Aldon Nielsen made a recording of a talk I gave at the 1940s conference at Orono, University of Maine, in June 2004. I think the talk was well received. At least that's my memory and the sound of audience response, here and there, to be discerned in this recording seems to confirm it. I was trying out, more or less for the first time, my idea that in the late 1940s antimodernism converged with anticommunism as a means by which to remake the reputation of the 1930s for the postwar period.
Concurrent with writing Graphology Poems by hand and in type (typewriter and computer fonts), I have “concretized” poems by photographing them “in situ” — i.e. as printed or written out pages set in trees, against flowers, or as scratchings in dirt, as sticks arranged on a firebreak, or photographed by a third party while holding sheets of poems as “protest placards” — and as textual interjections, overlays, and “culture jamming” of preexisting images/texts. I have also, more prevalently, maybe, made “drawings” and “paintings”… in other words, writing as illustration.
I am pleased to present a selection of Graphology drawing poems by John Kinsella. You can view the selection HERE and HERE. Below is a commentary provided by John. — A.F.
Al Filreis convened Lisa New, Jane Malcolm, and Sophia DuRose to talk about two well-known sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay, “I Shall Forget You Presently” and “Love Is Not All.” “I Shall Forget You Presently” became widely available as one of the four sonnets presented at the end of the book A Few Figs from Thistles (first published in 1920). “Love Is Not All” of 1931 was in Millay’s collection of fifty-two sonnets, Fatal Interview. Both poems were performed by Millay in an undated recording we include on our Millay PennSound page.
During a recent one-hour interview/conversation with Hilton Als conducted by me, I had occasion to ask Hilton about a reference to Gertrude Stein in one of his essays. Here is a four-minute excerpt from the video recording of the discussion. In another essay, collected in White Girls, Hilton does a close reading, here and there, of Wallace Stevens’s poem about the muse, “So-and-So Reclining on Her Couch.” I asked him about Stevens, too, and that excerpt is presented below as well. The discussion was a program hosted by the Kelly Writers House for the annual Kelly Writers House Fellows program. Hilton Als was the second of the three spring 2021 Fellows to engage with the Writers House community, and many others, in three sessions. This was the third of those events.
When writing my books, Modernism from Right to Left and Counter-Revolution of the Word: the Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 1945–60, I spent a great deal of time studying poets who in the 1930s had joined CPUSA and/or were attracted to the communist movement. And who, I should add, were shunned and even explicitly red-baited in the 1950s.
Whenever poetry becomes a topic movingly discussed by many people for whom it is not a daily — indeed, not even a monthly — thing, I realize once again what draws me to it ever and always. In a poem, how you say what you say is as important as, sometimes more important than, what you say. Is that a radical view? After all, content is central to communicating. But what about times when communication has broken down? If Allen Ginsberg in writing and performing “Howl” did not in the poem itself emit such a howl — if he did not himself evince the “mad” non-conformity he saw in the best minds of his generation — we would no more remember his poem today than we do the many smart and interesting books of sociological nonfiction written during the 1950s about the supposedly disaffected (but actually hyper-affective) postwar generation. PennSound (the archive of recordings of poets, the largest in the world) includes the riveting performance Ginsberg gave before a huge, engaged, at times ecstatic audience in Chicago in 1959. How Ginsberg says “Howl” is as important as what he says, for sure. Words about crying out can themselves cry out.
Someone at my university who edits and publishes a newsletter asked me if I would write 500 words on what makes poetry distinctive. I balked at such a task, but then decided to produce the statement. For better or worse, here it is.
Al Filreis, with help from Zach Carduner in our virtual Kelly Writers House control room, convened Bonny Finberg, Julien Poirier, and Jake Marmer to talk about a poem by Steve Dalachinsky. The poem is titled “with shelter gone,” and our recording of Dalachinsky performing it is clipped from a video documenting a reading that took place at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City in 2008. The reading was hosted by Jake Marmer.
Tyrone Williams, William J. (Billy Joe) Harris, Aldon Nielsen, and Erica Hunt joined Al Filreis — host, producer, and moderator — for a live presentation of a special episode of PoemTalk before an audience gathered in the Arts Café of the Kelly Writers House back in November 2019. They discussed many of Erica Hunt’s concerns, across her poetry and her work as public intellectual and activist, by way of a single poem called “Should You Find Me.” It is the final poem, and — the group comes to agree — the coda to the book Time Slips Right Before Your Eyes, published by Belladonna* in 2006.
Al Young, Tyrone Williams, and William J. Harris joined Al Filreis in the Wexler Studio to discuss Young and his work. The conversation covered the relationship between Young’s poetry and the Black Arts Movement, the role of music and jazz in his writing, and other figures with whom he was acquainted, such as poets Ishmael Reed and Bob Kaufman. Young spoke of his time at Stanford, where he met Harris; of having resided in various parts of the country; and of the role of writing about lived experiences beyond writing about writing. Young also gave readings of some of his poems: “A Dance for Militant Dilettantes,” “Yes, the Secret Mind Whispers” (which was written in honor of Kaufman), and “January.”
Editorial note: The following is an edited transcript of a discussion about the pedagogical future of experimental poetics that took place at the Kelly Writers House on February 28, 2001. The discussion opened with an introduction by Al Filreis and an extended reading from poet Joan Retallack, which included her “Memnoir,” excerpts from Errata 5uite, and “Here’s Looking at You, Francis Bacon,” and Gertrude Stein’s “What Is This?”
Editorial note: The following is an edited transcript of a discussion about the pedagogical future of experimental poetics that took place at the Kelly Writers House on February 28, 2001.