Author: Christina Davis

Handing reaching toward Dickinson book

THE LAYING ON OF HANDS: On “Physical Distancing” as an Ethics of the Archive

In these intangible, at times untenable days—the duration of which keeps extending its parenthesis—days in which we’re instructed not to touch, or greet within six feet, in which we’re made increasingly cognizant of what Amichai called “the circumference of the bomb,” or at the very least the consequential perimeter of our being, days of the necessarily distant and of griefs behind glass, days of the digital (though digital has its very root in “hands”), I’ve begun to reflect on what I, as a curator, have most longed to touch, materials I’m privileged to work among but must necessarily refrain from—a kind of “discipline of vicinity.” It’s a strange favor the fingers do by being far, the noli me tangere of an archivist’s career.   But, somewhere in the molecules of Massachusetts what I haven’t handled persists because I—and others—have cared enough not to touch it. ______ Over the past few weeks, removed from the physical archives, I’ve had a chance to reflect on the fact that I have never in my entire time at Houghton …

Announcing the 2019-2020 WPR Creative Fellowship & Grant Recipients

The Woodberry Poetry Room is pleased to announce that the recipient of this year’s WPR Creative Fellowship is Sawako Nakayasu for her project, “Sounds of War and Not-War, 1941-1945.” Three WPR Creative Grants are also being given this year. The recipients are Jasmine Dreame Wagner, Brian Teare, and Tongo Eisen-Martin. The Poetry Room’s fellowship and grants program offers stipends to artists and scholars to undertake creative projects that would benefit from the resources available at the WPR archive, as well as time spent at Harvard University as a whole. Past fellowship and grant recipients have included Dan Beachy-Quick, Fanny Howe, Kate Colby, Christine Finn, Tracie Morris, Erin Moure, Eileen Myles, Tess Taylor, and Lindsay Turner. Some grants are selected through the fellowship application process; others are the result of a direct commission from the WPR curatorial staff. SAWAKO NAKAYASU | SOUNDS OF WAR AND NOT-WAR, 1941-1945 During her WPR Creative Fellowship, Nakayasu will work on an ongoing book project that encompasses a range of her multilingual writing practices. This work will be based on the …

YOU ARE UNSUBSCRIBED: Some Activisms of Carol & Robert Bly

I’ve long been interested in individual actions—and minimalist instances of resistance—that testify against a seemingly insurmountable power. It’s no wonder, I suppose, that this interest has been revived of late. As a poet, I have been especially fascinated by the role of refusal: particularly, actions on the part of writers—those whose very material is the language—to use “No” (and silence itself) as a dexterous instrument. In an article in the Boston Review, I explored several writers’ renunciation of writing as a “not-saying” that “becomes language,” describing how for some poets the removal of themselves for a time from certain modes of production and/or from participation in the so-called publishing industry is not simply a negative (or subtractive) act but an action that offers a positive and proactive means to articulate their convictions. Even in this small gesture we are reminded, as Paul Celan writes, of “Man as the being who can say ‘No.’” Over the course of the past century, poets and writers as varied as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Amitav Ghosh, Robert Lowell, Sharon Olds, Alice Oswald, …

“ARCHIVE OF THE MOUTH”: Tracing Baez, Plath, Sun Ra, Sexton, Et Al Back to a Single Pivotal Recording Studio

This was supposed to be a story about one of the nation’s first “library of voices” and its phonographic instigator Frederick C. Packard, Jr. And, in many ways it remains so. But, as poet Lyn Hejinian has observed, people are collecting-experiences, and if one genuinely follows a single human being one inevitably happens on someone else who forms the fulcrum of a very different set of phenomena and occurrences.

In this story that person is a quiet, self-taught Boston audio engineer Stephen B. Fassett (1914-1980), and this article is a preliminary attempt to honor his generative, facilitating and unsung role in the early careers of countless mid-century poets, jazz & blues musicians, and folk music revivalists as they converged on the burgeoning epicenter of 1950s and 60s Cambridge/Boston.