Sunday, July 13, 2014

June 22, 2014: Tiff Dressen Live!

Tiff Dressen joined us live in the studio to read from and discuss her new book, Songs from the Astral Bestiary (lyric& Press, 2014). Many of the poems in her book are prefixed "Message:", and Tiff opened our discussion by reading a selection of these: Message: periodic, Message: I come to harvest light, and Message: a theory (song). Tiff's reading led us into a discussion of dreams and dreamscapes, as well as to a quote from the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard: "The great function of poetry is to give back to us the situation of our dreams." The conversation then turned to the topic of silence and an excerpt from an essay by Swiss writer Max Picard, who suggests that silence and words are of one texture. We then brought up the use of all-caps in parts of some poems, heard from Message:, and talked about language-creation myths, the act of naming, and poetry as a site where one can create one's own mythology. The conversation moved on to readings and reading out loud, and Tiff related an inspiring conversation with poet Hazel White about the poet creating a sacred space for the reader/listener.

After the top of the hour break, we talked about Tiff's use italics and the role of generative quotations from other writers in the creative process. We then learned that the Message poems were originally gathered together in a chapbook of their own, which led us to a discussion about the differences between the intimacy of the handmade chapbook and the more formal and persistent form of the book. With regard to her book, we discussed the extraordinary cover image, a painting by Fran Herndon. Tiff then read her book's final poem, In your hypoxia dreams, and touched on the lyric, dream imagery, Lorca, and Celan. We closed our discussion on the "we" that appears throughout Tiff's work.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 15, 2014 - Roundtable on Appropriation: Tinker Greene Live!

We were delighted to have Tinker Greene join us once again this past Sunday. Tinker guided us through a kaleidoscopic discussion on appropriation, sharing his thoughts on collage, cut-ups, and using quotes (in several cases an entire quote becomes a poem) from other text sources, mostly prose/non-fiction. Tinker also "appropriates" from his own well of personal memory--his autobiographical past--forming poems with the disjunctive images of his childhood: a bale of hay on a scythed field that's "melded" with a stack of LIFE magazines in an attic during WWII in "My Vermont."

Tinker started off reading "Hoagy Carmichael Reminiscing about Bix Beiderbecke," a poem from his chapbook Funeral Sentences in which he "steals" the words of the "Stardust" composer Carmichael from his (ghost written) autobiography. Also a "photographic image-maker," he explained the process of "framing" prose as a way of forming the poem; every poem is "framed," set off on the page. Williams, Pound, and Eliot were cited as modernist poets who often re-framed found language.

While it's the Romantic period (Poe and Coleridge cited) that Tinker often returns to, it was during the 1960's that he first experienced appropriation while encountering Gary Snyder's "John Muir on Mt. Ritter," a straight quote from Muir originally a section in Snyder's long poem, Myths and Texts. Next, Tinker read from The Road to Xanadu by John Livingston Lowes, a work revealing Coleridge's "mind as a well," from "the shattered fragments of memory" to "snake-birds" and "footless birds of paradise and the fauna of polar and tropical seas." We explored what makes things collect inside our memory-wells, acknowledging that much of it is not (nor ever will be) new or original thought being human on a planet full of regurgitated language. "We are born into the world and start picking up and using language," Tinker clarified. "Poetry is condensation."

Next, Tinker read "Pouring Glory" from his recent chapbook, Your Thoughts Are Real. The poem is a direct quote or "made of the words" of astronaut Chris Hadfield's experience in space that is versified and "arranged" on the page. After the break, Tinker read (by request) "Blue Flame Ring," a prose poem "written the day before a reading" and retelling his sublime dread while hiking in threatening weather, getting lost and taking refuge in a small cave. The title alludes to a dropped passage from an earlier draft which remains as a mysterious fragment, a kind of cut-up.

Toward the end of our show, Tinker shared a quote from a book that had a big impression on him as a young poet, Ronald Johnson's Book of the Green Man--a hiking trip poem set in England, studded with quotes: "decayed literature makes the richest of all soils" (Thoreau). Self-taught, Tinker has allowed himself through the decay that begets other decay, reading one piece of writing and following its resources back. "Romanticism is a theme." Tinker then read sonnets LXVII and LXVIII from Ted Berrigan's The Sonnets, cut-ups of the poet's own work.

Closing with "My Vermont" (1, 2 and 3), Tinker's sonnet sequence, we were reminded that it's freeing not to tell the truth when appropriating from childhood memory ("like Wordsworth"); readers will garner some form of truth. "I was a horrid child, possessed by the to travel as an/ ectoplasmic wraith floating through the moonlight..." We are grateful that Tinker floated back into the studio to share with us more from his personal "well," however appropriated! His chapbooks are available upon request at Click here to listen.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

June 1, 2014 Melissa Eleftherion Live!

