On March 26, 2003, before an audience gathered for an event sponsored by the SUNY Buffalo Poetics Program, David Antin performed a fifty-minute talk-poem called “War.” It seems to have been a tense gathering. The second US incursion into Iraq had begun six days earlier, led by George W. Bush, who features prominently in Antin’s talk that evening. After delivering “War” this once, Antin apparently never transcribed it — nor apparently then, in his usual mode, lineated this talk-poem. Did he not sufficiently value it, then or later? Is it perhaps too unlike his usual talking performance? Perhaps it too directly referred to the political problem of the moment in relation to the poet’s work? PoemTalk this time — featuring Ariel Resnikoff and two dear friends of the late Antin, Jerome and Diane Rothenberg — considers “War” and such questions.
Al Filreis, Anna Strong Safford, Zach Carduner, and Chris Martin took PoemTalk on the road where they met up with Stephen Willey and Luke Roberts at Birkbeck University of London for a discussion of Sean Bonney's Happiness. Twenty pages of Happiness were included in Letters Against the Firmament. The group focused on the first four pages or poems or sections of Happiness (pp. 120—23). Sean Bonney’s PennSound author page hosts three different recordings (two audio and one video) of his readings from this long poem (1, 2, 3). The version used here was the one recorded in London in 2011.
One Sunday afternoon at Kelly Writers House, Jake Marmer, Frank London, Al Filreis, and Maria Damon ducked into the Wexler Studio to talk about Jerome Rothenberg's Poland/1931. The group chose to focus on the section of that book entitled “Galician Nights, or a Novel in Progress” — on, in particular, a 2002 performance in which Rothenberg chanted the text while backed by the Klezmatics (the band including one of our interlocutors, the Hasidic New Wave eminence Frank London, on trumpet). The recording — which lasts six minutes and twenty-six seconds — can be found at Rothenberg’s extensive PennSound page.
Al Filreis was joined by Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, Leonard Schwartz, and Mahyar Entezari for a discussion of three poems by Fatemeh Shams about the extremities of war, surveillance, and love in a time of authoritarianism. The poems appear in When They Broke Down the Door, published in 2016 by Mage Publishers with English translations by Dick Davis. We invited Shams and Davis to our Wexler Studio, where they recorded a number of poems (including our three poems) for her PennSound author page.