Leo Vroman, a Dutch scientist, artist and poet who lived in the US for many years, died in February of this year. Elsevier Connect did a great article back in 2012. It's rare that we see people who are great poets as well as passionate scientists. Leo Vroman was both; he needed more than just one outlet for an exceedingly curious and creative mind. His was an extraordinary life; he was a survivor of a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, who managed to be reunited with his fiancée Tineke after the war. They married and remained together until his last day. [more inside]
This Weekend, The New York Times went all in for poetry. In addition to six — count ‘em — articles about poetry in the Review, the Times also included an entire panel in its “Room for Debate” section in which the mostly white and mostly male panelists responded to the essentially rhetorical question “Does Poetry Matter?” with some version of the expected answer: yes. [more inside]
Tadeusz Różewicz (1921-2014) was a renowned Polish ‘poet, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, satirist and translator.’ Reckoned by Seamus Heaney as ‘one of the great European poets of the 20th century,’ he died in April at the age of 92: Guardian obituary; NYT obituary. [more inside]
In an essay reflecting on translation, Yoko Tawada reads the poems of Paul Celan as if he had written in Japanese. The essay's translator, Susan Bernofsky, offers context, and in an earlier piece, Rivka Galchen considers "Yoko Tawada's Magnificent Strangeness." More conventional introductions to Celan are available via the Poetry Foundation page on Celan, 14 poems from Breathturn, and a video of Celan reading "Allerseelen" (English sub.; alt. trans.). Tawada's own poetry includes "The Flight of the Moon" (video in Japanese). [more inside]
Didn't get enough fireworks on the Fourth? Got fogged out? US holidays irrelevant anyway? "長岡花火大会2012年2日間の総集編 Fireworks the most beautiful in the japan" is 30 minutes of HD fireworks from the Nagaoka fireworks festival, one of several fireworks festivals in Japan. It has two segments, one each from the first and second night of the fireworks. According to Japan Guide, "both nights feature two straight hours of fireworks...The show's finale covers nearly two kilometers of the riverbank and is the widest span of fireworks in the world." [more inside]
Brand New Ancients is a spoken word performance (review) by poet, singer and playwright Kate Tempest that won the Ted Hughes Award For New Poetry in 2012. Early this year, to coincide with a wider tour of the show, Kate Tempest and the Battersea Arts Centre produced three short films based on the performance. One. Two. Three (trigger warning, as this one is terrifying).
Pianist Jeremy Denk has been living in a state of emergency. Instead of consulting a professional, I have come up with a three step solution. Recalibrating my life solution. The first step is to ignore all existing emergencies. Now, this—I can already hear you saying it—can’t last, this is not a workable solution. It sounds in fact like the opposite of a solution. Patience! Wait till you hear my next two steps. Step two—the real genius hinge of the whole thing—is then, in the absence of all emergencies, in the vast plain of false calm left after the tyrannical banishment of all the old emergencies, to choose to treat the smallest things as emergencies.
Trans women writers Jeanne Thornton, Imogen Binnie, Red Durkin and Casey Plett read from their recent works for Talks at Google. [more inside]
3 poems about language. 9 poems without language. 4 poems of language on the edge. 3 poems from languages on the edge. 3 poems about zombies. 2 poems about mermaids. 6 poems drawn in color. 1 poem erased from black and white. 3 dreams by Zurita. 16 dreams by Bolaño. Something about bricks. Something about America. Wot kynde horse brayne spoile our cheery meal. wurrrghc brggguhdrvl.
Women make up roughly half of the 42 million Pashtun people in the borderland. The kind of hardship they know is rare. Some are bought and sold, others killed for perceived slights against family honor. But this doesn’t render them passive. Most of the Pashtun women I know possess a rebellious and caustic humor beneath their cerulean burkas, which have become symbols of submission. This finds expression in an ancient form of folk poetry called landay. Two lines and 22 syllables long, they can be rather startling to the uninitiated. War, drones, sex, a husband’s manhood—these poems are short and dangerous, like the poisonous snake for which they’re named.
On 24 June 1914, a young man caught the 10.20 train from London to Malvern. At around 12.45 the train stopped at a small country station in Gloucestershire. And what happened then? Well .. nothing much. The station closed in 1966, but this afternoon a special train will be stopping there, unwontedly, to mark the centenary of one of the best-loved poems in the English language. [more inside]
About the multi-talented Mason Williams [previously, and best known as composer of the iconic "Classical Gas"] -- Throughout his years in the Navy and college he wrote a series of poems he titled Them Poems. As he entered the folk music scene in the early 60's he wound up rooming with long time friend Ed Ruscha in Los Angeles. Some of the language from Them Poems is a consequence of creative word play that Ed and Paul Ruscha riffed on with Williams over the years. Ed Ruscha provided us with this recording [also released as "The Mason Williams Listening Matter", and reviewed here on allmusic by Eugene Chadbourne] from 1964. Recording starts around 35 seconds in. Also, here's Mason performing "Them Tummy Gummers" on Johnny Cash's variety show. Finally, Mason Williams Online.
