Saturday, October 25, 2014

December 10, 2011- Poetry, politics and chapbooks

On 12/10 we talked poetry and politics, as inspired by a paper written by Marjorie Perloff, critiquing the letters between Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan, dealing with poetic reaction to the Vietnam War. To find this paper, go to http://marjorieperloff.com/articles/duncan-levertov-letters/. We discussed the different ways that writing can engage with politics. We were not able to come to any conclusions, so if you feel inspired by our discussion, please include your comments here or email us!

For the second half of the show, we had Candy Shue join us to talk about the process of creating chapbooks.

Click here to listen

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 19, 2014 Joseph Noble Live!

Today, Joseph Noble came to Lightrail Studios to talk about his book Antiphonal Airs (Starlight Press, 2013). This three-part book of poetry is heavily inspired by both early Baroque Italian music and American jazz. In the first section 'Innvenzioni e Stravaganze,' each of the poems is dedicated to a musician/composer and each has locations and dates when the musician was most active. Joseph states that these pieces are investigating temporality and 'tenuous cultural memory.' The second section 'At Sound' focuses on the death's of Joseph's parents and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The first two sections are followed by an 'Afterward' and a 'Post Face,' in which Joseph generously shares his inspiration and his process with his reader. The third section, 'Correspondences,' which begins with a lovely quote by Hazrat Inayat Khan linking creation and sound, employs more improvisation and foregrounds an attention to rhythm. Joseph, who is also a flute and saxophone player, closely links music and poetry and states that poetry is closely tied to time and sound. This led us to a discussion of how Joseph listens when reading poetry, and also pays attention to phrasing when composing music. Indeed, this work is deeply aware of the connection between music and the body.

You can hear albums from the Joseph's many musical projects at http://cloud-shepherd.bandcamp.com and more of his poetry, drawings and music at josephnoble.info.

Click here to listen

Monday, October 6, 2014

October 5, 2014: Norman Fischer Live!

Poet, essayist, writer, and Zen Buddhist priest Norman Fischer joined us live in the studio this past Sunday and read from/discussed his collection, The Strugglers (Singing Horse Press, 2013).

Norman opened the show reading six poems (13-18) from the first section of The Strugglers entitled "Sixty Five," one of two memorial poems featured in the book. "Sixty Five" was composed after the death of close friend Rabbi Alan Lew, who died "suddenly at age 65." The 65 "passages" were written not only in Rabbi Lew's memory, but as a "direct communication" to him.

Next, we looked at the overall structure of The Strugglers discussing the individual character of each section: Sixty Five, The Strugglers, Mandelstam/Stone or The Russian Mall Poems, Personal, A Young Girl, A Hierophant, and Recognition. Each of the six sections celebrates a different tone, voice, and form (ranging from prosier long lines which demand page-space to shorter stanzas demanding lyric clarity). The collection's title poem, "The Strugglers," is a memorial poem written for/in conversation (in song) with Leslie Scalapino. Scalapino's final prose work, The Diehedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom, served as the source text for Norman's 28-poem (each subtitled) series; he chose key words in passages and then composed his own poem of disasters that were appearing in the news at the time of writing: war, violence, tsunamis, earthquakes.

Topping our hour, Norman shared his history with Zen Buddhism and how it has influenced his writing. Early on it was something that he would "try to avoid," not wanting any one ideology to take over the work. Whereas today, Norman shared, he feels it's inevitably present in the work--evident possibly in the practice of using formal constraints. Structurally, each section of the book seems to organically find or sing out its own unique form. Citing Kay Larson's book, Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists, Norman commented on how art and poetry have moved from a 20th century Modernist I/ego centered expression to a destabilizing Postmodern expression that's concerned with de-centering the self. For Norman, the one rule in poetry has become "no rules," and that's "good news" where the "self is a character"--every I in the poem is a distinct voice. His interest in the phenomena of human subjectivity informed the poem "Personal," and Norman next read from this 5-poem series (each titled, "Personal") that ultimately questions: what is a person?

We concluded with a reading from his most recent collection, Escape This Crazy Life of Tears: Japan 2010 (Tinfish Press, 2014), a "travelogue" set in his "Japanese poet persona"--slowed down, smoothed down, and pared down to an essential lyric. Click here to listen.

