Ammiel Alcalay, Gary Barwin, and Danny Snelson joined Al Filreis to talk about a poem by John Wieners for which we at PennSound have two recordings. The version used as the basis of this PoemTalk discussion was part of a brief two-poem performance at the Poetry Project in New York, in 1990. (He also read "Confidence" that day.) “The Acts of Youth” was written in the early 1960s and published in Wieners's second book, Ace of Pentacles, in 1964.
LISTEN TO THE SHOW Kaplan Harris is a scholar and editor who writes about a wide variety of 20th- and 21st-century poetry, including the work of Ted Berrigan, Hannah Weiner, Susan Howe, and the Flarf poets. With degrees from North Carolina State University and the University of Notre Dame, he currently teaches at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. For the last several years, Harris has been co-editing the forthcoming Selected Letters of Robert Creeley with Peter Baker and Rod Smith. His article “The Small Press Traffic school of dissimulation” was recently published in Jacket2.
LISTEN TO THE SHOW Tao Lin is a novelist, poet, and provocateur currently living in Brooklyn. He has written six books of fiction and poetry, including Richard Yates (2010), Shoplifting from American Apparel (2009), and cognitive behavioral therapy (2008). Lin runs the publishing imprint Muumuu House, and you can find his website here. He also occasionally contributes to the blog Thought Catalog. I spoke with Lin in his bedroom in June of 2010.
LISTEN TO THE SHOW Sina Queyras is a poet and writer currently living in Montreal. She was raised in western Canada, and has degrees from the University of British Columbia and Concordia University. Queyras has lived in many places and held many jobs, and we talk about the ways geography and work have shaped her poetics. Her poetry collections Lemon Hound (2007) and Expressway (2009) were published by Coach House Books, and her excellent blog is called Lemon Hound.
The eighth section of Nathaniel Tarn’s sequence Dying Trees is titled “Unravelling / Shock.” Dying Trees was first published as a chapbook in 2003; later, in 2008, it was included entirely in Tarn’s New Directions book, Ins and Outs of the Forest Rivers. When the Dying Trees sequence was still unpublished, Tarn gave a reading at the Kelly Writers House (2002) during which he read several sections of the then-new poem, including the one discussed here by Marcella Durand, Burt Kimmelman, Erin Gautsche, and PoemTalk’s producer and host, Al Filreis.
The setting is certainly Tarn’s parched American southwest. Drought is killing the trees; a cancer diagnosis is delivered; nationalism has brought more warring. The convergence of the three forms a “web.” “A hole [has been] torn in the fabric of the world.” News travels bodily; leaders fail to lead; beetles pierce bark; a demonic mouse – “wee” and yet terribly efficacious – compounds the morbidity to the point of body-snatching. It happens as an ecological, medical, and political simultaneity, and the speaker is not in a state to be much concerned about keeping the categories separate. Thus the poem is itself “the whole infernal weave” – a quality more obvious in this eighth section of the poem than in others.