Next Big Thing



What is the working title of the book?

I’m not sure. The file on my computer is named “Pupils” but I’ve been thinking about the title “Mirage Repair” ever since I saw a cleaning service truck in Denver advertising “Mirage Services.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The manuscript only consists of a handful of very short poems so far, so the idea is very much in development. I’m guessing it is still several years away from being completed.

There is a poem called “Lost Moat” which is an adaptation of a dream I had about an octopus that was bumping my knee and trying to lead me through a confusing house (e.g. a bathroom that when you opened the door it was really a bathtub room, complete with tide). I’m pretty sure the octopus is a dream version of Virginia the cat, who lives in my real life house. The octopus was gentle and slightly annoyed with me for not understanding where to go. The poem feels like narrating what it would be like to die. I hope Virginia the Octopus Cat is there to show me where to go when I die.

Another poem is called “The Rain of the Ice” and that title evokes, for me, both Breton’s book L’Air de l’eau and also a mental erasure of the title of the Roland Barthes essay “The Grain of the Voice.” It includes a horse that is in various states of presence/illness/decomposition and perhaps it’s about animal consciousness in relation to physical pain/shelter/relief. It is also about a view of a storm I had once when driving through Iowa at night with my sister.

What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry. Prose Poetry.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
There are no actual characters other than an “I” and a lot of objects, environments, and animals. Since it is a very young manuscript, maybe a child actor doppelganger makes the most sense. I have been told that from a certain angle I look like the middle brother, Dewey, from the t.v. show “Malcolm in the Middle.” I think an MRI image of that actor comes pretty close.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
The shore grew sails.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I am not even close to a first draft of the manuscript. It has taken me about a year and a half to write the first few pages.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The inspirations tend to be poem-specific and in some cases line or phrase or title specific. Steve Reich’s “It’s Gonna Rain” (echoed in a poem called “Mute Casting”), Mequitta Ahuja’s “Tsunami Generation” (inspired the palinode “Echo Solvent), a dream about a centaur in a fight with a horse mutated with the title of a book on electronic music The Ambient Century (inspired the title “Ambient Centaur”), a poster diagramming the internal organs of a bird (inspired “The Diagrammed Ear”), a grasshopper in my old backyard (“Pupa Deluge at Bastille Labs”), Brian Lucas’s visual art (inspired the title and some imagery from “Nova Compost Extract”), dehydrated lamb lung (aka “Lamb Crackles”), my space heater pointed at my cold limbs while I write.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Another source of inspiration was this sheet of paper that Andrea Rexilius found at her old job at the Denver Public Library. It talks about “pupa.” This “pupa” appears as a figure in some new poems.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This book is a larva. Let’s not impose expectations on it just yet.

Thanks to Kathryn Pringle for tagging me for this.

I tag: Brian Lucas, Curtis Crisler, Trevor Calvert, Danielle Pafunda, Dorothea Lasky. If you feel like it, tell us what you’ve been making lately.


appalachee review

Ed Roberson reads the poem Sequoia Sempervirens from his book City Eclogue on January 21st, 2006 in NY at the Segue Series. (Segmented from a longer recording on Pennsound).

I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to present and sequence audio texts in relationship to print texts lately. I spent most of this afternoon segmenting a recording of Grace Paley reading from UMass so that I can play it for my students next week. I’m teaching her Collected Stories in a post WWII-present American Lit class.

We’re reading Little Disturbances of Men (1959) for Tuesday’s class, which is the first book in the Collected Stories. We have two weeks (4 classes) to deal with the whole Collected Stories.

I think I’m going to begin class by playing a more recent essay/story Travelling, which deals with issues surrouding race relations in 3 different time periods. At the beginning of “Travelling” Paley comments about the blurry line between fiction and nonfiction in her work, which I think will be helpful to address right away.

Noy Holland’s Intro to Paley is great. Actually I think I might play the intro after playing Travelling. Holland recounts a great comment about Paley’s character Faith, who bears some resemblance to Paley. When asked about her relationship to the fictional character, Paley said “Faith works for me.” I like how this articulates a seperation between author and character while acknowledging more than a trivial relationship between the two.

After talking about the line between fiction and nonfiction, I will probably play Inherit the War a 2 minute story that satirizes generational nostalgia for war. Neither of these stories is in the book.

I’m hoping that a discussion about audio files (which my students won’t have read on the page) will lead us into a deeper consideration of Paley’s early work.

There is a longer story, My Father Addresses Me On The Facts of Old Age, which is too long to play in class but might be a good thing to assign as listening homework.

When I assign audio listenings as homework, I like asking simple questions like “What (images, words, phrases, intonational patterns) did you remember from your listening?” and building a conversation from students’ individual impressions. There will probably be some talk about different tones, approaches, stylistic choices Paley makes between these pieces.

I tend to be hesitant to play very long recordings in class, as it feels like a time-killer to students. I also don’t want to use too much audio per class. I mostly teach poetry audio files, but I think these fiction recordings are pretty helpful. I’m curious about how they will respond to her voicing of the stories and her comments.

I have taught Paley’s story Living several times in creative writing classes. Students are often surprised by the audience laughter. Reading the piece on the page sometimes creates a darker, more somber sense of the story. I will play this piece after they read Living on the 3rd or 4th class. We can talk about the complexity of Paley’s tone via a conversation of the audience response. I tend to shy away from presenting audio versions of texts after students read print versions, but in this case, I think it’s o.k. I’m hoping it will be a good way of talking about the context of the live event in shaping the meaning of texts.

Anyway, I wanted to think through some issues related to sequencing and framing audio texts so they don’t instantly pin down the author or become a passive illustration of what students have already read.

This is a recording of my brief comments about using audio files in the creative writing classroom, delivered on April 8th 2010 at the AWP conference as part of The Networked Poetry Classroom Panel.

W.B. Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree & Bernadette Mayer’s Sonnet (You Jerk) .

When I teach intro poetry classes, I have found that playing these recordings next to one another provoked a lively discussion of diction, tone, etc. Obviously, the contrast between these two poets and poems is fairly stark, but we also look at any formal similarities between the poems. We talk about the ways these two recordings might distort one another. For example, students often pick up on Yeats’ elevated diction and contrast than to Mayer’s generally conversational word choice, but there are often several words and references in Mayer’s poem that students are not familiar with, and we talk about that too. The idea is not to come out with an aesthetic winner, but to talk about both content and context in a more organic, experiential way than listing and defining terms on the board. I like this kind of discussion because students build an understanding of terms and techniques out of their own concrete perceptual experiences.

A review by Rob Mclennan of Tuned Droves is in Jacket.

Lisa Robertson’s new book R’s Boat is now available from University of California.

Tan Lin’s new book 7 Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking [AIRPORT NOVEL MUSICAL POEM PAINTING FILM PHOTO HALLUCINATION LANDSCAPE] is now available from Wesleyan University Press.

Watch a film by Joshua Marie Wilkinson of Moten reading a poem at Rabbit Light Movies.

Read Moten’s blog posts on Harriet on the Poetry Foundation website.

Moten’s commentary and one of his poems on the Poetry Society of America site.

Moten’s new book B Jenkins (Duke University Press) is available on Amazon (and elsewhere) now.

I like listening to the entirety of a work. Usually the space of the live reading doesn’t permit that. In this case, Susan Howe is reading a different section of her book “Singularities” at 3 different times/locations (all recordings from Howe’s Pennsound Page). If you read along, it’s interesting to hear how she voices the text that moves around the page.

I. Articulation of Sound Forms in Time (Segue Series, April 12, 1986)
II. Thorow: Introduction (Radio Readings Project, 1998)
Thorow: I
Thorow: II
Thorow: III
III. Scattering As Behavior Toward Risk (SUNY Buffalo, March 31, 1995)


Some alternate versions of Thorow:

In the following version of Thorow she either chooses not to include some of the most difficult to read pages (or perhaps they weren’t in this manuscript version): Thorow (Segue Series, June 20, 1987)

In this recording Howe reads all of Thorow at the Kelly Writers House, Wednesday, February 14, 2007. Here, she begins with some epigraphs not included in “Singularities”.

