During the 2009 conference of the Modern Language Association in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Julia Bloch and Michelle Taransky organized the annual off-site poetry reading. The reading took two hours and 36 minutes and an audio recording was made; for the past several years, this long recording has been available on PennSound’s “MLA Offsite Readings” page. Now PennSound staff editor Anna Zalokostas has segmented the entire recording and we are now able to present the recording of each reader, as follows:
Eric Rettberg told me a few months ago about his interest in Ara Shirinyan, and I asked him if he would write briefly about it for this commentary. He agreed, and here is what he has to say. Eric is currently Edgar F. Shannon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English at the University of Virginia.
The procedure Ara Shirinyan used to write Your Country is Great (2008), in which he went through an alphabetical list of countries, Googled “[country] is great,” and wrote poems from the results, ensures that the book repeats relentlessly. Seemingly empty declarations of greatness abound, from “aaww lol belgium is great =)” (29) to “Finland is great because / Finland is great” (103), and so too do reports of the great recreational activities available in the countries of the world. “The beaches are the bomb” in Costa Rica (70), just as Bulgaria is great “if you want young drunk fun in the sun” and “Cyprus is great for sun and beaches” (49, 78).
Forty years ago today, a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet waged war on the democratically elected government of Chile. It was the South American September 11th. That day began a period of cruel repression, characterized by extreme violence and human rights abuses. Thousands of people were tortured, murdered and disappeared. The Chilean people commemorate this day with remembrance, mourning and renewed commitment. We observe this date in solidarity from within the borders of the Empire where the coup began. Our collaborative composition examines the damage beyond the event itself, crossing continents and spanning years. You may hear resonances of folk singer Victor Jara, fundraiser/activist Ronni Moffitt, poet Pablo Neruda and CIA agent Michael Townley. Of course, there are also the voices inside the house.
The house is the site of an artist salon hosted by novelist Mariana Callejas, as recounted in Roberto Bolano's novel By Night in Chile. One of the few gathering places for artists after the coup, many artists attended — though almost no one would admit that they were there.
Erin Moure spoke with Charles Bernstein in 2010 about reading, translation, and multi-lingual poetry — audio, 7 minutes long: MP3. Her long discussion with Bernstein, part of his Close Listening series, has recently been segmented. Moure also talks about her identity as a Canadian and living in Montreal, the importance of identity and nationality in reading a poem, on how sound as a texture operates in her work, among other topics.