World without sequence (PoemTalk #120)

Ann Lauterbach, 'Under the Sign'

From left: Matvei Yankelevich, Kate Colby, Christina Davis

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Al Filreis was joined by Kate Colby, Matvei Yankelevich, and Christina Davis at the Woodberry Poetry Room in Cambridge, Massachsetts, to discuss the title poem of Ann Lauterbach’s book Under the Sign (Penguin, 2013). Our recording of “Under the Sign” comes from a July 4, 2017, studio session at Bard College.

Words that bleed music

Postbop jazz in the poetry of Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey

Left: Nathaniel Mackey at Vision Festival, New York, 2015, courtesy of Nathaniel Mackey. Right: Amiri Baraka at the Malcom X Festival, San Antonio Park, Oakland, California, May 2007. Photo by David Sasaki via Wikimedia Commons.

In his preface to Blue Fasa (2015), Nathaniel Mackey reflects on what is arguably the key preoccupation in his oeuvre: the relationship between music and language. Mackey’s comments emerge out of a sense of disquiet with the way the two modes of communication are often presumed remote from the other by today’s artists and scholars.

Haven't worked out the particulars

On instructions, position papers, and finding our way

Photo of Andrea Lawlor (right) by Steve Dillon.

Like so many of us who feel most at home in books, I’ve turned to books in Trump times. The one morning ritual that has stuck with me since November 9 is finding a poem over coffee that I can cling to for the rest of the day. I make it my guiding light, looking back on it throughout the day and receiving its text as instructions.

'Spastic messiah / erotic daughter'

On Petra Kuppers's 'PearlStitch'

Photo at left courtesy of Petra Kuppers.

“Initiate, I greet you. / Claim back the beloved’s bodies, for ourselves,”[1] Petra Kuppers writes in PearlStitch, her sensual, rhizomatic new book.[2] “We stand, and sit, and lie down my hand resting on your foot your hand in mine / head on shoulder” (51). Kuppers’s second full-length book of poems — which combines queer, crip, anticapitalist, anticolonial, and eco- poetics — intertwines ritual with epic, eros with documentation, and speculation with life writing. 

“Initiate, I greet you. / Claim back the beloved’s bodies, for ourselves,”[1] Petra Kuppers writes in PearlStitch, her sensuous, rhizomatic new book.[2] “We stand, and sit, and lie down my hand resting on your foot your hand in mine / head on shoulder” (51).

The transatlantic axis of 'Alembic'

An interview with editors Ken Edwards and Robert Hampson

Above: the covers of 'Alembic' numbers 1 through 8.

Note: Alembic was an internationally minded little magazine, edited by Peter Barry, Ken Edwards, and Robert Hampson out of London between 1973 and 1979. Emerging from, and explicitly engaging with, a tradition of modernist, late-modernist, Dadaist, and Surrealist poetries, Alembic published contemporary British poets alongside North American and Australian poets, as well as prose, interviews, and visual material.

'Like a postponed present'

Reading reality in Mandelstam's 'Voronezh Notebooks'

Osip Mandelstam’s mugshot after his second arrest by the NKVD, 1938. Via Wikimedia Commons.

In describing life under the Stalinist regime in Russia, Nadezhda Mandelstam writes in her celebrated memoir, “To lose one’s memory — provided it was an honest one — is to lose touch with reality.”[1] These words are especially profound from a woman famous for saving her partner’s words, the poems of Osip Mandelstam, by committing them to memory. And today, as we grapple with what it means to understand reality, Nadezhda Mandelstam’s words come to mind when not only memory ebbs, but facts themselves seem elusive.

In describing life under the Stalinist regime in Russia, Nadezhda Mandelstam writes in her celebrated memoir, “To lose one’s memory — provided it was an honest one — is to lose touch with reality.”[1] These words are especially profound from a woman famous for saving her partner’s words, the poems of Osip Mandelstam, by committing them to memory.

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.

'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. France was then defined by a particular brand of conservatism, even while tumultuous events called out for a commitment to activism. President Gaulle had successfully pushed for strong executive power when a new constitution was written, founding the Fifth Republic (1958). He believed that a united and powerful France could re-emerge from war and postwar challenges through fidelity to traditions. Attaching paramount importance to French identity and destiny meant paying little heed to the varied needs of working-class people and other vulnerable populations. 

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).