The I as hieroglyph (PoemTalk #84)

H.D., 'Helen in Egypt'

Photo credit: H.D. Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University and New Directions Publishing.


Julia Bloch, Dee Morris, and Annette Debo joined Al Filreis for this extended episode of PoemTalk, and their task — to give a sense of the whole of H.D.’s lyric epic Helen in Egypt through a discussion of five selected small parts — certainly pushed at the limit of PoemTalk’s scope and mode.

There it was (PoemTalk #83)

Wallace Stevens, 'The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain'

Left to right: Susan Howe, Dee Morris, Nancy Kuhl


Among the last things Wallace Stevens wrote was a metapoem, a poem in which a man — a reader and presumably a poet too — does not write a poem but picks his way among the aspects of an old poem, the poem that had once helped him by standing in for a mountain. He composes (or rather “recompos[s]”) the objects and perspectives of the way or path up the mountain. It had been a “direction.” Was it now again?

Remote yet present (PoemTalk #82)

Carl Rakosi, 'In What Sense I Am I'

At the Poetry Foundation in Chicago: (left to right) Laura Goldstein, Al Filreis, Anthony Madrid, Don Share


Anthony Madrid, Laura Goldstein, and Don Share joined Al Filreis at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago for a special on-the-road PoemTalk episode, a discussion of Carl Rakosi’s poem “In What Sense I Am I.” The poem appeared in Rakosi’s Collected Poems in the mid-1980s, but otherwise the group was not able to date the poem except through internal evidence — and there’s plenty of that — although taken all together such evidence leaves things open — for instance, the reference to Eliot’s Prufrock.

Deep descent (PoemTalk #81)

Fanny Howe, 'The Descent' & 'The Source'

Photo credit: Ivy Ashe.


Laynie Browne, Rae Armantrout, and Kerry Sherin Wright joined Al Filreis at the Kelly Writers House to discuss two short poems by Fanny Howe, “The Descent” and “The Source.” These are, respectively, the first and last poems in a series called “The Descent,” published together with other series in a book titled Gone (California, 2003).

Fail better and revolt (PoemTalk #80)

Tom Leonard, 'Three Texts for Tape: The Revolt of Islam'

Left to right: Al Filreis, Jenn McCreary, Leonard Schwartz, Joe Milutis


Jenn McCreary, Joe Milutis, and Leonard Schwartz (the latter two traveling from the state of Washington) joined Al Filreis at the Kelly Writers House to discuss a poem/audiotext created by the radical Scottish poet Tom Leonard. The piece is part of a work called “Three Texts for Tape,” which was recorded by Leonard at his home in Glasgow in 1978 on the poet’s TEAC A-3340S reel-to-reel tape deck. The part of the project discussed in this episode of PoemTalk is “Shelley’s ‘Revolt of Islam.’”