Listen to everything you love disappear (PoemTalk #112)

Patrick Rosal, 'Instance of an Island'

Patrick Rosal.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Ross Gay, Josephine Park, and Herman Beavers joined Al Filreis to talk about Patrick Rosal’s “Instance of an Island.” The poem was collected in Rosal’s book Brooklyn Antediluvian (Persea, 2016). Our recording of Rosal performing the poem comes from a Wexler Studio reading done at the Kelly Writers House in March of 2016, just weeks before the book was published. This episode of PoemTalk, number 112 in our ongoing podcast series, is being made available in two versions — the usual audio, downloadable from this Jacket2 page, through iTunes, and on the Poetry Foundation site; and an uncut video recording (see below).

Total translation

Navajo song and the story of US modernism

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In her deconstruction of Mary Austin’s ‘The American Rhythm,’ Leah Dilworth argu
In her deconstruction of Mary Austin’s ‘The American Rhythm,’ Leah Dilworth argues that modernists held American Indian culture to be fundamentally analogous to that of ancient Africa and China. Above: Austin's 'American Rhythm,' Eda Lou Walton's 'Dawn Boy,' and 'Navajo Songs,’ 1933 and 1940 field recordings from settlements in New Mexico and Arizona courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

American Indian culture attracted many white poets to the Southwest in the early and mid-twentieth century. Educated in Anglo American traditions, but compelled by the modernist urge to develop new poetic forms, poets from Mary Austin to Jerome Rothenberg went to great lengths to represent what they were hearing and feeling. D. H. Lawrence wrote of his experience of Hopi dance, and he and Witter Bynner composed lyrics purportedly inspired by the Taos Pueblo. In American Rhythm, Austin “re-expressed” the music of several peoples, including the Paiute and Shoshone, and in Red Earth, Alice Corbin Henderson claimed to write “from the Indian,” naming the San Ildefonso and Tesuque pueblos. 

American Indian[1] culture attracted many white poets to the Southwest in the early and mid-twentieth century. Educated in Anglo American traditions, but compelled by the modernist urge to develop new poetic forms, poets from Mary Austin to Jerome Rothenberg went to great lengths to represent what they were hearing and feeling. D. H. Lawrence wrote of his experience of Hopi dance, and he and Witter Bynner composed lyrics purportedly inspired by the Taos Pueblo.

First reading of Basil Bunting's performance of Thomas Wyatt's 'Blame not my lute' (4)

Jeroen van den Heuvel

The first time I listen to Basil Bunting perform Thomas Wyatt’s “Blame not my lute,” I am unable to follow it. The sixteenth-century English certainly does not help. I hear the word “desart“ and don’t know what it means. I hear the word “change” that is familiar to me but it is used in a way that I am not accustomed to. I listen to it a few more times. The repetition radiates a kind of pleasure. But why should I, in 2017, bother to listen to one dead guy reciting a poem four decades ago that another dead guy wrote five centuries ago?

With Jeroen van den Heuvel’s short essay responding to the experience of hearing Basil Bunting’s performance of Thomas Wyatt’s “Blame not my lute,” the three coeditors of the “First Readings” series offer the fourth of five takes on this cover. The recording is linked here and is also available at PennSound’s Bunting

At the surface of days

A review of Rebecca Wolff's 'One Morning—'

One Morning— is a book about surfaces, about their complexity, inescapability, transience. Here, there may be no other art but the ekphrastic. In the famous Platonic scheme, where eternal forms are represented imperfectly in the world, nothing could be intellectually lower than ekphrasis. But maybe no other sort of knowledge exists. This is the suspicion of One Morning—, that there might be no other truth than the perception of surface, one surface indicating another, and the translation from one kind of surface into another kind.

One Morning— is a book about surfaces, about their complexity, inescapability, transience. Here, there may be no other art but the ekphrastic. In the famous Platonic scheme, where eternal forms are represented imperfectly in the world, nothing could be intellectually lower than ekphrasis. But maybe no other sort of knowledge exists. This is the suspicion of One Morning—, that there might be no other truth than the perception of surface, one surface indicating another, and the translation from one kind of surface into another kind:

Caspar's Silence

A review of 'Registration Caspar'

Image at right courtesy of J. Gordon Faylor.

In her blurb for Registration Caspar, poet Divya Victor described the text — part genre fiction, part avant-garde experiment — as one in which “all of … Beckett’s unfulfilled plans and undeployed scenarios have come back to haunt.” She isn’t wrong: taking the form of a log written before the imminent “erasure” of Caspar (a non-gendered “entity” rushing to save money for the two partners they will leave behind), the text is certifiably Beckettian, in the sense that the reader’s patience is challenged by what Bataille would call an “incontinent flux” of language.

Unraveling tongues

A review of 'She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks'

I first encountered M. NourbeSe Philip’s poetical interruptions three years ago, in a course taught by Tisa Bryant called Unnamable Texts. We spent time with “Discourse on the Logic of Language,” which is a sequence from her 1988 collection She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks. My memory of this poem is bodily. Part of this is due to how we read this piece; not only silently to ourselves, but also following along to a recording of Philip performing the poem. Throughout her delivery, she subtly elongates the word language until it becomes a cry, a tender wound, throbbing.

If she does not ravel and unravel his universe, she will then remain silent, looking at him looking at her. — Trinh T. Minh-ha[1]

On Etel Adnan's 'The Arab Apocalypse'

From page 7 of ‘The Arab Apocalypse,’ which Etel Adnan began writing in January
From page 7 of ‘The Arab Apocalypse,’ which Etel Adnan began writing in January 1975 in Beirut, two months before the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War.

L’Apocalypse arabe is composed in French by the Arab American poet Etel Adnan. It was published in 1980; Adnan’s English translation appeared in 1989. Of the several rubrics under which The Arab Apocalypse may be read — visual poetry, surrealism, translation, postcolonialism — its work of witnessing most commands my attention. Not least because it was written in response to and in the immediate context of the Lebanese Civil War (which broke out in 1975), but also because these other strands (the visual, the surreal, etc.) make the act of witnessing a provocative challenge to any notion of stability that may — innocently or otherwise — attend questions of representation in literatures of witness. In so doing, the text becomes a disaster in the process of witnessing disaster.

First reading of Lorine Niedecker's 'Popcorn-can cover' (3)

Mandy Bloomfield

When I first encounter a poem as object-like as this one, the impulse is to look before I read. The first thing I notice about Niedecker’s poem is the indentation of the fourth line. From there, my eye is drawn to the word “hole” in the line above, and this verbal-visual articulation leads me to understand that the indentation performs a state of perforation; its left margin isn’t sealed; the poem orients itself around a gap. 

Popcorn-can cover
screwed to the wall
over a hole
       so the cold
can’t mouse in
          — Lorine Niedecker