Al Filreis

Lydia Davis on 'A Mown Lawn' (video)

On Tuesday, April 25, I had the honor of interviewing Lydia Davis. She had come to visit the Kelly Writers House as a Writers House Fellow. The program is associated with a seminar that I teach — in which the students and I read as many of the writings of the Fellow as we can. As I discussed Davis’s work with my students and KWH colleagues, I became fascinated by several micro-stories that particularly read like prose poems. “A Mown Lawn,” a series of permutative phrasings that moved forward from the vowel affinities of mown and lawn and riffed semantically as well (thus starting with suburban lawn care, moving through law-and-order conservatism and finally reaching imperialistic warfare), became a special fascination. 

On Tuesday, April 25, I had the honor of interviewing Lydia Davis. She had come to visit the Kelly Writers House as a Writers House Fellow. The program is associated with a seminar that I teach — in which the students and I read as many of the writings of the Fellow as we can. As I discussed Davis’s work with my students and KWH colleagues, I became fascinated by several micro-stories that particularly read like prose poems. “A Mown Lawn” is a series of permutative phrasings that progress from the vowel affinities of mown and lawn to semantic riffing as well — starting with suburban lawn care, moving through law-and-order conservatism and finally reaching imperialistic warfare. I was compelled by the poem’s radicalization of homonymic improvisation. Naturally, then, when I had a chance to interview its author, I asked her if she would be willing to read it, and comment. She describes this as one of just two explicitly political pieces.

Poetry across language

Julia Dasbach's letter to Anna

As part of the Poetry Across Languages event organized by Nick Martinez Defina, Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach shared an excerpt from a series exploring language and the meaning of home and reflecting on her own Ukrainian heritage. Held at the Kelly Writers House on April 6, 2017, this event explored translation, language, and identity across borders. 

Google's neural machine translation establishes 'spiritual connection' with Stein

Mark Liberman, a computational linguist who directs the Linguistic Data Consortium at the University of Pennsylvania, has been fascinated, especially in recent years, with experimental poetry. You can find his ideas and experiments at Language Log. He's been working on Stein's repetitions.

Crowdsourced close reading: Four members of the ModPo community discuss Clark Coolidge's (and Charlie Parker's) 'Blues for Alice'

Anika Lani and Raymond Maxwell during the November 1, 2015 discussion for ModPo

One of many collaborations you’ll find in ModPo’s collection of crowdsourced close readings: Raymond Maxwell, Colleen Knight, Anika Lani, and Mark Snyder meet by GoogleHangout to discuss Clark Coolidge’s “Blues for Alice” (in the context of Charlie Parker and more): link to YouTube. (Note that the discussion starts at 5:35.) If you are enrolled in ModPo (free; enroll here), go to the ModPo CCCR (“Community Crowdsourced Close Readings”) syllabus here.

The clumsy Euro-modernist sources of an anti-anti-intellectual

On Charles Bernstein's 'Pitch'

On April 12, 2016, Charles Bernstein gave a reading from his new-new book Pitch of Poetry at the Kelly Writers House. I gave the introduction. Earlier I published a version of that introduction here in my Jacket2 commentary series, titling it “Clumsy, erroneous, freakish, foreign.” Now, thanks to the video editing of Dylan Leahy of the PennSound staff, I am able to make available at video recording, below. And below that is a second video clip from the Pitch event — Bernstein's finale: a selection from the aphorisms that appear toward the end of the book.