Sue Landers with Christy Davids

PennSound podcast #59

Christy Davids (left) and Sue Landers (right). Photo of Sue Landers by Natasha D
Christy Davids (left) and Sue Landers (right). Photo of Sue Landers by Natasha Dwyer.


Christy Davids returned to the Wexler Studio at Kelly Writers House earlier this year to chat with Sue Landers, whose 2016 book Franklinstein represents a documentary-poetic engagement with the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. At the beginning of Franklinstein, Landers writes that the project began as a “monster” made out of language from Benjamin Franklin and Gertrude Stein: in an interview with Tinge magazine, she tells Christopher Schaeffer that she “decided to spend forty days of my fortieth year reading them both and writing down lines that stood out to me — either musically or semantically. […] I ended up with a notebook full of beautiful lines by Stein interrupted by rather banal phrases from Franklin. I thought the chance operations of having somewhat randomly selected text would create something interesting, but, really it was simply derivative.” From these procedural origins, Franklinstein went on to become a poetic critique of white flight, gentrification, collective memory, and the history of place. As Allison Cobb has written, the book offers a model of socially engaged documentary poetry, “one that seeks not only to record the world, but to work toward change.” And as she notes in this interview with Davids, Landers’s work makes an argument against dehistoricized nostalgia as a documentary-poetics mode and instead toward a historically, politically alert poetic attitude toward our attachments to place. In this PennSound podcast, Landers and Davids draw out the significance of particular passages from Franklinstein and discuss what they have to teach us about the politics of mapping, memory, and place-based history.

Sue Landers is the author of Franklinstein, Covers, and 248 mgs., a panic picnic. Her chapbooks include 15: A Poetic Engagement with the Chicago Manual of Style and What I Was Tweeting While You Were on Facebook. Her poems have appeared in Poem-a-Day, The Brooklyn Rail, The Offing, and elsewhere. She was the founding editor of the poetry journal POM2, and in 2018 was an artist-in-residence at PLAYA. She has an MFA from George Mason University and lives in Brooklyn. She recently became executive director of the Lambda Literary Foundation.

Christy Davids is a teacher and a poet. She is an assistant editor at The Conversant, collects recordings at poetry//SOUNDS, cocurates the Philadelphia-based reading series Charmed Instruments, and cofounded the feminist collective Becoming / Collective. Some of her work can be found in VOLT, Open House, The Tiny, Dusie, Jacket2, the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet, and elsewhere. Her chapbook “on heat” was selected by the editors in BOAAT Press’s 2016 chapbook competition and was published in May 2017, and her chapbook “wanton” is forthcoming from DoubleCross Press. — Julia Bloch