On April 18, 2013, at 12 noon (eastern time), I hosted a live webcast — an open discussion of two poems by Wallace Stevens: “The Plain Sense of Things” & “The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain.” I was joined by the ModPo TAs. Participants in this session joined a collaborative close reading of the two poems, and had a chance to email questions and/or phone us to ask questions or make comments. Here is a link to the video recor
Grateful acknowledgment is made to Jake Marmer, who has consented to the publication of this essay here. — A.F.
I remember listening to Marc Ribot’s band Ceramic Dog, thinking: My entire brain — the main line and the back corners — is burning to grasp this music. That night, the avant-garde guitarist played what was likely an entirely improvised set with three fellow musicians. I tried to follow each new direction the music took, each new interaction that erupted; I was fully consumed in some new state of attention, witnessing all the multiple levels of the work coming together in front of me.
I wanted to improvise poetry as Ribot had improvised his music. It’s not a new idea. Jack Kerouac, like a number of other poets of the Beat era, wrote ecstatic, unedited compositions that felt raw and spontaneous. Kerouac famously explained that he wanted to be known as the “jazz poet blowing a long blues in an afternoon jazz session…” But his improvisation was limited to the writing process. Once finished, these poems remained more or less static throughout the publications and poetry readings that followed.
Ed Baker writes: “The following letters were written by me to Cid Corman in 1973-1975 while I was working on restoring John Penn's 1723 farm-house and writing Restoration Poems and retrieved/purchased from the William Reese Company via abebooks.com on March 12, 2005. Cid's replies to my letters are in Restoration Letters (tel let, 2003). Cid gave a packet of some of the things that I had sent to him to his brother with instructions to sell. The letters included here were included in that package presented here in a little different form. Some of Cid’s replies to my letters in RESTORATION LETTERS (1972 – 1978), tel let, 2003. The poems were published as RESTORATION POEMS, Country Valley Press, 2008. That's 35 or so years AFTER first writings / versions of the poems ! As Cid wrote in 1975: ‘No hurry with the book : it won't improve with haste. And now one riding you. Let it accrete and shape it with care as it comes. And then mull it with even more care when it seems “done”. The way you’re working makes heavy demands on each word ...’” — Ed Baker 9 - 10 - 2010 / 11 - 13 - 2012