Category Archives: Video

DRIVING THE BEAT ROAD

Story by Jeff Weiss
Video by Erin Patrick O’Connor

DRIVING THE BEAT ROADIf they’re starving, the best minds of this generation can order $19.50 lobster rolls at the former site of the Six Gallery in San Francisco. Today, it houses Tacko, where customers can pacify themselves by listening to Phil Collins or gazing at a wall map of Nantucket. Old framed copies of Yachting Magazine hang from the new walls.
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Slightly more than 60 years ago, the debut public reading of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” consecrated this Marina District landmark. Now, you’ll find a bronze commemorative in front of the nautical-themed restaurant that serves New England-meets-“Mexican-street-style” fusion to baying tech bros and yoga mom Yelpers.
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In previous incarnations, it was an auto-body shop, then an art gallery where anywhere from 25 to 150 people (the numbers fluctuate in every retelling) gathered on the night of Oct. 7, 1955, to hear poems read by Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Philip Lamantia and Allen Ginsberg.

Read the complete article

 

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10 SONGS FOR SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT

The Very Best In 14th-Century Holiday Morality Tales

Emily Temple

GawainHere’s my thing: I love Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This is deeply nerdy, I know. But I am in charge of this column and I’m calling the shots. In case you don’t know, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a 14th-century Arthurian tale written by an unknown author often described as the “Pearl Poet” (because he or she also seems to have written Pearl). It begins on New Year’s Day in Camelot. King Arthur and all his buddies are hanging out at the round table, when an enormous knight, who is also completely green, rides his horse into the festival hall. The horse, by the way, is also green. He says he wants to play a game: anyone who wants to can strike him a single blow with his fancy axe—and then in one year and one day, the Green Knight will return the same blow. The axe will be the prize. Some game. Sir Gawain, the youngest knight, accepts the challenge, and realizing that his blow better be a final one, he beheads the Green Knight, right there in the hall, with a single stroke. “Super,” says the Green Knight (I am editorializing), and he stands up and picks up his head. “See you in a year,” he says as he rides off into the forest.
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Right. So when the time comes, Sir Gawain heads off into the forest to find the Green Knight and fulfill his end of the bargain: getting beheaded! He comes to a castle occupied by Lord Bertilak and his very attractive wife. It is nearby the Green Knight’s abode, and they invite him to stay until the day he must meet him. In the morning, Bertilak goes off to hunt, and suggests something relatively bizarre: that he will give Gawain whatever he kills that day if Gawain gives him whatever he himself gets while Bertilak is away. Knights are pretty much always making nonsense deals, as it turns out. While Bertilak is off hunting, his wife comes in and tries to seduce Gawain. He resists, but she kisses him a single time. When her husband comes home, he gives Gawain the deer (the “hart”) he has killed, and Gawain gives him the kiss. The next day, it’s the same: a boar for two kisses. On the third day, the day before Gawain must face the Green Knight, the Lady Bertilak offers him not just a kiss but her magical girdle, which she says is enchanted to protect the wearer from all harm. Facing down his certain death, Gawain can not refuse. She also gives him three kisses. When Bertilak comes home, Gawain dutifully gives him the kisses, but keeps the girdle for himself.
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Read the complete article
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Watch the BBC documentary of poet Simon Armitage on the trail of one of the jewels in the crown of British poetry, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written about 600 years ago by an unknown author.
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Read also: The knight’s tale

 

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W.H. AUDEN WROTE POETRY FOR A BEAUTIFUL SHORT FILM ABOUT RUNNING

Runner Is A Classic, Unsung Piece Of Mid-century Filmmaking

By Nick Ripatrazone

auden-runningIn 1962, Canada’s National Film Board commissioned a first-time director to make an 11-minute, black-and-white movie about a 19-year-old distance runner who would later become an Olympian, and have legendary poet W.H. Auden—not Canadian, and not a runner—write a poem as narration. Runner has receded into the archives of film history, and that’s a shame. This is why you should care about this strange little film.
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Runner is the story of Bruce Kidd, a Toronto racer training for the Commonwealth games. I’ve never been one for inspirational videos, but I was hooked on Kidd’s story. Here was a teenager with an unorthodox running style: arms low, scooping the air in a movement newspapers called “dog-paddling.” But Runner is no average runner biopic: with a jumpy jazz soundtrack complemented by Auden’s poetic meditations on the beauty of running, the film is a reminder that running is natural, sleek, and in a word, cool.
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The film begins with a side shot of Kidd running along a pier. His metronomic strides on the boards cut through the other sounds: soft waves against the shore, tweeting birds, and the calm narration. Auden’s lyric script was read by Don Francks, a Canadian musician and actor who starred in shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
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Read the complete article, watch the video and listen to the Auden poem.

