Al Filreis

'Kora in Hell: Improvisations,' the audio

Douglas Storm has made a recording of himself performing William Carlos Williams’s Kora in Hell: Improvisations. The recording is 1:46:13 in length: MP3. Because Williams republished the book in 1957 without the original preface, Storm begins his reading after the preface. Thus the opening is this: “Fools have big wombs. For the rest? here is pennyroyal if one knows to use it. But time is only another liar, so go along the wall a little further: if blackberries prove bitter there ll be mushrooms, fairy- ring mushrooms, in the grass, sweetest of all fungi.” The full text of Kora is available here (among other places) at the Internet Archive.

Some takes on Whitman's importance to contemporary poets

In this 5-minute video excerpt from the recording of a 90-minute live “ModPo” webcast on aleatory poetry, Amaris Cuchanski, Emily Harnett, Max McKenna, erica kaufman and Lily Applebaum each take a turn discussing the Whitmanian mode as it can be discerned in contemporary poetry. To view the entire video, click here.

Further explorations of found poems in card catalogues

Or: fighting against fear

photograph by Meredith Bergmann

Ever since I saw the photographs associated with Erica Baum's book of photographed juxtapositional found poems, Card Catalogue (1997), I've been rather obsessed with the project. I've taught it to my students many times. I can't think of a better way of extending forward the lessons they and I learn when encountering imagism and other radically condensed juxtapositional language at the beginning of poetic modernism. Baum of course has often photographed the language she finds out there and is especially attracted to categorizing systems, such as the codex (Dog Ear) or the catalogue. This conceptualist consciousness — and devotion to words in the ambience (as in: who needs to create them? they're there) — I find extraordinarily teachable and infectious. One of my students is a young autistic man, Dan Bergmann. Readers of this ongoing commentary will surely have heard of Dan’s feats of talking (writing, really — or, still better: spelling). What is even more remarkable is the way in which Dan becomes aware of categories and meaning-systems.

A note on two versions of Caroline Bergvall's 'Via'

The version of "Via" (subtitled "48 Dante Variations") that Caroline Bergvall published in Fig (Salt, 2005) consists of, in fact, 47 different translations of a single tercet from The Divine Comedy (Part 1, canto 1, lines 1-3). The version of the piece as it appeared in Chain (#10, Summer 2003; pp. 55-59) includes 48 translations. Bergvall published a prefatory statement in Fig that, in part, explains the difference (pp. 64-65). Those pages appear below. For a larger view, click on the image.

Tsitsi Jaji among 'Seven New Generation African Poets'

Tsitsi Jaji at Harvard as a Bunting Institute Fellow

Recently Aldon Nielsen noted that the choice made by Kwami Dawes and Chris Abani to include Tsitsi Jaji’s Carnaval in the box-set edition of Seven New Generation African Poets (Slapering Hol Press, African Poetry Book Fund; 2014) indicated that she has joined “the burgeoning number of poet-critics who are now working in our best universities . . . who are doing some of the most memorable work both as scholars and as poets.”  Indeed, the concerns of the poems in Carnaval are the concerns of Jaji's recent critical book, Africa in Stereo. The poem “Preambule” is written across the Zimbabwean ground (“lightly / loosening the soil’s death rattle”) as its theory of listening derives from a transnational circulation of classical music (lines inspired by Schumann’s Carnaval, Op. 9, which the poet herself has performed), African-American double consciousness (W.E.B. DuBois) and musicological migration (“The piano originated in Africa,” per Abdullah Ibrahim).