While the context of a reading can often mean everything, there is also something to be said for readings ripped free from their spatial/temporal trappings and escorted into the private, headphoned world.

A few examples of Choose-Your-Own-Context:
A friend has been walking the few miles to work everyday, just long enough to listen to a lecture by Philip Whalen, downloaded from the Naropa files on the Internet Archive site.
Another friend has made a muxtape from his own stock of mp3’s, most of which were culled from the UBU site, or the Penn Sound site--where you can find readings by the recently discussed Robert Duncan, among many others.
This friend, Eric Baus, has his own website, To The Sound, where he discusses the cellphone relay method of widening the poetry audience, especially useful at the sparsely attended readings.
Eric also links to Steve Evans’ intermittently updated site, Lipstick of Noise--where you can read about the intriguing context of Ericka Huggins’ poem “For a Woman”-- and the Slought Archive-- where you can listen to a little Denise Levertov.
Additional voices welcome in the comments, including most definitely anyone else's poetry muxtape.

Originally Published: July 14th, 2008

Travis Nichols is the author of two books of poetry: Iowa (2010, Letter Machine Editions) and See Me Improving (2010); and he is the author of two novels: Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder (2012) and The More You Ignore Me (2013). He has contributed to The Believer, Paste, The...

  1. July 14, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    I must be in a distinct minority: my experience of poetry is text-based. I can't stand poetry readings (although I sometimes attend them), & I almost never listen to recorded poetry. Unless by "poetry" we mean, as I think we should, that denigrated form, the song. In which case, & with apologies for violating the spirit of the post, my poetry muxtape would run, today anyway, something like this:
    The Hold Steady, "Stuck between Stations": sample lyrics: "There was that night that we thought that John Berryman could fly. / But he didn't so he died. / She said 'you're pretty good with words but words won't save your life' / And they didn't so he died. / He was drunk and exhausted but he was critically acclaimed and respected. / He loved the Golden Gophers but he hated all the drawn out winters. / He likes the warm feeling but he's tired of all the dehydration. / Most nights were kind of fuzzy but that last night he had total retention."
    Lil Wayne, "Sky's the Limit": "Relying on rap, but in the kitchen I'm a chemist, / And when I was 5, my favorite movie was the Gremlins. / Ain't got shit to do with this, but I just thought that I should mention it."
    Ghostface Killah, "The Champ":
    I'm James Bond in the Octagon with two razors
    Bet y'all didn't know I had a fake arm
    I lost it
    Sonic Youth, "Incinerate": "The firefighters were so nice."
    Laurie Anderson, "The Dream Before": a perfect poem that borrows Benjamin.
    Clipse, "Play Your Part":
    All the snow on the timepiece confusing them
    All the snow on the concrete Peruvian
    I flew 'em in, it ruined men, I'm through with them
    Blamed for misguiding their life
    So go and sue me then
    Steinski, "It's up to You (Television Mix)": contains a sample of George Bush I saying (musically arranged in such a way that the rhythm & rhyme are emphasized): "Regrettably / we now believe / that only force / will make him leave."
    Robert Johnson, "Me & the Devil Blues": "You may bury my body down by the highway side / So my old evil spirit can catch a Greyhound bus & ride."

  2. July 14, 2008
     D. A. Powell

    Hey Travis,
    The UPenn files really are amazing.
    A poet who must remain nameless, but whom you no doubt know, worked in the library of a large East Coast university, and he would occasionally loan me dubs of readings that were in the university's archives. Much as I was tempted, I never made duplicates of the recordings.
    Troy Jollimore burned me a disc recently, with some terrific music, and poetry by O'Hara, Berryman, Muldoon, Ondaatje, etc. It has become the soundtrack to my mornings of late, when I'm not listening to Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam.

  3. July 14, 2008
     Travis Nichols

    Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, Lil Wayne, the Hold Steady . . . I think links to non-poetry muxtapes would be accepted (even welcomed) here in the comments. In fact, here's this (until I upload some poetry).

  4. July 15, 2008
     Emily Warn

    You can read why "Berryman isn’t the first or last figure in a Hold Steady song to hover by the Mississippi" here.

  5. July 15, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    Ha! I'd not read that -- thanks, Emily. (Nor did I know Brandon Stosuy had written for PF -- how did that come about? I'm familiar with his metal reviews.)

  6. July 18, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    No Harrieteer has a Mux to share? Official verse kulchur!

  7. July 18, 2008
     Kimbo Slice

    Here's a link to my muxtape:
    Dylan fans will be pleased. Also notice how the Baden version of Berimbau approaches an Aram Aroyan understatedness.
    One might considered how the remix, sampling, and bootlegs contribute to the peripheral field of music production, and what that might look like as equivalents in terms of poetry... or you can just tap your foot along...

  8. July 18, 2008
     Travis Nichols

    That Crystal Castles "song" is tearing my brain apart one spongiform unit at a time. Merci, Kimbo!

  9. July 18, 2008
     Kimbo Slice

    oh, and only slightly more earnestly... does anyone out there know if there's any good critical writing on the Last Poets? i've looked to no avail...

  10. July 19, 2008
     Don Share

    Kimbo, the only thing I can think of is On a Mission: Selected Poems and a History of the Last Poets by Abiodun Oyewole, Umar Bin Hassan, and Kim Green, but you may have seen this already.

  11. July 19, 2008
     bill knott

    . . . from
    The Grandeur and Twilight of Radical Universalism, by Agnes Heller and Ferenc Fehér, p. 364:
    Both Plato and Thomas Mann were right in regarding music as politically suspect. While under its spell, we are more indeterminate and unspecific in our hates and sympathies than politics would like us to be. There is no doubt that we communicate while we are listening to music and hugging millions. But this is a special kind of communication. Its message is meager yet redundant. It conveys to those millions in my embrace only the truism that they are like me and I am like them. It is a discourse that knows no argument; indeed it is one that draws its strength from the absence of argument . . . .

  12. July 22, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    In defiance of Plato, Mann, Heller, & Fehér, I offer this politically suspect muxtape to Harriet:

  13. July 22, 2008
     Travis Nichols

    That's what I'm talking about! Nice work, Michael "Double B" Robbins! Lucky Darryl, you got next?

  14. August 19, 2008
     Michael Robbins

    Dept. of Futile Enforcement of Obsolete Business Model: