He became especially interested in listening to the room tone and background noise in all the recordings: the recorded texture of the room, the sound made by the recording device itself, and the non-vocal presence of Ashbery himself (a page turning, lighting a cigarette, sipping from glass of water and swallowing). Working with a friend, the artist Simone Kearney, Hawkey scanned the roughly 45 extant recordings on Pennsound to find, in each one, a clip of “silence” — a brief 3-to-7-second non-vocal moment (longer proved impossible to find) between poems, or between commentary and poems, or between title and poem. They then assembled the clips into one audio file.
It was surprisingly difficult to do this, they found, since most sound engineers remove as much dead sound and background sound as possible, or they snip off the silence at the beginning or end of a reading.
In the past two months I've systematically re-read every poem John Ashbery has published, from earliest to current (Quick Question, 2013), and in the second half of that time I've taught (or, rather, led discussions with my students on) several hundred poems. For whatever it’s worth (I don't suppose much), here is my list of 64 poems I deem indispensible to a whole understanding of Ashbery’s writing. Note that six of these 64 “greatest” are from his newest book.
Poet, translator and essayist Murat Nemet-Nejat’s most recent work includes the poem The Spiritual Life of Replicants (Talisman House, 2011), the translation of the Turkish poet Seyhan Erozçelik’s Rosestrikes and Coffee Grinds (Talisman House, 2010), and the memoir/essay “Istanbul Noir” (in Istanbul: Metamorphoses in an Imperial City, Talisman House, 2011). Nemet-Nejat’s translation of the Turkish poet Birhan Keskin’s book Y’ol (Ro(a)de) will be published in 2012. He is currently working on “Things,” part VI of the seven-part poem, “The Structure of Escape,” of which The Spiritual Life of Replicants is part V.
On January 31, 2012, Murat visited the Kelly Writers House and read, in part, from The Spiritual Life of Replicants and spoke about the structure of “The Structure of Escape.” I recommend to readers of this commentary the audio and video recordings of that reading. After the event, I asked Murat if he would like to write for Jacket2 about his seven-part project, and he agreed. Here, below, is what he has written. — Al Filreis
I was honored recently to be asked by Kevin Varrone to read and record a section of his emergent long series poem on baseball, Box Score. Above is the section he asked me to perform, and here is the recording I made for him. I can’t wait to see (and listen to) this book.
Ken Lum is the the new head of Penn’s undergraduate program in Fine Arts (as of Fall 2012). Lum is an artist, curator, editor, writer, and teacher. He has published extensively, and a book of Lum’s writings, edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist, is forthcoming from Walter Koenig Books. In addition to holding faculty positions at University of British Columbia (Vancouver) and Bard College, he has realized several permanent public art commissions including for Vienna, St. Moritz, Leiden, Toronto, Vancouver and Utrecht. He is currently working on public art commissions for the cities of Seattle, St. Louis, and New Orleans. This discussion took place at the Kelly Writers House on January 30, 2013.