Crosswalks & intersections

Image by Noah Saterstrom

While I was listening to the following recordings, I kept thinking about how my friend Noah Eli Gordon used to love finding yield-to-pedestrian crosswalks when we both lived in Western Massachusetts, and how much he enjoyed simply being able to walk across the street without worrying about being crushed by a huge SUV. (We had both grown up in different parts of the sprawling Midwest where cars never stopped for pedestrians.) I don’t want to dwell too much on this personal association, but listening to each of these recordings recreated some version of that feeling of being struck by a small moment of unexpected freedom in the immediate environment.

It’s not that these recordings are full of unequivocal happiness or unchecked optimism (there’s plenty of complication, violence, distress, and danger hovering around them all), but that they temporarily create spaces for the listener to experience the interplay of phenomena, a listening-feeling that acknowledges complexity and flux but doesn’t make one feel a sensory overload (though I love recordings that do that too).

While browsing through the PennSound Singles page a little while ago, I came across this wonderful talk by Kevin Killian at KWH in 1997. The talk occurs a year before the publication of Poet Be Like God, the biography of Jack Spicer by Killian and Lewis Ellingham. The recording includes a lengthy conversation between Killian and one of Spicer’s former students, Janet Spengler. Spengler provides some fascinating firsthand insights into Spicer’s teaching and personality, as well as the cultural climate of the era. Later in the recording Killian talks about Stone Marmalade, a play collaboratively written with Leslie Scalapino and published by Gil Ott’s Singing Horse Press. For me, part of the initial pleasure of listening to this recording was figuring out exactly what was happening after hearing a few intriguing minutes at the beginning. I’ve listened to it a few times, often coming in and out of the room to discover some new piece I had somehow missed before (like Scalapino doing research for the play by watching Julia Roberts films). I love the pace of the talk, how bits of context and moments of insight wash in gently from various directions. I even like the ragged moments of the tape at the very end when people are trying to figure out where to go afterward. I’d also recommend this recording of Killian reading at the Belladonna series in 2008 which I plan to return to in greater detail in a later post.

Marcella Durand’s recent Featured Resources selections (accessible on the PennSound main page) brought to light a recording of Lorine Niedecker tucked away in PennSound Singles. The editors and staff of PennSound subsequently segmented the recording and made a Niedecker author page. You can listen to Niedecker read the poem Thomas Jefferson from Harpsichord & Salt Fish. It’s always exciting to be able to hear the voice of an author who hasn’t been recorded much. It was also good to be able to listen to her brief, informal remarks on her own work here.

 I was excited to encounter this recording of Josephine Foo reading her poem The Frightened Child at the KWH in 1998 . I’ve been reading and enjoying her recent book, A Lily Lilies, which acts as a kind of document of the intersection between poetry, performance, dance, and visual art. You can listen to other recordings that employ indexes or numbered lists in an earlier post, Back Of.

This untitled piece by Amina Cain was recorded at the 2011 MLA Off-Site reading in LA. After reading I Go To Some Hollow  a while ago I was happy to be able to hear Cain read her work.  There’s a wonderful, gestural way Cain deals with physical spaces and social interactions in her writing. In short pieces such as this recording, people and environments barely have time to materialize before they go through several subtle transformations.

More artwork by Noah Saterstrom here.