I’m also uploading a 16 second excerpt from Thorow – Part Three as performed by Susan Howe & Dave Grubbs on the CD Thiefth. It’s a wonderful recording that seems to be out of print. In this small clip you can hear some of the ways Howe & Grubbs rendered the polyvocality of the text.

Today I was re-listening to Fred Moten‘s lecture “Black Kant (Pronounced Chant)” on Pennsound and at one point he plays a recording of Norman Pritchard reading the poem “Gyre’s Galax.” It sounded great, and tracking it down was a lot easier than I expected. You can hear a sample of it on Amazon, and buy the mp3 individually for .99 (or the entire compilation album it’s on “New Jazz Poets”).

It’s also available individually/as part of an album on iTunes and from the Smithsonian Folkways website (though it appears you can only buy it as part of the entire album).

Barbara Guest reads the entirety of her book Quill, Solitary Apparition (The Post-Apollo Press 1996 ) in 1999 at the Kootenay School of Writing.
3 Poems via PENNsound:

The Blue Stairs
Saving Tallow
An Emphasis Falls on Reality

Anselm Berrigan writing about page space, etc. on the Harriet Blog. A brief excerpt: “I don’t use a system for getting off of the margin. Do not use breath, heartbeat, division of mental ideas, variable feets, aleatory products (like food stuffs or fuzzy dice or tracking twitches), concrete patterning, happy erasures, typographic growth serums, computer programs. All those things are terrific when someone else uses them though.”


These three poems were recorded in Boston (sometime between 2002 and 2004?) I like these recordings because you can hear some of my friends laughing in the audience:
Token Enabler
The Ambition Of Ahrrrrrrrrr
On Revelations

Bhanu Kapil reading an alternate version of Humanimal, a Project for Future Children on the Kelsey Street Press website.

Robert Gluck reads several pieces that appear in Denny Smith (Clear Cut Press, 2003) at the Line Reading Series in NYC in 2002 (via Pennsound).

Bernadette Mayer reading and being interviewed by Susan Howe in 1979 (via Pennsound).


Two recordings from the Naropa online audio archives:

Mayer leads a class on memory at Naropa in 1978.

Mayer talks about several of her books at Naropa in 1989.

Dodie Bellamy reads at Kootenay School of Writing on Saturday, August 23, 1997. In her intro comments, Bellamy discusses The Letters of Mina Harker (Hard Press, 1998) and this reading seems to be one of the letters from the project that didn’t appear in that book. It’s in two parts: Part A & Part B.

Bob Perelman reads his poem China at SFSU (early 80’s?) This is from a cassette I ordered from SFSU poetry archives in the late 90’s, which I lost years ago. I’ve been recently re-reading Perelman’s Primer (This Press, 1981) and The First World (The Figures, 1986). “China” appears in Primer.

Listen to Perelman read at Emily Carr University, New Poetics Colloquium, Friday, August 23, 1985.

This reading is hosted on the Kootenay School of Writing’s website. Here is a link to a list of their audio files.

Albert Mobilio reads an excerpt from The Geographics. I don’t have any info on time, date, or venue. Mobilio is so good. You should check out his work if you don’t know it already.

This is a link to Mobilio talking with Leonard Schwartz on XCP in 2005.

Mobilio reads “step 1” and “step 2” from The Geographics (excerpted from the XCP program).

You can find a few last copies of The Geographics (Hard Press, 1995) and his great chapbook Bendable Siege (Red Dust, 1991) here at SPD. His book Me With Animal Towering (Black Square Editions, 2002) is available here at Amazon.

Renee Gladman reads “First Sleep” from Juice. I love this recording of Renee Gladman reading in Hawaii several years ago. I originally heard this on Juliana Spahr’s Try Listen site but I haven’t been able to view it the last few times I’ve tried. I uploaded it above so people could hear it again.

This is the kind of recording that I’m especially interested in. There’s a ton of background sound (planes, cars, motorcycles, etc.) but you can still hear her voice clearly. This is one of the recordings I used to play on repeat on headphones when I lived in Philadelphia. It was great because it was like superimposing another sonic landscape on top of wherever I was walking. Because there are so many sounds on the recording in addition to speech, I found myself particularly keyed into the material qualities of the language. Phrases and individual words such as the “also” in “And also I was in the street.” accrue an understated power.

PENNsound currently has several recordings of Renee Gladman reading:
NYC The Line Series 5/22/01 (This reading is a manuscript version of an excerpt from her book The Activist)

NYC Segue Series 2/12/05

NYC Segue Series 5/10/08

Tucson, AZ POG Series 2/21/09

There’s a new review of Tuned Droves in Galatea Resurrects #13 written by Virginia Konchan.

Tuned Droves by Eric Baus
(Octopus Books, Portland, OR and Brooklyn, N.Y., 2008)

Being able to attenuate the ear from behind a variously constructed partition is key, for the speaker and reader of Tuned Droves; in the first section the reader is told the tell-tale signs of a “perfect listener.” From “The Wires Led to a Hive”: “Think of something quieter. Child-flower, bed-flower, the long pause/ her name created./ If a singer neglects her title long enough to lose her tone, the first of/ many eyes emerge./ This is the sign of a perfect listener.”

In Baus’ world, not only speech, but being, is created by projection. Thus, there is a danger implicit in quietude, yet the world the speaker inhabits is one in which silence, as in a game of hide-and-seek, is often necessary. Certain passages in this collection halve sonically, such as the last word “stream” in an untitled prose poem from the section “I Know the Letters This Way,” easily misread, during the first reading, as “scream”: “Do you want to hear my second sound is her shortest sound . . . A tone beside another. They think they have seen my name before. It was here. It was here. We heard it. It was here before they started swimming. Look. We have similar streams.”

The fragility of wire communication and the ecosystem, in which whole universes can shift with the alteration of one word or species, is the weighty axis upon which this tensile collection of verse rests. Directives are given readily: “Do not call out the conductor’s name. Do not repeat the perfect page . . . Be still. Do not discuss the continuous corner.” Cosmic definitions are also proffered with mathematical precision, such as “the core of any sonar is silence,” or, from “The Formation of Flowers”: When a phonograph and a projector converge, they conceive two distinct components: echoes and antennae.” The speaker’s authority comes to a hilt when he coins the most revolutionary vehicle since the Model T-Ford: a “non-lethal ambulance.” “The mandatory distance from the non-lethal ambulance is one hundred solid digits. Keep that in mind. The minimum time for hive transfers is half of half of that.”

Characters are alluded to in the most generic of terms: a man and a woman. The woman is also referred to as “Miss” or “Miss Toy” and the [a] man, as a “king without subjects.” The fringe benefits of naming are delimitation, yet, as there is also violence in this art of naming, Baus again advises caution: “When I write her name is a secret name, the wax removed lets some-/thing tumble over me from the air.”

Entire sections of the book have a subaqueous feel, as if written in utero; communication thereby is reduced from song to speech to gesture, then further reduced to whatever form of dissolution comes after that: “How do I know there is going to be an accident. I can no longer speak with my hands.”

A world in which the bee and the tortoise “survive as obstacles to grammar and song” is a fraught world, wherein the chief peril is not to mankind, nor really even to nature, but to the text, where ambushes by vultures and wolves menace the dark undergrowth surrounding the oft-referenced “perfect page.” Receptive listening becomes, in this context, not an idle pastime, but an imperative. In Baus’ work, the objective of the speaker is not what, but rather who, to listen for. From the penultimate poem “They Showed a Film of Walking to Water”:

“She was folding her arms to make a mirage, touching the snow in a/ sentence. She knows I know I will disappear tonight, a time-lapsed/ splash in my place./ Inside any good song is a small piece of snow is the one I am listening/ for.”

Virginia Konchan’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Believer, The New Republic, Notre Dame Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. She is a contributing reviewer for The Rumpus and ForeWord Magazine.

