Category Archives: Reminder

Today’s Birthday: Robert Bringhurst

Robert BringhurstRobert Bringhurst was born October 16, 1946, in the ghetto of South Central Los Angeles. He was the only child of a migratory family, raised in the mountain and desert country of Alberta, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and British Columbia. He spent ten years as an itinerant undergraduate, studying physics, architecture and linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, philosophy and oriental languages at the University of Utah, and comparative literature at Indiana University, which gave him a BA in 1973. He had published two books of poems before entering the writing program at the University of British Columbia, which awarded him an MFA in 1975.
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From 1977 to 1980 he taught writing and English literature at UBC, and for some years after that made his living as a typographer. He has also been poet-in-residence and writer-in-residence at several universities in North America and Europe.
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He has lived in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, France, Peru, Panama and Japan, as well as the UK, the USA and Canada, and has published translations from Arabic, Greek, French, Italian, Spanish, Navajo and Haida. Since 1985, his linguistic work has concentrated increasingly on Native American languages, especially those of the British Columbia coast.
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Bringhurst is first and foremost a poet, but he has published a substantial quantity of prose, invading the domains of art history, typography, linguistics, classical studies and literary criticism, without the least sign of respect for disciplinary boundaries. His book The Elements of Typographic Style (2nd ed., 1996) is now a standard text in its field. His Black Canoe (2nd ed., 1992) is one of the classics in the field of Native American art history, and The Raven Steals the Light, which he cowrote with Haida artist Bill Reid (reissued in 1996 with a new preface by Claude Lévi-Strauss) is among the most popular books in Canada in the field of Native Studies.

(Source: The Canadian Literature Archive)

See also: Selected Poems by Robert Bringhurst.
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On October 26th, 2017 from 5:00 PM  – 6:30 PM, at the Coach House, Green College, UBC, 6201 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, Robert Bringhurst and his wife, Canadian poet Jan Zwicky, will present THE SHAPE OF THE WORLD: POETRY AND ECOLOGY.  See the EVENTS PAGE for details.

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Woodstock

by Joni Mitchell

WoodstockI came upon a child of God

He was walking along the road

And I asked him where are you going

And this he told me

I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm

I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band

I’m going to camp out on the land

I’m going to try an’ get my soul free
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We are stardust

We are golden

And we’ve got to get ourselves

Back to the garden
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Then can I walk beside you

I have come here to lose the smog

And I feel to be a cog in something turning

Well maybe it is just the time of year

Or maybe it’s the time of man

I don’t know who I am

But you know life is for learning
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We are stardust

We are golden

And we’ve got to get ourselves

Back to the garden
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By the time we got to Woodstock

We were half a million strong

And everywhere there was song and celebration

And I dreamed I saw the bombers

Riding shotgun in the sky

And they were turning into butterflies

Above our nation
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We are stardust

Billion year old carbon

We are golden

Caught in the devil’s bargain

And we’ve got to get ourselves

back to the garden
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Listen to Joni Mitchell sing “Woodstock”
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Camille Paglia describes Joni Mitchell as “a major contemporary poet” and includes her poem “Woodstock” in her remarkable book Break, Blow, Burn, containing essays about what she regards as “forty three of the world’s best poems.”
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A selection of Joni Mitchell’s lyrics will be included in our study of “The Poetry in Popular Music” on October 26. Please bring your own favourite examples and post them first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for submissions to-date.

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From Schubert to Sinatra: why the song cycle speaks to the heart

From Schubert to SinatraIt’s an everyday story of country folk. You’re walking beside a stream when you come across a water mill. It’s a family-run business and the miller’s daughter is a lovely girl. You fall in love with her, and perhaps she does with you. But a huntsman turns up, steals her heart and breaks yours. The End.
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With an update or two – the mill becomes an organic farm perhaps, the huntsman a gamekeeper – it could almost be an Archers plot, but in 1823 the Viennese composer Franz Schubert made it the subject of a set of 20 songs, Die Schöne Müllerin (The Lovely Miller-Girl). Schubert had found the poems the previous year, part of a newly published volume of poetry by his near-contemporary Wilhelm Müller, and he immediately started to compose settings for them; they were published in 1824. Three years later, Schubert wrote a second set of songs to Müller’s poetry, Winterreise (Winter Journey), and with these two works he launched a new genre, the song cycle.