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The Roman de la Rose

The Romance of the RoseThe Roman de la Rose is the work of two authors. Begun by Guillaume de Lorris around 1230 and continued by Jean de Meun approximately forty years later, the Rose is probably the most influential work written in the Old French vernacular. In the centuries following its composition, major poets like Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Froissart, Eustache Deschamps, and Francois Villon continued to write in a tradition dominated by the work which, in some manuscripts, extends to 21,750 lines. In the early 15th century, the Rose was still capable of sparking heated literary debate in France. Other national literatures felt the effect of the Rose as well. The English poets John Gower and Geoffrey Chaucer and the Italian poets Dante and Petrarch were astute readers of the work.
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The Roman de la Rose is an allegorical love poem which takes the form of a dream vision. The 25-year-old narrator recounts a dream he had approximately five years previously, which has since come to pass. In his dream he journeyed to a walled garden in which he viewed rosebushes in the Fountain of Narcissus. When he went to select his own special blossom, the God of Love shot him with several arrows, leaving him forever enamored of one particular flower. His efforts to obtain the Rose met with little success. A stolen kiss alerted the guardians of the Rose, who then enclosed it behind still stronger fortifications. At the point where Guillaume de Lorris’ poem breaks off, the protagonist, confronted with this new obstacle to the realization of his love, is left lamenting his fate. Jean de Meun concludes the narrative with a bawdy account of the plucking of the Rose, achieved through deception, which is very unlike Guillaume’s idealized conception of the love quest.
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Read the complete History and Summary of the Text  of The Roman de la Rose  by Lori J. Walters
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Read the full text of The Roman de la Rose (in English).
Download PDF version: the_romance_of_the_rose_illuminated__manuscripts

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Watch Helena Phillips-Robins (Cambridge University Library) discuss  the history of The Roman de la Rose.
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A reminder that we will celebrate the use of the rose as a poetic symbol or metaphor on January 25, 2018. Please bring your own illustration of this for reading and discussion and, if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly.

 

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To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

By Robert Herrick

To the VirginsGather ye rose-buds while ye may,

Old Time is still a-flying;

And this same flower that smiles today

Tomorrow will be dying.
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The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,

The higher he’s a-getting,

The sooner will his race be run,

And nearer he’s to setting.
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That age is best which is the first,

When youth and blood are warmer;

But being spent, the worse, and worst

Times still succeed the former.
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Then be not coy, but use your time,

And while ye may, go marry;

For having lost but once your prime,

You may forever tarry.
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Watch the “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may” (Carpe Diem) segment from the movie “Dead Poets Society” with Robin Williams.

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A reminder that we will celebrate the use of the rose as a poetic symbol or metaphor on January 25, 2018. Please bring your own illustration of this for reading and discussion and, if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly.

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Celebration of the World: ‘Let Us Watch: Richard Wilbur’

By William H. Pritchard

Celebration of the WorldThe poet Richard Wilbur is ninety-six, old enough that his poet-contemporaries—Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, James Merrill, Anthony Hecht—have been gone for decades. Wilbur’s most recent and probably final book of poems, Anterooms, appeared in 2007,  an attractive completion to the Collected Poems published three years earlier. Altogether his career has yielded ten individual books of poems, five books of illustrated poems for children and adults, fifteen translations of classical French drama, and two collections of literary essays—an achievement to be wondered at. Now comes a biography by Robert Bagg and Mary Bagg, the former a poet and translator of distinction, the latter a freelance editor. Their book suits Wilbur’s kind of career: a “biographical study” in which chapters focusing on the life alternate with ones devoted to some of his best poems and translation. A critical intelligence has been applied both to the man and to the reason we are interested in the man.
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The early chapters take us through Wilbur’s boyhood in New Jersey, where he lived with his parents and brother on a sort of estate presided over by a patron of the arts who had befriended Wilbur’s father, a graphic artist celebrated in one of the son’s best early poems, “My Father Paints the Summer.” In secondary school and at Amherst College, the young Wilbur was an outspoken, even radical student journalist, opposing America’s entry into World War II. At Amherst he joined a fraternity, where he was later informed by one of the “brothers” that his selection had been made in the hope that the fraternity’s grade point average would benefit. Undoubtedly his most significant action at college was to fall in love with a girl from Smith, Charlotte Ward  (“Charlee”); they married after Wilbur’s graduation in 1942, just prior to his entering the Army to engage in the war he had opposed. Originally he joined the Signal Corps, but was expelled for “subversive” activities like subscribing to the Daily Worker and having a copy of Das Kapital in his footlocker. In a subsequent interview for an assignment as a cryptographer, the interviewing officer warned that “if we catch you overthrowing our government, out you go.”

