September 1941 (PoemTalk #141)

Rosmarie Waldrop, 'Memory Tree'

From left: Laynie Browne, Mónica de la Torre, Kate Colby, and Rosmarie Waldrop.


The ModPo team went on the road to Providence, Rhode Island — joined by Laynie Browne — to film some new collaborative readings of poems to add to the ModPoPLUS syllabus. Of course while there they just had to stop at the remarkable home of Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop, where Laynie, Kate Colby, and Mónica de la Torre (and, in a cameo appearance here, Lee Ann Brown), recorded a special episode of PoemTalk. This episode is presented here as an audio podcast, and as a video too. The poem discussed, “Memory Tree,” is from Rosmarie Waldrop’s book Split Infinites (published by Gil Ott’s Singing Horse Press in 1998). Here is a link to the text of the prose poem.

“Memory Tree” bears a major linguistic disruption: it integrates and mashes up folkloric messaging and makes phrasal and homonymic fragments of fragmented memories. The prose poem offers itself as a alternative representation of the disaster. It is a post-traumatic portrait of the artist as a young girl. Its first six stanzas or paragraphs are written out of the moment in September 1941 when, at a time of absolute control of every aspect of German society by the Nazi regime, a girl goes to school for the first time — enters, that is to say, the vortex of totalitarian socialization.

This episode of PoemTalk was recorded and engineered by Chris Martin and Zach Carduner, with special coordinating assistance provided by Anna Strong Safford. Special thanks to Kate Colby for hosting our Providence visit, and to Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop for their willingness to use their home as the site of the conversation. We are grateful to the Poetry Foundation as partners in the PoemTalk podcast project, and to Nathan and Elizabeth Leight for their support of PoemTalk, ModPo, PennSound, and Jacket2.