Al Filreis

Pierre Joris on Paul Celan and the Shoah

On December 3, 2013, Pierre Joris discussed Paul Celan’s poetry, with special focus on his response to the genocide of Europe’s Jews and others during World War II. The session, which I moderated, featured close readings of passages of “Death Fugue” and “Stretto.” Joris played an audio recording of Celan reading the first section of “Death Fugue,” and a newly discovered video recording made from Celan’s appearance on German television.

Stephen Collis

Some thoughts upon having re-read five of his books

Stephen Collis is an important contemporary poet, with ten books of poems published, at least eight of them as substantive book publications. To the Barricades (Talon, 2013) is one of the books in a trilogy going under the title “The Barricades Project.” Here the poet maintains a shifting or fluid form of social address (“on the run,” is what one reviewer noted), and this is the formal expression of the works’ content. Together, all the work seeks to form cities of words. The compilings of negativities (e.g. in a poem called “Threshold song” [p. 128]) suggest their hopeful opposites – spaces inhabited, or at least occupied, by the very coal ports, containers, parties, societies, and species that seem to have vacated. The project is clear and striking – holds out possibilities even through its negations.

Jen Bervin

Sewing down the Mississippi

Jen Bervin will sew the Mississippi on your ceiling, if your ceiling is big enough.  I saw Bervin present on her “Mississippi” project. “Mississippi” is a panoramic scale model of the river that divides east and west in the United States. The scale is one inch to one mile, and the length of the river and gulf measures 230 curvilinear feet. The river is installed on the ceiling; it shows the riverbed mapped from the geocentric perspective, from inside the earth's interior looking up at the riverbed. It is composed of silver sequins; light shifts over the surface of them as you move through the space.  The sequins are made of foil stamped on cloth, a rare variety of vintage French sequin that comes strung in clusters. They vary in circumference — some are quite tiny. They are sewn onto a very simple layer of paper, mull, and tyvek. The lower Mississippi, or meander belt, was completed at The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in August 2009. “During that time,” Bervin writes, “I found that it took me exactly the same amount of time to sew the length of river in sequins that it would have taken me to walk the same section of the river.” 

Ten newly found recordings of poems performed by Ashbery

Thanks to Anna Zalokostas, we at PennSound have just now located recordings of ten of John Ashbery’s poems. They had been preserved in a Segue Series audio tape, dating from a 1978 reading Ashbery did with Michael Lally at the Ear Inn. We had left the Ashbery portion of this reading not quite identified, and have now corrected that oversight. On Ashbery’s PennSound page now, and on the Segue series page, you will now see — and can hear — these segments:

  1. A Box and its Contents (1:42): MP3
  2. The Heralding Shadows of a New Adventure (2:01): MP3
  3. Haunted Landscape (3:28): MP3
  4. Five Pedantic Pieces (1:02): MP3
  5. The Cathedral Is (0:17): MP3
  6. Silhouette (2:36): MP3
  7. A Tone Poem (0:59): MP3
  8. Metamorphosis (2:26): MP3
  9. Sleeping in the Corners of Our Lives (1:21): MP3
  10. from Litany (19:59): MP3

Taylor Mead, the antihero floating by on his boombox barge

On October 5, 2013, Bob Holman hosted a memorial for Taylor Mead at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery. He and others then headed over to the East River (and E. 10th St.) to toss Mead’s ashes into the water with a group of attendees that included Mead’s niece Priscilla. Holman’s note in advance of the gathering read as follows: “Join me at Taylor Mead Memorial at St Mark’s Church today, Sat. Oct. 5 at 1:30. Followed by champagne and chocolate cupcake reception. Then we’ll go to the East River and wait for our antihero to float by on his boombox barge.” The photograph here was taken by Lawrence Schwartzwald and is used here in Jacket2 with the photographer’s permission. Further use requires explicit permission.