“PoemTalk” Podcast, Where Impresario Al Filreis Hosts Lively Chats on Modern Poetry



Want to know what’s going on the poet­ry world? Ask Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia pro­fes­sor Al Fil­reis. A nation­al trea­sure for mod­ern Amer­i­can poet­ry, Fil­reis serves as Fac­ul­ty Direc­tor of the Kel­ly Writ­ers House, Direc­tor of UPenn’s Cen­ter for Pro­grams in Con­tem­po­rary Writ­ing, and Co-Direc­tor of the excel­lent poet­ry record­ing series and archive PennSound. He also teach­es a Cours­era mas­sive open online course, “Mod­Po,” which has reached over 36,000 stu­dents, bring­ing his thir­ty years of sem­i­nar-style teach­ing expe­ri­ence to the mass­es. On top of all that, Fil­reis is the pub­lish­er of con­tem­po­rary poet­ry webzine Jack­et 2, which hosts a pod­cast called “PoemTalk.”

“PoemTalk” brings togeth­er poets, writ­ers, and teach­ers to infor­mal­ly dis­cuss a sin­gle poem. Like Fil­reis’ classes—in which he prefers live­ly dis­cus­sions over long lectures—these sem­i­nar-like ses­sions involve a lot of friend­ly dis­agree­ment and serendip­i­tous insights, with many pearls of poet­ic wis­dom scat­tered through­out. The first episode of “PoemTalk” (above), from Decem­ber 2007, took on William Car­los Williams’ frag­men­tary mod­ernist provo­ca­tion “Between Walls”:

Between Walls

the back wings
of the

hos­pi­tal where

will grow lie

in which shine
the bro­ken

pieces of a green

If you don’t see much in this lit­tle imag­ist exer­cise, you might just want to read it again, sev­er­al times, after lis­ten­ing to Fil­reis, Saigon-born poet Linh Dinh, teacher and poet Ran­dall Couch, and poet Jes­si­ca Lowen­thal unpack the poem’s many res­o­nances and reflec­tions. (Or you might have had your fill by then). Williams’ approach was com­plete­ly inno­v­a­tive, strip­ping all of the rhetor­i­cal excess­es from Amer­i­can poet­ry, which suf­fered from a kind of Vic­to­ri­an hang­over into the first decades of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry until those nasty mod­ernists fin­ished rough­ing it up. As the episode’s page points out, “‘Between Walls’ has had a huge influ­ence on poet­ry and pho­tog­ra­phy since its first pub­li­ca­tion in 1934.” Lis­ten to the dis­cus­sion above to find out why such a seem­ing­ly straight­for­ward­ly unsen­ti­men­tal, un-“poetic” piece of writ­ing had such an impact.

Since this inau­gur­al episode, “PoemTalk” has cov­ered sev­er­al dozen con­tem­po­rary, liv­ing poets, as well as such nota­bles as Ezra Pound, John Ash­bery, Adri­enne Rich, Allen Gins­berg, and Wal­lace Stevens. By the way, as an added bonus, all of the poems dis­cussed on “PoemTalk” are avail­able as audio record­ings on PennSound, read by the poets them­selves. Here’s Williams read­ing “Between Walls.”

“PoemTalk”’s most recent episode takes as its text Charles Alexander’s “Near or Ran­dom Acts.” You can lis­ten through the web­site or sub­scribe on iTunes.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

William Car­los Williams Reads His Poet­ry (1954)

Lis­ten­ing to Poet­ry Online

Lis­ten­ing to Famous Poets Read­ing Their Own Work

Josh Jones is a writer, edi­tor, and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.