Commentaries

not enough

The fifth episode of PoemTalk has been released - a 25-minute discussion of Ted Berrigan's list poem, "3 Pages." Joining me this time are Linh Dinh, Randall Couch, and erica kaufman. The program notes (on the PoemTalk blog) are here. The link to the Poetry Foundation site is here; you'll find a listing of all five PoemTalks there as well.

measure for measure

Suzanne Vega at the Writers House last night. We talked a bit about her New York Times blog, "Measure for Measure." With Anthony DeCurtis leading the conversation, she discussed - and played a few songs from - her new album, Beauty & Crime. She also performed a fabulous a capella "Tom's Diner." It's the Blutt Singer-Songwriter Symposium at the Kelly Writers House, in its second year; the inaugural event last spring feature Rosanne Cash. Hear our recording of Rosanne.

photo by John Carroll

doing not enough every day (PoemTalk #5)

A list of Bohemian pleasures. Ted Berrigan's "3 Pages" is a list poem, surely. He mentions ten things he does every day (including "read lunch poems," surely a reference to Frank O'Hara's book of that title) but the PoemTalkers - Randall Couch, Linh Dinh and special guest erica kaufman - had trouble counting them. We got to nine, and pondered. erica then suggested that she "would count 'NOT ENOUGH' as being ten." The last line of the poem.

Those American things (heart attack, Congressional medal, second home) that immediately precede the last line...well, for Berrigan, they don't add up.

So our PoemTalk poem this time is a summing-up poem (Berrigan hinted as such a quality) that sums up by affixing "not enough" to the total. We four liked this sort of life, were turned on by it. Oh, set us down by the waters of Manhattan.

Aside from O'Hara there are further literary references here in this poem about leading the literary life. By the Waters of Manhattan is the novel of another important New Yorker poet, Charles Reznikoff. Al says: "'NO HELP WANTED' as a placard turns around the usual, 'You're an American boy, get a job.'" Ahabian resistance to progress and accumulation and reason, in a world of Starbucks. We found the rhetoric of folk song here, and we saw indeed deep traces of Moby Dick's irrational-rational aestheticism. "Hunting for the Whale" is one of the "ten" things a Berrigan poem does for us every single day.

For the purposes of introducing the idea of the list poem to people not used to seriatic ways of modern and contemporary poetry, we agree that this poem is the perfect instance with which to start. "Teachable" in that sense.

The poem is dedicated to Jack Collom, and our Linh Dinh phoned Jack himself for his thoughts. Listen to PT #5 and find out what Jack told Linh.

Recorded in the Arts Cafe of the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia, PoemTalk #4 was produced by Al Filreis, edited and engineered by Steve McLaughlin. PennSound's Ted Berrigan page is a treasure trove of great recordings, including the famous 1981 reading of his Sonnets in their entirety. Our poem can be heard here. The poem was read on the radio show "In the American Tree" in 1978, during an interview conducted by Lyn Hejinian and Kit Robinson on KPFA, Berkeley.

"3 Pages" was published in Berrigan's book Red Wagon and here is a link to the text.

teaching artificial simplicity

I've been reading the blog of a former student and now someone prominent in marketing (his field is "persuasion"). The blog is called Artificial Simplicity. Here's an advertising guy who quotes George Oppen: "Clarity for my sake. That I may understand my life..." and commends Jane Jacobs.

Scott's entry today is called "Innovation in the classroom: an homage," and it's, in part, about my teaching. "He taught and taught me that the point of the humanities classroom was not to communicate a particular idea but rather to get students excited to think in a new way. (It's still my goal for early meetings with a new client). What his methods--now widely adopted--created was an ongoing discussion and debate which went on all week."

...and Shelley was six feet tall

Working in a pickle factory made Theodore Roethke - oh, call him Ted - a regular guy and a poet apt for Americans' appreciation, since they appreciate big, strapping regular guys and poets are big, strapping regular guys.

Okay, so I exaggerate. But only a little. Click here for my account of a Cosmospolitan essay about poetry that pretty much makes this argument.