PoemTalk’s crew took to the road, wandering pretty much as far west as one can go on this continent, to a place Philip Whalen called, in a poem’s subtitle, “the last of California” — Bolinas, coastal spot famous as A congenial writer’s retreat. Stephen Ratcliffe, Joanne Kyger, and Julia Bloch gathered there with Al Filreis to talk about Whalen. Our poem was indeed written in Bolinas, in 1968, and finished in Kyoto in 1969. It’s called “Life at Bolinas: The Last of California.” Whalen’s PennSound page includes a recording of his performance of this poem.
Camara Brown, Edwin Torres, and Brooke O’Harra joined PoemTalk producer-host Al Filreis for a discussion of Tracie Morris’s “Slave Sho to Video aka Black but Beautiful.” The recording used as the basis of this conversation was made at the 2002 Whitney Museum Biennial Exhibit and is available on Morris’s PennSound page. The performance piece/musical poem was first performed at NYU in the 1990s, in a graduate performance theory course, a last-minute improvisation after Morris discovered she misplaced or lost her planned text, accompanied by — and intuitively responsive to — two colleagues whose dance movements, in part, reproduced the sweeping up-down motions of rice harvesting.
Pierre Joris, Anna Strong, and Ariel Resnikoff joined Al Filreis to talk about Paul Celan’s poem “Corona.” Celan had chosen to continue writing in German after the elimination of Jews from his town and the murder of his parents by the Nazis and their fascist allies — and maintained, to the say the very least, a complex relationship to the mother tongue he kept using with increasingly inventive disfiguration. There was knowledge of the original difficult German in our Wexler Studio, although as PoemTalk is an English-language podcast series we focused on the challenges of the English translation. Our translation was Jerome Rothenberg’s, from his groundbreaking anthology New Young German Poets (1959, City Lights).