Category Archives: Audio

In the night we shall go in

by Pablo Neruda

In the night we shall go inIn the night we shall go in,

we shall go in to steal

a flowering, flowering branch.
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We shall climb over the wall

in the darkness of the alien garden,

two shadows in the shadow.
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Winter is not yet gone,

and the apple tree appears

suddenly changed into

a fragment of cascade stars.
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In the night we shall go in

up to its trembling firmament,

and your hands, your little hands

and mine will steal the stars.
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And silently to our house

in the night and the shadow,

perfume’s silent step,

and with starry feet,

the clear body of spring.
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Listen to the Baylor A Cappella Choir sing “In the Night We Shall Go In” (music by Imant Raminsh).
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On June 28, we will read and discuss poetry inspired by a piece of music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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“The Wasteland” Lampooned

TS Eliot's The Waste Land

An excerpt from English poet Wendy Copes hilarious book, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, in which she lampoons literary pretensions, including a limerick parody of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland (First posted April 2nd 2013):
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In April one seldom feels cheerful;
Dry stones, sun and dust make me fearful;
Clairvoyantes distress me,
Commuters depress me–
Met Stetson and gave him an earful.
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She sat on a mighty fine chair,
Sparks flew as she tidied her hair;
She asks many questions,
I make few suggestions–
Bad as Albert and Lil–what a pair!
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The Thames runs, bones rattle, rats creep;
Tiresias fancies a peep–
A typist is laid,
A record is played–
Wei la la. After this it gets deep.
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A Phoenician named Phlebas forgot
About birds and his business–the lot,
Which is no surprise,
Since he’d met his demise
And been left in the ocean to rot.
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No water. Dry rocks and dry throats,
Then thunder, a shower of quotes
From the Sanskrit and Dante.
Da. Damyata. Shantih.
I hope you’ll make sense of the notes.
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Bill Ellis will lead us on a reading and discussion of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land on April 26 and May 24. Listen to The Waste Land read by Alec Guinness.

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The Aftertaste of Bitterness

By John F. Deane

The Aftertaste of BitternessThe roof slopes steeply:

I am listening to Bach, the St John Passion: I live,

the pleasures of love enjoying, and thou

art dying. How the attic space

has grown luxurious with the music, oboe
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d’amore, a thunder-storm, a dulcet

rending of the heart in sorrow; and I fill,

if only for a moment, with

transcendental energy. Clouds

through the skylight window shift, reform,
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there falls a huge knocking on the glass

from the opened sky. Peter’s

ham-fisted attempt at violence, the swung

sword; then the music of healing, the forgiving

hand. And what is truth? I’m drawn away
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by mating-shouts of pheasants

In the high grass outside. Bach’s slow chorales

lift the soul, through time, out

beyond time, till the music tells how death

is the perfect state of innocence.
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From The Instruments of Art, Carcanet 2005
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On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by a piece of music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.
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Listen to John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir & the English Baroque soloists perform Bach’s St. John Passion.

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Stephen Spender on T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”

From:.
Eliot-Spender-image

Eliot-Spender-text

Bill Ellis will lead us on a reading and discussion of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land on April 26 and May 24. Listen to The Waste Land read by Alec Guinness.

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J. S. Bach: F# Minor Toccata

Bill Holm

bachThis music weeps, not for sin
but rather for the black fact
that we must all die, but not one
of us knows what comes after.
This music leaps from key to key
as if it had no clear place to arrive,
making up its life, one bar at a time.
But when you come at last to the real theme,
strict, inexorable, and bleak,
you must play it slow and sad,
with melancholy dignity, or you miss
all its grim wisdom.
In three pages, it says, the universe collapses,
and you—still only halfway home.
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Listen to J. S. Bach’s Toccata in F sharp minor, played by Tatiana Nikolayeva

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Please note that on June 28, we will read and discuss poetry inspired by a piece of music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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DE PROFUNDIS

Oscar Wilde

De Profundis. . . Suffering is one very long moment.  We cannot divide it by seasons.
We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return.  With us time
itself does not progress.  It revolves. It seems to circle round one
centre of pain.  The paralysing immobility of a life every circumstance
of which is regulated after an unchangeable pattern, so that we eat and
drink and lie down and pray, or kneel at least for prayer, according to
the inflexible laws of an iron formula: this immobile quality, that makes
each dreadful day in the very minutest detail like its brother, seems to
communicate itself to those external forces the very essence of whose
existence is ceaseless change.  Of seed-time or harvest, of the reapers
bending over the corn, or the grape gatherers threading through the
vines, of the grass in the orchard made white with broken blossoms or
strewn with fallen fruit: of these we know nothing and can know nothing.
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For us there is only one season, the season of sorrow.  The very sun and
moon seem taken from us.  Outside, the day may be blue and gold, but the
light that creeps down through the thickly-muffled glass of the small
iron-barred window beneath which one sits is grey and niggard.  It is
always twilight in one’s cell, as it is always twilight in one’s heart.
And in the sphere of thought, no less than in the sphere of time, motion
is no more.  The thing that you personally have long ago forgotten, or
can easily forget, is happening to me now, and will happen to me again to-
morrow.  Remember this, and you will be able to understand a little of
why I am writing, and in this manner writing. . . .

