Al Filreis

Francie Shaw, artist's talk (podcast)

A new Kelly Writers House podcast is now out (#36 in our ongoing series). In this podcast, we hear an excerpt from an artist's talk by Francie Shaw, whose show was exhibited in our Brodsky Gallery in the late autumn of 2013. For more about the event, click here. To listen to the podcast, introduced by Allison Harris, click here. For a video recording of the full event, click here.

Michael Palmer's 'Recursus to Porta' (performed 1990)

We at PennSound are beginning to analyze quantities and types of downloads from our archive. From time to time we will have something to say about what we discern in such analysis. For now, this fascinating and not-quite-explainable factoid: since January 1, 2014, one of the five most-oft downloaded MP3 recording from PennSound has been a poem by Michael Palmer, performed at Buffalo in 1990: “Recursus to Porta” (3:34): MP3. And the poet whose PennSound recordings were most frequently downloaded during this time has been Norman Fischer.

Anti-ordination in the visualization of the poem's sound

Bernstein chants 73 through 75 in "1 to 100" (1969)

ARLO visualization of the PennSound recording of Charles Bernstein's "1 to 100," numbers 73 through 75

Through ARLO (Adaptive Recognition with Layered Optimization), enabled by the HiPSTAS (High Performance Sound Technologies for Access and Scholarship) project headquartered at the Information School of the University of Texas at Austin, I sought to visualize the later passages of Charles Bernstein's chanted/screamed list or counting poem, “1 to 100” (1969). Thanks to Chris Mustazza, Tanya Clement, David Tcheng, Tony Borries, Chris Martin, and others, I am finally learning how to use ARLO to some rudimentary effect. Every single PennSound recording is now available in a test space to which ARLO can be applied by researchers, including myself, associated with the project. We are just beginning. HiPSTAS has received two NEH grants to make all this possible, and PennSound is a founding archival partner.

Nick Montfort's phonetical fanaticism

Back in 2006, when the Modern Language Association conference was held in Philadelphia, Nick Montfort joined twenty-seven other poets for the annual “MLA Offsite Series” reading. Each poet read very briefly, typically just one poem. Nick chose to perform “I Icing Sing.”  The constraint is a phonetic one. Each stanza consists of many pairs of syllables that sound very alike, as in “eye eye sing sing.” So the beginning reads:

                  eye eye sing sing but but er er up up right right in in joy joy

— and here is how those sounds become words in the first two lines:

I icing sing — but butter her up
upright, right in. Enjoy joy.

The poem was published in CrossConnect magazine and can be found here. And here is the recording of the poem made at the MLA reading. The recording of the entire event can be found here.

Open online course on modern poetry enables Pakistani student find his university and his writers' house

An article in the Christian Science Monitor features three talented students who found their college experience in unusual ways. One of those three is Taha Tariq — of Lahore, Pakistan — who discovered Penn and the Kelly Writers House through “ModPo,” the free and open online course on modern and contemporary American poetry offered through the House. Here is a portion of the article. The whole article can be found here.

When I meet Taha at the White Dog Cafe in the heart of the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia, it is apparent that he loves language – and conversation. He is a geyser of ideas, large and small, and offers snippets of insight and self-awareness.

Over smoked salmon artfully arranged on a rectangular plate, he proclaims his passion for author Jodi Picoult ("The judgments, decisions, moral dilemmas, and questions she presents leave me speechless," he says). Later, we visit Hill College House, his dorm, and meet his suitemates on the fourth floor. I learn that he has seen plays around the city, been a guest at a roommate's home on Long Island, and led late-night debates in the communal study space.

Taha is also intrigued by an ongoing conversation he has been having with a street vendor about religion. We sit on a stone bench amid fallen leaves as he describes the moral twists the man's narrative suggests and his plans to write about it, not for any class, but for himself.

Taha is interested in problems of perception and understanding. In Pakistan, he says, a relative and a friend's uncle were both injured by bomb blasts near mosques. "I feel I should be doing something about that," he says, during a Friday evening phone conversation. It's unclear what Taha will make of his future, but he is ambitious, imaginative, and eager to have an impact. It is odd, he says, to realize that just a year ago he had stumbled upon a MOOC and was watching Dr. Filreis online – the same professor he now calls "Al." Filreis is his adviser and teaches the seminar he recently took on representations of the Holocaust in film and literature.