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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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In Which We See What The Young Poets Are Writing Today

You can find the first part of this series here.

Solid In Your Area

The correspondence of the poets Denise Levertov and William Carlos Williams remains for me shrouded in mystery. Other figures swirl and move through this artistic relationship, and despite a massive age difference (40 years), some element of romance remains. Not a sexual romance, but something deeper, like a touching of souls across time. As his body failed him Williams' mind raced to keep up with its active heights, when the physician-poet made new forms using his iron-clad grasp of the language. The female poet that considers his advice sage above all others was struggling to realize her life would not follow so easily from mastery of her art. The mystery then, is of what is occuring at the edges of the letters, where two people seem to suffer together without explaining or having to explain the cause to themselves. - A.C.

June 13th, 1956

Dear Denise,

"Compost" is a fine poem, thank you for calling it to my attention. From now on it occupies a niche in my consciousness. But that only reinforces the main drawback for me in all of Whitman's poems, even the greatest of them and I include "Compost", now that you have called it to my attention, among one of his most important shorter poems.

The mark of his times was on Whitman, he had rejected the older prosody but had nothing to take its place but a formlessness which has laid him open to attack on formal grounds. When you see what the young poets are writing today, Whitman might never have existed instead of founding a memorable school that should have gone influencing the writing of poems to this day.

Maybe it is best so, a great poet is strongly an individual and not to be copied but if he does not link up with the prosodic process in some way he seems to me to have lost his major opportunity.

The intellectual enlightenment that this poem signalizes is tremendous. That should be enough, you might say, to commend it to our admiration. The art of the poem must keep pace with the intellectual life of the times in which we live. A play which I saw last week which was on the verge of closing its doors because there were not enough people interested in seeing it was Waiting for Godot. Without qualification I find it the greatest play of a generation. It was an uproarious comedy with tragedy breaking through mostly in the acting, which was superb, but also in the idea itself. The comedy was laid on with a trowel. God it was beautifully done!

I could go on raving about that play for the rest of my life but I want to call your attention to a phenomenon of the moment in NY. That play all but failed but another play, referred to in an accompanying letter (which you can destroy), is all the vogue. You can imagine, from the title, why that is. This sort of snobbism will go on forever as long as women are desirable under their clothes. It has no relation to poetry or perhaps (we do not know) to the subtle poems of Sappho, that delightful bitch. Which brings me back to Whitman: The art of the poem requires order but in our day a new species of order, a new measure, consonant with our time. My complaint against Whitman is that he failed to realize this. He discovered nothing.

The poems you enclosed, you are right, are much better than the last time. One or two of them are up to your best work. But not the last, longest one, "Le Bateleur", which I can't see. Glad you are getting to know John Herrmann, I always liked him. Give him my love and tell him he has always occupied a special place and a distinguished place in my memory. I'd love to see him again. I hope he recovers his health completely for from all I hear he has been seriously ill.

Write again, the life you are living in Mexico sounds fascinating especially Oaxaca where you are heading. Take care of yourself. Saw some paintings of a young New Jersey painter who lives about 40 miles from us in country district about Lake Hopatcong that are quite marvellous today; thrilling work, actual records of life but not abstracted for a patterned to appeal to a geometric unity. Watch him, his name is Henry Niese. Love.


Dear Denise:

Your new lot of poems at their best show the ability with the words that I have come to look for from you, the same mastery of the rhythmic structure. At the same time it reinforces my knowledge that poetry is a most difficult art. It requires constant attention to detail and a conscience that lays in wait to trip us up at the smallest lapse from perfection. "The Lovers" is a beautiful piece of work. "Tomatlan", that attempts more, is also a good work which I very much like but it is not as sharply cut as I'd like to see.

One word too much in such short poems as this damages the whole effect. Without showing it all such short poems have to be cut to the quick. One redundant word overburdens the line intolerably.

The test of the artist is to be able to revise without showing a seam. In "The Lovers" you yourself state that the poem as I saw it had been revised. That proves that you have the right knowledge of what you're doing. It often is no more than a question of knowing what to cut. And in the process of cutting, part of the same gesture, the new word, the insight in your own meaning will suddenly flash across your mind.

Practice, practice, practice! must be the practice of the artist. You have to write (as you must know) practically in your sleep and leap out of bed day or night when the inevitable word comes to your mind: it may never come again. You know all this but it can bear repeating, I am talking as much to myself as I am to you.

