Monthly Archives: September 2013

Alexander McCall Smith on why W. H. Auden still matters

AudenW H Auden, who died 40 years ago this month, is one of the most humane, loving, direct and affecting poets of all time, writes Alexander McCall Smith.

He wrote a poem in praise of limestone. He wrote a poem about Sigmund Freud. He wrote poems about cats and opera, about the minute organisms that live on human skin. He wrote an achingly beautiful love poem, a lullaby that stands among the gentlest and most forgiving poetry of the 20th century. Years after his death, when the World Trade Center towers were brought to the ground, traumatised New Yorkers faxed each other copies of a poem he had written for an earlier and greater crisis, “September 1, 1939”. They took comfort in his words even if many of those who received them must have had no idea who he was.
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T.S. Eliot’s Birthday

Eliot_readsIn hindsight, I suppose we should have acknowledged T.S. Eliot’s birthday last Thursday (September 26), but in belated recompense: T.S. Eliot Reads “The Naming of Cats,” 1947.

 

 

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Revised Schedule

Thanks to all who participated in our impromptu, but very successful session on September 26. The Thomas Hardy presentation was postponed due to lean attendance (re-scheduled for February 2014 – see the Schedule Page for a revised calendar), but we enjoyed listening to a variety of poetic classics read by a miscellany of marvellous voices including Ted Hughes and Richard Burton, and augmented by readings from our own members.

See you all on October 24 when Ann Fletcher will enlighten us to the genius of British WWll poet, Keith Douglas.

Meanwhile, please enjoy this fascinating interview by Poetry Off the Shelf‘s producer Curtis Fox on Modernism’s Mystery Man The strange career of editor and publisher Ronald Lane Latimer. Of special interest to fans of Wallace Stevens.

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Poets Forum 2013

poets_forum_13Dear Friends of Poetry,

People sometimes think of poets as inward-turned beings, who sit in small rooms while scanning even more interior terrains–emotion recollected in tranquility (or rage); stories personal, metaphorical, or philosophical; thickets of wild invention; a felt sense of history and its grip on our always-shared fates; memory mixed with desire. This image of literary garret isn’t entirely untrue: when writing, a poet is a solitude accompanied by ink. And yet, any creative expression draws from the world and leads outward, back into the world. We live, think, feel, weigh, sing, in a world-web of others.

And so, it’s no surprise that the Japanese haiku poet Basho, even during his final illness in 1694, might wonder about his neighbor’s fate:

deep autumn–

my neighbor,

how is he doing?

Or that Francis of Assisi would write in his thirteenth-century “Canticle of the Sun” of “Brother Sun,” “Brother Fire,” “Sister Moon,” “Sister Water.” Whatever enters into a poem is family, is relation.

A writer, however seemingly solitary, is one autumn leaf among others, one branch and tree among others–and so here, gazing in delight at Robert Frost’s yellowing-leaved New England birches, is Basho; here, Francis; here, Lucille, Langston, Emily, Elizabeth, Walt….

October, when the Poets Forum takes place in New York City, is a month of radiant colors, as the Poets Forum itself is an event of radiant words. Poets Forum is a time for conversation and listening, for finding out just how our neighbors are doing amid the great and general leaf fall. Please come join us this October 24 to October 26 for this multi-day celebration of poems, this sound-feast and thought-feast of a community that lives and looks and wanders and speaks beyond every boundary.
hirsfield_sig

 

Jane_HirshfieldJane Hirshfield

Mill Valley, California

Chancellor
Academy of American Poets

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Hamlet: A Love Story

HamletAround 1905 or 1906, Sigmund Freud wrote an essay, unpublished in his lifetime, called “Psychopathic Characters on the Stage.” The essay addressed the question of what we, as spectators, get out of watching people go crazy. Freud’s theory was that we’re fascinated by crazy characters because they help us express our own repressed impulses. Drama, of course, can’t express our fantasies too literally; when that happens, we call it pornography and walk out of the theatre. Instead, a good playwright manoeuvres our desires into the light using a mixture of titillation and censure, fantasy and irony, obscenity and euphemism, daring and reproach. A good play, Freud wrote, provokes “not merely an enjoyment of the liberation but a resistance to it as well.” That resistance is key. It lets us enjoy our desires without quite admitting that they’re ours.

Hamlet,” Freud thought, best exemplified the appeal of managed self-expression. Watching “Hamlet,” we think that it’s about revenge—a familiar, safe subject. In fact, “Hamlet” is about desire. The real engine of the play is Oedipal. Caught up in Hamlet’s quest to kill Claudius—and reassured by his self-censure—we can safely, and perhaps unconsciously, explore those desires. Freud thought that prudery and denial had for centuries prevented critics from acknowledging the play’s propulsive undercurrent, which, he believed, the new psychoanalytic vocabulary made it possible to acknowledge. “The conflict in ‘Hamlet’ is so effectively concealed,” he wrote, “that it was left to me to unearth it.”

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F. Scott Fitzgerald Reads John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale”

FSFListen to a rare recording of F. Scott Fitzgerald Reading John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale”

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Becoming Shakespeare

ShakespeareWHAT made Shakespeare so successful? And when did he start to outstrip his contemporaries? According to Bart van Es in his new book, Shakespeare In Company, the turning-point was 1594. In this year Shakespeare became one of eight founding actor-investors, or “sharers”, in a new theatre company called the Chamberlain’s Men. It was a move that made him rich. But more significantly it meant that he no longer had to work for whichever company would buy his plays.

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Lunch Poems at SFU

Lunch_poemsFor poetry fans enrolled in any course in the Seniors Program at SFU, especially if your class falls on a Wednesday, consider taking in the lunch time poetry sessions. Details at: Lunch Poems at SFU.

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Why we never want to call our sessions “Workshops”

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Workshop
by Billy Collins

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Tributes for Seamus Heaney in the Boston Review

Tributes for Seamus Heaney in the Boston Review.

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