Al Filreis

Clumsy, erroneous, freakish, foreign

Charles Bernstein's new book of essays

Charles Bernstein after reading at the Kelly Writers House on April 12, 2016; photo by Al Filreis

Pitch of Poetry is a book full of important essays. And of course I urge you to read the whole thing. The seven essays under “L=A=N-G=U=A=G=E.” The seventeen pieces about individual writers under the titular heading “Pitch.” The comic deadly serious epilogue under “Bent Studies,” that catalogue of recalcitrances, aphoristic chips from the workbench of a life’s work of radical anti-sectarianism, index-sourcework for what I take to be Charles Bernstein’s most significant contribution: his incessant anti-anti-intellectualism. If you can’t manage all that reading, I recommend starting with the eleven collaboratively written essays under “Echopoetics,” for there is where readers will locate the heart of this poet-critic’s intellectual generosity and aesthetic flexibility.

What follows is the text of an introduction I gave at a book launch event marking the publication of Pitch of Poetry (University of Chicago Press, 2016) held at the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia on April 12, 2016. — Al Filreis

This is a book full of important essays. And of course I urge you to read the whole thing. The seven essays under “L=A=N-G=U=A=G=E.” The seventeen pieces about individual writers under the titular heading “Pitch.” The comic deadly serious epilogue under “Bent Studies,” that catalogue of recalcitrances, aphoristic chips from the workbench of a life’s work of radical anti-sectarianism, index-sourcework for what I take to be Charles Bernstein’s most significant contribution: his incessant anti-anti-intellectualism. If you can’t manage all that reading, I recommend starting with the eleven collaboratively written essays under “Echopoetics,” for there is where readers will locate the heart of this poet-critic’s intellectual generosity and aesthetic flexibility.  “Echopoetics” is a poetry of call and response. Its poetic theory and its frankly affirmed values are discernible variously in these essays, talks, conversations, statements and anti-programmatic programmatic dicta.

Naomi Replansky (b. 1918)

Naomi Replansky with the commentrator, 4-1-2016 (photo credit: Charles Bernstein)

Yesterday Charles Bernstein and I interviewed the radical poet Naomi Replansky, now 98 years old. The interview will soon be available as an episode of Charles's "Close Listening" series. Naomi corresponded with Harriet Monroe in 1934 (I have copies of those letters from the POETRY archive) and published 3 poems in POETRY soon after. In the late 1940s and early 50s she published in the communist magazine "Masses & Mainstream." Her book "Ring Song" came out in 1952 and was nominated for a National Book Award. During our talk yesterday she recited the title poem "Ring Song" and several other poems—magnificently. She attended Gertrude Stein's lecture in New York in 1934. She was a friend of Bertolt Brecht in Los Angeles, where she also befriend the group of poets around the magazine "California Quarterly." Her Selected Poems was published in 2012.

A conversation with Eileen Myles (video)

Eileen Myles’s recent visit to the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia as a Kelly Writers House Fellow featured, among other public events, an interview-conversation moderated by me. The video recording of the one-hour conversation, which was live-streamed as a webcast, is now available here. Generally these were the works covered in the discussion: InfernoThe Importance of Being IcelandChelsea Girls, the essay “Foam,” and some of the poems gathered for I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems. The session concluded with Myles's reading a passage in Inferno in which she contemplates her return to Harvard to give a reading, a dislocated homecoming that leads to painful memories of what Harvard's complaints about her father's drinking signified.

Michael Magee, 'Morning Constitutional'

In the Kensington section of Philadelphia, 2004.

Thanks to PennSound staffer Hannah Judd, a November 2001 reading of Morning Constitutional Michael Magee gave at the Kelly Writers House — with Louis Cabri — has been segmented. Magee's book Morning Constitutional was published in 2001. Publisher's Weekly observed: “A breadcrumb trail of juiced urban monologues, phrasal runs somewhere between Dolphy and Sun Ra, rope-a-dope reports from a guarded ordering bordering on an underdog corner restoration and definitional clarity (a slush fund is dirty money) mark these ante-meridian outings, exercising our rights and outlining the space between our laws.” Magee walked Philadelphia in the mornings and these poems densely record his observations, debris-like.

Michael Magee's book Morning Constitutional was published in 2001. Publisher's Weekly observed: “A breadcrumb trail of juiced urban monologues, phrasal runs somewhere between Dolphy and Sun Ra, rope-a-dope reports from a guarded ordering bordering on an underdog corner restoration and definitional clarity (a slush fund is dirty money) mark these ante-meridian outings, exercising our rights and outlining the space between our laws.” Magee walked Philadelphia in the mornings and these poems densely record his observations, debris-like. The book is still available for purchase. Philip Metres wrote about it for Jacket in May 2003.

Now, thanks to PennSound staffer Hannah Judd, a November 2001 reading Magee gave at the Kelly Writers House — with Louis Cabri — has been segmented.

Take the no out of now

Gerd Stern in 2000

Gerd Stern — poet, multimedia artist, performer, 1960s Happenings guy — visited the Writers House in September of 2000. (Gerd was one of the founders of “USCO,” a group of artists, engineers and poets creating multi-media performances and environments which toured U.S. museum and university venues during the 1960s.) He gave me this magnet (see image above) that night.