Al Filreis

Frost's poetics and the mending wall

A debate continues

Screenshot of the ModPo "Mending Wall" live webcast, October 11, 2012. From left to right: Taije Silverman, John Timpane, Al Filreis (moderator), Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Bob Perelman.

One October 11, 2012, I hosted a debate on Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” Well, not quite a debate, but I knew that I, sitting in the middle of four poets, would be on the fence, as it were, with two on a side.  The live webcast, hosted by the Kelly Writers House, was associated with the 36,000-person free online course "ModPo," and was viewed synchronously by dozens in the room with us and thousands watching digitally around the world. We made a recording immediately afterward, and have posted it to YouTube here (1 hour, 9 minutes). (And here is a recording of Frost performing the poem. We began our discussion by listening to it; the performance is certainly important to at least the beginning of the debate.)

The differences between the sides, two versus two, didn't really emerge until the end of a fascinating discussion, but they did indeed emerge, Rachel Blau DuPlessis first finally expressing concerns about the attitude of the poem’s speaker, then Bob Perelman joining the view, pointedly. To be sure, all four poets — Bob, Rachel, and John Timpane and Taije Silverman — spent much of the time assembling a full close formal (and meta-poetic) reading of the poem. Its thematics — and politics — derived, as is apt, from the poem's quality as itself an instance in form of the speaker's impulse to have and also to keep apart from the stilled human object of his beautiful but empty annual cultural rite. Later John Timpane thought some more about his own position on the poem’s speaker; I'm pleased that he has given me permission to publish his statement here.

Perelman's "Chronic Meanings": text-audio alignment

Thanks to the work of the PennSound staff, we now add to our collection of text-audio alignments an oft-read and oft-taught poem by Bob Perelman, “Chronic Meanings.” This is a poem he chose for his selected poems, and one he is likely to read at a performance of his work across the decades. It is a pre-elegy for Leland Hickman. Perelman’s PennSound page includes several readings of the poem and also a fairly detailed introduction offered by the poet. Here is a link to the new text-audio alignment page.

Further notes on my obsession with "Some Trees"

It's a love poem but perhaps, ultimately, it's directed at someone in particular.

Perhaps John Ashbery’s “Some Trees” is a love poem for Frank O’Hara. They met at the time the poem was written, and they shared a twangy, bumpkin, non-Harvard accent. “These accents seem their own defense.” See, above, two pages from Andrew Epsteins Beautiful Enemies. You might have to enlarge the image to read it easily. See the marked block quote in the middle of p. 236.

Robert Coover: podcast (23 mins.)

Robert Coover at the Kelly Writers House, February 24, 2009

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

This is the 23rd episode of the Kelly Writers House podcast series, produced by me, hosted and introduced by Amaris Cuchanski, edited down to 23 minutes from the original hour-plus-long recording by Nick DeFina. The podcast features excerpts from a discussion with the writer of experimental metafiction, Robert Coover. I moderated the interview/discussion at the Writers House on February 24, 2009. Coover was visiting as part of a three-day stint sponsored by Kelly Writers House Fellows. He had given a reading the night before.

Kerouac riff in text-audio alignment

Thanks to the efforts of PennSound’s Rebekah Caton, principally among others, we are now able to present the text-audio alignment of the opening two paragraphs of Jack Kerouac’s ”October in the Railroad Earth.”