Read the complete article>
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We will be reading and discussing “The Poetry in Popular Music” on October 26. Please bring your own favourite examples and post them first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly.

See the SCHEDULE PAGE for submissions to-date.

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Joni Mitchell’s Openhearted Heroism

She made the best music of her generation by falling in love, over and over, while defending her sense of self.

By Dan Chiasson

Joni Mitchell_s Openhearted HeroismIn 1969, Cary Raditz, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina, quit his job in advertising and headed to Europe to bum around with his girlfriend. They ended up in Matala, on the island of Crete, where they found a bunch of hippies living in a network of caves. Raditz soon decamped for Afghanistan in a VW bus; when he returned, his girlfriend had bailed, but there was word that a new girl was headed to Matala. Raditz didn’t know much about Joni Mitchell, but “there was buzz” among the hippies, and, soon enough, he found himself watching the sunset with one of the most extraordinary people alive. Raditz and Mitchell shared a cave for a couple of months, travelled around Greece together, and parted ways. That’s where you and I come in, because Mitchell wrote two songs, among her greatest works, about her “redneck on a Grecian isle”: “California” and “Carey.” I’ve been singing along to those songs, or trying to, since I was fifteen. I learned from them what you learn from all of Mitchell’s music, that love is a form of reciprocity, at times even a barter economy: “He gave me back my smile / but he kept my camera to sell.” Mitchell’s songs were the final, clinching trade.
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Joni Mitchell’s gift was so enormous that it remade the social space around her. As David Yaffe’s new biography, Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell (Sarah Crichton Books), suggests, it is no small burden to possess something as valuable as Mitchell’s talent, and it meant that this girl from the Canadian prairie would be in the world, whether she liked it or not. All she needed was her lyrics, preternaturally analytic, wry, and shrewd; her chords, largely self-invented, a kind of calligraphy of the moods; and her voice, which modulates from patter to rue to rhapsody in a single phrase. In concert, she sometimes trained her attention on a single listener in the front row, casting the stranger as the vivid “you” of a song who in real life may have been Sam Shepard, James Taylor, or Leonard Cohen. The best pop music is often preening and shamanic. Mitchell’s is almost always about what two articulate adults mean, or once meant, to each other.

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A selection of Joni Mitchell’s lyrics will be included in our study of “The Poetry in Popular Music” on October 26.

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On Rabindranath Tagore, the actual first songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for Literature

By Angad Roy

TagoreA few months ago, my neighbour asked me, ‘Do you have beds in India?’ Last week, a white friend asked me, albeit jokingly and drunk, ‘Did you have some spicy curry for dinner before you came?’ Do these two examples, among many, reveal a symptomatic Western perception of India as defined by its extremities – poverty, spicy food, idolatry of cricket heroes? Is cultural India merely a frenzied collection of colours and Bollywood melodrama? Does there remain a colonial hangover demarcating India as an exotic populace of the enchanting and far-away East? Is this why in October 2016, a Bengali writer as significant to literature as Joyce, Eliot or Proust, was forgotten by the New York Times and the Guardian, when they described Bob Dylan as the ‘first songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for Literature’?
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Rabindranath Tagore is the anti-colonialist in question, reverently coined by his devotees and by my Bengali family as the ‘Bard of Bengal’. He was the first non-European to win the prize in 1913, for his collection of poems in Gitanjali and, as such, he possesses an elevated status in my country. Walking down the bustling streets of Kolkata, you hear his poetry blaring from major traffic intersections and pandals which dot the metro landscape during the festive season. You can see his face and words printed on posters behind street-hawkers selling fake Nike clothes and in most Bengali households, where his portrait sits alongside statues of Ganesha and Shiva in the omnipresent puja room.

Read the complete article
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Read “My song has put off her adornments” from Tagore’s Gitanjali: My song has put off her adornments
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We will be reading and discussing “The Poetry in Popular Music” on October 26. Please bring your own favourite examples and post them first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly.

