imagine that our PoemTalkers, talking Erica Hunt's poem "the voice of no" from her magnificant illustrated book of poems Arcade, came to no simple conclusion to the above-posed questions. One reason is that the poem starts in a comically self-aware yet censorious maternal voice and then gives way, from a longer view and somewhat more omniscient p.o.v., to geopolitical social ills that indirectly but devastatingly follow (the personal is political for Hunt, for damned sure).

Elizabeth Willis joined us this time, as did Julia Bloch - for both, first appearances on PoemTalk. And an insightful regular, Jessica Lowenthal, formed up our foursome.

Here is the text of the poem. And here a link to Arcade, with illustrations by Alison Saar. Here is Erica Hunt's PennSound page and here is a link to the recording of our poem, "The Voice of No" (1:01).

Our engineers for this episode were Steve McLaughlin and James LaMarre, and our editor was Steve McLaughlin, now productively HQ'd in Rotterdam. The recording of Hunt's poem was made during a conversation with Charles Bernstein as part of his "Close Listening" series, June 20, 2005.

issue made of issue

To the controversy caused by Issue #1 (about which I wrote the other day) there have been a flood of responses. Here are two: Amy King and Ron Silliman. Kenny Goldsmith put up a neutral announcement about this on Harriet, the Poetry Foundation blog, and this was followed by scads of response. Rich Villar, among these, writes: "Howard Stern does shock value much more poetically. Yay, I'm not in it! Gonna go write a poem now, thanks." Daniel Nester: "This term -- "poetry community" -- that's an invention for the purposes of this exercise as well, yes?" And Philip Metres: "This is, of course, absolutely hilarious, and a telling expose of us poets who have our google alerts set to our names, thus dragged into the dragnet of this performance of frustrated narcissism. The joke's on us!"

Steve McLaughlin replies: LINK

announcing KWH-TV

Thanks to an anonymous gift that allowed us to acquire state-of-the-art video equipment, we can now easily webcast Writers House events, whatever's going on in the Arts Cafe: readings, seminars, recording sessions, happenings, the whole range. (We've produced webcasts since 1999 - - but with the new camera and specially configured computer, we've essentially automated the process.)

In other words, by simply logging in from home or work, you can see LIVE VIDEO of what's happening here. We hope you'll tune in.

The schedule of events we plan to webcast is below. Events at the Writers House generally start on time, or nearly so. We will, at least, be sure to turn on the camera at the appointed start time so that you'll know something will start soon.

To watch a reading or seminar, go to our webcast instructions page: here

If you have Quicktime already installed on your computer, you'll just click "Start webcast" from this page.

Please do let us know if you like what you see or if you have technical questions. You can email us at or call (215) 573-9748.

KWH-TV schedule (all times Eastern Time):

October 7, 3:30 PM
PoemTalk records episode #15: Lyn Hejinian's "constant change figures," with Al Filreis, Tom Mandel, Bob Perelman, and Rodrigo Toscano.

October 16, 6:00 PM
Music critics Tom Moon and Anthony DeCurtis discuss Moon's book, 1000 RECORDINGS TO HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE.

October 21, 6:00 PM
Novelist Jim Shepard reads from his work.

November 1, 4:30 PM
"Extreme Sportswriting," a discussion with Stefan Fatsis, Buzz Bissinger, & Jon Wertheim, moderated by Stephen Fried.

November 4, 1:30 PM
Listen in as Al Filreis and students of English 88 (modern and contemporary poetry) discuss the New York School: Ashbery, O'Hara, Koch and others.

November 10, 7:00 PM
This live, interactive "webinar" led by Al Filreis and Jessica Lowenthal will allow viewers to participate in a discussion of an Emily Dickinson poem via phone and internet. To participate, email
or call (215) 573-9748.

November 11, 6:00 PM
We'll celebrate the 125th birthday of William Carlos Williams with talks and readings by Sarah Dowling, erica kaufman, Pattie McCarthy, Jena Osman, and Elizabeth Scanlon.

November 12, 6:00 PM
Paul Hendrickson will lead a freewheeling conversation with journalists David Von Drehle and Gene Weingarten.

November 13, 1:30 PM
Listen in as Al Filreis and students of English 88 (modern and contemporary poetry) discuss the poetry of John Ashbery.

December 4, 6:00 PM
South African poet, painter, essayist, and activist Breyten Breytenbach will read from his work as part of the provost's Writers without Borders series.

Belladonna founder coming to Philly

I'm really pleased to announce that this year's CPCW Fellow in Poetics & Poetic Practice is Rachel Levitsky. She will teach a seminar called "Writing Practice of the Avant-Garde or: Avant-Garde Hybrid Writing" and at the Kelly Writers House will host the visits of several writers associated with the course.

Rachel Levitsky's first full-length volume, Under the Sun, was published by Futurepoem books in 2003. She is the author of five chapbooks of poetry, Dearly (a+bend), Dearly 356, Cartographies of Error (Leroy), The Adventures of Yaya and Grace (PotesPoets) and 2(1x1)Portraits (Baksun). Levitsky also writes poetry plays, three of which (one with Camille Roy) have been performed in New York and San Francisco. Levitsky's work has been published in magazines such as Sentence, Fence, The Brooklyn Rail, Global City, The Hat, Skanky Possum, Lungfull! and in the anthology, 19 Lines: A Drawing Center Writing Anthology. She founded Belladonna--an event and publication series for avant-garde poetics--in August 1999. A past fellow of The McDowell Colony and Lower Manhattan Community Council, she teaches at Pratt Institute and lives steps away from The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

Previous CPCW Fellows: Tracie Morris, Linh Dinh, Erica Hunt, and Kenneth Goldsmith.

For much more go here. And here's a Ceptuetics interview: AUDIO RECORDING

Below is a video recording of Rachel's reading at Berkeley as part of their lunchtime poets series: