Friday, April 22, 2011

Poets jam in Louisville

Navigate on over to the Heat Strings page at Penn Sound to hear a recording from this year's group poetry jam at Alan Golding's homestead in the widening wake of the Louisville Conference on Language and literature after 1900. Quite a bit after 1900, as it turned out.

Monday, April 18, 2011


He wasn't there again today.
Oh, how I wish he'd go away.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Earlier this week, Kit Robinson managed to squeeze a visit to Penn State in between readings in D.C. and Philadelphia. The Grucci Poetry Room was filled quickly, leaving barely enough room to get a word in edgewise.

One thing I like about SLR cameras is that you only need one eye. (click on this sample from the reading, passages from THE DOLCH STANZAS, for one explanation.)

Kit began with those early stanzas, then moved to work from his current book, Determination, which can be ordered here.

He ended with some very fresh work indeed, newly written - newly read.

The young lady with the other camera rushed off mid-poem, and we knew why the next morning when we saw a photo of Kit published in the Daily Collegian.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


One of my favorite groups on campus is the PSU AMERICANISTS, a grad student organization headquartered in the Penn State Comparative Literature program and dedicated to truly hemispheric approaches to the literatures of the Americas. Over the years, this group has organized some of the best and most provocative symposia offered at the university. Last night, they produced "Writing the Americas: Writing World Literature," a symposium that brought the authors Zulfikar Ghose, Joao Almino and Luisa Valenzuela for a few days of intense conversation. I had not known of Almino before, despite his having won the Casa de las Americas Prize, but I see that his winning novel has been translated into English as The Five Seasons of Love, one in a series of novels Almino has set in the city of Brasilia. Ghose is, of course, a far better known writer in the United States who appears often in literary journals and newspapers. His The Incredible Brazilian provides one link to Almino's world, though my favorite Ghose title is Confessions of a Native-Alien. (I noticed just this evening that Wilson Harris's novel Jonestown, which I'll be teaching next semester, is dedicated to Ghose.) But the artist I had been anticipating most eagerly was Luisa Valenzuela, author of such stunning works as Clara, Strange Things Happen Here and Black Novel with Argentines. Valenzuela's novels appeared in my favorite remainder store in Washington DC back in my penniless undergraduate student days and I've been reading her with fascination ever since. I'd last had an opportunity to speak with her in 1982, when DC hosted an Hispanic Book Festival and Valenzuela was featured one memorable evening on the campus of the University of the District of Columbia. If you haven't read Valenzuela yet, start with the more recent Bedside Manners, available here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

CLA 2011 - Spartanburg, SC

This blog launched in April of 2006 from a Birmingham hotel room during the conference of the College Language Association. Here it is, 2011, and we're still here. This year's CLA met in Spartanburg, SC. The theme of this gathering was music and literature, and my own presentation was about the William Parker reworkings of Curtis Mayfield songs, officially released as I Plan to Stay a Believer: The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield. Parker's program includes poetry recited by Amiri Baraka from the interior of the Mayfield songs. Mayfield himself had a Spartanburg background, and was pictured on the cover of the conference program along with such illuminaries as Arthur Prysock and Pink Anderson. I really only got started on the subject at this conference, so you can expect to hear the rest of this at some later venue. Baraka was the keynote speaker at an earlier CLA. This year it was Cornelius Eady.

Cave canem.

This was the same week they were reenacting the beginning of the Civil War over in Charleston. The spirit was somewhat different in Spartanburg, a celebration of union, if you will.