For this PoemTalk episode about Matvei Yankelevich’s book of poems (or book-length poem), Dead Winter (Fonograf, 2022), Al Filreis convened Kevin Platt, Huda Fakhreddine, and Ahmad Almallah to discuss four poems/sections from the work: “Winter comes calling” (7), “Winter have I lost your thread?” (12), “In a disjunctive age, disconsolate, without connection” (21), and “Winter and one more mine is the other guilt” (27). Our recording of these poems was made by Matvei just for PoemTalk and is available now at his PennSound page. (That PennSound author page, by the way, already includes a video recording of a conversation with Matvei himself about Dead Winter — joined by Kevin, Ahmad, and Al as well as a dozen or so of Ahmad’s students.)
Edwin Torres, Huda Fakhreddine, and Jena Osman joined Al Filreis in the Arts Café at the Kelly Writers House to talk about a performance piece by Cecilia Vicuña. The piece was a segment in a ninety-minute presentation titled “An Illustrated Conversation” that took place in the same room at the Writers House in February of 2017. One of the parts of the performance goes under the title “Colliding and not colliding at the same time.” The segment begins as the audience, having been encouraged to ask questions about an art video that had just been screened, went momentarily silent. No questions were being asked, so Vicuña began improvisationally to fill the room with words and sounds, exploring a convergence or collision of topics: the then-recent election of Donald Trump, the “millionaires’ coup” in Brazil, the “mystery of what is happening at this moment in the earth,” the collective thought of the people in the room, and the room itself.
Al Filreis convened a conversation with Amber Rose Johnson, Jacob Edmond, and Huda Fakhreddine about Kamau Brathwaite’s “Negus.” The poem was included in the book Islands, published by Oxford in 1969. “Negus” appears as part six of a section of the book titled “Rebellion” within Islands, and Islands, in turn, is part two of The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy, which includes Rights of Passage and Masks as the first and third volumes. Brathwaite’s PennSound page — which has been curated by one of our PoemTalkers, Jacob Edmond — features just one recording of Brathwaite performing this poem. On May 1, 2004, in his Segue Series reading at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City, the poet chose to read “Negus” as a kind of prefatory piece to the whole forty-three-minute reading. It certainly seems to introduce several of Brathwaite’s major concerns.
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.