All the best passages we have ever written come to us in the flash of an — sometimes we lose them (it must be admitted) by revision, but that is a chance that has to be taken.

I return your script to show you what I would do to it — and never forget that as between writers there are no secrets. All I have is yours as far as I can make it so. I don't expect that you will agree with me. Good luck.



"The Springtime" is also a well made poem.


June 25th, 1956

Dear Bill,

Thank you very much for those 2 letters & for making that poem. I absolutely agree about the cuts — it's like someone trying to make a 'realistic' drawing & just not seeing they've got the nose too long, or whatever. Until someone points it out at last. Did you mean, I wonder, to send the 4th part of the poem or not? You didn't, anyway. Maybe you though it was OK?

I wish I could have seen Waiting for Godot. I'm going to read it, anyway, but that's something different. Also there's a book of 3 stories, by the same man, I've seen it here at a store which sells French books, which we're going to buy on the strength of what you say about Godot.

The last memorable theater I saw was The Dybukk in a little cellar-like theatre on E. 3rd St. somewhere; where the stage is in the middle, audience on 2 sides, & the actors were obliged to climb onstage, like boxers, from the ailes. It was another world, and given with complete intense conviction. And before that in 1948 in April, Jean-Louis Barrault's production of Kafka, not The Castle, the other one, dramatised by Gide I think, altho' I could understand only about 1/2 at most - because of the sense of there being no slack to take up, and of things happening simultaneously at different levels, as in a string quartet. (And indeed the set was built so that that was physically true.)

Other plays I've seen, including Shakespeare (because it's played with such embarrassment and consciousness of "playing Shakespeare") even when I've enjoyed them, have usually seemed no more than versions of conventional novels "acted out" — nothing specifically theatre about them. Some sense of what it could be I've gotten from Artaud (tho' sometimes he seems quite incoherent — or perhaps it's just that I can't keep up with him) and from that scene where the sailors dance on the moonlit deck in Moby Dick — and from "A Dream of Love" - but how I wish I could see it!

I showed John Herrmann your message and he was very pleased & said he must write to you. But it seems he finds it just about impossible to write letters. The little boy, Juanito, was 4 the day after Nik was 7, & we went to the party. And Juanito has been over here to play several times. They like each other in spite of the age difference.

Mitch's novel was just turned down by Random House after a nine week wait. Mitch has gone downtown to relieve his feelings. (We received the agent's letter this morning.) There isn't much one could do to relieve one's feelings in Guadalajara except to drink tequila and he's not much of a drunk, or go to the movies. So I guess he went to the movies.

Lee (Leland) Bell (that painter about whom I wrote to you & whose show you then went to see, a year or so ago,) and his wife also a good painter, received McDowell Fellowships and are there now. I'm very pleased because they really needed something like that.

I've been reading a book on Ecology which interested me very much - the place of the predators especially. And some Fabre, insects.

We are looking forward to Kora in Hell which Ferlinghetti tells me will be out in October.

Love to you & Floss


August 22nd, 1956

Dear Bill,

It certainly was good to hear from you. I hope you won't feel disappointed in Mitch's article when Floss reads it to you — the thing, it is strictly commercial, has to be, written to a market, and he would hate anybody, and you in particular, to think of it as an attempt at a piece of genuine writing. I wish he wd. show you some of his real stuff — the only legible copy though is with Ivan von Auw, the agent. It keeps coming back from publishers with notes saying, "great talent" etc. etc. "but not for us" — "however we'd be happy to see his subsequent work" etc.

At the moment he is away on a trip to Guatemala, Yucatan, and the W. Indies, also for Atlantic Monthly. The Guatemalan Tourist Commission gave him a car & driver & paid all bills for a week or 10 days & he went to remote mountain villages & saw Indians proud and beautifully dressed, as they are not here. He'll be home in a week or so — I'm looking forward to hearing about all the other places he's seen, of which Havana seems to have been the worst and Haiti the best, after Guatemala & Yucatan.

At that point the milk boiled over.

Enclosed are a few new poems. Ferlinghetti seems about ready to send off the poems he's chosen, from what I sent him, to the printers. Jonathan Williams is also doing a book for me, and Al Kresch will do a litho for it. Jonathan put me on his list & sent that out before I even knew what he was up to, & he's going out of business (he says) after he's through with his present titles — so now it's now or never — but I wish he could have waited till next year. I'm afraid of not having enough good poems for him; and I don't want to pad it.