Leonard Schwartz hosts XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics, a wonderful radio show of readings and discussions with poets. Here are a few recent XCP episodes that were particularly exciting to come across:

Jean Daive reads in French and Leonard Schwartz reads Rosmarie Waldrop’s english translation.

Nathalie Stephens reads and discusses recent work on XCP.

Travis Nichols writing about poetry for The Huffington Post.

“Half of what I carried flew away” is an audio/video collaboration with Andrea Rexilius currently up on Trickhouse. (The films are best viewed on Safari. Firefox crops them and hides the play button. You can still play them by double clicking on the image).

Elizabeth Willis reading her poem The Wolfman at SUNY-Buffalo, April 9, 2003 (via PENNsound).

Coolidge’s introduction to the reading.

And this is Section 3, my favorite, because he writes “Someone holds that only the writing will be taken as truth, but I not only can’t imagine that being true, I can’t even imagine the truth being imagined.”

From PENNsound’s singles collection:

Lorine Niedecker reading in 1970.

This originally turned up years ago on Factory School’s audio archive. Speaking of which, Factory School’s audio archive was something I listened to a lot years and years ago. I glanced at their site and it looks like the audio’s down or maybe migrated to PENNsound. Either way, I still love Factory School.

Cecilia Vicuna reads “Water” on the Linebreak audio program in 1995.

I recently started re-listening to a bunch of the older Linebreak interview/readings hosted by Charles Bernstein.

When I lived in Indiana in the late 90’s and still had a dial-up connection, I would listen to these and it opened up a whole constellation of writers and discussions to me.

One of my all time favorites is the Jena Osman discussion on Hybrid Forms and the performance of her piece “The Detective”.

Apparently someone searched for “Brad Flis MP3” earlier. It made me remember that I had this great reading by Brad in my iTunes.

Hear Brad Flis reading in Amherst in 2005.

Ronald Johnson reads at Stanford University, November 19, 1989 (via Pennsound). I especially loved hearing his comments between poems and hearing him laugh to himself. It’s also great to hear the exchanges between Johnson and the small (?) audience. This is a website devoted to Johnson w/ some great info, (forthcoming) files, interviews, etc.

Two Piero Heliczer films on Ubuweb.On the same page, an obituary by Tom Raworth that gives some context for his work and life.

Claude Royet-Journoud reads in French and Keith Waldrop reads English translations in 1984 at the Ear Inn NYC.

University of Denver’s Word + Image archive.

Some recordings of recent readings and guest lectures available on the site:

Robin Blaser

Alice Notley

Eileen Myles

Rae Armantrout

In the near future, recordings of Renee Gladman, Tomaz Salamun, and many others will be available.

Rosmarie Waldrop reading on Close Listening.

Waldrop in conversation with Charles Bernstein.

Rosmarie Waldrop’s Pennsound Page

Denver Reading
Reading @ The Dikeou Collection
Eric Baus
Arda Collins
Jen Tynes

Friday, November 6
Doors open at 7 pm;
the reading begins at 7:30.

The Dikeou Collection is located in Downtown Denver:
The Colorado Building
1615 California Street (at 16th Street)
Suite 515
Denver, CO 80202

Emmanuel Hocquard reading in French and Peter Gizzi reading him in translation.
Olivier Cadiot reading in French and Charles Bernstein reading him in translation.
Dominique Fourcade in conversation with Charles Bernstein on Close Listening.
Jean-Michel Rabate in conversation with Charles Bernstein on Close Listening.
Nicole Brossard reading the poem “Si Ceci Est Mal” and Brian Kim Stefans co-reading Brossard’s alternating and overlapping translation/ “transcreation”.

Paul Killebrew reviewed Tuned Droves in the new Poetry Project Newsletter. Here is a PDF of the review.

Or click on images to enlarge and read:


CA Conrad’s somatic poetry exercise for Tuned Droves is included on Steve Evans’s Third Factory site:

Eric Baus | Tuned Droves | Octopus | 2009

Be fully dressed for this one. Fill a tub with a nice hot bath, bubbles TOO, and a good amount of it. Climb in, shoes and all, shirt, pants, even a coat if you want. It’s nice to FEEL the warm water soak into the fabric, and fill the shoes, soak into the socks, then, then it hits the skin, ah, time for poetry. Make yourself pee before doing this by the way or your bladder will pressure you out of the tub, unless of course you just want to pee yourself in the tub, it’s your choice, don’t let me interfere. This book is perfect for a submerged body, but don’t get suds on it, or water, and don’t doze off and drown, I’m sure Eric Baus would feel terrible, and I would have to console him and tell him that it wasn’t his fault you’re so stupid to fall asleep with such a book in hand. In fact you deserve to drown if you fall asleep while reading it. But you’re not stupid, you’re OK, you’re fine, but midway through reading the book STAND UP SUDDENLY, maybe just before “THE CONTINUOUS CORNER” section. Enjoy the water falling out of your clothes, drip drip, it’s dripping off of you, you have a body made MOSTLY OF water, but when it’s outside you it drips off, unless of course you peed yourself in the tub, then it’s dripping out of you. Enjoying this marvelous book? “When the work was finished, there were no chapters. / The name of the child was It Is Not Here. / It is unlikely this is precise. / To reproduce his mother’s voice, hydrogen was added to the body. / For all this activity, the sound was flat.”

New mini-review of Tuned Droves on the Black Ocean Blog.

Tuned Droves
Eric Baus
Octopus Books, 2009

Eric Baus’s buzz is the kind that jars the latent sounds of life. The experience of reading Tuned Droves begins as if you’re standing a few feet from a bee hive and proceeds to curl up right inside of it, close as possible to the bees, the tiny hairs on the bees, the little lungs of the bees: “Wake up a little more, Ding. Be still, and hear a bee breathing.” [Dara Cerv]

This reading series, hosted by Kristi Maxwell and Michael Rerick, is now up on PENNsound.

You can hear my reading here, Gina Myers’ reading here, and Dana Ward’s reading here.

Gina Myers’ new book A Model Year is available. Some of Dana Ward chapbooks: New Couriers (PDF download via Dusie) and The Imaginary Lives of My Neighbors (PDF download via Duration)

I also had a chance to finally meet Michael S. Hennessey (poet and managing editor of PENNsound), whose reading in the same series a few weeks earlier is available here.

A really great conversation between CAConrad and Garrett Caples up on Phillysound.

Caples reading at Pegasus Books in 2007.

A review of his second book, Complications, by Brian Strang on the Verse Blog.

Another review of Complications by John Olson on Galatea Resurrects.

Caples’ books for sale at SPD.

Tuesday by Lisa Robertson.

My Mother by John Wieners. Wieners’ newly updated PENNsound page.

Steve Evans has a post on Wieners’ poem “Cocaine” from the same reading.

A new review of Tuned Droves up on Rob Mclennan’s blog. Thanks Rob!


Eric Baus, Gina Myers, and Dana Ward
Thursday, Aug. 13, at 7 p.m.
Bon Mot/ley Reading Series

The Bon Mot/ley Reading Series takes place in the Clifton Cultural Arts Center on the second Thursday of each month. The CCAC is located at 3711 Clifton Ave., and you can learn more about the center here: Readings are free and open to the public.


Portland, OR

Sunday, August 16
7:30 PM,
Concordia Coffee House,
2909 NE Alberta,
Spare Room

An interview with Tan Lin on Galatea Resurrects #12.

In the GR interview he discusses HEATH (PLAGIARISM/OUTSOURCE). You can hear Tan Lin and Kareem Estefan co-read from this work on Kareem’s program Ceptuetics Radio.


I answer rob mclennan’s 12 or 20 Questions. It’s been great to read the responses from other writers on rob’s site. I especially liked Forrest Gander’s.

Steve Evans recently posted some audio commentary on one of my poems at Lipstick of Noise. It’s always nice to see attention payed to the ambiguity of sounds and the variations between printed text and phonotext.

I’ve been reading for my fall comps this summer so I’ve been just linking on this site but I hope to start posting more detailed readings of audio files again soon.

