PoemTalk

Worker's tanka (PoemTalk #139)

Six tankas by Christine Yvette Lewis, Lorraine Garnett, and Davidson Garrett of the Worker Writers School

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This episode of PoemTalk was cocurated by Mark Nowak and Al Filreis. In it we discuss with Meg Pendoley and Husnaa Hashim six short poems following the tanka form. The tankas were composed by three poets, two tankas each by Christine Yvette Lewis, Lorraine Garnett, and Davidson Garrett. The poets are members of the Worker Writers School, which meets regularly in New York City. The recordings we hear in the episode were made by Brooklyn-based filmmaker Zardon Richardson at a meeting of the workshop on February 2, 2019. With our program notes, we make available the films of these poets performing their poems.

Written in water (PoemTalk #138)

Maggie Nelson, 'Bluets'

From left: Jennifer Firestone, Adrienne Raphel, and Julia Bloch.

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Al Filreis gathered with Adrienne Raphel, Jennifer Firestone, and Julia Bloch to talk about Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. This book of 240 numbered prose-poem propositions was published by Wave Books in 2009. The group focuses on eleven sections, those numbered 222–232; these appear on pages 8993 in the Wave edition. Maggie Nelson’s PennSound page includes several recordings of readings in which she performs this work. The recording we play at the start of this episode is from a reading she gave at Boise State University in Idaho on April 26, 2013. 

Laying poems away (PoemTalk #137)

Anne Sexton, 'The Ambition Bird'

Left to right: Ellen Berman, Anthony Rostain, Ahmad Almallah

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Al Filreis was joined by Ellen Berman, Anthony Rostain, and Ahmad Almallah to talk about Anne Sexton’s poem “The Ambition Bird” (1972). Berman and Rostain are practicing psychiatrists, and Almallah is a poet whose first book, Bitter English, is being published by University of Chicago Press. A film of Sexton reading the poem — available on YouTube — is the basis of the audio we extracted.

Saw the lie (PoemTalk #136)

Nasser Hussain, 'SKY WRI TEI NGS'

From left: Ujjwala Maharjan, Nasser Hussain, and Kevin Platt.

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For this episode of PoemTalk, Al Filreis convened Ujjwala Maharjan and Kevin Platt to meet with Nasser Hussain for a discussion of Hussain’s recent project, SKY WRI TEI NGS (Coach House Press, 2018), a book of poems in which words are chosen only from the list of all the world’s three-letter airport codes. The group focused on three poems from the book: “ISL AMO PHO BIA,” “EAT (FOR MIC LEE),” and “STO RIS.”

Hadbeen variety (PoemTalk #135)

John Cage, 'Writing for the Second Time through Finnegans Wake'

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Marjorie Perloff, Danny Snelson, and Nancy Perloff convened with Al Filreis at Marjorie Perloff’s home in Los Angeles to discuss John Cage’s mesostic abridgement of James Joyce, “Writing for a Second Time through Finnegans Wake.” Nothwithstanding its status as an intense selection or condensation of the original text, the resulting “writing through” is too long for PoemTalk’s signature “close but not too close reading,” so the group focuses on the opening pages of the Cage text. “Writing for a Second Time,” including the methodological preface, has been published in Empty Words; the pages we discuss (37–42) have been made available through PennSound here.