My dear old friend John Richetti has been recording an anthology of restoration and 18th-century poetry for several months - for PennSound. And today we are announcing the completion of this new sound anthology, hoping that (among others) teachers are able to use it to bring the poems to life and to present an easy-to-access (and free, of course) set of downloadable files. This is the first of its kind for this body of writing, so far as we know.
A few weeks ago I wrote about having invited six poets each to teach a short poem to high-school student. I commented in particular about teaching the constraints of the haiku and its possible special connection to high-school kids’ understanding of poetry today — what with their sense of extreme limits (texting, Twitter’s 140 characters, etc.).
University of Pennsylvania: PENNsound, writing.upenn.edu/pennsound and Kelly Writers House webcasts. A stellar project at Penn, PENNsound is “committed to producing new audio recordings and preserving existing audio archives.” Here you can listen to readings from 1950s to today and often find great extras and links to other exciting websites.
I produced a new PennSound podcast, the sixth in the series; it presents an overview of PennSound, its mission and its pedagogical assumptions and implications. In discussing how students, teachers and readers can use PennSound's materials, I use as an example Rae Armatrout's poem "The Way," about which I've written in an earlier entry here.
After we put up the Ezra Pound recordings, we got a raving fan note from poet Peter Gizzi (who has his own PennSound author page), and here is what Peter wrote:
I LOVE, I mean LOVE that Pennsound has put up all the Pound material. I have it all in bootlegs and tapes of course but it is wonderful to have it there, finally, I mean it is THE MOST OUT there of anything on that site or ubu web! EP is the best. I used to listen to those tapes over and over in my car in the late 70’s when I was a teenager. To me it was Punk. And hearing it now it brings back summer and my youth! Listening to the Spoleto recording, maybe my fav for its restrained intensity, I am taken aback just how his late syntax has totally effected me. Liz and I were listening and we could hear my poem Homer’s Anger loud and clear for instance. Amazing. And Richard’s head note makes me want to listen further.
When Rae Armantrout agreed to present at the "9 Contemporary Poets Read Themselves through Modernism" three-night event (in 2000), and when she chose Emily Dickinson as the modern through whom to read, I knew I'd be in heaven — and I was. It wasn't just a stunningly good performance; I learned a great deal about Dickinson's presence in the poetic present; I also learned how distinct (yes, and distinct from Dickinson) Rae Armantrout is. If Dickinson is my favorite poet to teach, I think Armantrout is the second. Not to say it's easy to teach her poems, but everyone — students and I alike — feel rewarded by the effort. Here's the link to the RealAudio recording of that performance. If readers of this blog have not read or heard Armantrout's poems, may I suggest one for starters? It's a poem called "The Way", most recently published in Veil. Listen to the poem but also hear the poet talk about it in her May 2006 conversation with Charles Bernstein: click here for the segment on "The Way."
See a later entry for link to and description of a PENNsound podcast that includes a reference to "The Way" and Armantrout's discussion with Bernstein about the poem.
PENNsound's Pound archive is truly remarkable. This blog has already thus testified, per poet Peter Gizzi. The earliest recording that survives — The Harvard Vocarium reading in Cambridge — was made in 1939. The latest are some miscellaneous recordings made in San Ambrogio and Venice, between 1962 and 1972, by Olga Rudge.
Does the ubiquity of recordings of poets reading their own poems change the way we teach modern and contemporary poetics? On April 23, 2007, I had a good conversation with Steven Evans about this in my office at the Writers House. Here is a slightly edited recording of that conversation: this link takes you directly to a downloadable mp3 file. Steve's Lipstick of Noise site is subtitled "listening and linking to poetry audio files." I visit the site at least twice weekly.