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.
Editorial note: The following conversation has been adapted from an Emergency Reading Series event hosted by Julia Bloch and Sarah Dowling on January 21, 2010, at the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It was transcribed by Michael Nardone and edited for publication; additional commentary by the speakers is included below in brackets. The conversation, between Jennifer Scappettone and Tonya Foster, explores topics ranging from Disneyfication to the Greek chorus.
Editorial note: The following conversation has been adapted from an Emergency Reading Series event hosted by Julia Bloch and Sarah Dowling on January 21, 2010, at the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It was transcribed by Michael Nardone and edited for publication; additional commentary by the speakers is included below in brackets.
The consolations of art are limited. As are we. It is supreme arrogance to imagine otherwise. We must, nonetheless, swell these limits, make them swollen to the point, even, of suffering. This is the consolation of art – messy consolation though it sounds. Simone Weil tells us, “It is an act of cowardice to seek from (or wish to give) the people we love any other consolation than that which works of art give us” (65). It is brave, then, to insist on attending acutely to that art – and the everything else it tries to get at – what is unsayable and yet worth attention. This work is the hard stuff of art.
The hard work of the mind considering its attention – its ethical demands – is poetry’s task.
Tonya grew up in New Orleans and was heading down for the Spring. Now she was graduate student at CUNY, about to write a dissertation of poetry and place. We had just eaten in the new sushi joint across the street. I asked her what she missed most about what is gone in New Orleans. January 8, 2008 (mp4, 37 seconds, 27.6 mb)
NOTE: Web Log videos are now available in full screen: click on the icon. Full-screen will also now work on the previous videos I have posted:
This post explores the poem as index, bibliography, catalog, or otherwise arranged list. I want to consider the ways each piece overflows, suggesting threads that the listener might follow or complicating the idea of order under the guise of an ordering structure. I want to pay attention to the ways these recordings open up into the works of other writers and artists in addition to reflecting back upon the concerns of their respective authors.