Sounds of Russian poetry, Dada and the poetic past

The PennSound collection of audio recordings of writers and artists includes readings and discussions with contemporary Russian poets as well as archival recordings featuring poets from Yeats to Mayakovsky.

The University of Pennsylvania’s PennSound collection is an extensive archive of poetry readings, discussions, film clips and other related material and links. Contemporary Russian poets have a substantial presence on what is for the most part a collection of American writers.

The site offers MP3s of readings, discussions and interviews for download as well as streaming videos of films and filmed readings and talks. The Russians’ poetry is usually presented in both Russian and English when a translation is available, while for the historical recordings they often provide a link to a text translation.

Modern Russian poetry is represented by Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Sergei Gandlevsky, Dmitry Golynko, Eugene Ostashevsky, Alexei Parshchikov, Dmitri Prigov, Alexander Skidan and Matvei Yankelevich. Besides the readings many of the poets discuss their own work as well as other Russian poets. Eugene Ostashevsky talked about the work of the late Alexei Parshchikov while Matvei Yankelevich also discussed the writing of Soviet-era absurdist writer Daniil Kharms.

Going back into the past there is also a page devoted to Vladimir Mayakovsky, with a poem read by Mayakovsky himself and others read by Lily Brik, along with translated texts and links.

Other historical recordings go back to the Dadaist movement and its sympathizers. There is a performance of “Ur Sonata” by Kurt Schwitters and a selection of Dada poetry with work by Tristan Tzara, Richard Huelsenbeck, Marcel Janco, and including a performance of Hugo Ball’s sound poem “Karawane” by Dadaist of the modern age Marie Osmond (she did sing that she’s “a little bit country” without actually specifying which country).

Other interesting selections include Ezra Pound at a Harvard poetry reading in 1939 followed by his infamous wartime radio addresses from 1942, Allen Ginsberg readings from the ‘50s and ‘60s and a host of fascinating underground figures such as Frank Kuenstler, George Kuchar and Richard Hell.

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Categories: Writers


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