Featured resources

From "Down To Write You This Poem Sat" at the Oakville Gallery

  1. Charles Bernstein, "Phone Poem" (2011) (1:30): MP3
  2. Caroline Bergvall, "Love song: 'The Not Tale (funeral)' from Shorter Caucer Tales (2006): MP3
  3. Christian Bôk, excerpt from Eunoia, from Chapter "I" for Dick Higgins (2009) (1:38):  MP3
  4. Tonya Foster, Nocturne II (0:40) (2010) MP3
  5. Ted Greenwald, "The Pears are the Pears" (2005) (0:29): MP3
  6. Susan Howe, Thorow, III (3:13) (1998):  MP3
  7. Tan Lin, "¼ : 1 foot" (2005) (1:16): MP3
  8. Steve McCaffery, "Cappuccino" (1995) (2:35): MP3
  9. Tracie Morris, From "Slave Sho to Video aka Black but Beautiful" (2002) (3:40): MP3
  10. Julie Patton, "Scribbling thru the Times" (2016) (5:12): MP3
  11. Tom Raworth, "Errory" (c. 1975) (2:08): MP3
  12. Jerome Rothenberg, from "The First Horse Song of Frank Mitchell: 4-Voice Version" (c. 1975) (3:30): MP3
  13. Cecilia Vicuna, "When This Language Disappeared" (2009) (1:30): MP3
  1. Guillaume Apollinaire, "Le Pont Mirabeau" (1913) (1:14): MP3
  2. Amiri Baraka, "Black Dada Nihilismus" (1964) (4:02):  MP3
  3. Louise Bennett, "Colonization in Reverse" (1983) (1:09): MP3
  4. Sterling Brown, "Old Lem " (c. 1950s) (2:06):  MP3
  5. John Clare, "Vowelless Letter" (1849) performed by Charles Bernstein (2:54): MP3
  6. Velimir Khlebnikov, "Incantation by Laughter" (1910), tr. and performed by Bernstein (:28)  MP3
  7. Harry Partch, from Barstow (part 1), performed by Bernstein (1968) (1:11): MP3
  8. Leslie Scalapino, "Can’t’ is ‘Night’" (2007) (3:19): MP3
  9. Kurt Schwitters, "Ur Sonata: Largo" performed by Ernst Scwhitter (1922-1932) ( (3:12): MP3
  10. Gertrude Stein, If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso (1934-35) (3:42): MP3
  11. William Carlos Willliams, "The Defective Record" (1942) (0:28): MP3
  12. Hannah Weiner, from Clairvoyant Journal, performed by Weiner, Sharon Mattlin & Rochelle Kraut (2001) (6:12): MP3

Selected by Charles Bernstein (read more about his choices here)

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In Memoriam: Hal Willner (1956–2020)

Posted 4/7/2020

Late this afternoon came word that legendary New York producer Hal Willner had died from complications of COVID-19 at the age of 64. Willner spent forty years at Saturday Night Live, where he coordinated music for sketches, and produced albums for Lou Reed, Marianne Faithfull, Iggy Pop, Laurie Anderson, Jeff Buckley, Bill Frisell, Bonnie Raitt, Los Lobos, and Lucinda Williams, among many others. 

The highlights of his prolific career are numerous, and yet Willner was just as well known for passionate musical projects that were obscure, idiosyncratic, and not destined to make a lot of money, including tributes to the work of Nino Rota, Kurt Weill, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Harold Arlen, Harry Smith, and Harry Partch. This is a man, after all, who produced an album of reinterpreted songs from classic Disney films, and whose last major project was a pair of albums of "Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys" sung by the likes of Patti Smith, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and Bryan Ferry. Willner approached these projects with unabashed ardor, gathering dazzlingly talented collaborators and creating truly transcendent experiences for his listeners, and he brought the same deep enthusiasm to his work with another group of artists who were obscure, idiosyncratic, and not destined to make a lot of money: poets.