I think the Ferlinghetti book will be good, tho', and I look forward to sending you the first copy he sends me.

Tomorrow I'll go downtown to look for The New Yorker. Good!

Did you ever read Stanislavsky's An Actor Prepares and My Life In Art? The former, a very exciting book in spite of its rather wooden prose, seems to me to have so much in it that's applicable to other arts besides acting; & the latter, which I'm just reading, is full of amusing very Russian anecdotes as well as showing an interpretive artist's development step by step. I also just read The Idiot for the first time.


Dear Bill

First — it's too late to wish you a happy birthday but I do wish you a happy year, with good health & lots of work. I didn't forget the 17th but couldn't make up my mind whether what I'd got to send was suitable or not — i.e. whether you'd be able to read it. In the end I decided to send it anyway (with love) in the hope that if you weren't able to read it to yourself you would be able to find someone Spanish-speaking to read it to you. I was afraid you'd have to pay duty on anything other than a book.

A few days ago I had a letter from a N.Y. painter, Nell Blaine, telling me about a sort of anthology she & some other people are getting up, of poems, & reproductions of contemporary paintings, and asking me to ask you if you would contribute. The painters included are mostly good — Lee Bell, whose show you went to see after I wrote about it, for one — Helion, Kerkam (a rather neglected older man), Albert Kresch, etc. But the poets, or at least those who are editing it, aren't much good I think; a little clique — John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara — rather slick. So I don't want to be the one to ask you. However I took the liberty of sending your address — I hope that's alright. She'd undoubtedly have gotten it from someone else anyway. Grove Press is going to publish it. I think the section of paintings will be very good.

We saw some short Lorca plays here a couple of weeks ago, very very well done by a young group, El Caballito. Also some early renaissance things something after the style of Everyman or The Shepherd's Play; & 3 modern French plays (in Spanish) — by Tardieu, Neveux & Ionesco. All were short, & done with wonderful crispness and freshness. They call their programs "Poesia en Voz Alta." Absolutely no ranting — (except in an arrangement by Octavio Paz of "Rappacini's Daughter," of Hawthorne, with dreadful scenary by Leonora Carrington — the one poor item). They are the poeple who, if it weren't for the language barrier, damn it, could do A Dream of Love.

All this makes it sound as if our Spanish were much better than it is.

We finally got hold of Waiting for Godot, & liked it very much. But it needs to be seen — it's so hard to pace one's reading properly — rushing through what on the stage would be long pauses full of meaning.

Mitch's agent is our Godot. Right now it's 14 weeks since the book came back from one publisher & was sent to another — & not a word.

Olson's second book of The Maximus Poems arrived yesterday. At a glance it looks to me much better than the first lot, which seemed to me to need cutting. I have very varying feelings about Olson. Sometimes he seems terrific & at others incredibly bad and self-deluded. Have you read this book?

With love to Floss & to you


You can find the first entry in this series here.

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"Big Timer" - Kevin Rudolf (mp3)

"I Belong to You (Lany)" - Kevin Rudolf (mp3)

"Must Be Dreamin'" - Kevin Rudolf ft. Rivers Cuomo (mp3)


If You Feel Something, Might As Well Write It Down And Mail It To Someone

The astonishing letter writing of Vladimir Nabokov...

The deep waters of Ernest Hemingway...

Elaine de Kooning's memories of Mark Rothko...

Gustave Flaubert and George Sand's squabbles...

Gertrude Stein knows more about these things than most...

Let's face it, Anne Sexton was one hell of a woman...

James Agee's magical Plans for Work...

The last letter of John Cowper Powys to Henry Miller...

The autobiography of Robert Creeley...

The cagey love affair of William Faulkner...

Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett lie for fun and profit...

Elizabeth Gumport and Dawn Powell...

John Ashbery explains Fairfield Porter through his letters...

Jessica Ferri on Sylvia Plath...

Georgia O'Keeffe's journal and letter writing has no equal...

The stormy relationship of Rimbaud and Verlaine...

The brilliance of William Gass' letters...

James Schuyler's writing to his friends...

Robert Lowell and William Carlos Williams...

...and Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald's wacky relationship.


