Humming in the vacancy (PoemTalk #189)

Gregory Corso, "Vision of Rotterdam"

from left: Rita Barnard, J.C. Cloutier, M.C. Kinniburgh


Al Filreis convened J.C. Cloutier, Rita Barnard, and M.C. Kinniburgh to talk about a poem by Gregory Corso, “Vision of Rotterdam.” The poem records or remembers a moment of encounter and geo-historical reflection that took place in September 1957; the reflection casts the poets visionary eye upon the German bombings of cities in the Netherlands of 1940. Corso performed and recorded the poem in 1969 — at Fantasy Studios on Natoma Street in San Francisco, 1969. This recording is included among others at PennSound’s Corso page. Thus the PoemTalk group decided — improvisationally; we never plan where these discussions will go — that we are dealing with a convergence of three crucially distinct times: wartime 1940; Cold War-time (and Beat time) 1957; anti-war (post-)Beat 1969. It’s eventually the consensus of the group, as it associationally emerges, that Corso’s visionary romanticism, and his detailed, contextual awareness of that tradition, is an apt mode and motivation for this devastating contemplation of cycles of destruction and reconstruction.

The text of the poem can be read here. The audio recording of Corso’s studio performance of the poem can be heard here.

To consult all 189 episodes of PoemTalk, dating back to 2007, please go to PoemTalk is also available through most podcast apps and sites, so check us out, and subscribe, and leave us a review. We are at Apple podcasts and also on Spotify.

This episode was recorded and engineered — and then edited — by the one and only Zach Carduner in the Wexler Studios of the Kelly Writers House, at 3805 Locust Walk, in Philadelphia.