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Who doesn’t love Billy Collins, the former US Poet Laureate? The actor Bill Murray reads his poetry at construction sites. Adorable toddlers recite his poetry from memory. And now artists have created animated videos that bring 11 Collins poems to life.
Not long after taking office, President Obama hosted the first White House poetry jam – an evening dedicated to the spoken word and bringing verses to life. Esperanza Spalding’s performance was a high point. And later came James Earl Jones, arguably the best special effect in Star Wars, who recited lines from Shakespeare instead of Dr.
70 years ago today, F. Scott Fitzgerald died an untimely death, his life cut short by alcoholism, tuberculosis, and eventually a series of heart attacks. He was only 44 years old. Today, we remember Fitzgerald with some vintage audio – the author of The Great Gatsby reciting John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” from memory.
It’s the life of the great French poet, Arthur Rimbaud, in a 10 minute slideshow. The video traces the arc of Rimbaud’s short life (1854–1891), stitching together images from 19th century France, photos taken by Rimbaud himself, and manuscripts scribbled by the poet.
Three year olds can wreak havoc on a home, and the precocious ones can recite poetry too. Here we have a toddler reciting Billy Collins’ poem “Litany” (find text here) and also some lines from Lord Alfred Tennyson (while dressed as Superman, of course).
As he neared the end of his life, Jorge Luis Borges (1899 – 1986) offered his thoughts on the “task of art,” essentially distilling 80+ years of wisdom into a few pithy lines.
The poem is “If” by Rudyard Kipling (1899). The scene is The Johnny Cash Show, 1970.
Next up: Tom Waits reads Charles Bukowski’s poem, The Laughing Heart. As Zoran (a reader from Greece) observes, Waits reads the poem much like Bukowski would have read it himself.
William Carlos Williams – doctor by day, poet by night, and certainly one of America’s finest. In this 1954 audio clip, we hear Williams reading his own poetry at the storied 92nd Street Y in New York City.
Another great New York City moment. Last spring, construction workers building the new home for Poets House were treated to a short poetry reading by the actor Bill Murray. We initially encounter Murray reading lines from Billy Collins’ Another Reason I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House.
Writing in The Guardian, Victor Keegan, a longtime journalist and poet, talks about his new iPhone app, City Poems. The newly released app will run you $2.99 on iTunes, which makes it less than open, I know.
T.S. Eliot reads from The Wasteland, one of the great poems of the last century. It begins famously:
What’s My Line? aired on CBS from 1950 to 1967, making it the longest-running game show in American television history. During its eighteen seasons, the show featured hundreds of celebrities, including some of America’s leading cultural figures.
Get the text here.
T.S. Eliot’s 1922 poem, The Waste Land, is often considered one of the great poems of the 20th century. Above, you can listen to Eliot himself reading his modernist masterpiece (text here). And, if you want more, how about Eliot reading The Love Song of J.
This little collection gives you access to Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), one of America’s great poets, reading his own poetry. Among the poems, you will hear “The Idea of Order at Key West,” “The Poem that Took the Place of a Mountain,” “Vacancy in the Park,” and “To an Old Philosopher in Rome.
It’s a happy trend. Increasingly, we’re seeing museums launching dynamic online exhibitions to accompany their exhibitions on the ground. In the past, we highlighted the Tate Modern’s panoramic tour of Mark Rothko’s work.
The poem was W.H. Auden’s. The date marked the moment when Germany invaded Poland, initiating the start of World War II. “September 1, 1939″ was originally published in The New Republic on October 18, 1939. You can find the text of the poem here.
An FYI for art and poetry lovers: “Each month, TATE ETC. publishes new poetry by leading poets such as John Burnside, Moniza Alvi, Adam Thorpe, Alice Oswald and David Harsent who respond to works from the Tate Collection. (Subscribe to the Poem of the Month RSS feed.
Elizabeth Alexander recited one of her own poems at Obama’s inauguration last week and now talks poetry (both highbrow and lowbrow) with Stephen Colbert. All in all, she does a pretty good job of hanging in there.
Apparently, this is “an authentic wax cylinder recording of Whitman reading from his late poem ‘America’ that appeared in 1888 …”
In my book Cate Blanchett can do no wrong, but her performance in the Lord of the Rings movies was particularly spellbinding, especially when she spoke the Elvish language of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy universe.
