While not as well known as other modernist writers such as T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce, David Jones “is increasingly regarded as an important, innovative poet, who has extended and refined the techniques of literary modernism,” according to Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor Vincent B. Sherry, Jr. A graphic artist as well as a poet, Jones is best known for his long narrative poems In Parenthesis and The Anathemata, and for his engravings and paintings, which have won many awards. “The supreme quality of his art,” both literary and graphic, reports Kathleen Raine in the Sewanee Review, “… has long been apparent to an inner circle of his friends,” but, she adds, “he has never at any time been a widely-read, still less a fashionable, writer, nor is he ever likely to become so, for his work is too subtle and learned for popular tastes.”
Monthly Archives: October 2014
English Romantic poet John Keats was born on October 31, 1795, in London. The oldest of four children, he lost both his parents at a young age. His father, a livery-stable keeper, died when Keats was eight; his mother died of tuberculosis six years later. After his mother’s death, Keats’s maternal grandmother appointed two London merchants, Richard Abbey and John Rowland Sandell, as guardians. Abbey, a prosperous tea broker, assumed the bulk of this responsibility, while Sandell played only a minor role. When Keats was fifteen, Abbey withdrew him from the Clarke School, Enfield, to apprentice with an apothecary-surgeon and study medicine in a London hospital. In 1816 Keats became a licensed apothecary, but he never practised his profession, deciding instead to write poetry.
Ezra Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho, on October 30, 1885. He completed two years of college at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a degree from Hamilton College in 1905. After teaching at Wabash College for two years, he travelled abroad to Spain, Italy, and London, where, as the literary executor of the scholar Ernest Fenellosa, he became interested in Japanese and Chinese poetry. He married Dorothy Shakespear in 1914 and became London editor of theLittle Review in 1917.
In 1924, he moved to Italy; during this period of voluntary exile, Pound became involved in Fascist politics, and did not return to the United States until 1945, when he was arrested on charges of treason for broadcasting Fascist propaganda by radio to the United States during World War II. In 1946, he was acquitted, but declared mentally ill and committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. During his confinement, the jury of the Bollingen-Library of Congress Award (which included a number of the most eminent writers of the time) decided to overlook Pound’s political career in the interest of recognizing his poetic achievements, and awarded him the prize for the Pisan Cantos (1948). After continuous appeals from writers won his release from the hospital in 1958, Pound returned to Italy and settled in Venice, where he died, a semi-recluse, on November 1, 1972.
Monday, October 27th, marks 100 years since the birth of Dylan Thomas: The Welsh poet and broadcaster died at age 39, but his legacy has flourished both at home and abroad as readers rejoiced at his unwillingness to “go gentle into that good night.” This past Friday saw the staging of his “play for voices” Under Milk Wood at New York City’s 92nd Street Y – listen to a recording here.
Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on October 27, 1914, in Swansea, South Wales. His father was an English Literature professor at the local grammar school and would often recite Shakespeare to Thomas before he could read. He loved the sounds of nursery rhymes, foreshadowing his love for the rhythmic ballads of Gerard Manley Hopkins, W. B. Yeats, and Edgar Allan Poe. Although both of his parents spoke fluent Welsh, Thomas and his older sister never learned the language, and Thomas wrote exclusively in English.
Thomas was a neurotic, sickly child who shied away from school and preferred reading on his own. He read all of D. H. Lawrence‘s poetry, impressed by vivid descriptions of the natural world. Fascinated by language, he excelled in English and reading but neglected other subjects. He dropped out of school at sixteen to become a junior reporter for the South Wales Daily Post.
Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932, in Boston, Massachusetts. Her mother, Aurelia Schober, was a master’s student at Boston University when she met Plath’s father, Otto Plath, who was her professor. They were married in January of 1932. Otto taught both German and biology, with a focus on apiology, the study of bees.
In 1940, when Plath was eight years old, her father died as a result of complications from diabetes. He had been a strict father, and both his authoritarian attitudes and his death drastically defined her relationships and her poems—most notably in her elegiac and infamous poem “Daddy.“
On Halloween 1963 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, John Berryman read from The Dream Songs for the very first time. To coincide with Berryman’s centennial this week, David Wojahn revisits the poet’s iconic The Dream Songs. Read Wojahn’s essay “Henry at One Hundred” and listen to the historic recording of “Dream Song 1” and “Dream Song 4.”
John Berryman was born John Smith in McAlester, Oklahoma, on October 25, 1914. He received an undergraduate degree from Columbia College in 1936 and attended Cambridge University on a fellowship. He taught at Wayne State University in Detroit and went on to occupy posts at Harvard and Princeton. From 1955 until his death in 1972, he was a professor at the University of Minnesota.
His early work was published in a volume entitled Five Young American Poets in 1940 and reflects the influences of the Irish and British poets W. B. Yeats, W. H. Auden, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the Americans Hart Crane and Ezra Pound. Tremendously erudite and a brilliant teacher, Berryman in his early work Poems (New Directions, 1942) and The Dispossessed (W. Sloane Associates, 1948) displayed great technical control in poems that remained firmly rooted in the conventions of the time.
A final reminder that on Thursday, October 23, we will have a reading and discussion of Vancouver Poet Laureates, Evelyn Lau, George McWhirter and Brad Cran, plus a few other Canadian and BC poet laureates. Please visit the SCHEDULE PAGE for a recently updated list of and links to the poems that have been selected for discourse.
For better or worse, poetry seems to make film directors drool, and why not? You could think of poetry like the popcorn of the literary world – bite-sized, compact little narratives or emotional jolts with plenty of room around the edges to lather on the artistic “interpretation.” The Disney classic “Mulan,” for instance, is even more classic than you think: it dates to 3rd Century China. Bukowski’s poetry is vastly more entertaining than his biography, while Beowulf is actually better, believe it or not, without Angelina Jolie.
Luckily though, many poetry-based movies actually do a degree of justice to their bardolic antecedents, rising above simple cinema-fodder to bring verse to life.