Various news sources report that Charles Wright will today be named the next Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry of the United States Library of Congress. An extensive biography and 50 poems are available from the Poetry Foundation. [more inside]
The book is considered the rarest of Sendak’s published work — so rare that it’s practically impossible for even art historians to get their eyes on a copy for scholarly work. To commemorate the 86th birthday of Maurice Sendak (previously), Maria Popova (previously) has published scans of illustrations Sendak did for an ultra-ultra-rare edition of William Blake's Songs of Innocence.
Travel was always desirable to them / And they visited every continent … They considered travel and homeland synonymous / For them, every valley and desert was home. [more inside]
Samantha Peterson slams her case for having a fat body in this world. No metaphor necessary. (SLHP)
"I consistently felt myself to be not male or female,” she said, “but the 11-year-old gender: protagonist." [. . .] The title of the piece can only be rendered in these pages as “The Semen Queens of Hyatt Place.” The New York Times Magazine profiles Metafilter's own Tricia Lockwood. (Previously, previously)
The Emily Dickinson Archive is a collection of high resolution digital images of Emily Dickinson's handwritten manuscripts. Here are, for instance, Because I Could Not Stop for Death, Tell the Truth but Tell It Slant, I Dwell in Possibility, They Shut Me Up in Prose and I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died. The whole collection is fully searchable and the images include the text of the poems as they were written down by Dickinson. The archive is a project of Harvard's Houghton Library but many other institutions provided manuscripts. Perhaps the best place to start is to simply browse the poems by title.
Excerpts from "How to be Perfect" by Ron Padgett.
The poet Rosemary Tonks turned her back on the literary world in the mid-1970s, leaving behind her a handful of strange and brilliant poems and a small band of devoted admirers who longed to know what had happened to her. For forty years she disappeared completely, 'evaporated into air like the Cheshire Cat', as Brian Patten remarked in a 2009 BBC documentary, The Poet Who Vanished. Now, with news of her death at the age of 85, the story of her life is starting to emerge.
So it's Kentucky Derby time, once again. But I don't care much for horse racing. So I could say it's really just an excuse to post this wonderful video of Chris McMillian on how to properly craft a Mint Julep. But that would be a lie. I don't care much for Mint Juleps either. They're really just an excuse to post this heart-breakingly beautiful poem about Mint Juleps: [more inside]
Songwriter, singer, poet, memoirist, artist, icon Patti Smith performs in WNYC's The Greene Space. In a program of songs and poetry coordinated by her daughter Jesse Paris Smith, Patti Smith performs with Tree Laboratory (Jesse Paris Smith and Eric Hoegemeyer) and her long-time collaborator guitarist Lenny Kaye. They titled the event "Mixing Memory and Desire: An Evening of Music, Poetry, Sound, and Remembrance," celebrating the "chaos and transformation of spring." [~1h30m, scroll down for video] [more inside]
Melissa May-Dunn is a performance poet who dropped out of divinity school. A successful gofundme campaign sent her to this year's Women of the World Poetry Slam, where she placed seventh out of 72 with a tribute to a Disney villain, Dear Ursula. [more inside]
"Dear Mr Gove" - a poem by Jess Green.
Poetry Everywhere, produced by WGBH, in cooperation with the Poetry Foundation, presents videos of poetry being read, often by the author. And, if you want to introduce a child to poetry, don't miss the animated films made by students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (there even seems to be one written and animated especially for MetaFilter, Spacebar)
W.H. Auden had a secret life that his closest friends knew little or nothing about. Everything about it was generous and honorable. He kept it secret because he would have been ashamed to have been praised for it. [more inside]
Maggie Estep, the writer-poet-performance artist and all-around cool person who came to some fame while living in the East Village in the early 1990s, has died. After suffering a massive heart attack on Monday, Estep died at age 50. Before publishing her first novel, Maggie worked as a horse groom, a go-go dancer, a dishwasher, a nurse’s aide, and a box factory worker. She initially received national attention in the 1990s, when MTV covered the spoken-word movement on an all-poetry episode of "Unplugged." [more inside]
Not got a way with words? PayPal has made available a number of working poets to write custom poems for your love, just in time for Valentine's Day. [more inside]
Although she is a literary legend, only one complete poem of Sappho's survives, along with substantial fragments of four others (the last discovered in 2004). Now two new fragments have been discovered. [more inside]
Writer Teju Cole, perhaps inspired by Agha Shahid Ali, has continued his Twitter experimentation by using out of context retweets to create Ghazals. [more inside]
Hart Crane was a poet, one who was known by and friends with other notable poets. The poet e. e. cummings claimed that "Crane’s mind was no bigger than a pin, but it didn’t matter; he was a born poet" (Google books preview). Tennessee Williams said he could "hardly understand a single line" but insisted he wanted to be buried at sea at the "point most nearly determined as the point at which Hart Crane gave himself back." Crane had his critics — Marianne Moore and Ezra Pound come to mind, and William Carlos Williams wrote "There is good there but it’s not for me" — but Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg used to read "The Bridge" together, John Berryman wrote one of his famous elegies on Crane and heavyweight Robert Lowell included his “Words for Hart Crane” in "Life Studies." Science/Fiction author, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon) also wrote that "nobody seems to have noticed that Hart Crane really was the first space poet," quoting lines from his epic The Bridge in the story Mother in the Sky with Diamonds. Those are all words by other people, why not read a few from Crane? [more inside]
Ever been to Johnsburg, Illinois? Have you received a Christmas card from a hooker in Minneapolis? Maybe you left Waukegan at the slamming of the door? Or perhaps you were simply full of wonder when you left Murfreesboro. If so, the Tom Waits map is for you.
