Jeff T. Johnson, Whitney Trettien, and Amy Paeth joined Al Filreis to discuss a passage (pp. 73–79) from Rachel Zolf’s Human Resources (Coach House, 2007). Human Resources offers a critique of corporate language as inimical to poetic language, yes — and yet Rachel Zolf strongly undoes any such easy distinction. The work insists on the reality of nonsubjective language, managing to coerce this aspect of meaning up to the writing surface so that we can no longer repress its inhumanity even as we inevitably find ourselves seeking the poetry in it.
Amber Rose Johnson, Davy Knittle, and Tonya Foster joined Al Filreis to discuss the poem “Riot” by Gwendolyn Brooks. “Riot” is the title poem in the (now rare) chapbook published by Dudley Randall’s Detroit-based Broadside Press in 1969, and has been collected variously, including in the book Blacks (1994). The Eclipse site offers a PDF copy of the original Riot chapbook. The recording used as the basis of this PoemTalk conversation comes from a reading Brooks gave at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City on May 3, 1983.
Susan Schultz, Sally Van Doren, and Huda Fakhreddine joined Al Filreis to talk about Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Stones.” It was written in October or early November of 1959 and appears as the seventh poem in a seven-part sequence called “Poem for a Birthday.” The recording the group hears at the start of the conversation comes from a studio performance Plath did for BBC Records between 1960 and 1962 (and this particular performance probably dates from 1962). The most readily accessible copy of the audio has been posted at YouTube.
Sawako Nakayasu, Donato Mancini, and Gabriel Ojeda-Sague joined Al Filreis to talk about two poems by Sueyuen Juliette Lee. The poems were published in a chapbook titled Perfect Villagers (2006) and later collected in That Gorgeous Feeling (2008). “Dear Margaret Cho” (actually one of two poems of that title) and “Daniel Dae Kim” were among the pieces from the “perfect villagers” series performed by Lee in a reading she gave at the Kelly Writers House in January of 2007. The recording can be found at Lee’s PennSound page.
Al Filreis and Zach Carduner traveled to Los Angeles to the home of Marjorie Perloff, where they made a sound recording and film of a convesation about a poem by John Ashbery with Susan McCabe, Robert von Hallberg, and Marjorie herself. The poem is “The Short Answer” from a late book, Quick Question (2013). There are, abounding, the usual marooned pronouns, and the typically high “daftness quotient.” Marjorie and Al chose this poem with the goal of exploring of what it means to read closely and talk in detail about a seemingly “minor” poem from a “major” poet — a poem that might strike readers as an effect of Ashbery’s incessant and seemingly easeful poetic fermentation.