Category Archives: Video

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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Monty Python – Hamlet

Monty Python does Hamlet
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Monty-Python-does-HamletA 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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Anne Sexton’s lost tapes

By Kelsey Osgood

Anne_SextonIn early March 1966, poet and public-television presidium Richard O. Moore traveled to the buttoned-up Boston suburb of Weston, Massachusetts, to interview the poet Anne Sexton at the home she shared with her husband, Kayo, and young daughters Linda and Joy. The interview was to be a cinéma vérité–type glimpse into the life of the increasingly famous poète maudite, who just a year later would be awarded the Pulitzer for her second collection, Live or Die. Sexton’s star had been on the rise since the 1960 publication of her first book, To Bedlam and Partway Back, which focused on her psychiatric hospitalization and subsequent return to a degree of normalcy (hence “partway”). Throughout the interview, later aired on San Francisco television station KQED, Sexton presents her home life to the viewer: she reads her work, comforts her daughter, cajoles her camera-shy husband to join her on film, and contemplates death. At one point, she puts on a Chopin record, Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Opus 23. Sexton melts at the opening notes; her demeanor, hitherto coquettish, becomes euphoric. She closes her eyes, arches her neck, and bites her lip as if she’s seducing someone or being seduced. The camera travels down her long, pale arm, which swings just slightly to the beat.
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“I’ll tell you what poem I wrote to this,” she says to Moore, smirking. “‘Your Face on the Dog’s Neck.’ Makes no sense, does it? A love poem.” As the music crescendos, the frenetic camera homes in on Sexton’s eyes, which she closes as she exclaims, “Oh, it’s beautiful!” Her joy is overwhelming and carnal and more than a little disturbing. “It’s better than a poem!” she says. “Music beats us.”

Read the complete article
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We will be reading and discussing the poetry of Anne Sexton on July 27.

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