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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Al Filreis: "What Is Poetry?"

Posted 1/22/2021

"Someone at my university who edits and publishes a newsletter asked me if I would write 500 words on what makes poetry distinctive," PennSound co-founder Al Filreis writes in a new Jacket2 commentary post. "I balked at such a task. But then decided to produce the statement." Particularly at the end of this week, when poetry was given a prominent and inspiring place in the midst of one of our nation's most significant political rituals (which, as one might expect, subsequently elicited a lot of petty griping) this sort of perspective — even if offered begrudgingly ("for or better or worse, here it is") — might be exactly what we all need.

"Whenever poetry becomes a topic movingly discussed by many people for whom it is not a daily — indeed, not even a monthly — thing," Filreis begins, "I realize once again what draws me to it ever and always. In a poem, how you say what you say is as important as, sometimes more important than, what you say. Is that a radical view? After all, content is central to communicating. But what about times when communication has broken down?" He then turns to the example of Allen Ginsberg's iconic poem "Howl,"
and specifically, "the riveting performance Ginsberg gave before a huge, engaged, at times ecstatic audience in Chicago in 1959" that you can hear here. "How Ginsberg says 'Howl' is as important as what he says, for sure. Words about crying out can themselves cry out." "So that is poetry," he affirms. "A form of saying. Not so much the things being said."

Later, he turns to the example of Erica Hunt, who'll be joining us shortly as the first of this year's Kelly Writers House Fellows: "Whenever I read — or, better, hear recited — [Hunt's] poem 'Reader we were meant to meet,' I think about how and why I cannot help but listen, cannot turn away from hearing, must attend. Because the poet is not just talking to me, but about me — about why I am necessary 'even in the failure to communicate.'" "Poems I admire require my involvement in the project of 'toppl[ing] distinctions' between who gets to talk and who is being asked to listen," Filreis tells us, "And that and only that kind of engagement — the convergence of writer and reader, of speech-maker and audience, of the talker and the silent, of the poet as subject and the reader normally supposed to be an object — will 'ease doubt.'"

Certainly, this feels pertinent to our present moment; however what we've offered here is just a small taste of Filreis' mini-essay, which merits reading in full. You can do so by clicking here.

Congratulations to San Francisco's New Poet Laureate, Tongo Eisen-Martin

Posted 1/21/2021

Today we're catching up with last week's news that Tongo Eisen-Martin has been named San Francisco's eighth poet laureate. Mayor London Breed offered these hopeful words while making the announcement: "I've had the pleasure of working with Tongo when he was teaching artist at the African American Arts and Culture complex, and I've seen his remarkable ability to spur creativity in youth and inspire them to find their own voice." Breed continued, "His work on racial justice and equity, along with his commitment to promoting social and cultural change, comes at such a critical time for our city and our country."

In his introductory comments, Eisen-Martin acknowledged San Francisco's long and thriving poetic history, while striving for even greater outreach and inclusivity: "As deep into the various communities of the city as our poets have already brought the craft, I want to push even further into places where poetry has not yet permeated. Give poetry even more of a mass personality; as mass participation has always been the staple of what could be described as San Francisco futurism."

We recently added an October 2019 reading by Eisen-Martin (along with Eric Dolan and Fego Navarro) from the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive's reading series, organized by Cole Solinger. Listen in to that set, along with readings by Trisha Low, Elaine Kahn, Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta, Ocean Escalanti, Vasiliki Kitsigianis Ioannou, and Jheyda McGarrell, by clicking here.

Remembering Gregory Corso, On the 20th Anniversary of His Death

Posted 1/17/2021

January 17th marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Beat legend Gregory Corso. While the loss of any poet is a tragedy, one feels especially sorry for Corso, who had finally attained some modicum of hard-fought peace and closure in his final years, leaving behind the traumas that had marked his childhood and reuniting with his mother after decades of separation (as detailed in the late Gustave Reininger's criminally neglected documentary, Corso: The Last Beat).

We launched our Gregory Corso author page in June 2017, with assistance from Raymond Foye. There, you'll find five full readings plus one individual poem recorded between the 1970s and 1990s. The earliest recording is an April 1971 reading at Duke University, which is followed by an August 1985 appearance at the San Francisco Art Institute as part of their "Art of Poetry" series. Jumping forward to the 90s, there's a March 1991 Brooklyn College reading notable for the appearance of Corso's iconic late poem "The Whole Mess ... Almost" and for the half-hour candid conversation recorded in the car on the way home. From December 1992, there's a stellar reading in New York City also featuring Herbert Huncke, John Wieners, and Allen Ginsberg, and finally, from March 1993, we have a half-hour reading from Rutgers University including "I Met This Guy Who Died," "Earliest Memory," "Youthful Religious Experiences," and "Friends," among other poems.

Ginsberg famously offered high praise for his dear friend, calling him "a poet's Poet, his verse pure velvet, close to John Keats for our time, exquisitely delicate in manners of the Muse," who "has been and always will be a popular poet, awakener of youth, puzzlement & pleasure for sophisticated elder bibliophiles." He continues, judging Corso as "'Immortal' as immortal is, Captain Poetry exampling revolution of Spirit, his 'poetry the opposite of hypocrisy,' a loner, laughably unlaurelled by native prizes, divine Poet Maudit, rascal poet Villonesque and Rimbaudian whose wild fame's extended for decades around the world from France to China, World poet." Per his request, and with the help of donations from his fans worldwide (I still remember the call for funds and might have sent in $5), Corso's ashes were interred in Rome's Cimitero Acattolico right next to the grave of his greatest poetic hero, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and in close proximity to Keats. His tombstone bears his poem "Spirit," written as his epitaph during his lifetime. While that poem — and many more — are on my mind today, the one that seems like the most appropriate tribute is another classic Corso poem addressing mortality that includes a good dose of his trademark humor, "How Not to Die." We have a great recording of Corso reading it at that 1993 Rutgers reading [MP3] and here's the poem in its entirety:

How Not To Die 

Around people
if I feel I'm gonna die
I excuse myself
telling them "I gotta go!"
"Go where?" they wanna know
I don't answer
I just get outa there
away from them
because somehow
they sense something wrong
and never know what to do
it scares them such suddenness
How awful
to just sit there
and they asking:
"Are you okay?"
"Can we get you something?"
"Want to lie down?"
Ye gods! people!
who wants to die amongst people?!
Especially when they can't do shit
To the movies — to the movies
that's where I hurry to
when I feel I'm going to die
So far it's worked

Click here to start browsing the recordings collected on PennSound's Gregory Corso author page.

Want to read more? Visit the PennSound Daily archive.