Al Filreis

Jake Marmer's improvised poetry

hand-drawn improvised shape poem by Jake Marmer

Back in April 2013, I featured in this commentary an instance of Jake Marmer’s improvisational work, under the title “Improvised poetry: palimpsest of drafts.” Recently, Marmer recorded an another poetic improvisation.  The improvisation is based on one of his poems — and is a departure from it, “a new radical spontaneous draft.” It was remixed by Israeli bassist Jean-Claude Jones, who also recorded an improvised a bass track for it. Above is the  handwritten “shape poem” version (to borrow Hank Lazer’s phrasing) which Marmer says he found specifically helpful in the improvisatory process.

Here is the recording, as composed and performed by Jake Marmer and then remixed by Jean-Claude Jones (with added bass): MP3.

2009 MLA off-site poetry reading (audio)

During the 2009 conference of the Modern Language Association in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Julia Bloch and Michelle Taransky organized the annual off-site poetry reading. The reading took two hours and 36 minutes and an audio recording was made; for the past several years, this long recording has been available on PennSound’s “MLA Offsite Readings” page. Now PennSound staff editor Anna Zalokostas has segmented the entire recording and we are now able to present the recording of each reader, as follows:

  1. introduction (1:34): MP3
  2. Matthew Landis (2:56): MP3
  3. Rodrigo Toscano (4:14): MP3
  4. Carlos Soto Roman (2:32): MP3
  5. Kim Gek Lin Short (4:51): MP3
  6. Jacob Russell (2:10): MP3
  7. Angel Hogan (2:37): MP3
  8. Ish Klein (3:45): MP3
  9. Gregory Laynor (3:01): MP3
  10. Nava EtShalom (3:50): MP3
  11. Ryan Eckes (1:16): MP3
  12. Sueyeun Juliette Lee (1:52): MP3

Laughing at Ara Shirinyan's "Your Country Is Great"

by Eric Rettberg

Ara Shirinyan. Photo by Harold Abramowitz.
Ara Shirinyan. Photo by Harold Abramowitz.

Eric Rettberg told me a few months ago about his interest in Ara Shirinyan, and I asked him if he would write briefly about it for this commentary. He agreed, and here is what he has to say. Eric is currently Edgar F. Shannon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English at the University of Virginia.

The procedure Ara Shirinyan used to write Your Country is Great (2008), in which he went through an alphabetical list of countries, Googled “[country] is great,” and wrote poems from the results, ensures that the book repeats relentlessly. Seemingly empty declarations of greatness abound, from “aaww lol belgium is great =)” (29) to “Finland is great because / Finland is great” (103), and so too do reports of the great recreational activities available in the countries of the world. “The beaches are the bomb” in Costa Rica (70), just as Bulgaria is great “if you want young drunk fun in the sun” and “Cyprus is great for sun and beaches” (49, 78).

For 9/11/13: "No Formal Space for Intimacy"

by Frank Sherlock & Carlos Soto-Roman

Frank Sherlock (left) with Carlos Soto-Roman

LISTEN HERE [audio arrangement by Kinan Abou-afach]

Forty years ago today, a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet waged war on the democratically elected government of Chile. It was the South American September 11th. That day began a period of cruel repression, characterized by extreme violence and human rights abuses. Thousands of people were tortured, murdered and disappeared. The Chilean people commemorate this day with remembrance, mourning and renewed commitment. We observe this date in solidarity from within the borders of the Empire where the coup began. Our collaborative composition examines the damage beyond the event itself, crossing continents and spanning years. You may hear resonances of folk singer Victor Jara, fundraiser/activist Ronni Moffitt, poet Pablo Neruda and CIA agent Michael Townley. Of course, there are also the voices inside the house.

The house is the site of an artist salon hosted by novelist Mariana Callejas, as recounted in Roberto Bolano's novel By Night in Chile. One of the few gathering places for artists after the coup, many artists attended — though almost no one would admit that they were there.