Alice Notley's American way

Joe Milutis came in from Seattle for this sessionPoemTalk episode 25, recorded in early summer 2009 — and met up with Zack Pieper (wandering eastward from Milwaukee), drove down from northeastern Pennsylvania together and joined Al Filreis, our host, and Erica Kaufman (coming from New York) at the Writers House, where it was time to consider a poem that is either specifically about a postage-stamp-sized offbeat haven (the lower East Side of New York of a certain era) or generally about the whole America from which indeed our PoemTalkers gathered. Well, probably both.  Joe calls Alice Notley’s “I the People” a poem writing out the “agon in American culture.” Zack speculates on why Notley was embarrassed by the title: it’s “a gentle parody,” Zack offers, “of the way political language abstracts things,” but troubling is the general over-use (especially on the Left) of the term “the people” in particular.  Our recording of the poem is from Alice Notley’s reading at Buffalo in 1987. Notley’s PennSound author page includes four full readings and dozens of individual poems. And here is the text of the poem. [read more]