Al Filreis

Jackson Mac Low in 1984

On stability, choice, connection, political poetry, & other topics

Jackson Mac Low, "Drawing-Asymmetry #10" (1961), from the collection at MoMA

Jackson Mac Low speaks during a long question-and-answer session at New Langton Arts in San Francisco, c. 1984. This recording came to PennSound’s archive in two parts, and — thanks to the efforts of Hannah Judd — we now make them available in segments roughly topical.

Part 1 (47:38): MP3

  1. On philosophy of humanism (2:40): MP3
  2. On human value (8:43): MP3
  3. On identification (9:15): MP3
  4. On self-perception (6:40): MP3

Ammons on Rezi: 'Slight artistic interest'

Ammons to the left; Reznikoff to the right

I've been writing about Charles Reznikoff’s Inscriptions, which collected 53 short post-holocaust poems written in the late 1940s to mid-1950s and published finally — self-published by Rezi, actually — in 1959. Reviewers got to it in 1960 and ’61. I came across A. R. Ammons's review in the April 1960 issue of Poetry. Ammons is reviewing Bob Brown's amazing, fabulously unusual 1450-1950, a book published by Jonathan Williams that consists of hand drawings, in a sense reversing the era of the book (marked by the dates of the title) — an avant-garde undoing. Ammons liked the book, although thought of it as a high modernist throwback: “a cool breeze from the Twenties for our hot, dry, thermonuclear times.” Most of the review is taken up by Ammons's assessment of Robert Duncan’s City Lights Selected Poems, and there’s nothing per se wrong with that. But Reznikoff’s Inscriptions deserves more than the 55 words it gets here.

John Shea's 'Tales from Webster's'

I am pleased to present a glimpse at John Shea’s Tales from Webster’s project — a prefatory note about purpose and method, followed by one tale, which is a tale unto itself but also serves as a note to readers of the book of tales.

The “tales from Webster’s” are a new literary form invented by me.  What is a “tale from Webster’s” — a poem in prose, a short (very short) narrative, a verbal arrangement?  A combination of all of them?  There may be no conclusive answer. On the other hand, the structure of the “tale” is clear.  The bolded key words on the left of the page are consecutive entries in Webster’s New World Dictionary, Second College Edition (World Publishing Company, 1970).  The text on the right is my connective tissue that links the key words into a kind of narrative, scene, or evocation of personality.  The tale is read the customary way, from left to right, beginning at the highest point — with the additional frisson of a leap across the white space after each dictionary entry.  There must be at least five key words; and the linking text is no more than three lines long. Get ready for some good, not-so-clean, intellectual fun. — John Shea

Julia Bloch to become director of Creative Writing at Penn

Gregory Djanikian is retiring at the end of this academic year from full-time work at Penn after many, many successful years as director of the Creative Writing program. Everyone who has worked with Greg will miss his generosity, patience, administrative ingenuity, his fine stewardship of the program, and his consistently superb teaching in poetry workshops. We won't have to miss him too terribly much, however, as he will be back each spring semester to teach a class.

C. S. Giscombe in the Line Reading Series, 2002

New at PennSound

Thanks to PennSound staffer Hannah Judd, we are now making available the poem-by-poem segmentation of C. S. Giscombe's September 24, 2002, reading for the Line Reading Series. To hear many more readings by Giscombe, consult his PennSound author page.

  1. Introduction (1:29): MP3
  2. Favorite Haunt (1:57): MP3
  3. Fever (2:14): MP3
  4. A Train at Night (2:00): MP3
  5. Prairie Style (1:47): MP3
  6. Nature Boy (1:43): MP3
  7. Ballad Values (0:34): MP3
  8. Indianapolis, Indiana (8:38): MP3
  9. The Negro in Indiana (0:52): MP3
  10. Wild Cards (0:49): MP3
  11. The Traveling Public (5:17): MP3