Al Filreis

John Shea's 'Tales from Webster's'

I am pleased to present a glimpse at John Shea’s Tales from Webster’s project — a prefatory note about purpose and method, followed by one tale, which is a tale unto itself but also serves as a note to readers of the book of tales.

The “tales from Webster’s” are a new literary form invented by me.  What is a “tale from Webster’s” — a poem in prose, a short (very short) narrative, a verbal arrangement?  A combination of all of them?  There may be no conclusive answer. On the other hand, the structure of the “tale” is clear.  The bolded key words on the left of the page are consecutive entries in Webster’s New World Dictionary, Second College Edition (World Publishing Company, 1970).  The text on the right is my connective tissue that links the key words into a kind of narrative, scene, or evocation of personality.  The tale is read the customary way, from left to right, beginning at the highest point — with the additional frisson of a leap across the white space after each dictionary entry.  There must be at least five key words; and the linking text is no more than three lines long. Get ready for some good, not-so-clean, intellectual fun. — John Shea

Julia Bloch to become director of Creative Writing at Penn

Gregory Djanikian is retiring at the end of this academic year from full-time work at Penn after many, many successful years as director of the Creative Writing program. Everyone who has worked with Greg will miss his generosity, patience, administrative ingenuity, his fine stewardship of the program, and his consistently superb teaching in poetry workshops. We won't have to miss him too terribly much, however, as he will be back each spring semester to teach a class.

C. S. Giscombe in the Line Reading Series, 2002

New at PennSound

Thanks to PennSound staffer Hannah Judd, we are now making available the poem-by-poem segmentation of C. S. Giscombe's September 24, 2002, reading for the Line Reading Series. To hear many more readings by Giscombe, consult his PennSound author page.

  1. Introduction (1:29): MP3
  2. Favorite Haunt (1:57): MP3
  3. Fever (2:14): MP3
  4. A Train at Night (2:00): MP3
  5. Prairie Style (1:47): MP3
  6. Nature Boy (1:43): MP3
  7. Ballad Values (0:34): MP3
  8. Indianapolis, Indiana (8:38): MP3
  9. The Negro in Indiana (0:52): MP3
  10. Wild Cards (0:49): MP3
  11. The Traveling Public (5:17): MP3

Kelly Writers House 'Open Learning Teaching Fellowship'

The Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania invites applications to the ModPo Open Learning Teaching Fellowship, which will be offered for the first time in Fall 2015 and is designed to support teaching resources within the Modern and Contemporary American Poetry free open online non-credit 10-week course taught by Al Filreis and others. This Fellowship is sponsored by the Teacher Resource Center, an intrasite within ModPo.

William Meredith on poetry recordings in 1961

William Meredith’s 1961 essay about then-new recordings of poetry, published in the Hudson Review, starts out with a point I deem apt and true, and then goes on, in my view, to misunderstand pretty much every aspect of such recordings. Naturally, though, it is an important document in the not-very-long bibliography of such writings before, let us say, 1970 or so. I am thus pleased to be making it available here: PDF. His opening point: “A poet's reading of his poems is probably as near to an ingenuous commentary as he can give us about his intentions, certainly about his designs on our ears” (470). Meredith knew very well that such use of poetic intention in 1961 was fraught — in the New Critical heyday — and I'm glad he used it knowingly, because it gives the idea a slight feel of critical difference and resistance: the oral reading of a poem written for the page does "give...intentions" especially — but not only, of course — about oral (and really: aural) design. The citation: William Meredith, “New Poetry Recordings,” Hudson Review 14, 3 (Autumn 1961), pp. 470-73.