New 'first readings' of Cecil Taylor's free-jazz poem '#6.56'

Jake Marmer and Michael Farrell

Cecil Taylor, Jake Marmer & Michael Farrell

The “First Readings” series continues with five initial takes on Cecil Taylor’s poem “#6.56” from his album Chinampas (1987). Each entry in the series consists of five such short first readings; we have asked Michael Farrell, Gillian White, Tsitsi Jaji, Donato Mancini, and Jake Marmer to respond to the Taylor piece. First Readings coeditors Brian Reed, Al Filreis, and Craig Dworkin are pleased now to present short essays by Michael Farrell and Jake Marmer, with three others to follow. Here is a list, with links, to the previous responses:

Rae Armantrout’s “Spin”:
1.  Jennifer Ashton
2. Katie Price
3. Dee Morris
4. David Caplan
5. Stephen Burt

M. Nourbe Philip’s “Zong! #6”
1. Evie Schockley
2. Arlene Keizer
3. Kathy Lou Schultz
4. Gary Barwin
5. Meta DuEwa Jones

Sawako Nakayasu's “Couch”
1. David A. Colón
2. K. Silem Mohammad
3. Robert Archambeau
4. Lee Ann Brown
5. Hank Lazer

Sophia Le Fraga’s “W8ING 4”
1. Joshua Weiner
2. Ann Vickery
3. Alejandro Crawford
4. Kimberly Lamm
5. Emily Harnett

What do you do when you first read a new or unfamiliar poem? What are the processes and procedures that precede a settled “take” or a considered evaluation or an elaborated critical argument? To be frank, we’re often confounded when faced with a new work, and we doubt we’re alone. What are other readers doing when they open the book? In a short response (500 to 1,000 words), we ask colleagues to describe in detail how they read a poem and what they read for. We’re interested in learning about the thought processes and activities on the very first encounter — including the ones that don’t work out or seem in any way to pay off: the false leads and blind alleys. We’re quite familiar with final products — the review or the essay — but we hope here in this series to be flies on the wall during initial readings.