Month: September 2015

“Outside the Fold”: A Conversation with/without Erín Moure and Chus Pato

“My position in the desert is that of one who stays outside the fold, outside the flag, outside the placenta….” –Chus Pato, trans. Erín Moure On Tuesday, September 29, 2015, the Woodberry Poetry Room’s Fall 2015 season launches with a celebration of one of the most dynamic and catalyzing literary partnerships in recent years: Erín Moure and Chus Pato. To mark the occasion and to honor the fact that this will be their first combined U.S. reading, the Poetry Room interviewed the Quebec and Galician poets (or rather, we emailed a few questions in English via Erín, who translated them into Galician, and subsequently conducted the answers back to us in English). Their visit is co-sponsored by “Rethinking Translation,” a Harvard translation think-tank founded by Professors Sandra Nadaff and Stephanie Sandler, and is also made possible by Dara Wier/UMASS Amherst, who will also be hosting a reading by Moure & Pato during their stay. The Poetry Room evening will be introduced by Prof. Daniel Aguirre Oteiza, himself a translator of John Ashbery, Wallace Stevens and Samuel Beckett. …

THE PACKARD COLLECTION: New Initiative to Chronicle & Preserve the Works of a Harvard Recording Pioneer

You could say he was the Alan Lomax of poetry recordings. As the founder of the Harvard Vocarium (1933-1955), one of the first poetry record labels in the world, Frederick C. Packard, Jr., was responsible not only for making the earliest extant poetry recordings of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Muriel Rukeyser, Randall Jarrell, and Marianne Moore, but also for capturing (in some cases for the first time) the works of a dynamic range of poets and performers composing in Gaelic, Yiddish, Afrikaans, and Haitian Creole. As an associate professor at Harvard’s Speech Clinic (one who helped generations of students and faculty with speech impediments) and the university’s first professor of public speaking, he had both a physiological and metaphysical relationship to the voice. He was convinced that the spoken word was to be the instrument of the age and that (if radio broadcasts in Europe were any indicator) the United States needed to educate its next generation of public speakers as a counterpoint to the hypnotic effects of fascist broadcasts and rallies. He considered poetry to be essential in …

“I Have You By the Ears”: Liner Notes for a John Wieners Exhibit

John Wieners and I spent much time hanging out in his apartment at 44 Joy Street in Beacon Hill. It was a ramshackle, railroad apartment with bamboo patio furniture and exotic crazy collages on the walls. There was a modest shelf of books and piles of papers and folders stacked in a shifting order throughout his three rooms. I spent a great many hours thumbing through his fantastic array of personal items, handwritten poems and marketing literature, as well as postcards and letters from his friends and family. John would cut and paste these images and articles inside copies of his own books. His texts would become scrapbooks of decoupage collages composed of everything around him. Although they would appear, at first glance, to be random assemblages of junk mail and articles cut from newspapers and magazines, one would gradually see a pattern of transposing and pasting his dreams over the reality of his printed work. So, over the years, I assembled this collection of books and magazines, mostly given to me by John himself. John actively …

BOTH SIDES OF THE FOOTLIGHTS: On the Poets’ Theatre

They put on exotic European imports, like René Char’s balletic The Man Who Walked in a Ray of Sunshine, and earnest home-grown efforts like Lyon Phelps’ The Gospel Witch, a play about Salem fated to be overtaken by Arthur Miller’s. They staged the solemnity of Yeats’ Purgatory and the cheerful absurdity of Ashbery’s Pirandello-style comedy, The Compromise. Readers included metrical conservatives like Richard Wilbur, so-called Confessional poets Anne Sexton and George Starbuck, and professional circuit performers like Dylan Thomas and Louis MacNeice. Kenneth Koch and James Merrill sent them plays, and there was a brilliant adaptation of Finnegans Wake (by Mary Manning Howe). Even Gregory Corso had a brief stint with the Poets’ Theatre, as a janitor.

REEL WRITING No. 6: The Return

“We’ll take refuge in bells, in the swinging bells,
 in the peal, the air, the heart of ringing.
 We’ll take refuge in bells and we’ll float
 over the earth in their heavy casings.” —from “The Bells” by Adam Zagajewski This is the sound of the Letecks foundry outside Moscow in Russia. The screech of metal polishers, the roar from the container of molten metal, and hiss of hot wax being poured into their molds. It is here, in this enormous industrial warehouse, that some of the holiest icons in Russian Orthodoxy are born. It’s incredible that such a cacophony will result in a sound like this. Bells. In Russian, kolakol. For centuries, the art of casting bells has been developed and refined, with craftsmen producing enormously heavy instruments that are both feats of engineering and beautiful artifacts of metal iconography. In Russia, bellringing takes on a much different form from the bells you might hear in the rest of Europe or the United States. For one thing, melody is not the focus of Russian bellringing. …