Most notably, Willner had long relationships with both Allen Ginsberg  — shown above with Willner in a photo shared today by Steve Silberman — and William S. Burroughs, producing a pair of albums for each: Ginsberg's The Lion for Real (1989) and Wichita Vortex Sutra (2004), and Burroughs' Dead City Radio (1990) and Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales (1993). Both authors were no strangers to making records, but the ones they made with Willner are truly lavish affairs, their words buoyed by soundscapes woven by a diverse array of truly remarkable musicians. Also well worth highlighting is the 1997 compilation Closed on Account of Rabies: Poems and Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, where you can have the truly surreal experience of hearing Christopher Walken read "The Raven" (Abel Ferrara also reads the iconic poem on the record's second disc), and where Ed Sanders and Ken Nordine rub shoulders with Debbie Harry and Dr. John. We are very proud to be able to share two poetry-centric albums produced by Willner on our site: Bob Holman's In With the Out Crowd (1998) and Kathy Acker's Redoing Childhood (1999, which we've written about at length here on PennSound Daily).

Speaking personally, encountering those Willner-produced Ginsberg recordings as a teenager had an indelible effect upon my life, and no doubt are a big part of why I've spent the last dozen years working at PennSound. Poetry was cool, and sterile studio recordings of poetry were pretty cool as well, but then you heard the wonders Willner worked on record — take, for example, the simple elegy of "To Aunt Rose," which starts as a poignant snapshot of things past and blooms with oceanic woodwinds and rusty strings — and you knew that there was amazing potential that very few had the foresight to realize. We have already suffered many painful losses from COVID-19, and no doubt there will be many more to come, but this one hits me especially hard. It's well worth your time to connect with some of Hal Willner's brilliance, whether on PennSound or elsewhere. May he rest in peace.

From the Jacket2 Team: Publishing During the COVID-19 Crisis

Posted 4/7/2020

Today the Jacket2 editorial team shared a new commentary post to our readers and contributors addressing the ongoing pandemic. Here's how it opens:
Like many of you, we are adapting to increased safety measures around COVID-19 at the University of Pennsylvania and other campuses. Our work here at Jacket2 will likely be delayed and/or interrupted; our publication schedule for both commentaries and J2 content at large will be slower than usual as we adapt to the global pandemic. Many of our editors are working remotely, and we will continue to curate Jacket2 as a space to convene and sustain a life in/through poetry during times of scarcity, stress, and shifting imagined communities. We remain committed to bringing you open access content when institutional access and travel for research become compromised and complicated. 
It continues, acknowledging that "this is a moment for practical, compassionate, and critical thinking," and towards that end, the team "invites queries for our commentaries section, and especially invite commentaries about poetry during times of catastrophe, global or local disasters, and crises of the neoliberal state."

From there, it goes on to highlight Jacket2 content that feels especially pertinent at this moment, including "writers contemplating illness, the disabled body, and medicalized sociality," and "resistant and incisive writing by Asian American poets, scholars, and critics in our institutions and communities," along with the fine work done by Kundiman and the Asian American Writers Workshop in the midst of this troubling time of rising hate crimes against people of Asian descent.

This brief distillation scarcely does the post justice, therefore we wholeheartedly recommend you read it in its entirety at Jacket2.

Kenneth Rexroth: New PennSound Author Page

Posted 4/6/2020

Our latest author page — for groundbreaking San Francisco poet, translator, and editor Kenneth Rexroth — is, admittedly, somewhat modest, especially for a figure with such an outsized personality. Think of it as merely the beginning of a collection that will grow with time. For now, however, we were so excited to get permission to share Rexroth's work that we didn't want to wait to make the recordings presently in our holdings available to our listeners.

That includes Rexroth's reading of "Thou Shalt Not Kill," his paean to the late Dylan Thomas — the A side to the 1957 Fantasy LP Poetry Readings in the Cellar, with Lawrence Ferlinghetti on the B side, and accompaniment by The Cellar Jazz Quintet throughout — which runs twenty-two minutes. That's joined by a one-and-a-half minute recordings of "Climbing Milestone Mountain, August 22, 1937," for which we have no information regarding its date or location. 

In time, we hope to be able to make more recordings from this pioneering figure in the fields of both poetry-in-performance and poetry on record available. We're grateful to Bradford Morrow, who oversees the Rexroth estate, for granting us permission to share what we have, and also to Ken Knabb, who initially contacted us about the absence of a Rexroth PennSound author page, which started the process leading to the creation of one. You can listen in to the aforementioned recordings by clicking here.

Want to read more? Visit the PennSound Daily archive.