Commentaries

Teaching imagist revision

Resources for Williams Carlos Williams's 'Young Woman at a Window' (two versions)

For three decades I have been presenting my students with two versions of William Carlos Williams’s “Young Woman at a Window.” How was the poem revised? Do the versions disclose the method of revision? Does one version better befit Williams’s apparent aims at condensation, action rather than explication? And what and where is the poem’s subject position? I sometimes have led a discussion by asking others to decide which of the two versions they prefer, assuming they prefer modern poems to do in themselves, as writing, what they say. There is of course no need to prefer one version of this or any poem to another, but the preferential exercise decenters the teacher-presenter in ways I have found very productive.

Jerome Rothenberg & David Antin: A First Interview with Kenneth Rexroth (1958), Redux

The memory of Kenneth Rexroth goes back into my distant past. I had been aware of him since the 1940s but with renewed interest during the 1950s & the emergence of the San Francisco Renaissance & that early Beat Generation for which he was an older spokesman. With David Antin & others, circa 1958, I was coming into contact with poets outside of our immediate neighborhood &, as with Kenneth, outside of our own generation.

I think our first meeting with him was under the pretext of doing an interview for Chelsea Review, during its early period, when Robert Kelly & George Economou were among the co-founders & editors.

The sensory experience

Sampling the Archive

When I last wrote about the Black Writers Museum, I discussed how its unique mission was embroidered in every aspect of its physicality. When I returned to delve into the archive itself and bring forward some of its collection, I realized the best way to describe it was to offer it up in its collaged, multivalent reality. It’s a lot like being in a poem -- an intense, challenging poem. There’s a sense of the disjointed collecting itself into something more powerful than its constituent words, lines, or images.

Ginsberg and Burroughs talking with Studs Terkel (audio)

New at PennSound

Ginsberg & Burroughs talking with Studs Terkel — a PennSound recording now segmented into topics. It is now available at PennSound’s Allen Ginsberg page. (Many thanks to Domenic Gibby Casciato, PennSound staffer, for expertly doing the segmenting.) 

Just Out: 'Canto Diurno'

Selected poems in French

Canto Diurno, my Selected Poems (1972-2012) in French (translations coordinated by Jean Portante) and with a foreword by Charles Bernstein, was published this month by Le Castor Astral in their "Les Passeurs d'Inuits" series. Many thanks to Jean Portante, Jean-Yves Reuzeau, Jacques Darras, and Charles Bernstein for their invaluable contributions.

Here, an extract of Charles Bernstein's foreword:

Pierre Joris’s Cantos Diurno are never solemn, but they acknowledge the “darkness that surrounds,” as Robert Creeley once put it, that we are always behind our ideals, hopes, aspirations, premonitions, regrets, fears – behind both in the sense of supporting and after, trying to catch up, desperately for the most part, but in these poems not desperate but fortunate, in good humors and with humor.