New Thom Donovan Page on PENNsound.

Ish Klein interviews the Quay Brothers.

Publishers Weekly recently ran a review of Tuned Droves.

Tuned Droves Eric Baus. Octopus (SPD, dist.) $12 paper (88p) ISBN 978-0-9801938-1-7

Baus’s second collection picks up where his debut, The To Sound, left off, exploring the ways we mishear, misread and misunderstand, and offering novel means of reading a kind of insular, new language. The prose poems and sequences that compose this book are fragmentary, funny and willfully confusing in the service of pointing up what words can’t say. One poem, “Orange Water” reads, in part, “The bloom. The boiling water. Bees. Real flowers release bees. Real flowers bloom orange. Real bees bloom in boiling water. Real water releases bees. Boiling real bees release flowers. The flowers bloom.” The poem flirts with both sense and nonsense. This kind of poetry is not for everyone, but to fans and curious readers looking for unusual ways of thinking about what words can do, Baus may seem capable of casting a spell with language, sound and sense. (June)

Also, there is a new interview with me in Jacket Magazine by Cynthia Arrieu-King.

3 poems from Fred Moten’s 2-28-08 UPENN reading:

William Parker/Fred McDowell

“…song for a moving picture of the tone world…”
There is Blackness

“…a particular embraced affinity of veering…”
I come from around…” (from “I ran from it and was still in it.”)

“…song is homeless for running away inside…”

Here is a new review of Tuned Droves written by Brigitte Byrd in Oranges & Sardines.

Click on image to enlarge:

I will be reading on the East Coast a few times in the next week or so:

Eric Baus (book release for Tuned Droves), Cathy Park Hong, Karla Kelsey, Keith Newton & music by Snowblink
Sunday May 3, 5:30-8pm
Yardmeter Studios: 267 Douglass St, Brooklyn, NY.

More info here.


Wednesday May 6, 2009 8:00pm
Eric Baus at Amherst Books in Amherst, Massachusetts
8 Main St in Amherst. Call (413) 256-1547 for information.


Friday May 8, 2009 7:00pm (time rescheduled from 8 p.m.)
Eric Baus, Elisa Gabbert & Ben Mazer
at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts
10 Arrow Street in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA. Call 617-868-2033 for info.


Saturday May 9, 2009 8:00pm
Eric Baus, Ish Klein, and Selah Saterstrom
Chapter & Verse Reading Series in Philadelphia.
The reading is being held at the Chapterhouse Cafe & Gallery, 9th and
Bainbridge, in Philadelphia.

Free Rein


Free Rein (Andrew Joron, Joseph Noble, and Brian Lucas) sounds like this.

I support anything that involves a theremin.

I just got done reading Chris Nealon’s new book Plummet and I thought it was really really great. I hope to say something more articulate soon. I’m also hoping there’s some audio of Chris someplace in the world.

Stan Mir has a new poetics blog with a great name: Best Nightmare You Get

See Stan read poems in his bathrobe at Dorothea Lasky’s Tiny Tour here

Yay Stan! Yay Philadelphia!

Tuned Droves


Octopus Books just published my new book, Tuned Droves.

SPD has copies in stock here.

You can also order it directly from Octopus Books via paypal ($12, includes shipping).

It is also available from Amazon.

Travis Nichols wrote some nice things about the book on the Poetry Foundation blog.

This is a poem from Tuned Droves called The Continuous Corner which appears in Octopus #11.

This is a short video clip of me reading from Tuned Droves at Pete’s Candy Store.

Ceptuetics Radio is a great program hosted by Kareem Estefan. I’ve listened to a bunch of these and have always been glad I did.

Steve Zultanski


Steven Unique Party Experience Zultanski

Andrea Rexilius, To Be Human Is To Be A Conversation
Excerpt and Ordering Info

Jen Tynes, Heron/Girlfriend

Twenty One Times by John Taggart was my pick for the Wave Books Poetry Politic blog.

Lately, I have been thinking about the importance of segmenting recordings of individual poems that appear within larger files such as interviews or entire readings. This was one that I loved from Leonard Schwartz’ great radio program XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics. Taggart reads from his book “When The Saints” on the same episode. It’s a great conversation as well: XCP #43

Tonight I am working on excerpting a Myung Mi Kim recording for the same site. It is interesting but difficult to try to parse the file in ways that correspond to her texts because Kim often reads “across her work.” I am focusing on an Amherst reading from a few years ago but I love this 1996 SFSU reading

Microphone + Title by Noah Eli Gordon, published in ActionYes.

Read by Eric Baus, Noah Eli Gordon, and Sara Veglahn.

“For more than 30 years the Shortwave radio spectrum has been used by the world’s intelligence agencies to transmit secret messages. These messages are transmitted by hundreds of Numbers Stations.”

The Conet Project

Thank you Sara Veglahn for introducing me to these! This is my ideal soundscape.

This is my August Muxtape Mix.

The tracks are:
Gertrude Stein, Interview
Dorothea Lasky, Some People Do It
John Cage, from Silence
Sawako Nakayasu, Texture Notes: Texture of a Conductor
Barbara Guest, Windy Afternoon
John Yau, Russian Letter
Peter Gizzi, Masters of the Cante Jondo
CAConrad – distorted torque of FLORA’S red [from (Soma)tic Midge]
Eileen Myles, Maxfield Parrish
Joe Brainard, Vincent Van Gogh
Grace Paley, Living
Lesley Yalen, from This Elizabeth


Note: Muxtape is currently not working. I love the site, but they frequently run into problems.

Me reading Rebecca’s poem Caught in the Maw

Rebecca reading some poems from Tuned Droves

This is my July Muxtape Mix.

The tracks are:
Alice Notley, All My Life
Tomaz Salamun, Red Flowers
Nicole Brossard, Si Ceci est Mal
Bhanu Kapil, from Autobiography of a Cyborg
Bernadette Mayer, from Studying Hunger
Dorothea Lasky, Two Assholes
Lorine Niedecker
Susan Howe & Dave Grubbs, Thorow – Part One
Nathaniel Mackey, from Atet A.D.
Lucky Dragons, Schjeldahl’s Party

I like using muxtape for poetry recordings because you can just let it play and loop all day. Is anyone else using this for poetry mixes? I’d like to know about it if you are. It’s pretty fast and easy to use.

Bhanu Kapil reads from “Incubation: A Space for Monsters” and “Humanimal: A Project for Future Children”

“Am I alive? Am I alive now? I am alive.”-BK

Jesse Seldess reads Hum With from his book Who Opens (Kenning Editions).

Dear Jesse, I like the hiss behind your voice.

Moten Lecture

Currently looping/listening to this.

This discussion between Steve Evans and Al Filreis raises so many important questions about audio files, scholarship, and pedagogy. I would really like to segment and annotate parts of this soon. This is worth downloading. Please listen to it.

Dorothea Lasky & Thom Donovan read their collaboration Deadpan.

I met and became friends with Ryan Eckes when I lived in Philadelphia. What I like about Ryan’s poems is the way they often drift between concrete physical landscapes and language as its own landscape, and between humility and harshness. I re-read Ryan’s chapbook the other day while taking a bath and I ended up reading the whole thing until my skin got all prune-y.

Ryan Eckes comments on his poems

Ryan reading some poems:
Paying Respects

Out The Window

Stolen Car


PhillySound feature on Ryan

Ryan’s chapbook when i come here

New MP3’s picked by Danny Snelson.

I really like the Darren Wershler-Henry recording.

C.D. Wright reads all of Deepstep Come Shining

Alvin Lucier’s The Only Talking Machine of its Kind in the World (for speaker and tape-delay system)

LINK to page on UBUweb

Chris Cogburn – speaker
Christopher Burns – computer and electronics
Matt Ingalls – computer and electronics

The Score:
Alvin Lucier – “The Only Talking Machine of Its Kind in the World” for any stutterer, stammerer, lisper, person with faulty or halting speech, regional dialect or foreign accent or any other anxious speaker who believes in the healing power of sound (1969)

“Ask friends to design a tape-delay system in the form of a totem pole, mandala, labyrinth, tree or any other visual configuration. Talk to an audience through a public address system for a long enough time to reveal the peculiarities of your speech. After the peculiarities of your speech have been revealed, your friends may begin building the tape-delay system into which your speech, tapped from the public address system, is fed. Talk, during the building of the tape-delay system, about that which will best reveal the peculiarities of your speech; but from time to time read from a text or tell a story of a people, real or imagined, who have not had or do not now have any idea about anxious speech. Continue talking after the completion of the tape-delay system until, due to the annihilation of the peculiarities of your speech by the tape-delay system, anxiety about your speech is relieved or it becomes clear that the tape-delay system is failing and will continue to fail to bring this about.”

Juliana Spahr reading Thrashing Seems Crazy

This is a recording of Nathaniel Mackey reading from Will Alexander’s Letters to Rosa. Some excerpts of this project appear in Chain #6.

This is Nathaniel Mackey reading from his first epistolary novel Bedouin Hornbook. It is one of my favorite recordings of anything ever. I remember listening to this recording in the late 90’s and turning around a corner in my apartment just as Mackey read the phrase “Dear Birds” about halfway through. It was a physical sensation of being “hit” by something, of hearing something that was very important to hear but I didn’t know why. I had ordered the cassette from SFSU and I remember being excited that my cassette deck had an endless repeat function. I think this one looped all day and night long. (The other side was this John Taggart reading.) I would walk in and out of the room and catch different parts of it. There were several minutes of silence at the end of each side, and I remember being startled each time the voices would start up again. Even now, after hearing it maybe 60 or 70 times I still get caught up in it. In listening to it again recently, I was struck by the longstanding resonances between the works of Alexander and Mackey.

Listen to Will Alexander read his poem A National Day in Bangladesh from the KENNING magazine CD.

PENNsound has just made all of their William Carlos Williams recordings available as singles. This is a big deal, especially for anyone teaching his work. Yay!

These are some MP3’s I’ve been listening to lately:

Stacy Doris, Initial

Brian Kim Stefans, Um, Uh

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Health and Safety

John Godfrey, This Big Wingspread

Summi Kaipa reads The Epics on PENNsound.

Here’s a link to a brief print excerpt and ordering information via Leroy Chapbooks.

I was excited to see this recording of Rachel Blau DuPlessis reading her poem “Draft 85: Hard Copy” up on PENNsound. In the poem’s footnotes, DuPlessis explains: “This poem, as will be evident, is mapped loosely on, thinks about, and responds to George Oppen’s 1968 work ‘Of Being Numerous.'” I thought it might be useful to collect the audio text, the print version, as well as two recordings of Oppen reading Of Being Numerous. I included two Oppen readings here because the first is complete but the second is of higher sound quality.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis reads “Draft 85: Hard Copy”.

Full text of “Draft 85: Hard Copy” on Web Conjunctions.

Oppen reading all of Of Being Numerous at the 92nd Street Y, 1967

Oppen reading an excerpt from Of Being Numerous (sections 1-22) from Selected Readings, 1979 recording

Note: Because of time constraints I haven’t updated this site very regularly. I think for the time being I might post more frequently but in less detail. Right now I’m interested in simply pointing out recordings that interest me. Perhaps I’ll come back later and flesh out more of a response. Also, I’m always open to comments other people might have about the recordings I post.

Since moving to Denver last week, I had a chance to use my Olympus Digital Voice Recorder with my Sony digital recording microphone. This combination of relatively cheap equipment (~$200 total) creates good quality recordings in .wav format which can easily be converted to MP3’s using Switch, a free audio format converter. Once a file is converted to MP3, it can be edited and exported using Audacity with the LAME MP3 encoder. This combination of hardware and software works well for me in terms of portability, price, and ease of use. Anyone interested in making an online audio archive of readings could record them using this stuff and then host it on WordPress. There might be better hardware, software, and web hosting options out there but I figured I would give some specific examples.

Two Joseph Ceravolo readings have just been posted to PENNsound. These are both wonderful recordings.

These are some of my favorites:White Fish in Reeds and Dangers of the Journey to the Happy Land.

See earlier posts on Ceravolo (with excerpts from these readings) here and here.

This recording of Spicer reading all of Language was just posted to PENNsound.

A recording of Spicer reading all of The Holy Grail is also available on the PENNsound Spicer Page.

I’m hoping to comment on these readings in more detail when I get the chance.

Andrew Joron in Amherst (2005)

See previous posts on Joron here and here.

Alice Notley in Buffalo (1987)

This is one of my favorites from the 1987 reading. All My Life

The following poem is from a 2006 reading in Philly: More Important… Notley’s comments at the end of the poem (“I don’t know if that’s true or not. I think about it a lot.”) create an interesting juxtaposition because the language in the poem is so adamant. I find the phrase “I think about it a lot” especially moving for reasons I can’t easily put my finger on. Maybe it’s the sharp contrast between the forcefullness of the poem and the questioning expressed in the comments. This mixture of ways of speaking gets at the frequent polyvocality in much of Notley’s writing. I like to think about the comments after Notley reads the poem “More important…” as part of the poem.

This poem and Notley’s comments on it explicitly address the idea of polyvocality (“a talkin’ voice” “a now-I’m-telling-you-this-voice”): Love Song

In an earlier post I discussed aspects of Bhanu Kapil’s 1999 reading in Colorado. PennSound recently posted a 2001 reading in Hawaii which includes Kapil reading some of the same poems.

I wanted to place some brief but notable moments from both readings next to one another. I’ve become very interested in paying attention to multiple recorded versions of the same poem, particularly parts of poems that really stand out in one version as emphasized and are somewhat less foregrounded in another version. (This issue came up in my earlier post on Baraka.)

The following clips place an excerpt from the Colorado reading before the same part of the poem during the Hawaii reading:


“I came here…”

2 consecutive versions of parts from “The House of Waters”

This is a print excerpt of “The House of Waters” from Autobiography of a Cyborg.

See the Kapil Page on PENNsound for full readings.

The following recordings are from “In The American Tree” a radio show hosted by Lyn Hejinian & Kit Robinson (8-11-78):

From a List of Delusions of the Insane (What They Are Afraid Of)

Berrigan discusses his various methods

As I mentioned in the Baraka post, when I heard Mackey’s live reading on PENNsound of “Song of the Andoumboulou: 19” I had another version in my memory that included music.

1) This is the live PENNsound recording: Mackey’s “Song of the Andoumboulou: 19” without music

2) This version is from Mackey’s studio recording “Strick: Song of the Andoumboulou 16-25”. SPD lists the CD as “temporarily out of stock” which might mean the CD is sold out. Hopefully more are on the way. If you can find a copy you should buy it. It’s an incredible recording: Mackey’s “Song of the Andoumboulou: 19″ accompanied by Hafez Modirzadeh and Royal Hartigan

Mackey’s ongoing sequence “Song of the Andoumboulou” takes its title from a Dogon funeral song. This is a 1956 recording of a Dogon performance of the Song of the Andoumboulou: Song of the Andoumboulou

Near the end of the recording, as the pitch from a horn wavers up and down, the sound enacts an ambiguity between a human shout and the sound of a musical instrument: clip of horn blasts from Song of the Andoumboulou

The slide between speech, song, and noise is a dynamic Mackey seems to continually explore.

Try listening to the live recording (#1) and the Dogon funeral song simultaneously.
Try listening to both versions of “Song of the Andoumboulou: 19” simultaneously.

I find that by doing overlapping listenings with different performances of the same poem I can really tune into all kinds of micro level tonal shifts. If you are interested in trying to do an overlapped listening, the version with music begins at 30 seconds and the live version begins at 3 seconds. You can move the progress bar in the audio application to each of those times while the recording is paused, then you can click play on both as quickly as possible when they’re ready.