Charles Bukowski, “Hank” to his friends, was once called the “best poet in America” by kindred spirit Jean Genet. He was a writer who told the truth, when he wasn’t lying, and who could tell a great story, whether sober or drunk.
Until now, we’ve only had one authenticated photo of the nineteenth century poet, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). The photo (above), taken when she was only 16 years old, shows Dickinson as a youngster in high school circa 1847, well before her literary career came into full bloom. That has been the only visual trace of her to date.
There you have it: the business card of William Carlos Williams. Yes, that William Carlos Williams. Imagist poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, critic, writer of short stories — and New Jersey pediatrician.
When Dylan Thomas was a little boy his father would read Shakespeare to him at bedtime. The boy loved the sound of the words, even if he was too young to understand the meaning. His father, David John Thomas, taught English at a grammar school in southern Wales but wanted to be a poet. He was bitterly disappointed with his station in life.
Even those of us who have never read The Importance of Being Earnest, The Picture of Dorian Gray, or anything else Oscar Wilde wrote can still recite a thing or two he said.
“Hold back the edges of your gowns, Ladies, we are going through hell.” With those words, William Carlos Williams gives fair warning to anyone bold enough to read Allen Ginsberg’s harrowing poem from the dark underbelly of America, “Howl.
On June 11th, Poets House hosted The 17th Annual Poetry Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge. The event features “readings of the poetry of Walt Whitman, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes and other greats,” all in order to raise funds for the New York City non-profit dedicated to cultivating a wider audience for poetry.
Above you can watch a rare 1975 meeting, of sorts, of three hugely influential twentieth-century cultural minds: Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, and — in spirit, anyway — Jack Kerouac, who died ten years before.
Neglected to mark the occasion of poet and novelist Charles Bukowski‘s birthday yesterday? Then observe it today with a viewing of the documentary Bukowski: Born Into This (available for purchase here).
Recently we brought you the story of the Alexander Hamilton-Aaron Burr duel, as told in a drunken stupor by Mark Gagliardi and starring Zombieland’s Michael Cera as Hamilton. Now we have another unusual narrator of the life of America’s first Treasury Secretary.
Did you know T.S.
“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,” begins Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare.
On September 3, 1968, William F. Buckley invited poet Allen Ginsberg onto his TV program, “Firing Line.” It was an odd encounter. “We’re here to talk about the avant-garde,” Buckley says grandiloquently. “I should like to begin by asking Mr.
In 1995 Johnny Depp made a cameo appearance on an improbable TV mini-series called The United States of Poetry.
By the late 1930s the second phase of Vladimir Nabokov’s life–his period of European exile from Russia–was coming to an end. Nabokov had, over the previous two decades, built up a reputation within the Russian émigré community as a gifted writer of poetry and prose.
The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats was born on this day in 1865. To mark the date we bring you a series of recordings he made for BBC radio in the final decade of his life.
Before Banned Books Week comes to a close, we bring you Allen Ginsberg’s 1955 poem, Howl. The controversial poem became his best known work, and it now occupies a central place in the Beat literary canon, standing right alongside Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch.
Pico Iyer once called Charles Bukowski the “laureate of American lowlife,” and that’s because he wrote poems for and about ordinary Americans — people who experienced poverty, the tedium and grind of work, and sometimes frayed relationships, bouts of alcoholism, drug addiction and the rest.
Studs Terkel would have turned 100 years old today.
Like most literary geeks, I’ve read a lot of Jorge Luis Borges. If you haven’t, look into the influences of your favorite writers, and you may find the Argentine short-story craftsman appearing with Beatles-like frequency.
Above, you’ll find a short trailer for The Broken Tower, a film about Hart Crane: candy-fortune scion, hard-drinking sexual adventurer, narrowly appreciated poet, and suicide victim at 32.
Allen Ginsberg was an unlikely MTV star. In late 1996 the Beat poet was 70 years old and in declining health. He had less than a year to live. But Ginsberg managed to stay culturally and politically relevant, right up to the end.
