Brian Teare, Jed Rasula, and Kristin Prevallet joined Al Filreis to talk about Robin Blaser’s “A Bird in the House.” The poem dates from the late 1980s or possibly the early 1990s. The text of the poem is now available at the Poetry Foundation. Blaser’s PennSound page includes two performances — one from a reading he gave in Buffalo in September of 1993, the second from a visit to the Writers Institute in Albany on October 26, 1994. The version we hear for our discussion is the one made in Albany; we chose this in part because there Blaser set up the poem with a short introduction. The group marvels at how Blaser manages to take the idea of Other (that which is, like the bird in a house, “otherous”) into an expanded field that is nonetheless domestic.
Robin Blaser is in his element in these monologues in interview format — personable, pedagogic, and himself a “high-energy construct,” to not-quite-cite Charles Olson. By virtue of this book, the reader experiences Blaser as a unique force field of magnetic knowledge and charismatic charm. He is at home among the poets, themselves practitioners and friends, meeting in 1974 at someone’s house in Vancouver.
“The Astonishment Tapes will now take its place within the growing field of international research about postwar American poetry's important contribution to world literature. Miriam Nichols has once again done exceptional scholarship.” —Peter Gizzi
“One of the great pleasures of this book is the glimpse it gives of another, more private Blaser than one we encounter in his collected poems and essays.” –Ben Friedlander
Norman FIscher's Experience is the fruit of a life’s work in Zen (and other religious practice) as well as in poetry. It is mature, syncretic, wide-ranging, and open-hearted. Fischer is able to find common ground between Judeo-Christian and Buddhist beliefs or between Zen and the writing life without eliding the differences and contradictions. When he says that, in a certain type of Zen meditation, ‘you allow the phrases to come forward to you as if they were alive,’ I (as a poet) know precisely what that means. In these essays, Fischer accomplishes it.” —Rae Armantrout, author of Versed, Just Saying, and Itself
Note: This interview was transcribed by Michael Nardone from a radio interview originally conducted on November 24, 2003, on Cross-Cultural Poetics, KAOS 89.3 FM, Olympia, Washington. In this episode of Cross-Cultural Poetics (Episode #8: The Inferno), Canadian poet Robin Blaser discusses Dante’s Inferno in relation to the American-made “inferno” in Iraq.
Robin Blaser: 'The Astonishment Tapes,' Vancouver, Spring 1974
These are the full recordings edited and transcribed by Miriam Nichols for The Astonishment Tapes: Talks on Poetry and Autobiography with Robin Blaser and Friends (University of Alabama Press, 2015). Thanks to Miriam Nichols for making them available on PennSound’s Blaser page.