Benjamin Hollander passed away from brain cancer on November 21, 2016. Ben — Benjamin Barry Hollander, called Barry by his family — was born in Haifa, Israel, August 26, 1952. His mother and father were both refugees from Germany. He immigrated, with his parents and his brother Gad, the younger of two older brothers, to New York City (briefly to Brooklyn, then to Jamaica, Queens) in 1958. In 1978, with his wife, Rosemary Manzo, Ben moved to San Francisco, where he lived and raised his family — and where he passed away this month. Over the past three decades, after earning a master's degree at San Francisco State University, he taught English, writing, and critical thinking primarily at Chabot College, across the Bay from San Francisco, in Hayward, California. Among other courses one he revisited at several local schools focused on Holocaust literature, extending that term to include the war on Bosnian Muslims. With David Levi Strauss, he coedited the last several issues of Acts (including ABook of Correspondences for Jack Spicer), the literary magazine associated with New College of California and its Poetics Program of the 1980s. Although Ben had no formal affiliation with New College, a number of poets at and around the school would become his friends and collaborators.
Editorial note: Joshua Schuster and Steve Dickison have shared the following remembrance of Benjamin Hollander, and we are grateful for the opportunity to publish it in Jacket2.
As we begin the beginning of mourning the loss of Bill Berkson, we naturally look back on Bill’s appearances in Jacket and Jacket2 over the years. In the fifth issue of Jacket (back in 1998) Bill published two poems, one of them “Last Words” (above). In 2006 there was Robert Glück’s interview with Bill. The Berkson “Close Listening” episode was released in 2015. There was James Hart’s review of Portrait and Dream in which the poems are “masterfully composed from a depth, which ... seems to disappear.” In December 2012 we published Tom Devaney’s interview with Bill, “The Education of Poetry.” Said Bill to Tom: “One friend once pointed to what he called my Roman coin personality and messy mind. Where does the personality leave off and the mind begin? Is there surface and not surface? I think that, yes, both are operating at the same time, all the time.”
PennSound is pleased to welcome Chris Mustazza as our new Associate Director. Chris has served as our technical director since the founding of the PennSound project in 2005. He brings to our work extraordinary technical expertise in digital sound analysis and audio preservation. His appointment marks the inauguration of PennSound 2.0. Over the past decade PennSound has worked to digitize and make accessible many thousands of sound files by hundreds of poets. With PennSound 2.0, we are enabling computational analysis of our vast sound archive, allowing for both “distant listening” — the analysis of our aggregated files — as well as “close listening” to individual files, including specific features of the initial recordings conditions. Chris will also ensure that the PennSound keeps up with best archival practices, including upgrades and interfaces.
Mustazza joins co-founders and co-directors Charles Bernstein and Al Filreis, Editor Michael Hennessey, and Technical Director Chris Martin.
Last May we published “Trouble Songs: A Musicological Poetics,” Jeff T. Johnson’s sprawling “investigation of the appearance of the word trouble in twentieth- and twenty-first-century music.” Announcing the piece on PennSound Daily, our own Michael Hennessey hailed the article as “a remarkably ambitious and capacious project that brings together the all-too-often disparate worlds of contemporary poetry and music.” “Within,” he continued, “we find Johnson deftly discussing John Ashbery, Amiri Baraka, Caroline Bergvall, and William Carlos Williams (among many others) with the same skill he dedicates to St. Vincent, Dock Boggs, Amy Winehouse, and Johnny Cash.”