Note: I met Daniel Bergmann through my 10-week free and open online course – “ModPo,” a study of modern and contemporary American poetry taught through a collaboration of the University of Pennsylvania and Coursera. He was one of 36,000 students. He submitted his first essay — a close reading of “I taste a liquor never brewed” by Emily Dickinson — and it was a fine short essay on the poem. I happened to comment on it; I don't comment on all the essays, I can assure you, but I happened to notice Daniel's and thought it noteworthy. The student on the other end of my comments, posted to the ModPo discussion forum, was ecstatic. So were his parents, a New York-based film-maker and a sculptor. They were aware of this teacher-student exchange because one of them helps Daniel communicate through an iPad configured with special software enabling Daniel to type one letter at a time with one finger. Daniel doesn't speak and indeed he had never written an essay before. It took him a long time. The affirmation pushed him further. He kept up with the course and became one of the most widely recognized participants. He and his parents visited the Kelly Writers House to join us for a live webcast session — to be in the in-house audience for what is otherwise a virtual synchronous gathering hosted through Google Hangout/YouTube and enhanced by twitter and our virtual forums as well as a phone line. Daniel enjoyed that, stayed for my afternoon Penn class on the same poetry, and then spent some time with me in my office at the Writers House (photo above). He returned for the final webcast session and there met a number of his classmates. At the end of the session, when people were invited to create two-word poem-like sayings to summarize the experience of this experimental course, Daniel actual spoke into the microphone — haltingly, but clearly: “Not impossible” was his poem. I challenged him to write about his ModPo experience, and, although it took some time, he has done it. He wrote the words you find below. He is also writing an essay, which I hope to publish in Jacket2, on Ron Silliman's prose-poem “BART,” about which Daniel has a lot to say. He has tasted a liquor never brewed — fine, discerning writing — so it is hardly surprising that he is enebriate of this new air.
The final enrollment in this free, 10-week noncredit course on modern and contemporary American poetry was 42,523 in the fall of 2012, and 38,150 in the fall of 2013. Contributions to the discussion forums were read (well, viewed) 957,000 times in 2012. Video recordings of collaborative close readings of poems were viewed nearly a half million times in ten weeks (in '12 and '13 each). The course site remains open for those enrolled for another nine months. Here are some links:
Andrew Whiteman (Broken Social Scene, Apostle of Hustle) and Ariel Engle (Land of Kush) have formed a new group, called AroarA. Andrew has long been a PoemTalk listener and serious user of PennSound recordings. He visited Kelly Writers House a few years ago, while in Philadelphia on tour — came by to meet us and get a feel for the actual place. A few weeks ago, Andrew returned to KWH with Ariel and performed songs from In The Pines by Alice Notley. They use all fourteen poems from Alice’s book and convert them (back) into faux folk song forms. Each poem became its own song.
In a 2011 interview (given in Miami),Whiteman was asked about the book of poetry he's been writing (how far along was he?), and here was his answer:
Not far. Broken Social Scene is still working a lot. Plus, I have a new band (hopefully playing on the 30th) called AroarA with Ariel Engle — she sings in Montreal with a band called Land of Kush. We are singing the poetry of Alice Notley's In the Pines in a bizarrely concocted version of faux folk. But I do keep working away at it, so hopefully it'll be online by the end of the year. It's called Tourism and its about being on the road. I might read a couple of things.
On November 10, 2012, there was a celebration at the Kelly Writers House in honor of Marjorie Perloff's induction into the American Philosophical Society. We timed the publication of a major Jacket2feature on Perloff's life and work to coincide with the induction and the party. Here are a few photos taken that evening.