Read the complete article
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Listen to Richard Wilbur read “Lilacs,” “Seed Leaves” (twice), “Praise in Summer,” “The Puritans,” “Museum Piece” and other poems.

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Love Story That Was a Challenge to Tell: ‘Reaching for the Moon,’ a Film About Elizabeth Bishop

By LARRY ROHTER

A Poet_s Tempestuous Romance in BrazilIt’s not unusual, especially these days, for a film to have a lengthy gestation period. But “Reaching for the Moon,” a new drama about the tempestuous love affair between the American poet Elizabeth Bishop and the Brazilian landscape architect Carlota de Macedo Soares, has, by any standard, been an exceptionally long time in the making.
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Though the movie opened Friday [Nov. 8, 2013], its origins date to 1959, when the Brazilian film producer Lucy Barreto was invited to a luncheon at Samambaia, the mountain estate near Rio de Janeiro where Bishop and Macedo Soares lived. Prominent Brazilian poets and politicians were among the guests, and the house itself was decorated with paintings and sculpture by renowned artists, but it was the hostesses who left her with her most vivid memory.
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“What impressed me was the intimacy and complicity between the two of them,” Ms. Barreto recalled recently. “At times, one would be on one side of the room and the second on the other side, in different conversations. But one would look at the other with a half-smile, and you could see they were in constant communication. It was something very special, and I never forgot it.”

Read the complete review
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We will be reading and discussing Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry on September 28. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for the list of featured poems thus far.
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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 Poet’s Tempestuous Romance in Brazil: ‘Reaching for the Moon,’about Elizabeth Bishop

By NICOLAS RAPOLD

A Poet_s Tempestuous Romance in BrazilInspired by the 1995 Brazilian best seller “Rare and Commonplace Flowers,” Bruno Barreto’s “Reaching for the Moon” likewise imagines Elizabeth Bishop’s extraordinary relationship with the Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares. It’s an abridgment of a composite, which leads to the biographical equivalent of plot-point summary. But Mr. Barreto and his lead actresses do stage a battle of creative and romantic egos, as Bishop (Miranda Otto) and Lota (Glória Pires) push up against the bounds of what the heart can take.
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Bishop’s 1951 visit to Rio de Janeiro, which turned into a 15-year stay, readily blooms into melodrama. Bishop, a New England native, stays at Lota’s spectacular country estate and becomes part of Lota’s customarily outsize plans. Deeply attracted, Bishop enters into a volatile domestic arrangement with the safely ruling-class Lota and her long-suffering lover, the American exile Mary Morse (Tracy Middendorf). In Mr. Barreto’s vintage-dress paradise, which also celebrates an era of promise in Brazil’s history, Bishop writes, loves and sometimes drinks herself senseless.
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Read the complete review
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We will be reading and discussing Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry on September 28. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for the list of featured poems thus far.
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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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We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute

We don't read and write poetry because it's cuteWe don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

Tom Schulman – Dead Poet’s Society.

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Rowan Atkinson & Hugh Laurie – Shakespeare and Hamlet

Rowan Atkinson & Hugh Laurie - Shakespeare and HamletRowan Atkinson & Hugh Laurie – Shakespeare and Hamlet
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A reminder that on April 27 we will be reading and discussing poetry and other literature about, or inspired by, Shakespeare, his works and characters. Please bring your own selection of this genre for discussion and, if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections posted to-date.

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