9780804797993: Hardback
Release Date: 12th June 2018

9781503606562: Paperback
Release Date: 12th June 2018

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 272

Edition: 1st Edition

Series Post*45

Stanford University Press


Poetry and Audio Research

Through case studies of how mid-century American poetry used recording technologies to contest models of time being put forward by dominant media and the State, this book explores how New Left poets mobilized recording as a new form of sonic field research even while they were being subject to tape-based surveillance by the CIA and the FBI.
Hardback / £77.00
Paperback / £24.99

Narrowcast explores how mid-century American poets associated with the New Left mobilized tape recording as a new form of sonic field research even as they themselves were being subjected to tape-based surveillance. Media theorists tend to understand audio recording as a technique for separating bodies from sounds, but this book listens closely to tape's embedded information, offering a counterintuitive site-specific account of 1960s poetic recordings. Allen Ginsberg, Charles Olson, Larry Eigner, and Amiri Baraka all used recording to contest models of time being put forward by dominant media and the state, exploring non-monumental time and subverting media schedules of work, consumption, leisure, and national crises. Surprisingly, their methods at once dovetailed with those of the state collecting evidence against them and ran up against the same technological limits. Arguing that CIA and FBI "researchers" shared unexpected terrain not only with poets but with famous theorists such as Fredric Jameson and Hayden White, Lytle Shaw reframes the status of tape recordings in postwar poetics and challenges notions of how tape might be understood as a mode of evidence.

Contents and Abstracts
1Third Personism: The FBI's Poetics of Immediacy in the 1960s
chapter abstract

This chapter uses the reel-to-reel recordings Allen Ginsberg made on a cross-country trip in 1966 to focalize the contested status of audio research as it was then fought over by the New Left and the U.S. state. Reframing Frank O'Hara's suggestion in "Personism" that greater immediacy with his friends "Allen" (Ginsberg) and "Roi" (LeRoi Jones) might be achieved by calling them, the chapter considers what it means for postwar poetics that such New Left poets were often under state audio surveillance. Bringing poets, literary critics and the state into unexpected proximity, the chapter offers an account of the guiding assumptions and pitfalls associated with the CIA and FBI's often Yale-trained literary critics, demonstrating how all three confront the overwhelming of voice by its noisy sonic environment and how the state's theory of totality might be compared to that of famous literary theorists like Fredric Jameson.

2The Eigner Sanction: Keeping Time from the American Century
chapter abstract

Chapter two explores Larry Eigner's development of a counter-temporality in relation to his dominant reception, the domestic mediascape he daily negotiated, the surrounding cold war defense infrastructure, and the Luce media empire's regulation of Americans' experience of time. Presenting Eigner's reflexive daily neighborhood sound and sight monitoring as a counterpoint to the Cold War surveillance jets that performed the same function over his neighborhood, the chapter shows how the urgent events that course through Eigner's airspace get recast by the poet's horizontal model of time. Eigner's role as an alternate broadcasting system then gets drawn out through an analysis of the ways that the Luce media (referenced by Eigner) took on the roll of organizing national time at the level of the week, month, year and even century.

3Olson's Sonic Walls: Citizenship and Surveillance from the OWI to the Nixon Tapes
chapter abstract

Chapter three positions Charles Olson's education in American studies at Harvard and his work for the OWI in relation to postwar area studies and models of evidence, research and network building demonstrated on his recordings, whose confrontational dynamics and insistence on the real time of research are related to postwar sound and performance art. The chapter then uses Henry Kissinger's Harvard education, including Paul de Man's French tutoring, as a way to study the infrastructure of postwar area studies that underlay Kissinger's later audio surveillance, including his taping of Allen Ginsberg. Comparing Kissinger's understanding of tape to Olson's, the chapter draws out the "avant-garde" nature of Kissinger's audio research in which documentation transcends a hypothesis, a claim that gets tested by considering a 1975 court case in which Hayden White brought suit against the LAPD for planting officer pretending to be students in his class at UCLA.

4"The Strategic Idea of North: Glenn Gould, Sergeant Jones and White Alice"
chapter abstract

Considering the sound documentaries of R. Murray Schafer and Glenn Gould, this chapter first places the origins of sound studies within nationalist Canadian conceptions of geography and culture before then outlining the American Cold War technological infrastructure that preceded these musicians' movements into Canadian space, especially the three lines of radar stations erected to monitor Soviet incursions into the North American continent. The chapter then considers the mechanics of this system via a case study of one of its functionaries, sergeant LeRoi Jones, whose practice missions of atomic reprisal aboard a B36 peacemaker were signaled by a hellish siren particularly noted by the sergeant. The chapter concludes by following this siren-sound into the poet and music critic's later work, as Amiri Baraka, fashioning exemplary sounds of Black Nationalism.

Lytle Shaw is Professor of English at New York University.

"Lytle Shaw's examinations of the unexpected interactions between seemingly disparate figures are revealing and suggestive, groundbreaking and completely compelling. His deep forays into particular archives course with centrifugal energy, illuminating wide vistas around them and revealing the far-reaching implications of his fine-grained analyses."

Drayton Nabers
Brown University

"Each page of this book contains some new insight, some unlikely connection, some reframing of a familiar problem thought long settled. Narrowcast not only challenges us to reconceive the relationships between poetry, technology, and state surveillance; it ignites new thinking about the intersections of politics and poetics in the 1960s."

Anthony Reed
Yale University