The versions of Baraka’s “Black Dada Nihilsmus” and Mackey’s “Song of the Andoumboulou: 19” that I picked for the PENNsound MP3 feature are not accompanied by music. However, when I picked these tracks I had the echoes of other versions that were accompanied music in the back of my head. (I’ll discuss the Mackey in a separate post.)

Baraka’s “Black Dada Nihilismus” voice-only

Baraka’s “Black Dada Nihilismus (w/ DJ Spooky)” voice + music

The actual reading of the poem begins in the “voice-only” version at about 46 seconds. The poem begins in the second version (voice + music) at about 15 seconds. If you wanted to listen to them simultaneously you could sync them up.


This is a brief clip from the “voice only” version: excerpt without music

This is an excerpt of roughly the same part of the poem from the voice+music version: excerpt with music

This moment in the recordings seemed to be a point of maximum contrast. The DJ Spooky version is a recording I’ve had for several years. It was on a compilation CD of musicians (David Byrne, DJ Spooky, etc.) performing the work of and responding to “beat authors”. Over the years, I’ve listened to that version enough times to solidify it in my memory. When I heard the “voice-only” version from Baraka’s 1964 reading up on PENNsound recently, I listened to it filtered through the history of my listening to the “voice + music” version.

Even without considering the issue of musical accompaniment these are very different performances of the poem. For example, in the “voice-only” clip from 1964, Baraka seems to speak the word “scream” in a higher pitched, slightly elongated way, as if holding the note of a song. There’s an ambiguity between singing and speaking voice here. However, if you listen to the “voice + music” version, the word “scream” is performed more literally (“scream”=SCREAM).

Another moment in this tiny clip that fascinated me was the part in the “voice-only” version when Baraka pauses to turn the page between the word “unearthly” and the word “hollering”. I found that completely surprising. I think it was so surprising because that part in the “voice + music” version (that had been in my head for so long) was performed at such a high level of intensity and velocity. Also, it points to how closely he’s scoring the work according to the page in the “voice-only” version.

As I was listening to this Eileen Myles recording from Boston in 2002 this particular sentence stood out: Myles’ comments

(See the previous Eleni Sikelianos post for more context about paratextual comments as poems.)

My friend Stan Mir recently let me borrow a bunch of tapes so that we could digitize them. One of the tapes that I was really excited about was a George Stanley reading from 2000 at the Poetry Project. Happily, the cassette was labeled well and had a listing of poems. I’ve had the tape for a few weeks and I can’t believe it took me this long to look closely enough at it to find that the poem “Veracruz” was included. It’s a really incredible poem. I’m fairly new to Stanley’s work but I got excited about it after reading “A Tall, Serious Girl” (his selected poems on Qua Press). A few minutes ago I decided to hurry up and digitize just that poem so I could post it here. Listening to this recording, it was interesting to discover that this was a “dictated” poem (in Spicer’s sense of poetic dictation). Here’s the recording: Veracruz

Here’s a print version: text of “Veracruz”

PENNsound Picks


These are featured MP3’s that I picked on PENNsound.

  • Featured MP3’s

  • I would like to point out that this site allows multiple clips to play simultaneously. If you hold the cursor over any of the pink text (without clicking on it) an audio player application will pop up and you can hit play. Once one of the files is playing you can move on to another one and start it off too. My favorite combination is the applause at the end of Mark McMorris’ reading and Andrew Joron reading the Hugo Ball poem. Another good combination is all 3 versions of the O’Hara poem simultaneously. This kind of thing is especially useful when you’re trying to pay attention to the sound environment of different versions of the same poem. 

    Sometimes while I’m listening to audio files (or listening during a live reading) a reader will say something in between poems that seems like a poem itself. For example, several years ago (late 90’s?) I heard Forrest Gander read in Fort Wayne, Indiana and he had a bad cold. He was carrying around a carton of orange juice and (although I thought he sounded fine from the audience) he felt his voice getting scratchy. After one of the poems he said “I apologize for my voice turning to dust.” That sentence stuck with me and it eventually ended up in a poem I wrote years later. Since then, I’ve been especially tuned into the language used between poems.

    A few weeks ago I was on the bus in Philadelphia listening to an Eleni Sikelianos reading from the Segue/Bowery Poetry Club series which I got from Pennsound: full reading. My listening environment was full of ambient sounds and so my attention was often split in several directions, dipping in and out of the reading and my immediate surroundings. I was struck by a particular moment when she made some comments between poems: Eleni Sikelianos’ comments

    Notice the different kinds of shifts in her voice as she finishes one poem, addresses a specific audience member (a child, in this case), addresses the entire crowd (“You might take a cue she’s laying down to listen”), reads the title of her next poem, and begins reading the body of the poem. The musicality of the sentence about “laying down to listen” made it exist momentarily in the same mental space as her poems. There is something about the intonation she uses when saying that particular sentence that triggered a kind of “poetry listening response” in me.

    A month or two ago my friends Sara Veglahn and Noah Eli Gordon, who live in Denver, hosted a reading at their house by the poets Andrew Joron, Brian Henry, and Laynie Brown. Noah knew that I would want to hear Andrew’s reading in particular, so he called me up on Andrew’s cellphone then he set the phone to “speaker” mode and Andrew read with it open on a nearby table so I could listen along.

    This changed the dynamic of the physical reading in some subtle ways (Noah made a joke about the “Philadelphia Simulcast” during the intro) and my experience of the relayed reading was obviously different than if I had been present in the space. One of the things I sometimes find frustrating about really engaging live readings is that I have to physically sit still. I find that my one of my weird responses to paying close attention to something is that I tend to pace. My dream came true with this reading because I was able to pace around my apartment while listening.

    In terms of technology, this is a pretty simple arrangement, one we stumbled upon when I happened to call Noah while he was listening to a reading at AWP a few weeks ago. Instead of ignoring my call, he opened up his phone, whispered “I’m at a poetry reading. Do you want to listen?” Then he held it up while it was set on “speaker” mode from his seat in the audience. This initial relayed listening experience was much different from Andrew’s reading, mainly because of the relay point I was listening from. At the AWP reading, my listening was primarily aligned with/filtered through Noah’s physical presence (shifting around, coughing, laughing at funny parts of poems) separate from the larger collective laughter and ambient noises from the rest of the audience. The reader at AWP was unaware of the Philly Simulcast. Listening to Andrew’s reading in Denver, my listening was aligned more with Andrew’s physical presence than with a particular audience member, and the fact that Andrew was conscious of the presence of an alternate, single audience member changes things a bit (and resonates nicely with some of his concerns with technology/disembodied voices, etc).

    The use of technology to create extended audiences is not new (I’m thinking of live broadcasts of poetry readings and even more interactive computer-mediated exchanges in the past at the Kelly Writer’s House) but I like the low-tech possibilities of the cellphone relay and how it connects the experience to individual audience members. Noah and I had talked about making more conscious use of the ubiquity of cellphones to orchestrate different kinds of reading/listening experiences. For example, you might have many audience members each calling another person on their cellphone and putting it on speaker so there would be a simultaneous physically present audience that corresponds with a fragmented audience connecting to the reading through a variety of physical listeners. Or, you might also have a collective audience agreement to have a roomful of people receive calls from a live reading happening elsewhere and have a massive, weird amplification effect of having a pile of cellphones recreate the sonic experience happening elsewhere from several different receiver points.

    What I like about the cellphone relayed reading is that it requires very little planning and no technological expertise. Obviously there are limitations of sound quality which might be distracting. This type of listening seems to be “split” or overlapping in the sense that my attention (in the AWP reading) was divided between the reader’s voice and a particular listener’s response.

    I typed the word “applause” into the search window of my iTunes library and 3 tracks came up. Apparently, I had separately tracked off applause on Jack Spicer’s July 15th 1965 reading of The Holy Grail, David Shapiro’s 2004 UMass reading, and Mark McMorris’ 2005 UMass reading. Recorded applause seems like something no one really thinks about much. What was interesting was that all three tracks lasted between 23 and 25 seconds long. The Spicer has about 15 seconds of actual clapping and then it dies down. Mark McMorris has almost 24 full seconds of clapping. The Shapiro applause is pretty long too but it seems to die down a bit and then pick up again near the end. Of the three, I think my favorite is the Spicer because the sound is less easily identifiable as applause due to tape decay and recording limitations.