This Sunday, despite technical difficulties, we were able to air and record a live interview with poet Melissa Eleftherion. We spent the first half of the interview on her chapbook Huminsect (dancing girl press, 2013). Many of these poems originally appeared in her thesis, as she was graduating with her MFA from Mills Collage. These poems include many specific references to insects and their parts, juxtaposed to the human body and the human condition; she sought to examine humans through the lens of systems. The poems vary in form which Melissa explains emerges organically during the writing process. She wants to investigate the 'gaps in language' and this is often reflected in the form. Jay discussed how Melissa's poetry, like a lot of poetry, can use language in a way that is unfamiliar and confronts us with an 'opaque otherness.' From this point, Melissa talked about how she compiled 'a lexicon from the gaps in her education.'
After the break we discussed her latest chapbook Prism Maps (Dusie Press Kollectiv & Quarter Drink Press, 2014). These poems were created during a postcard poem project. The lovely cover has a removable postcard and each poem is on the page facing the image of a postcard (depicting flowers or a map).
Besides these two books, we touched on Melissa's other projects. She started, and single-handedly manages The Chapbook Exchange, through The Poetry Center, which allows poets to share their work online. At this time there are over 50 contributors.
At the end of the interview, Melissa shared new work from her manuscript auto/bio.
Click here to listen

Monday, May 26, 2014

May 25, 2014 Remembering Colleen Lookingbill

On Sunday we gathered an unprecedented number of poets at Lightrail Studios to celebrate an unparalleled poet and spirit, Colleen Lookingbill, who unfortunately left us on March 30th. Besides the Poet as Radio hosts, Tiff Dressen, Susanne Dyckman, Todd Melicker, Joseph Noble, Steven Seidenberg, Candy Shue along with Colleen's husband Jordon Zorker took part in a memorial show, which included a reading of Colleen's work and a discussion of her life. We heard work from both her books Incognita (Sink Press, 1992) and a forgetting of (Lyric & Press, 2011), as well as some other pieces published in literary journals.
After the break, the group shared anecdotes from Colleen's life and artistic endeavors. Jordon told us that she was influenced by the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets and she liked the term 'experimental poetry.' Colleen was also a visual artist and she created visual poetry that was included in a forgetting of. Colleen was an incredibly open and giving person. Tiff introduced Colleen's relationship to Buddhism and Jordon expanded on this, discussing her interest in different spiritual traditions. Joseph told us about his experience of book shopping with Colleen, where she gravitated towards obscure texts. One of her last projects was an anthology of women poets she compiled with Elizabeth Robinson, As If It Fell From the Sun (Ether Dome, 2012).
Thank you to all the poets who took part in this show.
And thank you Colleen for your poetry, your presence and the beautiful mark you left on this writing community. You are surely missed.
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 18, 2014 Todd Melicker Live!!!

This Sunday we were happy to welcome Todd Melicker back to Lightrail Studios to talk about his first full length book, and winner of the Black Box Poetry Prize, Rendezvous (Rescue Press, 2013). This book, which is comprised mostly of work that had originally appeared in the chapbook form, is broken up into four types of sections, 'day collects,' 'nautilus,' 'rendezvous,' and 'king & queen.' Each section works with a different form, often inviting the reader to a multiplicity of readings. These poems grapple with dichotomies and pairs – the sun and the moon, the king and the queen. At the same time, there is a blurring of boundaries, where the 'I' is not always sure how and where the merger with the other takes place. Todd talked about struggling with his intuition when discovering the direction of his work and giving himself permission to trust that the poem is assembling itself as it should. Todd shared that he tends to compose his poetry for the page and that he re-encounters his work when considering how to read aloud.  He revealed the 'conversations' that found their way into the content of the work. We talked about the 'letting go' involved when we acknowledge that the reader acts as collaborator in the poem's construction. Towards the end of the interview, we compared the chapbook format to the full-length book format.
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Monday, May 5, 2014

May 4, 2014- Frances Richard live!

On May 4th, Frances Richard came to Lightrail Studios to talk about her book Anarch. (Futurepoem, 2012). We start the interview with a discussion of how Paradise Lost was the inspiration for the title and her poetry. In reference to a past interview, we talked about Frances stating 'language is a thinking tool;' the functionality of words is investigated in the work. She is looking at the paradox of thought and action. Nicholas introduced the term 'eco-poetics' to our talk; the book grapples with landscape and the interaction of organic systems and human intervention. Jay found a quote by Frances where she differentiates the difference between the written word and the performative word. After the break, we spoke about poetry's potential communication. With this in mind, Frances creates language within her poems that best reveals her meaning. After reading a section from the poem 'Anarch,' Frances talked about being a 'poet as radio,' as well as her use of quotes. We ended our talk covering 'lyric conceptualism.'

Click here to listen

There is a co-project by Futurepoem called The Anarch Film Project which invites filmmakers to create films in responses to Anarch. You can find this at

Frances will be taking part in a symposium in honor of Alice Notley called 'Alette in Oakland' at The Public School in Oakland on October 24th and 25th.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 27, 2014 Dennis Phillips Part 2

On April 27th, we played part two of our interview with Dennis Phillips, when we discussed his book Measures (Talisman House Publishers, 2013). We start this hour discussing the use of pronouns in this particular book (pronouns also came up when we interviewed Dennis about Navigation) and how these are related to the personal. Dennis talked about writing in Hawaii, which is prominent in this work. During the interview, he describes the writing processes for particular poems but also the philosophy he employs while writing in general. He showed us the actual journal he uses (sorry listeners). After the top of the hour, the interview moved onto narrative and how language is inherently involved in narrative. Dennis shared how he plays with the 'driving linear force' in his writing. Towards the end of the interview, we talked about Dennis's line and the rhythm that seems so effortless but is actually the product of his important attention to "theme and refrain,' syllables and notes. Understanding why a poet breaks the line is something he impresses upon his students.  He is very interested in the dynamics and contrasts at play within the line and within the poem. We end our talk discussing the title of his book.
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