Monday, September 29, 2014

September 28, 2014- Vorticism

Today we were without a live guest but were joined by Ezra Pound and H. D. Their recorded readings illustrated vorticism, a movement that was founded by artist Wyndham Lewis in reaction to and contrary to imagism and futurism; vorticism is an abstract and non-representational art using the greater energy of the poetic image. "The image is not a picture but a force."This poetry goes "beyond a static representation of the image to express a world of moving energies." Pound wrote about vorticism in an issue of BLAST in 1914. In the first half we played three recordings from Pound, one from the Caedmon recordings and two from Harvard. We discussed Pound's work and its connection to  Asian artists and Buddhism. After the top of the hour Jay read an excerpt from the H. D. book by Robert Duncan who also described Pound's vorticism; perhaps Pound believed that there was one true poem. We ended the show with the H. D. recordings from her "Helen of Egypt." All of these were found on Penn Sound (a great resource for poetry recordings).
Click here to listen

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September 21, 2014 Gloria Frym live!

This Sunday Gloria Frym joined us at Lightrail Studios to discuss her upcoming book The True Patriot (Spuyten Duyvil, 2015). Gloria, who writes both poetry and prose, shared this collection of 'proses,' narratives without traditional narrative arcs. We read an excerpt from the manuscript in preparation for the show but the final product is still in it's final stages of completion.
These pieces incorporate and communicate with news and current events. Gloria read from the piece "Tete Offensive," which is part of a larger story weaved throughout the manuscript; it takes place in the post 9/11 era and engages with the war as well as the AIDS epidemic. Here, as in the other proses in the book, Gloria expertly uses tangent and digression to display the workings of human thought and social negotiations.
After the break we heard "Lie" and "To Whom it May Concern." We considered the differences between working in prose as opposed to poetry; as Gloria says, "thoughts have their own form," and the paragraph tends to "fills space with thought." Towards the end of the interview, we focused on the title of the book, which shares its title with a piece within, but speaks to the notion that critique is a sign of a true patriot.
At the end, Gloria talked about her past work teaching in San Francisco county jails as part of the Community Works West program. She used this work with prisoners to inform her curriculum at San Francisco State University.
Check out her book in 2015!!!!
Click here to listen

Sunday, September 7, 2014

September 7, 2014 Laura Mullen recordings

This Sunday we had the great pleasure of playing audio recordings of Laura Mullen reading her poetry. During the first half of the show we played six singular recordings. One of the pieces 'The Plastic Wrapper' is available on Laura's blog at Afteriwasdead.blogspot.com. We discussed her use of repetition, especially the use of the term 'the war on,' which exposes how common it is for us to be at war with various entities and segments of society. We also focused on Laura's incredible performance; her tone is both theatrical and understated. Jay pointed out that when listening to these recordings, we hear a confident female voice. She reminded us of Laurie Anderson.

After the top of the hour we played eight pieces that were recorded at the annual Louisville Conference of Literature and Art.  Laura collaborated with multidisciplinary artist Afton Wilky, who sound mixed the poems. You can find out more about her, go to Aftonwilky.com. Given how the words are collaged over each other, we are able to interact with the language in a different way, in a possibly more meditative way. We wondered about the ways listening to this type of audio work might help us engage with our writing.

Laura's website is Lauramullen.biz.

Click Here to Listen

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 17, 2014 Dodie Bellamy Live!!!!

This past Sunday, Dodie Bellamy came to Lightrail Studios to read from and discuss The TV Sutras (Ugly Duckling Press, 2014), a work divided into two sections, 'TV Sutras,' and 'Cultured.' The TV Sutras were created during a process where Dodie wrote after doing yoga and meditating, culling lines and descriptions from television. These lines from television are each followed by 'commentary,' or a sutra. Sutra literally means 'thread' and is an aphorism, or original thought. These sutras are in fact wise and useful messages. We talked about engaging in a spiritual practice in an urban environment, and how both the mundane and the cacophony of SF gets incorporated into the process of meditation. The book is full of beautiful illustrations by local artist Neil LeDoux.
The second section 'Cultured,' which is in prose form, tells the story of being in a cult, and investigates the charismatic leader. Dodie did extensive research into cults in preparation for the book while also bringing in personal history mixed with the fictional. The narrative goes from autobiographical first person to a more unreliable first person, and this becomes a metaphor for the cult leader. While there is a critique of cults, Dodie recognizes that we all have 'spiritual longings.' We discussed the function of cults and how other groups and relationships can also be considered cultish, such as MFA program.
Click here to listen