In Which Pete May or May Not Get Another Chip 'N' Dip

Love The Way You Lie Glen

Season 4 of Mad Men just started. Let the predictions begin.
Don will say, "What do you want me to say?" at least twice before the season's end.
Duck Phillips will host a swinging beach party and Annette Funicello will show up and get drunk, but this will be referred to and not shown, because Mad Men is all about the great 60s references that make old people feel young again. And young people feel old in a fresh, hip, Urban Outfitters furniture-kind-of-way.
Don will say, "What do you want me to think?" at least twice before the season's end.

Betty will purse her lips and say something shrewd.

Henry Francis will be followed by a horde of villagers chanting "IMHOTEP!"
Glen will hide in the Drapers home's basement. He will emerge only at night, to play beautiful music on the family piano. Sally Draper will be enchanted. Then in a bizarre s'mores mishap, Glen will accidentally burn the house down. Sally will get blamed.

Don will crash his car again and chuckle about it later.
Harry will continue to lose weight and look like Buddy Holly by the season's end.
Something will happen and Peggy will not be amused by it. No, sir.

Hey remember when Pete raped someone?
Roger will ask Joan if she'll pee on him. Joan will ponder it in a voice over using puns like, "Urine Hot Water Now" and "If MGMT thinks it's time to pretend, is it time for me to pee-tend? Or should I control myself?"
Several episodes will end with a sobering image of something serious while a happy 60s tune plays in juxtaposition.
Colin Hanks will stay on Fox.
Black people will continue to be mysteriously absent.

Someone will say, "We can't lose this account!" They will then lose the account.
We'll be treated to another Don Draper/Dick Whitman/Grapes of Wrath flashback that will tell us everything we already know; that Don had a difficult childhood, that hobos are just honest folk trying to get by, and that this show is more than stylish outfits. The next scene will feature Betty in a stylish outfit, because we've had enough doom and gloom, and the Great Depression is just yucky.
Sally Draper will stab someone with a pair of scissors.
The Draper dog will run away and/or commit suicide.

Don will want Betty even more now that she's not his wife.
That guy that you've seen several times before, oh God he was in that movie with that guy, and I think he was in that TV show too, and wasn't he in that indie with Mark Ruffalo? will make a cameo.
Someone will say earnestly, "The times are changing, Don." It will probably be Roger. He will probably be smoking and/or drinking when he says it.

Sal will show up and make a great pop culture reference and everyone will laugh except for Pete.
Seriously, Pete raped that au pair. Remember?

Don will arrive at a party where some girl with long straight hair is singing a song in French. He will make a face.
Pete will accidentally shoot himself in the foot in the middle of a meeting. Literally. Don will tell him that his actions almost cost them the big account. Pete will cry, not for his foot, but for disappointing Don.

Betty will make a simple, yet loaded statement like, "It's all so beautiful" and we will all suddenly understand what her character is really about.
Nothing will happen and yet everything will change.

Paul Kinsey will be arrested for public nudity. Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce will hear about it and laugh. Don will remark, "When you want ham...don't settle for turkey." Everyone will laugh but not really understand his joke. There will be an awkward silence. Pete will try to break it by saying, "I guess he should have ordered a side of hash browns." No one will understand that either. The silence will become even more awkward. Roger will say, "This is more awkward than the time I vomited everywhere." Everyone will understand that and will laugh and feel relieved. This is the precise moment when Don plots to murder Roger.
Someone will cry at their desk and it won’t be who we think it is! Unless it is.

Everyone will die. It will be okay though because they will all meet up in heaven and "move on" together. It will not make sense. It will come out of nowhere. Nothing will be explained.

Don and Roger will take on Playboy as an account. It will be a smashing success. They will be invited to a party at Huge Hefner's. Don will hit on a Bunny. She'll surprise him and say, "I'm sorry Mr. Draper, but I'm not that kind of girl." Don will realize that appearances are not always what they seem. He will apoologize take her to a real steak dinner and not even try to feel her up. She'll say, "Maybe there's hope for you yet, Mr. Draper" with a smile. He'll say, "Maybe there is" and cock his head and grin. Meanwhile Roger will learn the true meaning of Christmas.

Almie Rose is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She twitters here and blogs here. She last wrote in these pages about the Backstreet Boys.