Today is the birthday of Robert Frost, who once said that a poem cannot be worried into being, but rather, “Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting.” Those words are from Frost’s 1939 essay, “The Figure a Poem Makes,” which includes the famous passage:
The figure a poem makes.
The first time I saw Billy Collins speak, he appeared at my college convocation, toward the end of his years as United States Poet Laureate.
Eons ago, we brought you Tom Waits reading Charles Bukowski’s poem “The Laughing Heart” in his ever so distinctive gravelly voice. Today, we’re heading to the other end of the rock audio spectrum.
Imagine a high school class on the Great Works of Western Civilization, circa 2400. The teacher shows the students a selection of films by Quentin Tarantino, that exalted late-20th- and early-21st-century dramatist who worked in the medium then known as film.
Literary critic Harold Bloom once called Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) “the best and most representative American poet of our time.
Perhaps you know the backstory; perhaps you don’t. This week, socialite and reality “star” Kim Kardashian announced that her 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries will end in divorce.
Several weeks back, we featured Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen, the 1965 film that documented the life and times of the young poet who hadn’t yet started his legendary songwriting career. Now comes a little postscript. Speaking last Friday at the Prince of Asturias Awards, Mr.
Look what the vintage video gods have delivered today. Filmed in 1965, the black and white documentary Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen introduces viewers to a young Leonard Cohen. Then only 30 years old (and looking a little like Dustin Hoffman), Cohen had already established himself as a poet and novelist.
If you liked Friday’s post, Jimmy Page Tells the Story of Kashmir, then you’ll have a little fun with this. A shorter version with subtitles appears here.
Leonard Cohen, the legendary singer, songwriter and poet, was born in Montreal, Canada, on this day in 1934. In the Book of Longing, Cohen imagines the scene:
I was born in chains but I was taken out of them. It was windy. Dried leaves crashed against the walls of the homeopathic hospital. I was alive. I was alive in the horror.
Arthur Rimbaud, once described by Victor Hugo as ‘an infant Shakespeare,’ burst onto the Parisan literary scene in 1870, shortly before he was 16. By the time 1874 rolled around, Rimbaud had broken the conventions of poetry and fashioned a new, modern poetic language.
Around here we subscribe to the theory that there’s no such thing as too much Orson Welles. A few weeks ago, we gave you Welles narrating Plato’s Cave Allegory, and before that the short animated parable/film Freedom River, and the list goes on.
What do you get for the father who has everything? How about a healthy dose of canonical resentment, in the form of Sylvia Plath’s most famous poem, read by Plath herself, from our list of Cultural Icons?
Or, if you’d prefer something that says “I love you” with a little less rancor, you might want to go with a video that
The University of Pennsylvania hosts an extensive and pretty remarkable audio collection of modern and contemporary poetry, with a generous helping of prose writers thrown in. Directed by Al Filreis and Charles Bernstein (whose U.
Gil Scott-Heron, sometimes called the “Godfather of Rap,” passed away in New York today. He was 62 years old.
Scott-Heron started setting poetry to rhythmic jazz during the late 60s and and gained fame when he recorded The Revolution Will Not Be Televised in 1971.
The great actor Sir Anthony Hopkins is well versed in the work of fellow Welshman Dylan Thomas — so much so he even directed the critically lauded film Dylan Thomas: The Return Journey in 2006. Here, he is reading one of Thomas’ best-known poems, “Do not go gentle into that good night.
A few years ago, the geniuses over at Four Seasons Productions began shooting evocative short films set to classic poetry. 21 finished pieces, a long list of festival prizes and a full DVD later, many of their best “poem videos” are now available to watch for free on their YouTube channel.
Dylan Thomas’s drinking was legendary. Stories of the debauched and disheveled Welsh poet’s epic drinking binges have had a tendency to drown out serious discussion of his poetry.
It’s a legend that Thomas helped promote, as this pencil sketch he made of himself attests.
In the final months of his short life, Bruce Lee wrote a personal essay, “In My Own Process” where he said, “Basically, I have always been a martial artist by choice and actor by profession. But, above all, I am hoping to actualize myself to be an artist of life along the way.
Mother’s Day is tomorrow, and you haven’t gotten Mom a present yet. No worries, head over to poetryfoundation.org, where you can find a selection of Mother’s Day poems – or search for your own. You can even follow the directions here to join the Record-a-Poem group on Soundcloud and then share your poem with Mom.