See the SCHEDULE PAGE for submissions to-date.

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Filed under History, Poem, Reminder, Study

Bill Evans: “Alone”

By Jan Zwicky

Bill Evans AloneSound that makes night fall around it

Like the glow from a reading lamp.
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Rain on the roof, straight down.

The name of your name

Spoken without another’s.
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Rubato is a hand

You thought indifferent

Laid, briefest of moments,

On your sleeve.
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It walks away, then,

That sound, without looking back.

Lights up a Lucky. Says
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We hadn’t the ghost of a chance, says never

Let me go.
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Listen to the complete Bill Evans album, “Alone”
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Please note that we have tentatively scheduled musically inspired “Ekphrastic” poetry for June 28, 2018.
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On October 26th, 2017 from 5:00 PM  – 6:30 PM, at the Coach House, Green College, UBC, 6201 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, Jan Zwicky and her husband, Canadian poet Robert Bringhurst, will present THE SHAPE OF THE WORLD: POETRY AND ECOLOGY.  See the EVENTS PAGE for details.

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Chelsea Morning

by Joni Mitchell

Chelsea-MorningWoke up, it was a Chelsea morning

And the first thing that I heard

Was a song outside my window

And the traffic wrote the words

It came ringing up like Christmas bells

And rapping up like pipes and drums
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Oh, won’t you stay

We’ll put on the day

And we’ll wear it ’till the night comes
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Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning

And the first thing that I saw

Was the sun through yellow curtains

And a rainbow on the wall *

Blue, red, green and gold to welcome you

Crimson crystal beads to beckon
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Oh, won’t you stay

We’ll put on the day

There’s a sun show every second
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Now the curtain opens on a portrait of today

And the streets are paved with passersby

And pigeons fly

And papers lie

Waiting to blow away
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Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning

And the first thing that I knew

There was milk and toast and honey

And a bowl of oranges, too

And the sun poured in like butterscotch

And stuck to all my senses
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Oh, won’t you stay

We’ll put on the day

And we’ll talk in present tenses
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When the curtain closes

And the rainbow runs away

I will bring you incense

Owls by night

By candlelight

By jewel-light

If only you will stay

Pretty baby, won’t you

Wake up, it’s a Chelsea morning
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Listen to Joni Mitchell sing “Chelsea Morning.”
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“Chelsea Morning” is one of the popular song poems we will be reading and discussing on October 26. Please bring your own favourite examples and post them first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for submissions to-date.

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Love Lies Sleeping

by Elizabeth Bishop

elizabeth_bishop-2Earliest morning, switching all the tracks

that cross the sky from cinder star to star,

coupling the ends of streets

to trains of light.
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now draw us into daylight in our beds;

and clear away what presses on the brain:

put out the neon shapes

that float and swell and glare
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down the gray avenue between the eyes

in pinks and yellows, letters and twitching signs.

Hang-over moons, wane, wane!

From the window I see
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an immense city, carefully revealed,

made delicate by over-workmanship,

detail upon detail,

cornice upon facade,
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reaching up so languidly up into

a weak white sky, it seems to waver there.

(Where it has slowly grown

in skies of water-glass
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from fused beads of iron and copper crystals,

the little chemical “garden” in a jar

trembles and stands again,

pale blue, blue-green, and brick.)
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The sparrows hurriedly begin their play.

Then, in the West, “Boom!” and a cloud of smoke.

“Boom!” and the exploding ball

of blossom blooms again.
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(And all the employees who work in a plants

where such a sound says “Danger,” or once said “Death,”

turn in their sleep and feel

the short hairs bristling
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on backs of necks.) The cloud of smoke moves off.

A shirt is taken of a threadlike clothes-line.

Along the street below

the water-wagon comes
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throwing its hissing, snowy fan across

peelings and newspapers. The water dries

light-dry, dark-wet, the pattern

of the cool watermelon.
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I hear the day-springs of the morning strike

from stony walls and halls and iron beds,

scattered or grouped cascades,

alarms for the expected:
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queer cupids of all persons getting up,

whose evening meal they will prepare all day,

you will dine well

on his heart, on his, and his,
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so send them about your business affectionately,

dragging in the streets their unique loves.

