Al Filreis

William Carlos Williams: a portrait reveals (the painter felt) his dark Caribbean features

Scott Peterson, an ophthalmologist, was a student in my open online course on modern and contemporary poetry last fall (“ModPo”). We studied William Carlos Williams’s poem “Smell!” in that course, and naturally there was a lively discussion of WCW's nose and its various meanings and functions. Scott then told me that since college he has been passionate about collecting Williams-related items. His undergraduate work on Paterson was published “way back in 1967,” as he puts it. Among his Williams holdings are a bronze bust of the poet (Scott cannot remember the artist’s name) and Emmanuel Romano's well-known portrait in oil. Scott has kindly given me permission to publish images of the sculpture and the painting.

Paul Mariani in his biography writes several informative paragraphs about Romano's painting — and the brief connection between the painter and the poet. Williams sat for the portrait in September of 1959. One of Romano’s reasons for doing the portrait was to get Williams to write a statement about his paintings for a one-man show in New York scheduled for that December. Mariani notes that in this painting the poet's “face was angular, almost fractured in a style recalling Cezanne.”

In Williams's poem “Self-Portrait” written in 1959:

No time for any-
thing but his painting.

Romano wrote in his own diary (entry of September 27) that he was “disturb[ed]” by “the reflection of the light in [WCW’s] eyeglasses.” Take the glasses off, the painter thought, and he would lose the look of “boyish enthusiasm” and would also lose, Romano felt, the look of the poet’s mother's “silky independence” and her dark Caribbean features which the painter felt “revealed themselves” in the portrait.

Ashbery on Jane Freilicher & on being an art critic

John Ashbery talks for five minutes on being an art critic and on the influence of Jane Freilicher on his poetry: MP3. The recording was segmented from a longer recording of proceedings at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery 60th anniversary program held at The New School in New York on January 31, 2011. The conversation with Jane Freilicher was moderated by Jenni Quilter. Links to recordings of Ashbery’s other comments during this program are here, on PennSound’s Ashbery page.

Rose is a rose in python

Jared Nielsen has created a series of videos in which he rewrites modernist poems as Python programming language scripts. His character — intended to engage children in this experimental poetry-programming — is Guido the Python. Click here for a link to the site and access to the video of the Stein piece.

Is poetry going extinct, or isn't it? Let's get this right, folks.

The Boston Review, on its site today, posts the 10 “best and most read” pieces of the year 2012. Among them is Marjorie Perloff’s “Poetry on the Brink.” But the one-line tag that goes along with the piece on their list says Perloff argues that poetry is “in danger of extinction.” That's not at all what she says. Oh well. So much for close reading.

You write what you eat

CA Conrad's "(Soma)tic Midge" considered, plus links to all audio recordings of the poet reading the work

The jacket of the Faux Press edition of "(Soma)tic Midge"

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” Mark Twain wrote that. C. A. Conrad’s book of poems (Soma)tic Midge proves that exactly the opposite (opposite in every element) is probably the truth. Eat what you must, and let the food fight it out on the outside. Fortunately for us, the outside is this writing.

The Faux Press of Cambridge, Mass., published Conrad's chapbook, the earliest work in a series he has been writing under the general rubric “somatic poetics.” Poetry of the body, by the body, maybe even for the body — although while the first two effects can be discerned in the writing, the latter of course can only be guessed from it. But I'm guessing this work has felt to the poet to be for the body also. Work that is done to the body.

Before and after the Faux Press publication of the book, Conrad read parts of it at various readings, and PennSound’s Conrad author page features a number of recordings of these sections. See, below, for links to all these — brought together in one linked list.