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"Juveniles" - The Walkmen (mp3)

"All My Great Designs" - The Walkmen (mp3)

"While I Shovel the Snow" - The Walkmen (mp3)


In Which We Require A Larger Sea-Going Vessel

Bad Fish


Released in June of 1975, Jaws is considered the first summer blockbuster. Terrified moviegoers refused to enter the ocean that summer, and tourism boards across the country complained of lower attendance at their beaches. In many ways, the movie is conventional horror film. The shark is a serial killer — "an eating machine," as Richard Dreyfuss' character, Hooper, explains. He picks a pretty naked girl as his first meal. Insatiable, he moves on to children, young men, old men, and weathered fishermen. He is indiscriminate. Like death itself he moves from victim to victim, staring with remorseless black eyes. All this from the man who would bring you E.T.

And yet — if you look closely, Jaws is definitely Spielberg movie — sans children. Though Chief Brody has two boys, they stay out of the picture for the most part, except to function as shark bait in the beach scene. The most Spielbergian moment, perhaps, of the entire movie is a scene in which Brody's youngest son mimics his movements at the dinner table. Stressed, he puts his hand over his forehead, grimaces, rubs his brow, to look down and see his son parroting him. Brody's wife stands in the door frame, eyes tearing up with joy.

What is a Spielberg movie, anyway? Critics have theorized: children run amok due to parental discord or absence, forced by supernatural events or beings (aliens, dinosaurs, Captain Hook) to come into their own — to function as mini-adults. In Jaws, then, the child is Brody. After moving to Amity (which apparently, is a real island) after working as a cop in New York, he thinks his new life is a piece of cake. His work now consists of parking disputes and fireworks control. His wife is a total babe. She fixes him a whiskey and asks "Wanna get drunk and fool around?"

The shark comes to represent the idea that life, with all of its upheaval and distress, is not something you can run from. Especially when life is a Great White Shark, lurking in the water, and you're the Police Chief on an island filled with walking happy meals.

Brody's wife mentions casually to Hooper, the marine biologist, that Brody's terrified of the water. We're not sure why — there's a vague implication that he may have almost drowned as a child. The shark forces him to deal with his fear—and here is the genesis of Spielberg's child, forming its belief system through trials and tribulations. Like Spielberg, Chief Brody is marooned — trying to make a name for himself on the island. Spielberg is trying to make an impossible film at 28 years old. He goes over budget and he goes 100 days over his shooting schedule.

It makes sense, then, that Spielberg both glorifies and deconstructs the character of Quint, the weathered fisherman who is on a journey to kill every single goddamn shark in the water as revenge for killing all his buddies who fell into the water when their boat was torpedoed by the Japanese in WWII. Quint represents the more traditional part of the story — the Moby Dickness — while we laugh at Quint but then we realize he's a total lunatic. Spielberg would later come to terms with being "established" and work with more respect for the expert character in his films with the Muldoon character in Jurassic Park. Still — assuredness meets a bad end. 

As time has gone on, Jaws has been overshadowed by Spielberg's other films. This is unfortunate because it is well-written, incredibly well-paced, deliciously scary, violent, and spectacular, like many of his more popular movies. Watching it in 2010, it offers surprises: Dreyfuss delivers an incredible performance in which he is completely committed to the character. He's also hilarious, and attractive in the way you imagine a young marine biologist clothed completely in denim would be. When he spouts lingo about the kind of the shark and the diameter of its bite, we giggle. When he goes through the autopsy of the first victim, we are outraged with him. 

Though the movie was made in 1975, the special effects are fantastic. The shark looks real in spite of its insane girth — which, terrifyingly, is scientifically accurate. The final battle takes place on Quint's boat. It is shot so we can see how big the shark is not only in comparison to our three heroes but to the boat itself. In the final thirty minutes of the film, Jaws has become a most formidable foe. With his teeth and his big black eyes he has us all on the run. This sequence is never boring. It doesn't go on too long. It's perfectly timed.

Brody remains stoic, but he's headed for a transition. He snaps his pistol on, as a totem, hoping to draw power back to his side. Suddenly the hardened New York cop comes back out — and he's not afraid. Really, what does he have to lose? He's stranded in the ocean on the mast of a sinking boat. This is Brody's moment to come into his own — it's ours, too. The child has conquered his fear. He is fighting with Neptune himself, but he looks him right in the eye and says, "Smile, you son of bitch!"

Jessica Ferri is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She last wrote in these pages about Sylvia Plath. Her website is here, and she blogs here.

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"Magnificent Obsession" - Lambchop (mp3)

"King of Nothing Never" - Lambchop (mp3)

"I've Been Lonely For So Long" - Lambchop (mp3)