Scourge them with roses only,

be light as helium,
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for always to one, or several, morning comes

whose head has fallen over the edge of his bed,

whose face is turned

so that the image of
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the city grows down into his open eyes

inverted and distorted. No. I mean

distorted and revealed,

if he sees it at all.
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Similar to “The Man-Moth,” “Love Lies Sleeping” presents a surreal view of New York through the eyes of a speaker waking to a summer morning. The first eleven stanzas of the poem depict the city in great detail; underneath this observation of the material world, however, there also lies a spirituality or otherworldliness. Bishop wrote in her notebook: “But [the spiritual] proceeds from the material, the material eaten out with acid, pulled down from underneath, made to perform and always kept in order, in its place. Sometimes it cannot be made to indicate its spiritual goal clearly…but even then the spiritual must be felt”(quoted in Kalstone 15), and in this poem as well as “The Man-Moth,” we see another side of New York, at times beautiful, at times surreal, and at times terrifying. As the speaker emerges from sleep, she describes the New York night blending into day. Dreamlike trains in the night sky fade out along with the neon signs and the “hangover moons.” In the morning light, the speaker is intent on describing in detail the emerging city. The “immense city, carefully revealed” becomes personified as it seems to yawn and stretch itself toward the skies. The city becomes even more surreal as Bishop describes, in a parenthetical aside, the city wavering:
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Read the complete analysis: New York Poems: “Love Lies Sleeping”
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A final reminder that we will be reading and discussing Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry on September 28. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for the list of featured poems.
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Please note that for the September 28th session only, we will be meeting in the mezzanine meeting room.

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Imtiaz Dharker reads “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop

Imtiaz Dharker reads One Art by Elizabeth BishopListen to the beautiful voice of the Pakistan-born Scottish poet Imtiaz Dharker read Elizabeth Bishop, Louise MacNeice and Arun Kolatkar.
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For more information on Imtiaz Dharker, visit her website:

www.imtiazdharker.com.
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A reminder that we will be reading and discussing Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry on September 28. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for the list of featured poems.
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Please note that for the September 28th session only, we will be meeting in the mezzanine meeting room.

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A tale of two poets, Thom Gunn and Elizabeth Bishop

A tale of two poets, Thom Gunn and Elizabeth BishopAfter a rocky first meeting, the two became friends. Colm Toíbín traces the similarities in their outlook and describes how, by virtue of their poems, they both moved from self-effacement into the light

In the month or so after Thom Gunn died in April 2004, I formed the habit at the end of the day’s work of taking down his Collected Poems and reading a poem. One night I noticed a small book beside the Collected Poems called Thom Gunn in Conversation with James Campbell. On page 19, I came on the following passage which made me sit up for a moment. When Campbell said: “Your new book, Boss Cupid, contains some new poems about your mother. Is this the first time you’ve written about her?” Gunn replied: “The second poem about my mother is called ‘The Gas Poker’. She killed herself, and my brother and I found the body, which was not her fault because she’d barred the doors, as you’ll see in the poem. Obviously this was quite a traumatic experience; it would be in anyone’s life. I wasn’t able to write about it till just a few years ago.”
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I looked at those words again: “Obviously this was quite a traumatic experience; it would be in anyone’s life.” And then I burrowed among some books and found a quote from a letter which the American poet, Elizabeth Bishop, wrote to Anne Stevenson in 1964: “Although I think I have a prize ‘unhappy childhood’, almost good enough for the text-books – please don’t think I dote on it.” In that letter, Bishop wrote about her mother’s mental illness which began after Bishop’s father’s early death. “One always thinks that things might be better now, she might have been cured, etc … Well – there we are. Times have changed.”
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“Well, there we are.” I put the words beside Gunn’s: “Obviously this was quite a traumatic experience.” And I began to think about the connections between these two poets.

Read the complete article
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A reminder that we will be reading and discussing Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry on September 28. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for the list of featured poems.
.
Please note that for the September 28th session only, we will be meeting in the mezzanine meeting room.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reminder, Study