    I feel like something could be learned by studying the applause from various readings across time. It’s valuable to recognize that applause as a sonic phenomenon is more various than is generally acknowledged. Applause is one of the constants at the end of most poetry recordings so it might be a good baseline indicator of the sound/recording environment. For example, some of my recordings were made from the audience in a space with a PA system. You might not be able to tell that until the end when you hear hands clapping 4 inches from the mic. I find that sometimes as I listen to an audio recording the dissonance and materiality of the recording fades somewhat as I am filtering for clear speech. However, when the applause happens at the end I am often reminded again of the textures of the sound environment. Also, in the same way that crowd laughter doesn’t necessarily “mean” one static thing (that something is funny) I would argue that applause is not always just a fixed response of approval. One example of this might be the way some readers have been cut off during an extraordinarily long reading by interruptive applause from someone in charge of the event.

    These are 3 different versions of Frank O’Hara’s “Poem (Lana Turner Has Collapsed!”)

    1) The first one I think I got somewhere on the internet as a streaming RealAudio file in 2001. At that point, in order to get the file off the internet and onto a CD I had to loop a mini cable from the output into the input on the back of my computer and record it onto Roxio Toast’s Spin Doctor program. The surface crackle makes me wonder if this wasn’t recorded from vinyl. version one

    2) The second one is from a different reading. Maybe I got it from the same site. I can’t remember. It has a totally different feel to it. O’Hara hams it up a bit more at the end: version two

    3) The third version is from the Voice of the Poet series of audio CD’s. This is a different technical rendering of the same recording from #1. The audio engineer decided to clip it in a weird way and it sounds very “digital” to me. Here, I mean that pejoratively. This version* annoys me in the way that bad CGI annoys me. version three (excerpt)

    The first and third recordings raise the issue of the audio file as a mediated/ “translated” text. Perhaps the audio engineer was going for more hiss reduction or something. In general the Voice of the Poet versions of O’Hara’s poems seem kind of “off” to me in the way that bad translations of work I’m very familiar can feel “off”. One thing that was sort of interesting to me was thinking about it as digital answering machine quality. That resonates with O’Hara’s personism and the technology of the phone, albeit in a perverse, monstrous and anachronistic way.

    Why is this “noise” on the surface of the recording annoying to me while the “hiss” in Bernadette Mayer’s recording is interesting? Whenever I get really distracted by noise in a recording I try to slow down and pay attention to it. I think Cage talks about trying to listen to a set of sounds until your evaluative framework falls away. Putting something on infinite repeat is a good way to do that. Sometimes if I really love a recording I will intentionally try to burn out on it so I’ll be able to see past the parts I think are most interesting and significant and see other things I haven’t noticed. I’m not necessariy holding up an idea of objectivity or neutrality as a goal (or a possibility), but I do think it’s a good habit to try to listen to something until it becomes loosened from an initial set of value judgements.

    *Note: I have excerpted the “Voice of the Poet” version so that it is clear I am not trying to freely distribute a commercially available file.

    *Update: I think I originally got the first file from UbuWeb a few years ago and then segmented it on my own. O’Hara at Ubu

    This was at the end of a cassette tape I digitized. It’s from the same reading as “Migratory Noon” (see a few posts ago). This kind of thing is usually not listened to and generally gets clipped from digital presentations on websites such as PennSound. I like to put it on repeat on headphones. I think of this as something like an exponential inverse of listening to Cage’s 4’33” (it is full of sound and is about 4 times as long). It gets pretty great about 5 or 6 minutes into it.

    16 minutes and 10 seconds

    I’m interested in the instances when poets bring the work of other writers into their readings. How do these other texts/authors function in relation to the reader’s work/performance? This clip is from Andrew Joron’s Spring 2005 reading in Amherst, MA. Joron began his reading with some comments about the relationship between culture, politics, physics, and sound. He was able to talk about these issues in remarks on a Hugo Ball sound poem he was about to read. In Joron’s case, the Ball poem seems to function as a map of some of Joron’s aesthetic, philosophical, scientific, and social concerns. I love it when he says “Sound means a lot to me.” That is a pretty big understatement if you’re familiar with his Joron’s work. Here are the comments: comments on Hugo Ball poem

    Here is Joron reading Ball’s poem Hugo Ball poem

    Several poems later, Joron read “Dolphy at Delphi” from his book Fathom. I’m interested in how the discussion of the title as well as Joron’s brief comments before he reads the poem which suggest a backstory (“It’s about. In my mind it was about…”) gave me a more fleshed out environment for me to imagine the poem. On the page, I might not have framed the language in terms of the particular scenario Joron describes.

    I love the little accidental slips/substitutions in Joron’s reading (“… the perpetual motion … emotion”) because they emphasize the importance of micro-level phonemic shifts and embedded undertones in his work. There is so much homonymic substitution and slippage in Joron’s work that when he (unconsciously?) deviates from the text it underscores the significance of tiny variations. This idea of error as alternate take comes up obliquely in the poem itself (“how the wrong notes compose their own song”). Also, if you listen to this recording you will learn what a “moldy fig” is: Dolphy at Delphi

    I thought it might be useful to talk a little bit about the specific tools I’ve used in digitizing and segmenting files. I used to record live readings with a SONY MD Walkman MZ-R700 recorder with a plug in mic. Then I would play the minidisc record in real time back into my Macintosh (the connection was a mini from the MD player to a mini input on the back of my computer). I used Roxio Toast’s Spin Doctor software to digitize the file and track it off, usually by looking for an absence or extremely short lines in the wave form that tend to mean a pause between poems. Another way would be to look for spikes that signal applause. I would then burn them using Toast onto a blank CD, then import that burned CD back into ITunes, where I would enter in the bibliographic info. This was a huge pain and it explains why I still have a stack of minidiscs of readings from a long time ago. I’ve talked to other people who have the same problem. Playing the recordings back in real time is inconvenient because it takes up a lot of time and you can’t do much else on your computer without it crashing or making bleeps and blips from applications intrude into the recording.

    What I’m mostly doing for this site is taking files I’ve already imported into my iTunes library and opening them up in Audacity. From there, I can select a portion of the reading and make a duplicate of it. I then export it as an MP3. Save it to my desktop and then upload it using’s blogging software. Audacity is good for segmenting tracks. It’s pretty easy to use. Now for live readings, I use this digital voice recorder Charles recommended (Olympus WS-320M 1 GB Digital Voice Recorder and Music Player) which records as Windows Media Player files which you can convert to MP3’s and then segment using Audacity. The recorder opens up to reveal a USB connecter which hooks up directly to your computer. This is much better because it skips the real time playback of mini-discs. The sound quality is pretty good and it’s simple and relatively cheap (120 dollars on Amazon).

    I would be curious if anyone out there wants to comment about the processes they use or have used. For example, my friend Stan Mir (who just showed me how to segment with Audacity, Thanks Stan!) told me about an elaborate process using, I think, a Mini-Disc recorder, Garageband, and like 10 other steps. I feel a deep deep sympathetic connection to people who have been the audio/tech person when the technology was really primordial.

