Guest post by Lillian Dunn
Just a note, before we begin our regularly scheduled blogging: a resplendent, prodigious, writerly thank you to Eric and you Geekadelphs for pushing APIARY so close to our Kickstarter goal. Geekadelphia’s donation of winter ad revenue will make it possible to donate issues to schools, publish new issues including a DVD of spoken word poetry (!) and build/host a lovely, functional Internet hub for reading and meeting homegrown Philly writers of all ages.
Poets, with all their feathery pens and solitude, might not strike you as a particularly tech-savvy group. But Al Filreis, poet-in-chief at UPenn’s Kelly Writers House, just laughed out loud at me when I suggested as such. What about Flarf – a whole new genre Google search poems? Or “spoetry” – sonnets crafted from spam e-mails’ fabulous nonsequiturs?
Filreis himself homebrews the successful “PoemTalk” podcast in the garret of the Writers House on UPenn’s Campus, convening 3 local and visiting poets to talk about a poem by a 4th. In PoemTalk, along with some local poetry Facebook groups and CA Conrad’s loopy, beautiful Jupiter 88, a “video-journal of contemporary poetry,” Philly poets are using tech to pop the lid off an often-hermetic art form.
Filreis says he chose the podcast format because it lets poetry do some new tricks. First, he digs “the radical equivalency of iTunes;” poetry’s right up there with Lady Gaga and the NBC Nightly News. And listening on an iPod “is more intimate than listening to the radio;” you choose it, you download it, and then you get to sit down with your new friends, just you and the poets alone, in your own world of sound, the words rattling in your chest and clutched in your coat pocket.
Despite its slick editing and newfangled delivery, the PoemTalk podcast itself lets you get closer to poems by very old-school means. Every month, Filreis gets together 3 poets – living in Philly or just passing through – to talk about a 4th poet’s work, selected from Penn’s archives. (The show is also a peek into the vast audio archives of PennSound, UPenn’s collection of poets reading their own pieces, basically spanning the history of sound recording.)
Then the poets just take the poem apart, joking, telling stories, letting it fold back in on itself. Even if poetry usually leaves you feeling lost or bored, the sense of adventure in these conversations is infectious. Discoveries happen. It’s actually fun to be lost with 3 articulate, funny people, each carrying their own hand-drawn map. The podcast is not super-academic, and it’s always less than half an hour.
The new PoemTalk, the best way to bring 4 poets along with you on a treadmill and not get any weird looks, is up at poemtalkatkwh.blogspot.com, featuring Tracie Morris, Josephine Park, and Herman Beavers talking about Etheridge Knight.
A hallucinogenic palate cleanser for your workday, Jupiter 88 already has 11 issues, despite being one month old. In each, the hand-drawn title “JUPITER 88” swims into view, decorated with swirls of glitter glue and accompanied by the hands and sparkling fingernails of CA Conrad, Philly’s best-known cult poet. Conrad, who has a habit of bestowing dark chocolate on visitors to his readings, obviously knows how to make friends; and these friends show up, get Planet Jupiter projected behind them by his laptop, and read cool poems. And that’s it! You know they’re having a good time, too – poets who have been reviewed in the New York Times, solemnly interviewed in all sorts of places – giggling on Conrad’s kitchen chair, reading a poem.
Shameless plug: to see CA Conrad live, come see him perform at APIARY’s Feb. 10 Love/Freedom reading at Giovanni’s Room.