Al Filreis

A vocabulary of sounds for Amiri Baraka

Andrew Demirjian participated in ModPo during the fall of 2013.  “As I was reading the poems and watching/listening to the videos,” he wrote me recently, "I was working on two pieces as a creative response to the course.” One of those pieces is entitled “Amiri Baraka A-Z.” It is an alphabetical vocabulary for Baraka, consisting of word-length clips drawn from PennSound’s Baraka recordings, each embedded under a letter of the alphabet. Click on a letter — or touch a letter on the iPad — and Baraka’s voice performs single words beginning with that letter. Once you start the web-installation poem, it will continue; you can stay with a letter, or move around and spell out your own performative vocabulary.

A few thoughts on Vendler's Stevens

I recently re-read Helen Vendler’s 1986 review of Milton Bates’s A Mythology of Self (1985) and Albert Gelpi’s collection of essays (The Poetics of Modernism, 1985) which included Marjorie Perloff on Stevens experience (or inexperience) during World War 2, Michael Davidson’s critique of Stevens as not a prosodic innovator, and Alan Golding on Stevens and Zukofsky. (I have insufficient space here to deal with Vendler’s complex reaction to Perloff’s piece – a topic that should surely occasion another foray into the matter.)[1]

Vendler was in general not fond of the essays collected by Gelpi, but she did admire Milton Bates — whose meticulous book was the first full-length biographical/intellectual/historical reading of Stevens.

Needless iconoclasm

Notes on an anthology of contemporary American poets in 1957

Ray B. West, editor of The Western Review (published for years out of the University of Iowa), went on a rare leave of absence and left things to an acting editor, Richard Freedman. (Paul Engle, faculty director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, served as the magazine’s advisory editor.) While Freedman was minding the editorial store, the magazine published as its Spring 1957 issue a selection of twenty-one poets who had come of age in the late 1940s and early 1950s – “essentially,” Freedman noted, “the generation which has developed since the Second World War.” Richard Stern chose the poets and poems.

David Wilk interviews Charles Bernstein, Al Filreis & Michael Hennessey of PennSound

On December 5, 2013, David Wilk released his interview with me, Charles Bernstein and Michael Hennessey about PennSound. At his WritersCast site, Wilk explains: 

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics? It’s my hope that these conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in publishing and writing, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

Pierre Joris on Paul Celan and the Shoah

On December 3, 2013, Pierre Joris discussed Paul Celan’s poetry, with special focus on his response to the genocide of Europe’s Jews and others during World War II. The session, which I moderated, featured close readings of passages of “Death Fugue” and “Stretto.” Joris played an audio recording of Celan reading the first section of “Death Fugue,” and a newly discovered video recording made from Celan’s appearance on German television.