PoemTalk

Not detainable (PoemTalk #130)

Gwendolyn Brooks, 'Riot'

From left: Amber Rose Johnson, Tonya Foster, Davy Knittle

Amber Rose Johnson, Davy Knittle, and Tonya Foster joined Al Filreis to discuss the poem “Riot” by Gwendolyn Brooks. “Riot” is the title poem in the (now rare) chapbook published by Dudley Randall’s Detroit-based Broadside Press in 1969, and has been collected variously, including in the book Blacks (1994). The Eclipse site offers a PDF copy of the original Riot chapbook. The recording used as the basis of this PoemTalk conversation comes from a reading Brooks gave at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City on May 3, 1983. 

The after-hell (PoemTalk #129)

Sylvia Plath, 'The Stones'

From left: Susan Schultz, Sally Van Doren, Huda Fakhreddine

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Susan Schultz, Sally Van Doren, and Huda Fakhreddine joined Al Filreis to talk about Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Stones.” It was written in October or early November of 1959 and appears as the seventh poem in a seven-part sequence called “Poem for a Birthday.” The recording the group hears at the start of the conversation comes from a studio performance Plath did for BBC Records between 1960 and 1962 (and this particular performance probably dates from 1962). The most readily accessible copy of the audio has been posted at YouTube.

Of beautiful tangents (PoemTalk #128)

Sueyeun Juliette Lee, 'Perfect Villagers'

From left: Sawako Nakayasu, Gabriel Ojeda-Sague, Donato Mancini

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Sawako Nakayasu, Donato Mancini, and Gabriel Ojeda-Sague joined Al Filreis to talk about two poems by Sueyuen Juliette Lee. The poems were published in a chapbook titled Perfect Villagers (2006) and later collected in That Gorgeous Feeling (2008). Dear Margaret Cho (actually one of two poems of that title) and “Daniel Dae Kim” were among the pieces from the “perfect villagers” series performed by Lee in a reading she gave at the Kelly Writers House in January of 2007. The recording can be found at Lee’s PennSound page.

Boring in a different way (PoemTalk 127)

John Ashbery, 'The Short Answer'

Left to right: Susan McCabe, Marjorie Perloff, Robert von Hallberg at Marjorie Perloff's home in Los Angeles

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Al Filreis and Zach Carduner traveled to Los Angeles to the home of Marjorie Perloff where they made a sound recording and film of a convesation about a poem by John Ashbery with Susan McCabe, Robert von Hallberg, and Marjorie herself. The poem is “The Short Answer” from a late book, Quick Question (2013). There are, abounding, the usual marooned pronouns, and the typically high “daftness quotient.” Marjorie and Al chose this poem with the goal of exploring of what it means to read closely and talk in detail about a seemingly “minor” poem from a “major” poet — a poem that might strike readers as an effect of Ashbery’s incessant and seemingly easeful poetic fermentation.

Something in the way (PoemTalk #126)

Amiri Baraka, 'Something in the Way of Things (In Town)'

From left: Aldon Nielsen, Tyrone Williams, William J. Harris

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Tyrone Williams, Aldon Nielsen, and William J. Harris joined Al Filreis to talk before a live audience about Amiri Baraka’s poem “Something in the Way of Things (In Town).” The printed poem has been published in several versions; one version can be read below. It is best known as a cut on The Roots’ Phrenology album (2002). Baraka came to the lower Manhattan studio where The Roots were recording some of the album’s tracks; there Baraka performed the poem as the band backed him. The result can be heard here.