Al Filreis

Discussion of Elizabeth Willis's "Survey"

Elizabeth Willis at the Kelly Writers House

Today we are making available — through the ModPo site — a discussion, hosted by me, with Emily Harnette, Anna Strong Safford, and Amaris Cuchanski, of Elizabeth Willis's "Survey." It's one of the new poems in Willis's recent New & Selected Poemstitled Alive. This link

https://www.coursera.org/learn/modpo/resources/rdFga

— will take you inside the ModPo site, which is free and open (but one must enroll for access).

Here is a link to the text of the poem. And here is a link to the PennSound recording of Willis performing the poem (at Kelly Writers House).

Caroline Bergvall's introduction to 'VIA'

Click here to view a full-sized scan of the introduction Caroline Bergvall wrote to her poem “VIA” for the collection titled Fig (Salt Books, 2005). A ten-minute recording of Bergvall performing “VIA” is available at PennSound. Episode #64 of the podcast series PoemTalk is a discussion of “VIA.” I have published a note on two versions of the piece here. A twelve-minute video discussion of “VIA” produced for the open online course ModPo is available here.

Dan Hoffman on 'The Raven' (video)

The late poet-critic Dan Hoffman, who years ago wrote Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe, talks about “The Raven” at the Kelly Writers House. (To see other clips from Writers House programs on YouTube, click here.)

Zero Visibility, by Grzegorz Wróblewski

Grzegorz Wróblewski’s new book, Zero Visibility, translated by Piotr Gwiazda*, has reached me — and I’m thrilled to have it. Wróblewski is constantly fascinating; he is often precise and whacky both. Many modes are here in this new book. One — perhaps my own favorite — is surrealist post-Soviet consciousness:

Cosmonauts

What was going through his mind when for the first time in his life
my dog saw a horse? He frozen like a statue, erect, hypnotized.

It was as if he had encountered a space alien.
He didn’t move until the horse disappeared over the horizon …

Lydia Davis on 'A Mown Lawn' (video)

On Tuesday, April 25, I had the honor of interviewing Lydia Davis. She had come to visit the Kelly Writers House as a Writers House Fellow. The program is associated with a seminar that I teach — in which the students and I read as many of the writings of the Fellow as we can. As I discussed Davis’s work with my students and KWH colleagues, I became fascinated by several micro-stories that particularly read like prose poems. “A Mown Lawn,” a series of permutative phrasings that moved forward from the vowel affinities of mown and lawn and riffed semantically as well (thus starting with suburban lawn care, moving through law-and-order conservatism and finally reaching imperialistic warfare), became a special fascination. 

On Tuesday, April 25, I had the honor of interviewing Lydia Davis. She had come to visit the Kelly Writers House as a Writers House Fellow. The program is associated with a seminar that I teach — in which the students and I read as many of the writings of the Fellow as we can. As I discussed Davis’s work with my students and KWH colleagues, I became fascinated by several micro-stories that particularly read like prose poems. “A Mown Lawn” is a series of permutative phrasings that progress from the vowel affinities of mown and lawn to semantic riffing as well — starting with suburban lawn care, moving through law-and-order conservatism and finally reaching imperialistic warfare. I was compelled by the poem’s radicalization of homonymic improvisation. Naturally, then, when I had a chance to interview its author, I asked her if she would be willing to read it, and comment. She describes this as one of just two explicitly political pieces.