Read the complete De Profundis
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Although not commonly categorized as a poem, Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis is exceptionally poetic in its poignancy and pathos. It inspired the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt to craft this magnificent piece of choral music: De Profundis – Arvo Pärt.
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Please note that on June 28, we will read and discuss poetry inspired by a piece of music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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The Weary Blues

Langston Hughes, 1902 – 1967

The Weary BluesDroning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
    I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
    He did a lazy sway . . .
    He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
    O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
    Sweet Blues!
Coming from a black man’s soul.
    O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan—
    “Ain’t got nobody in all this world,
      Ain’t got nobody but ma self.
      I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’
      And put ma troubles on the shelf.”
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Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more—
    “I got the Weary Blues
      And I can’t be satisfied.
      Got the Weary Blues
      And can’t be satisfied—
      I ain’t happy no mo’
      And I wish that I had died.”
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.
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Listen to The Weary Blues by Artie Matthews (1915, Blues piano)
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Please note that on June 28, we will read and discuss poetry inspired by a piece of music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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William Sieghart: ‘I want people to drop their fear of poetry’

The publisher and philanthropist on turning to a Philip Larkin poem in a crisis, and the biggest decision you will ever make

William SieghartPublisher and philanthropist William Sieghart has many strings to his bow: he is the force behind the Forward poetry prize, a philanthropist who has set up charities to help the homeless and mediate in the Middle East. He is chairman of the Somerset House Trust, was commissioned by the government to review libraries and is a pusher – in the best sense – of poetry. After the publication of his anthology, Winning Words: Inspiring Poems for Everyday Life (2012), he has come up with The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul, a “self-help book for life, using poetry”. For every affliction – loneliness, love, low self-esteem, lethargy – he prescribes a poem. The Poetry Pharmacy can, he hopes, be consulted as the Victorians might a herbalist and be kept for use in emergencies.
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How did the idea of a poetry pharmacy come about?

A friend, Jenny Dyson, came up with the idea. At literary festivals, I’d set up in a little tent with a couple of armchairs and a prescription pad and see people for 10-minute slots. We had prescriptions printed that would include things like: “Take the poem but don’t operate machinery afterwards.” I thought it would be no more than a bit of a gimmick – but it really took off. People would queue and, three or four hours later, I’d not be finished. I had spent my life trying to get poetry out of “poetry corner” with National Poetry Day, the Forward prize… but many people remain intimidated by poetry; there is this sense of a slim-volume elite. I wanted people to drop their fear of the P-word.
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Read the complete article

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Listen to William Sieghart and Viv Groskop talk about the restorative properties of literature and poetry – can reading make you happier?

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Shelley’s famous poem “Ozymandias” is germane 200 years after its publication

Ozymandias-2Curtis Fox and David Mikics discuss “Ozymandias”.

Listen to the podcast
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Ozymandias

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 

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From Alexandria to Alexandra: Parallel Visions of Loss in Cavafy and Cohen

By Kutay Onaylı
From Alexandria to AlexandraLeonard Cohen’s song-poem “Alexandra Leaving,” at first glance, is a rather simple refashioning of Constantine Cavafy’s “The God Abandons Antony”: a similarly-named woman replaces the city as an object of loss, resulting in the creation of a tale of failed romantic love that is commonplace in Cohen’s repertoire. A more careful reading of Cohen’s work, however, would reveal that there is more to the adaptation than a dropping of the letter i: Cohen does not only restate the story Cavafy tells in “Antony” in a different framework but also expands and modifies it. This paper is an attempt at outlining some of the deliberate additions and reductions Cohen made to create an Alexandra that represents, in the same way that Cavafy’s Alexandria is more than a mere re-telling of Plutarch, not a mere lost lover but a vision of loss and dignity that is derived from and remains in strong dialogue with that of Cavafy.
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The first important departure Cohen makes in his adaption of Cavafy’s work is the removal of the “invisible procession.” In “The God Abandons Antony,” the procession that announces Alexandria’s loss is introduced as early as the second line of the poem and is referred back to over and over again through the work. Cavafy clearly connects the sounds heard by the person spoken to by the narrator to this procession at least twice in the poem: The lines “when suddenly, at midnight, you hear/ an invisible procession going by/ with exquisite music, voices,” and “listen…to the voices/ to the exquisite music of that strange procession,” constitute one fifth of the entire work and provide the framework the rest of the narrative takes place in. In Cohen’s version, however, there is absolutely no mention of the procession—the initial sensory experience that happens “suddenly” is instead that “the night has grown colder.” The movement, furthermore, is modified to come not from outside the window but from inside a dwelling and the individual himself when Cohen says: “the god of love preparing to depart./ Alexandra hoisted on his shoulder, they slip between the sentries of the heart.” Hearing –and taste, an addition Cohen makes- is introduced with the line “They fall amongst the voices and the wine.” and referred back to with “Go firmly to the window. Drink it in./ Exquisite music. Alexandra laughing.” In both lines, the source of the sensory experience remains unclear. This deliberate unclarity, in combination to the references to wine (and the connection formed between the voices and the wine, evoking a tavern-like setting) and the audibility of Alexandra’s laughter from afar indicate that the thing that is being lost is moving across space and time—essentially echoing Cavafy’s representation of Alexandria as a space and time that is transforming into something different than Anthony’s Alexandria. Cohen, however, in expressing his perception of the phenomenon of loss, makes the “procession” literally invisible in his verses and buries the source of the sensory experience within the object of loss itself.
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Read the complete article, plus “Alexandra Leaving” by Leonard Cohen and “The God Abandons Antony” by C.P. Cavafy (See also The God Abandons Antony)
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Listen to Leonard Cohen sing “Alexandra Leaving”

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