Though best known to fans of Joe Frank, This American Life, and Hearing Voices for the irreverent spirit medium recordings he made as an telephone psychic in the 1990s, the Baltimore poet, composer, and artist David Franks spent decades creating his own work. Several recordings are now available at the internet archive. (previously) [more inside]
Foundational Beat Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti comes to UC Berkeley's Lunch Poems in 2007 and spends ~50 minutes flipping through a book of his collected works and reading poems old and new. [more inside]
Nearly 200 years after "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was written, the authorship is still in dispute. In the years since, there have been quite a few parodies and variants of the poem written, recorded and performed, including at least two different versions of a Cajun Night Before Christmas (a recording of the version by Te-Jules, and Trosclair's version[Google books preview], read by Larry Ray, recorded from WLOX). Snopes tracked down the history of The Soldier's Night Before Christmas, Fifties Web collected 21 tame versions (with auto-playing music), and Dirty Xmas has a number of "adult" versions. Yuks 'R' Us has a large collection, including some dated computer-related stories. Speaking of dated, you can view a vintage '98 "enhanced" version of the original poem plus more variations from Purple Lion (a member of the Merry Christmas Webring from 1998). But for the ultimate collection of variants and parodies, you might recall this thread from 2002. The link is dead, but Archive.org caught the site around that time, with 581 versions. That was over a decade ago, and now Alechemist Matt is up to 849 versions, parodies and variants of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
The Yule Cat, called Jólakötturinn or Jólaköttur in its native Iceland, is something in the lines of a holiday threat. Those who don't work hard and make, earn, or receive new clothes before Yule will be devoured by Jólakötturinn, as told in the poem by Jóhannes Bjarni Jónasson (original poem with some illustrations). Myths say that Jólakötturinn belongs to the ogress Grýla, mother of the 13 "Yule Lad" trolls. [more inside]
In the late 60s, Lutheran clergyman John Rydgren hosted the weekly radio Silhouette, broadcast across the US and in Vietnam, and squarely aimed at the flower power generation. Silhouette Segments (1968) was a double-album which compiled short excerpts from the show. I've compiled as many of the tracks as I can find (see below). But perhaps it makes sense to begin with the Hippie Version of Creation: "The Cat flipped a switch, blinked those big, eternal eyes, and he dug the switch action. 'Yeah... I'll take it.' " [more inside]
"Oh, show us the way, to the next whiskey-bar. Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why." And so opens the Alabama Song (Google books preview) by Bertholt Brecht and Brecht's close collaborator, Elisabeth Hauptmann (Gbp), first published in 1927. Brecht set it to music and performed it on stages all over Berlin, but the better known version was scored by classical composer Kurt Weill, who was impressed with Brecht’s poetry and wanted to break away from the constraints of his previous work. It was this version, first performed by Lotte Lenya, that was made famous by The Doors and their use of a Marxophone (Wikipedia). [more inside]
Courtesy of the Archives of American Art, Robert Duncan and Jess Collins's collaborative art book Scrapbook for Patricia Jordan, 1959. Sketches, poems, doodles, collages, and joyous miscellany. [via]
“The way the poem sits on the page does not necessarily tell you anything about how to read it.” Explains Hugh Kenner of radical modernist poet and New Jersey general practitioner Williams Carlos Williams. The series features archival footage, animation, and interviews with critics, poets and and neighbors, among them Helen Vendler, Marjorie Porloff, James Merrill, and Anthony Hecht. Also, Elizabeth Bishop, Hart Crane, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Robert Lowell, Marianne Moore, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman. Produced by the New York Center for Visual History, 1988. Previously [more inside]
Women from the DC Youth Poetry Slam Team have a thing or two to say about women's costumes and the choice to be a sexy nurse or a mother-fucking monster. (transcript)
Joyce Carol Oates's new story about an imagined interview with Robert Frost has been called outrageous, even an attack on the poet. [note: story link opens a print dialog]
College student Lily Myers performs her poem, Shrinking Women, at a poetry slam.