    This Piero Heliczer reading is interesting to me for any number of reasons. First, it’s always mindblowing to hear someone’s actual voice after reading them for several years without it. I think it’s always great to hear someone like Heliczer or Ceravolo read because up until recently it was hard to find their work even in print form. I was eating dinner over at poets Carolina Maugeri and Stan Mir’s apartment in Germantown a few weeks ago and we were talking about poetry recordings and Stan mentioned that Michael Gizzi had given him a taped copy of this Heliczer reading. Needless to say, I freaked out and Stan rummaged around and came back downstairs with the tape. I immediately went home and digitized the reading, tracking it off and making sure I wrote down all the bibliographic info that was available to me. Late late that night, after the reading was tracked off, I went to sleep with it playing. I didn’t actually get a chance to listen to it much while it was being digitized so it was a treat to be able to sit back and absorb it. This is the first poem: fuga xiii

    Just as I was nodding off, the track “Paris a scenario for a silent movie” came on. Heliczer’s voice was distorted, shifting in pitch periodically. Aside from scaring the hell out of me and waking me up completely, this track reminded me that the version I was listening to was mediated through at least three kinds of recording technologies. I’m assuming it was recorded to reel to reel if the date was 1960. Is that a reasonable assumption? Then someone eventually made a cassette copy. Actually, there were probably a handful of cassette duplications in between the reel to reel and Stan’s copy. Finally, that night I had made the digital version. Here it is:
    paris a scenario for a silent movie

    This Bhanu Kapil recording made me think more about the phenomenon of laughter as a crowd response as well as false starts or re-voicings within an audio text. In this clip, Kapil’s volume and emphasis shifts radically at a few points. One of the effects this has on the audience is that they laugh: Bhanu Kapil excerpt #1

    What does/can laughter mean in the context of a live reading? What does the appearance of laughter say about the immediate environment of the performance? How does the existence of laughter at a reading shape (feed back into) the author’s performance of the work? I have found that crowd laughter sometimes corresponds to some sort of excess (the most obvious excess being thematic: something is funny at the level of content BUT ALSO things such as excessive volume, large shifts in reading style, etc.)

    Immediately after the clip I’ve included above ends, Kapil begins to read from a different piece and then stops and adjusts her voice. Everyone in the crowd notices this adjustment and laughs and Kapil herself briefly laughs while reading. This moment is so interesting to me because it seems to document the way a crowd’s response influences the reader’s performance, making it momentarily lighter and how the author re-adjusts her performance style to accent a more serious, intense reading voice to match the content of the work. Bhanu Kapil excerpt #2

    Maybe it’s not so much a binary between playfulness/humor connected to crowd laughter vs. “seriousness” of an authorial presence in relation to the content of the work. It’s tough to intepret moments like this in a fixed way. One simple way of explaining this shift is that Kapil is clearing her throat or getting back into the rhythm/feel of reading after stopping. I can’t quite put my finger on why this moment interests me so much. I feel like it points to a kind of dynamic between audience, text, and author/performer that is fairly fluid instead of the idea of the writer sticking to the script and not responding to their environment in a significant way. I much prefer reading moments such as these when thinking about these issues instead of really overtly performative work that is highly conscious of the listening/performing environment. It reminds me that these weird, interesting social dynamics, interchanges, etc. are always present to some degree even when they might seem insignificant or invisible.

    Another case of a recording that exists in a space between public and private reception is a recording of Joseph Ceravolo reading in his New Jersey apartment with the radio on in the background. What is the status of this recording? The music in the background seems to complement the poems in places. This recording seems to gesture more toward the idea of an audience, but what kind of audience (friends)? How do these private (or very limited distribution) recordings inform our understanding of the poet’s own understanding of their work?

    Joe Ceravolo “Drunken Winter” (bibliographic info to come)

    For a long time I had a very particular idea about Ceravolo and his work that was informed by listening to this recording. His affect seems somehow both flat and entirely expressive. There’s something one might associate with sadness about the lack of dramatic intonational shifts but Ceravolo’s voice here also has to do with longing, immensity. The slow, measured pace of the speech and the clipped twists and turns of the language gave me something precise and strange, framed but also wild.

    Compare this to the sped up pace and different ambience of this recording in a more public space: Joe Ceravolo “Migratory Noon” (St. Marks Poetry Project, ca 1970’s?)

    Also, I was struck by Ceravolo’s introductory comments at this reading. After listening to the home recording with music for several years and reading his books (from photocopied out of print books I got from Interlibrary loan or used out of print books I ordered online) I had a sense of a poet who was somewhat isolated, singular, completely out of context, etc. It was so interesting to have my original naive impressions and clumsy assumptions questioned by the following paratextual comments which show him as gregarious, embedded within a community, having his work shaped by others, etc. As I write this I think “of course!” but for years I think I had a distorted (but still completely fascinated and engrossed) impression of his work due to the strange intimacy of the home+radio recording environment. Here’s some of his initial comments to the live reading: Introductory comments to live reading

    This is a Bernadette Mayer recording that seems like it was created by Mayer to either practice the performance of a set of poems or to help her revise them. I’m especially interested in these types of recordings that exist in a space between private and public. Is this a private recording that somehow slipped into a wider circulation? If not, how was its reception imagined by Mayer? How does the status of a work’s intended audience/distribution change the nature of how one listens to it? What might recordings like this say about the prevalent but mostly unacknowledged practice of poets privately practicing performances of their work? What do recordings such as these say about the sheer volume of discarded or privately held “personal recordings” of a poet performing their work?

    I borrowed and digitized a cassette recording of this from Peter Gizzi a few years ago. I need to check with Peter because I no longer have the bibliographic information. That’s a huge problem with this kind of work. When I first got into doing sound recordings I didn’t pay much attention to dates and places. I just wanted my own private listening copy and I wanted to be able to burn CD’s for friends. However, with the emergence of PennSound and a more systematic approach to archiving these materials, I often want to kick myself for not taking better notes. Aside from my own sloth, I think the lack of urgency I felt about documenting the materials says something about the status, circulation, reception, use, etc. of recordings. Most of the poets I know have a shoebox full of poorly labelled, 10th generation dub cassettes of really amazing stuff. They often exist as secret treasures passed along through a network of friends. There’s usually a huge chain of people who have handled and reproduced these materials. You’re usually not just getting “a copy of a copy” but “a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of…”

    Back to the recording itself: Bernadette Mayer “for Helen Decker”

    I like the low recording level of this recording, how you have to lean in to hear it. The hiss builds up a surface or texture that her voice moves in and out of. I like to interact with this recording by flipping between hearing and listening. Sometimes I don’t pay attention to the content but experience the interplay between the hiss of the background and all the s sounds of at the ends of the words Mayer catalogs. It also feels like wind. When I listen to the recording I imagine Mayer reading this on a very windy day and I think about the invisible, physical pressure of wind on my body. For some reason I imagine her reading on a screened in porch facing a densely wooded area. Obviously, that’s just me. BUT I don’t want to discount that kind of specific, personal nexus of associations a recording like this might evoke.

    This is an excerpt from a reading John Ashbery gave at St. Marks Church in NYC in 1971.

    Ashbery comments: “It is kind of an environmental work, if I may be so bold. If you feel like leaving at any point it won’t matter you will have had the experience.” I’m beginning this blog with these comments because they point to (and undermine) several of the underlying assumptions/conventions of the public poetry reading:

    1) The audience should pay close attention. The reader should engage the audience during the entirety of the reading. If there is not a consistent and intense level of engagment, someone (audience or reader) is not doing their job.

    2) Poetry readings should have a particular, relatively short duration. In the same way that a large release film tends to have set time parameters (anywhere from a little over an hour to just under 3 hours) a single author poetry reading would generally last from say, 10 minutes to 45 or 50 minutes at the outer end.

    3) Just as one would tend to sit through an entire movie, it would be expected to stay throughout an entire poetry reading. To leave either one generally signals disapproval/failure.

    When Ashbery says that the poem he will read might take anywhere from “an hour and two hours” you can hear a small patch of laughter from the audience. I am always interested in what laughter means in the context of a public reading. I’m going to go into this in more detail in subsequent posts but here it seems to point at the violation of the convention of the usual length of a poetry reading. The fact that he will “declare an intermission” at the halfway point in the reading is interesting because it seems to reframe his reading in terms of other kinds of performances that might have intermissions (long films, extended musical or theatrical performances, etc.)

    I think these kinds paratextual comments are useful to think about because they not only tell you about normative public reading practices but (especially in Ashbery’s case) they point to the ways in which an author/reader might create a new kind of work by modifying these conventions.