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.”
Christy Davids visited Kelly Writers House on October 24, 2016, to talk with erica lewis, who was passing through Philadelphia to give a reading in Jason Mitchell’s Frank O’Hara’s Last Lover series in between stops in Pittsburgh and Brooklyn. While in the studio, lewis read some work and talked about her box set trilogy, a three-part project that engages with pop music as memory device and formal procedure, reconsiders “the confessional” as a poetic mode, and delves into female family history in poems that are by turns performative, intertextual, and intensely sonic.
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.
Ross Gay, Josephine Park, and Herman Beavers joined Al Filreis to talk about Patrick Rosal’s “Instance of an Island.” The poem was collected in Rosal’s book Brooklyn Antediluvian (Persea, 2016). Our recording of Rosal performing the poem comes from a Wexler Studio reading done at the Kelly Writers House in March of 2016, just weeks before the book was published. This episode of PoemTalk, number 112 in our ongoing podcast series, is being made available in two versions — the usual audio, downloadable from this Jacket2 page, through iTunes, and on the Poetry Foundation site; and an uncut video recording (see below).