Stephen Metcalf, Anna Strong Safford, and Ahmad Almallah joined Al Filreis to talk about one of the most well known poems in English of the twentieth century — Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” What hasn't already been said about this poem? Well, to our ears at least, this conversation goes in several unusual and, we think, fascinating new directions. What exactly is the nature of the poem’s (or anyway the speaker’s) cultural conservatism? Can the wall really be read geopolitically? Is it more about what is being walled out than walled in? Do the stalwart iambs themselves form a wall that is hard for readers to get across? Are the gaps in the wall wide enough for new readers to get through?
Stephanie Burt, Bonnie Costello, Anna Strong Safford, and Al Filreis met up at the Woodberry Poetry Room in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to record a special episode of PoemTalk about Tonya Foster’s A Swarm of Bees in High Court. A section of that book, published in 2015 by Belladonna*, is a sequence of haiku pairs. The group focused on five pairs — those on pages 38, 39, 42, 46, and 50. The haikus on page 50 form the final entries in a long part of the book titled “In / Somniloquies.” Tonya Foster made a special recording of these poems just for use in this PoemTalk episode; they will also be added to her PennSound page.
In September 2018 Davy Knittle hosted poet Rodney Koeneke in the Wexler Studio to discuss his book, Body & Glass (Wave Books, 2018). Their conversation touches on Koeneke’s writing process and use of pronouns as a “distancing technique,” the role of poetry — particularly experimental forms — in America today, and how joy might emerge from work about loss. The two also examine the traditions that poetry assembles for itself, drawing comparisons between modernists like Joyce and contemporary poets.
Davy Knittle and Eileen Myles had a conversation at Myles’s home in the East Village in New York City in August, 2018, for this PennSound podcast. Their discussion began in the midst of an exchange about Myles’s 1991 collection Not Me and changes in their neighborhood at the time. Conversation topics spanned “not-me-ness,” gender, capitalism, sexuality, perception, and observation, among others.
Al Filreis convened Selena Dyer, Jonathan Dick, and Jerome Rothenberg to talk about three poems in Michael McClure’s Ghost Tantras. The three poems can be found here. One of them is number 49 in the series, and there is a complicated history of performances. At Birkbeck College in London, McClure, performing some tantras, offered a brief commentary on 49 and then played a famous earlier recording in which he performed the poem (in 1964 and again in 1966) at the San Francisco Zoo in the lions’ house. Each time the lions roared in response.