My research focuses on poetry phonotextuality (the relationship between printed versions of a poem and performances of the poem by the poet), the history of the poetry audio archive, and computational approaches to studying poetic audiotexts. I’m interested in approaching the study of these archives through media archaeological, sound studies, and literary historical frames. Much of my work involves curating content for the PennSound archive, and writing to contextualize that content.
Media History of Poetry Recordings
My dissertation, tentatively titled Speech Measures: Language experiments, early poetry audio archives, and the poetic record (advisor: Charles Bernstein), seeks to delineate a history of how the poetic authorial voice came to be inscribed, used, and understood. It focuses on collaborations between poets and speech scientists in the early twentieth century, and makes the claim that poetry recordings, as they are understood today, were shaped by the use of the voice in language experiments. In other words, the poets and linguists were both performing a kind of language research that centered on the aesthetic and technological facets of the materiality of the voice. These experiments often positioned themselves against popular vocal recordings like vaudeville, and set up a demarcation between the poetic (understood as bearing an textual antecedent) and popular works. The dissertation works to delineate this history through a media archaeological approach to organizing history around technological developments in sound recording.
Meta-Archive: The reconstruction of past archives
A large portion of my work involves locating historical poetry audio and editing it for PennSound. I’ve editing the earliest known audio of Robert Frost (which had never been released previously), the complete recordings of James Weldon Johnson, the unedited master recordings of Gertrude Stein’s only known recordings, and the complete collection of Vachel Lindsay’s recordings. These are all part of The Speech Lab Recordings, which I am seeking to reconstruct within PennSound. I am interested in how prior archives can be represented within digital archives, with respect for their prior materialities.
Experimental Digital Methods
Rather than building an archive of poet voices for close listening applications alone, I am interested in the affordances created by the unprecedented condition of having an archive of thousands of hours of poetry audio. I have worked as part of Tanya Clement’s distant listening initiative High-Performance Sound Technologies for Access and Scholarship project, using supercomputer machine listening to ask questions of the archive at scale. Too, I am user-tester for Marit MacArthur’s work to develop digital tools for studying and socially contextualizing poetry performance styles.
My own research in the area centers on a methodology I term Machine-Aided Close Listening, which proposes using digital tools to assign the text(s) of a poem with its performances, and visualizations of those performances. The method proposes that we must read across the material aesthetics of the page (lineation, spacing, typography) and those of the performed word (pitch, tempo, phrasing) in approaching the poem. My article on the topic is forthcoming in Digital Humanities Quarterly (2018).
I am also interested in Italian-American culture and modern and contemporary Italian poetry. I am currently working on translations of the poet Italo Testa for the next volume of Those Who From Afar Look Like Flies (eds. Ballerini and Cavatorta, University of Toronto Press). Next year, I will be working on translations, for the same anthology, of Vittorio Bodini.