Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Green Bottle Blues

In the first installment of the new podcast project PoemTalk, three poets discuss William Carlos Williams’ short poem “Between Walls.” It seems that since PennSound has posted all of Williams’ available readings, people are starting discover with dismay that his reading performances do not give any clue as to particularities of the line as he wrote it.
One could speculate whether he knew what the heck he was doing. Maybe he felt too constrained by the genteel context of the pre-Beat-era public reading to really perform his lines as written. Regardless, I liked the almost petulant flavor of his home-recorded reading: he projects the word “nothing” as if he wanted it to be an object . . . a "something" beyond him. “Broken” and “bottle” are flung far enough from the body so they could stand off and judge it; or rather, not even that far—it’s more like spit in the wind. (Cf. Marinetti, whose flung words transform the provincially trapped poet, merging into an international technosphere.) The poets had a good laugh at the improbability of doing a podcast devoted to Paterson: Do it!
My only criticisms at the onset of this well-produced and interesting project are the tag line and the intro. The idea of “close but not too close reading” is a cute phrase that conceals a lot of culture war ressentiment—and it has always seemed to me disingenuous for the poetic avant-garde to disavow the theoretical practices that have helped over the years create its core audience. And the intro sounds much too much like that of Martin Spinelli’s Radio Radio (which, because Al Filreis sounds almost exactly like Spinelli is just . . . weird): so Al, if you need someone to design a new intro for you, call me!

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