Larissa Lai’s poetry here “is on the move between things,” as Fred Wah puts it in this episode of PoemTalk, for which Al Filreis also gathered Daphne Marlatt and Colin Browne to discuss Lai’s long poem Nascent Fashion (published together with several other long poems in Automaton Biographies). Fred, Daphne, and Colin were on tour together as a Western Canadian trio for readings and events along the US east coast. Fortunately for PoemTalk and Kelly Writers House, Philadelphia was one of their stops.
Al Filreis was joined by Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Ariel Resnikoff, and Stephen Ross to talk about five sections — or pages or passages — from a book called Uxudo by Anne Tardos. Only one of the five has a title (the first of our selections, called “She Put It Mildly”). Those who have access to the Tuumba Press/O Books edition of the book can follow along: our five sections, in the order in which we hear Tardos perform them, can be found on pages 55, 19, 31, 43, and 53. On PennSound’s Anne Tardos author page, one can find all five of these sections, and others, in the recording made of her performance at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in 1999, at an event sponsored by “After-Englishes.”
William J. Harris, Tyrone Williams, and Aldon Nielsen join Al Filreis to talk about a poem by Lorenzo Thomas. The poem is “An Arc Still Open,” written as a commemoration of the muralist John Biggers, who had died in January 2001. The poem was published soon after as part of a John Biggers memorial feature in a magazine produced at University of Houston-Downtown, where since 1997 there had hung a huge (10' x 27') Biggers mural Salt Marsh. Our text of the poem comes from the UHD publication, New Horizons, and our recording, now found on PennSound’s Lorenzo Thomas page, was made in San Diego in 2001.
Simone White, Kyoo Lee, and Gabriel Ojeda-Sague joined Al Filreis to discuss a passage from Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric. The discussion follows Rankine's extrordinarily synthesis of various huge issues: illness and death, memory loss and the misery of forgetting, the ubiquitous frame-setting of television, incarceration, police violence, useful and useless language, antidepressants, and the poem as a social assertion of “here.”
Brian Teare, Jed Rasula, and Kristin Prevallet joined Al Filreis to talk about Robin Blaser’s “A Bird in the House.” The poem dates from the late 1980s or possibly the early 1990s. The text of the poem is now available at the Poetry Foundation. Blaser’s PennSound page includes two performances — one from a reading he gave in Buffalo in September of 1993, the second from a visit to the Writers Institute in Albany on October 26, 1994. The version we hear for our discussion is the one made in Albany; we chose this in part because there Blaser set up the poem with a short introduction. The group marvels at how Blaser manages to take the idea of Other (that which is, like the bird in a house, “otherous”) into an expanded field that is nonetheless domestic.