Al Filreis

Anti-communism as anti-modernism in the 1940s

Recording of a talk given at the 1940s conference at Orono, 2004

Steve Evans's overview of the June 2004 conference, published in 'Third Factory'

Aldon Nielsen made a recording of a talk I gave at the 1940s conference at Orono, University of Maine, in June 2004. I think the talk was well received. At least that's my memory and the sound of audience response, here and there, to be discerned in this recording seems to confirm it. I was trying out, more or less for the first time, my idea that in the late 1940s antimodernism converged with anticommunism as a means by which to remake the reputation of the 1930s for the postwar period.

'Graphology' drawing poems, by John Kinsella

Concurrent with writing Graphology Poems by hand and in type (typewriter and computer fonts), I have concretized poems by photographing them in situ — i.e. as printed or written out pages set in trees, against flowers, or as scratchings in dirt, as sticks arranged on a firebreak, or photographed by a third party while holding sheets of poems as protest placards — and as textual interjections, overlays, and culture jamming of preexisting images/texts. I have also, more prevalently, maybe, made drawings and paintings  in other words, writing as illustration.

I am pleased to present a selection of Graphology drawing poems by John Kinsella. You can view the selection HERE and HERE. Below is a commentary provided by John. — A.F.

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On Graphology Drawing Poems

by John Kinsella

Hilton Als on Gertrude Stein and Wallace Stevens

During a recent one-hour interview/conversation with Hilton Als conducted by me, I had occasion to ask Hilton about a reference to Gertrude Stein in one of his essays. Here is a four-minute excerpt from the video recording of the discussion. In another essay, collected in White Girls, Hilton does a close reading, here and there, of Wallace Stevens’s poem about the muse, “So-and-So Reclining on Her Couch.” I asked him about Stevens, too, and that excerpt is presented below as well. The discussion was a program hosted by the Kelly Writers House for the annual Kelly Writers House Fellows program. Hilton Als was the second of the three spring 2021 Fellows to engage with the Writers House community, and many others, in three sessions. This was the third of those events.

1970s sighting of a 1930s communist poet

Eve Merriam on the front cover of "The Pennsylvania Gazette" in 1978

When writing my books, Modernism from Right to Left and Counter-Revolution of the Word: the Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 194560, I spent a great deal of time studying poets who in the 1930s had joined CPUSA and/or were attracted to the communist movement. And who, I should add, were shunned and even explicitly red-baited in the 1950s.

What is poetry?

A response to a request for 500 words on this small topic

Whenever poetry becomes a topic movingly discussed by many people for whom it is not a daily — indeed, not even a monthly — thing, I realize once again what draws me to it ever and always. In a poem, how you say what you say is as important as, sometimes more important than, what you say. Is that a radical view? After all, content is central to communicating. But what about times when communication has broken down? If Allen Ginsberg in writing and performing “Howl” did not in the poem itself emit such a howl — if he did not himself evince the “mad” non-conformity he saw in the best minds of his generation — we would no more remember his poem today than we do the many smart and interesting books of sociological nonfiction written during the 1950s about the supposedly disaffected (but actually hyper-affective) postwar generation. PennSound (the archive of recordings of poets, the largest in the world) includes the riveting performance Ginsberg gave before a huge, engaged, at times ecstatic audience in Chicago in 1959. How Ginsberg says “Howl” is as important as what he says, for sure. Words about crying out can themselves cry out.

Someone at my university who edits and publishes a newsletter asked me if I would write 500 words on what makes poetry distinctive. I balked at such a task, but then decided to produce the statement. For better or worse, here it is.