Commentaries

'70s in Orono

Quaint downtown Orono, without the snow. I've eaten several times at this restaurant. Once the confab, which went on happily for hours, was highlighted by a delightful conversation with Harvey Shapiro. Harvey's company was ten times finer than the food.

The National Poetry Foundation - its home has been Orono for many years - hosts a series of conferences on poetic decades. I've attended several of these, mostly notably the gatherings on the 1930s and 1940s. Alan Wald and I drove up (what a long drive!) from New Haven to Orono for the '30s conference. A highlight there was a talk by M. L. ("Mac") Rosenthal reflecting (for the first time in public, so far as I know) on his late-'40s NYU dissertation on '30s poets Rukeyser, Fearing and Horace Gregory.

That MLR had been somewhat ashamed of his choice of topic was obvious even at that late date (it was 1994 or so--which would be 2 years before Mac died); to choose 3 communist-affiliated "social" poets for a dissertation topic--not to mention such contemporary writers--at the beginning of the cold war did not seem to augur well at the time for Mac's career. And indeed he never published the dissertation as a book. (I own a clumsily bound copy printed from microfilm by that dissertation service in Ann Arbor.) He went on just fine at NYU, editing anthologies, publishing his own poems, teaching some of the great younger poets (Paul Blackburn was his student), becoming poetry editor of The Nation in the late 50s.

Now the tribe is back at Orono again (not I this time, though) to talk about the 70s. I'm somewhat following the proceedings because "LJS," the Britain-born NYC-based student of Anglo-Saxon and poetics who authors the blog called "The All-Purpose Magical Text," is and will be blogging summaries of readings and talks.

An Orono alphabet: here.

Some photos and a few videos: here

And from the blog called "glamor levels hi," this here entry that enchants me with its surprising phrases: "I imagine a world in which all objects retain the the political essence of previous use: I am me because my second-hand anarchist scarf knows me." "[A]nd when will the 70s end? and haven’t we quite eerily at this conference recreated social conditions?" "Everybody has to eat breakfast and then drive an hour to a museum to hear Bernadette Mayer and Clark Coolidge. This is why I am in Orono at all."

Here's the conference schedule.

podcast of vibe guy

Rock journalist Alan Light visited the Writers House in September 2007 and gave a talk about his book The Skills to Pay the Bills, The Story of the Beastie Boys. Light is former editor in chief of Vibe, Spin, and Tracks magazines, and a former senior writer for Rolling Stone. He is also the editor of Tupac Shakur and The Vibe History of Hip Hop.

I just completed a Kelly Writers House podcast which features a 20-minute excerpt from Light's talk. Here's a link to the podcast mp3. And here's a summary of the event, and other links, from the Writers House web calendar.

walking around New York in a red aura

Pepi Ginsberg, the 24-year-old Brooklyn (via Philadelphia) singer-songwriter, has a new video out - a song, "On the Waterline," that's on her new album, Red. Albert Birney directed the video and it's a fine one: Pepi's evocative warbly voice, ruminative and Dylanesque through phrasal repetitions, is matched by what the Stereogum note-writer calls the "vintage, analog-drenched feel" of the video. Her lyrics are poems for sure. Bias disclosure: Pepi (aka Jessy) was a student of mine many times over, and a close affiliate of the Writers House, and one of my favorite people in the world.

oh, so you're that kind

At a party last night, Upper West Side-y gathering. Great fun, nice people, lots of interesting folks to talk to. But one of those scenes where once you find out what someone does you can't help but think that you know a good deal about who he or she is. The architect who really turned out to be very much the kind of person who is an architect. A photographer with, in other ways too, a very good eye. A guy who, when he gives you his email address, you realize has his own domain name ([his-last-name].org) who turns out of course to be a technology entrepreneur. And I the Ivy League professor? The others, this morning upon arising, if they think of me at all, will think, That guy surely was the Ivy League professor he told us he was.

In part this is obvious, this is tautology. A photographer is, after all, a photographer. And is likely to seem so generally.

No sooner do I decide that there is nothing profound about any of this, I happen to re-read Lydia Davis's fabulous prose-poem or short-short short story titled "A Position at the University." It was published in a book of such pieces, called Almost No Memory in 1997. The text is below, and the recording of Davis herself reading the piece is in PennSound.

audio Stevens

When Don Share was an archivist at Harvard, he worked with audio recordings that were and are in the collection of the Woodberry Poetry Room, and (getting grants and whatnot) started to put together "The Poet's Voice" - subtitled "a digital poetry collection." Harvard has a recording of the 1952 poetry reading Stevens gave there, introduced by Richard Wilbur. And also the more well known 1954 reading which became the basis of a cassette Stevens distributed by Random House Audio. Click here to see the Poet's Voice entry for these two recordings. Here is a perhaps more helpful listing of all the poems Stevens read aloud - with links to RealAudio streaming (not downloadable) digital recordings of some of them.

With thanks to Ben Wiebracht who helped me conduct this search, here is a list of other recordings of Wallace Stevens poems:

(1) A poetry blog where someone who calls himself "Hoon" quotes, comments on and reads aloud some poems by Stevens:

*http://audiopoetry.wordpress.com/category/poet/wallace-stevens/

(2) Early poems read aloud by Alan Davis Drake. Many of these readings were made for LibriVox.org and Cloud Mountain Studios.

*http://drakesdoor.org/podcasts/ws/wallacestevens.xml
*http://drakesdoor.org/podcasts/ws/stevens_public_domain.html

(3) "Peter Quince at the Clavier" read by Walter Rufus Eagles.

*http://www.eaglesweb.com/Sub_Pages/stevens_wallace_poems.htm

(4) An old, not-maintained HarperAudio site that includes old-format digital audio files in three formats of Stevens himself reading "The Idea of Order at Key West," "The Poem that Took the Place of a Mountain," and "Vacancy in the Park," and "To An Old Philosopher in Rome."

*http://town.hall.org/radio/HarperAudio/021594_harp_ITH.html

(5) Wesleyan University hosts the site of the Hartford Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens. Here there is a link to a single poem read by Stevens from the recording made at Harvard in 1954, "Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself." The audio file is stored on a Wesleyan media server, but did not work the last time I attempted it.

*http://www.wesleyan.edu/wstevens/stevens.html

(6) Salon.com hosts recordings of Stevens reading "To the One of Fictive Music" and "Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself."

*http://poetsonline.blogspot.com/2007/04/wallace-stevens-audio-downloads.html