Question therefore the age (PoemTalk #118)

M. NourbeSe Philip, 'Zong!'

From left: Amber Rose Johnson, Alexandria Johnson, Tracie Morris

Joined by Alexandria Johnson, Tracie Morris, and Amber Rose Johnson, Al Filreis hosts this discussion of six short poems or sections from the long poem Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip. The sections discussed are numbered 2, 3, 6, 11, 21, and 26. They can be found, respectively, on pages 5, 6, 14, 20, 37, and 45 of the Wesleyan edition of the book, published in 2008. NourbeSe Philip’s PennSound author page includes several compelling performances of Zong! given over the years. For this PoemTalk episode we listened to a Segue Series reading at the Bowery Poetry Club, given on February 17, 2007.

'There should be battles'

Julie Carr and Jennifer Pap interview Leslie Kaplan

Women on factory floor, 1960.

Poet, novelist, and playwright Leslie Kaplan came of age in 1960s Paris. At that time, France was defined by a particular brand of conservatism, even while tumultuous events called out for a commitment to activism. President Charles de Gaulle had successfully pushed for strong executive power when a new constitution was written, founding the Fifth Republic (1958). De Gaulle believed that a united and powerful France could re-emerge from war and postwar challenges through fidelity to traditions and commitment to social stability. Attaching paramount importance to French identity and destiny meant paying little heed to the varied needs of working-class people and other vulnerable populations. Within this ideology there was much to concern those committed to social justice.

Note[1]: Poet, novelist, and playwright Leslie Kaplan came of age in 1960s Paris. At that time, France was defined by a particular brand of conservatism, even while tumultuous events called out for a commitment to activism. President Charles de Gaulle had successfully pushed for strong executive power when a new constitution was written, founding the Fifth Republic (1958).

'The lip of a paragraph'

On Renee Gladman's 'Calamities'

Photo of Renee Gladman (left) courtesy of Wave Books.

On the last page of Renee Gladman’s Calamities is a thick line drawn upon its lower portion. Beginning from the leftmost part of the page, it extends out to the right where it is cut off by the righthand side of the page. The line is one of Gladman’s principal preoccupations; its depiction here, as one abruptly stopped by the edge of the page, seems to me to epitomize the unrepresentability of a line.

On the last page of Renee Gladman’s Calamities is a thick line drawn upon its lower portion. Beginning from the leftmost part of the page, it extends out to the right where it is cut off by the righthand side of the page. The line is one of Gladman’s principal preoccupations; its depiction here, as one abruptly stopped by the edge of the page, seems to me to epitomize the unrepresentability of a line.

Explode for small change (PoemTalk #104)

Akilah Oliver.

Editorial note: The following conversation has been adapted from an episode of PoemTalk recorded in 2016 at the Wexler Studio in the Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia. The episode features Al Filreis, Yolanda Wisher, Charles Bernstein, and Patricia Spears Jones discussing Akilah Oliver’s poem “is you is or is you ain’t” from Oliver’s collection the she said dialogues: flesh memory (Smoke Proof/Erudite Fangs, 1999).

In digital ether

W. Mark Sutherland in correspondence with Dani Spinosa

Note: In W. Mark Sutherland’s Code X (2002), a born-digital sound poetry machine that allows users to create their own sound poetry performances, a line is drawn between the work and a history of sound poetry, performance art, and concrete poetics. Code X is a fairly simplistic digital game that marks a point of convergence between many art forms and asks how the digital medium allows for greater audience participation. As Paul Dutton writes of Code X in a brochure for Sutherland’s Scratch exhibit at the Koffler Gallery in 2002 (archived on Sutherland’s webpage), the work “fuses poetry, music, and visual art” to reveal the tenuous boundaries between these art forms. 

Note: In W.

Giving way to a knot

A review of 'Anemal Uter Meck'

Photo of Mg Roberts (right) by Smeeta Mahanti.

Anemal Uter Meck begins with an amnesiac transformation, the “anemal”/animal of the title seen immediately in the dedication “for raptors everywhere,” and in the first lines of the book: “you forget you were someone/something / else. you forget your beak. your.”[1] We may start there, but we certainly do not rest there. Mg Roberts moves quickly between a fistful of strands and conversations, never showing the whole of them.

Anemal Uter Meck begins with an amnesiac transformation, the “anemal”/animal of the title seen immediately in the dedication “for raptors everywhere,” and in the first lines of the book: “you forget you were someone/something / else. you forget your beak. your.”[1] We may start there, but we certainly do not rest there. Mg Roberts moves quickly between a fistful of strands and conversations, never showing the whole of them.

'From A to Z'

Forty years later

Pages from the 1977 edition of 'From A to Z.'

From A to Z was published/printed in 1977. The book was a long year in the making, and as a work that was essentially an enormous scrabble game, it required a number of procedural steps for its realization. The most coherent (looking) sections were the ones written and set first. Then the “sorts” had to be used up by making $ubstitution$, f/puns, us!ng punctuation, and abbrev:at:ns, among other tricks.

“Quick, tell me the differences among Olson, Williams, and Pound.” Placed at the bottom of the “Introduction,” this line speaks volumes about the encounter between modern poetry and print publication that is documented in the bibliography-a-clé, From A to Z.

From legalese into nothingness

A review of Hugo García Manríquez's 'Anti-Humboldt'

Photo of Hugo García Manríquez (right) courtesy of García Manríquez.

As a bilingual and bicultural individual, I have learned that the vectors that constitute my identity pull me sometimes in different directions depending on which side of the border I’m standing. I embody the challenging experience of engaging in conversation and producing works of literature in my second language. This perspective is always present in my writing; the effects of the binational polarization coming from the imminence of the border are unescapable. When it comes to literature that is written precisely at or in tension with the US/Mexico border, how far do the ripples go?

As a bilingual and bicultural individual, I have learned that the vectors that constitute my identity pull me sometimes in different directions depending on which side of the border I’m standing. I embody the challenging experience of engaging in conversation and producing works of literature in my second language. This perspective is always present in my writing; the effects of the binational polarization coming from the imminence of the border are unescapable.