7/26/10

back to geography (PoemTalk #34)

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Bob Perelman, Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Charles Bernstein converged on Al's office-studio to attempt what Al in his intro dubs a "daunting" task - to talk somehow about one of Charles Olson's Maximus poems in such a way that would make the poem make sense and might serve as a good introduction to The Maximus Poems more generally. We don't know if we succeeded but we certainly had fun trying. We chose a poem for which PennSound has two recordings, one made at the August 1963 Vancouver Poetry Festival and another made in Boston in 1962. As listeners will learn from episode 34 here, we also discovered that someone has made a YouTube video clip from a segment of the film about Olson, Polis Is This. In this segment, Olson reads the poem with what Rachel calls choreographic gestures, motions that continually point up the forward/backward, in-body/away planes or zones of geographic understanding. We happily add, below, a link to this remarkable but probably--most of us would agree--overdone performance.



The title of that film comes from the memorable final line of our poem, "Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 (withheld)," the last parenthetic term here referring to the fact that it was excluded from the first major collection of Maximus Poems, The Maximus Poems of 1960. Excluded but then apparently much in demand and/or much admired by Olson himself.

The poem, especially at the start (in which a family anecdote is told), seems personal and almost (in the term then popular) "confessional." But, as the PoemTalkers put it, it soon begins to do the usual Maximus thing, engaging a vortexical historical method line by line, and gesturing hugely at the convergences of geography and culture across eras and the (at turns) triumphant and lamentable westwardness of everything.

Here is the text of the poem. Here is the PennSound recording of the poem from a reading given in Boston in 1962.

Our episode was edited as usual by Steve McLaughlin, and, as always, PoemTalk was produced and hosted by Al Filreis in collaboration with the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, the Kelly Writers House, and the Poetry Foundation.

51 comments:

Steven Moore said...

How can you say Olson's performance is overdone? For me it is perfect. Olson dances the poem - his physical energy shapes/creates the poem. Didn't he say somewhere that man is a thinking dancer? And didn't he also say "I believe in God as fully physical." The content of the poem is his motile presence (his energy) as he indulges the deep urge to communicate.

Meg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meg said...

"A Mediterranean Person"

What exactly is, a Mediterranean Person?

Charming.

Al Filreis said...

Meg, I too was charmed (but also edified) by Rachel's reference to the gesticulating manner of Mediterranean people. Since this episode is in part about the cultural inheritance from Greece, the broader reference (broader than "Italians") makes special sense.--Al

Al Filreis said...

Thanks, Steven. Yes, several of the talkers thought the '66 filmed performance of the poem was overdone, but I think it's clear from our discussion that we are all mesmerized by it and sense its remarkable qualities. Thanks for listening to PoemTalk.

Tom Cheetham said...

the link is broken!!! can you fix it? i really want to hear this! thanks.

Al Filreis said...

Tom...sorry about the broken link. Our media server is in transition. We're working on the problem.--Al

Tom Cheetham said...

I'll be patient... thanks

Al Filreis said...

It should work now!

Tom Cheetham said...

It does!

Rod said...

hi Al, the link for the text of the poem is also broken.

Al Filreis said...

Rod, the link to the Poetry Foundation's text of the poem worked for me just now. What error message do you get?--Al

Rod said...

Also, footnoteishly but relevant I believe -- a "druggist" in the prohibition era was also and perhaps essentially, to many, the liquor store. Congress had passed a dispensation for medicinal use of whiskey etc. A very many obtained sd prescriptions from their MDs thus pharmacies made a great deal of money selling various liquors. Daniel Okrent discusses this at some length in his recent history of prohibition.

Another great show, thanks much.

Oh, & the text link seems to be working fine now.

Al Filreis said...

Rod, that's fascinating. The word Rexall seems to indicate that he really is remembering actually pharmacy people, but I like the hint (and pun perhaps) of drunkenness.--Al

Scotch said...

The video is from the NET film. Why assume it was grabbed from _Polis is This_?

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peN said...

Al,

Nice work here. I wish Rachel had been given a little more space.

You mentioned a Fred Wah Penn Sound feature. Can you post a link?

Thanks,

Paul Nelson
Seattle, WA

Al Filreis said...

Paul: Fred Wah's PennSound page is here

http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Wah.php

- and his Close Listening show is there. And you can see all the Close Listening shows here:

http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Close-Listening.php

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