Monthly Archives: November 2014

Canadian-born Pulitzer poetry winner Mark Strand, 80, dies

Mark_StrandMark Strand, whose spare, deceptively simple investigations of rootlessness, alienation and the ineffable strangeness of life made him one of America’s most hauntingly meditative poets, died Saturday at his daughter’s home in Brooklyn. He was 80.

His daughter, Jessica Strand, said the cause was liposarcoma, a rare cancer of the fat cells.

Strand, who was named poet laureate of the United States in 1990 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1999 for his collection “Blizzard of One,” made an early impression with short, often surreal lyric poems that imparted an unsettling sense of personal dislocation – what the poet and critic Richard Howard called “the working of the divided self.”
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Happy Birthday, William Blake

William_BlakeWilliam Blake was born in London on November 28, 1757, to James, a hosier, and Catherine Blake. Two of his six siblings died in infancy. From early childhood, Blake spoke of having visions—at four he saw God “put his head to the window”; around age nine, while walking through the countryside, he saw a tree filled with angels. Although his parents tried to discourage him from “lying,” they did observe that he was different from his peers and did not force him to attend conventional school. He learned to read and write at home. At age ten, Blake expressed a wish to become a painter, so his parents sent him to drawing school. Two years later, Blake began writing poetry. When he turned fourteen, he apprenticed with an engraver because art school proved too costly. One of Blake’s assignments as apprentice was to sketch the tombs at Westminster Abbey, exposing him to a variety of Gothic styles from which he would draw inspiration throughout his career. After his seven-year term ended, he studied briefly at the Royal Academy.

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A final reminder that Nila will enlighten us with the work of Nezami, a 12th-century Persian poet, known as Nizami Ganjawi (1141-1203), this Thursday, November 27th

Nizami_GanjaviFor our edification, Nila has kindly prepared an in-depth Word document, containing Nezami’s poetry, his short biography, a short excerpt about Leila and Majnun, the book from which she has chosen the poetry, and links to a great lecture about Nezami (in Youtube), and to the chosen poems. Download the Word document here: Nezami_November_2014
or the
PDF Version here: nezami_november_2014

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Louise Glück Wins This Year’s National Book Award in Poetry

Louise_GluckCongratulations to Louise Glück, winner of the 2014 National Book Award in Poetry for her collection Faithful and Virtuous Night (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Glück received the Academy of American Poets’ 2008 Wallace Stevens Award and from 1999 to 2005 served on their Board of Chancellors. Read the poem “The Past” from her new award-winning collection and listen to her reading “The Wild Iris” from her 1992 Pulitzer Prize–winning book.

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The Vale of Soul-Making

John_KeatsIn 1821, three months after he learned of Keats’s death, Percy Shelley wrote Adonaïs: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, in which he described the poet as a delicate, fragile young flower of a man:

Oh gentle child, beautiful as thou wert,
Why didst thou leave the trodden paths of men
Too soon, and with weak hands though mighty heart
Dare the unpastured dragon in his den?

That dragon was a cruel critic who had mocked Keats’s literary ambitions—John Gibson Lockhart, who, writing under the pseudonym Z, had scolded Keats as if he were a child, insisting in a review of Endymion that “it is a better and a wiser thing to be a starved apothecary than a starved poet; so back to the shop, Mr John, back to the ‘plasters, pills, and ointment boxes.’ ” Lockhart had classed Keats among the Cockney School of politics, versification, and morality, known—at least by readers of Blackwood’s Magazine—for its “exquisitely bad taste” and “vulgar modes of thinking.” In Shelley’s formulation, it was this bad review that sent Keats to an early grave, and gazing back through history, one begins to accept this two-part narrative of Keats’s legacy. The fallen poet had lived a life of abstractions—he was not only an aesthete, but the aesthete—and he had been, as Byron quipped, “snuffed out by an article,” too beautiful and frail for this harsh world.

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Wonder and the Ends of Inquiry

WonderMany humanists nowadays still suspect scientists of being wonder-killers. They echo Romantics like Wordsworth, who complained about the kind of natural philosopher (the word “scientist” was not introduced into English until the 1830s) who would “peep and botanize / Upon his mother’s grave,” or the melancholy anti-modernism of a whole gaggle of twentieth-century social thinkers, most of them Central European, who equated the rise of scientific and technological rationality (which they rarely bothered to distinguish) with “disenchantment” (Max Weber), loss of a cozy Lebenswelt (Edmund Husserl), or “the disappearance of the cosmos” (Alexandre Koyré). These elegies for a lost world spangled with marvels and hushed with the wonder of it all fly in the teeth of both historical fact and daily experience: it is popular science and science fiction that feed the modern public’s hunger for wonders, handily outselling books about the Shroud of Turin and the healing miracles of Lourdes. But perhaps all these wonders of popular science are just that: wonders for popular consumption. What about the actual doing of science? In this context, wonder has undergone three major transformations.

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Dylan Thomas’s Moment by Seamus Perry

Dylan-Thomas_Rowan-WilliamsBy the time he died Dylan Thomas was on the verge of being what he had never been before – a success. A collaboration with Stravinsky was planned – they were to work on an opera set in a post-nuclear age in which the world was to be invented again from scratch, possibly with the help of aliens – and he had finished a screenplay, quite a good one, about the body-snatchers Burke and Hare.

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Happy Birthday, Marianne Moore

Marianne_MooreBorn near St. Louis, Missouri, on November 15, 1887, Marianne Moore was raised in the home of her grandfather, a Presbyterian pastor. After her grandfather’s death, in 1894, Moore and her family stayed with other relatives, and in 1896 they moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She attended Bryn Mawr College and received her BA in 1909. Following graduation, Moore studied typing at Carlisle Commercial College, and from 1911 to 1915 she was employed as a school teacher at the Carlisle Indian School. In 1918, Moore and her mother moved to New York City, and in 1921, she became an assistant at the New York Public Library. She began to meet other poets, such as William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens, and to contribute to the Dial, a prestigious literary magazine. She served as acting editor of the Dial from 1925 to 1929. Along with the work of such other members of the Imagist movement as Ezra Pound, Williams, and H. D., Moore’s poems were published in the Egoist, an English magazine, beginning in 1915. In 1921, H. D. published Moore’s first book, Poems (The Egoist Press, 1921), without her knowledge.

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In Celebration of Galway Kinnell, 1927-2014

Galway_KinnellWith his devotion to justice, and his range of subjects, intimate and universal—Galway Kinnell has given us a wide, dense, beautiful body of work, a rare store of pleasure and nourishment,” wrote Sharon Olds on the occasion of his receiving the 2010 Wallace Stevens Award for proven mastery in the art of poetry. In remembrance of this master poet, the Academy of American Poets has created a special tribute collection celebrating his life and work.

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An early reminder that Nila will enlighten us with the work of Nezami, a 12th-century Persian poet, known as Nizami Ganjawi (1141-1203), on Thursday, November 27th

Nizami_GanjaviFor our edification, Nila has kindly prepared an in-depth Word document, containing Nezami’s poetry, his short biography, a short excerpt about Leila and Majnun, the book from which she has chosen the poetry, and links to a great lecture about Nezami (in Youtube), and to the chosen poems. Download the Word document here: Nezami_November_2014
PDF Version: nezami_november_2014

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