Much of what we once used the telephone for, we now use the internet for. Conversely, some tasks to which the internet now seems perfectly suited were once performed, imperfectly, through the phone. Take the case of hearing poetry read aloud.
“Having others’ poems in our minds and hearts means we’re never really alone.”
—Karen Kovacik, Indiana State Poet Laureate
Youssef Biaz, reciting here, was 16 years old when he was named Poetry Out Loud National Champion. Biaz won a $20,000 award and $500 worth of poetry books for his high school in Auburn, Alabama.
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
These three terse lines—with their offhandedly morbid bravado—may be the most remembered from Sylvia Plath’s body of work. The stanza pops out of the center of Plath’s “Lady Lazarus,” a poem Helen Vendler once called “a tantrum of style.
In 2001 or 2002, guitarist and singer David Gilmour of Pink Floyd recorded a musical interpretation of William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18″ at his home studio aboard the historic, 90-foot houseboat the Astoria.
Like so many denizens of the New York that produced Warhol and The Velvet Underground, then gritty punk rock, hip-hop, and no wave, poet Jim Carroll didn’t fare so well into Bloomberg-era NYC, a developer’s paradise and destination for urban professionals and tourists, but not so much a haven for struggling artists.
Samuel Beckett was notoriously shy around recording devices. He would spend hours in a studio working with actors, but when it came to recording a piece in his own voice he was elusive. Only a handful of recordings are known to exist. So the audio above of Beckett reading a pair of his poems is extremely rare.
For almost a century, writers and other creative people have found inspiration and a profound sense of validation in the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s posthumously published Letters to a Young Poet.
Here’s a great reading by E.E. Cummings of his famous and widely anthologized poem, “anyone lived in a pretty how town.” The poem has a bittersweet quality, dealing with the loneliness of the individual amid the crushing conformity of society, but in a playful way, like a nursery rhyme with delightfully shuffled syntax.
Here’s a quick video that serves as an addendum to last week’s post, “Don’t Try”: Charles Bukowski’s Concise Philosophy of Art and Life.
From 18bis, a Brazilian design & motion graphics studio, comes this: a free interpretation of “The Me Bird,” a poem by the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. Writes 18bis, “The inspiration in the strata stencil technique helps conceptualize the repetition of layers as the past of our movements and actions.
It should surprise few to learn that Abraham Lincoln wrote poetry. But this fact about his life is dwarfed by those events that defined his political legacy, and this is also no surprise. Nevertheless, in the midst of the current Lincoln revival, the man and the statesman, I think it’s fitting to attend to Abraham Lincoln the poet.
eBay prices for the album Gertrude Stein Reads Her Own Work range from $20 to $200. Vinyl purists, and Stein purists, may long for one of the still-sealed copies at the upper end of that range. The rest of us can enjoy hearing its recordings as mp3s, free on the internet courtesy of PennSound.
In the early morning hours of Monday, February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath brought food and drink into the bedroom of her two sleeping young children. She opened a window in their room and attached a note with her doctor’s name and phone number to a baby carriage in the hallway.
Many a writer has said they write to save their lives. And many a writer has died by suicide. In few cases has the connection been so direct as in that of the poet Anne Sexton.
Today we bring you one of the best-loved poems of W.H. Auden, “As I Walked Out One Evening,” read (below) by the poet himself. Auden wrote the poem in 1937 and first published it in his 1940 volume, Another Time. The poem is a variant of the ballad form, made up of 15 rhymed quatrains.
In the video above, poet, artist, National Book Award winner, and “godmother of punk” Patti Smith reads a selection from Virginia Woolf’s 1931 experimental novel The Waves, accompanied on piano and guitar by her daughter Jesse and son Jackson.
Note: Audio takes about 8 seconds to play…
Many Moons Ago, a poetry teacher of mine introduced me to the term “terminal aesthetic,” meaning a style that could go no further, having burned up all of its resources. It’s a great way to characterize the poet Hart Crane’s ambivalent appraisal of his literary forefather, T.S. Eliot.
The reading from Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration ceremony today follows a tradition that began 52 years ago, when John F. Kennedy invited his fellow New Englander Robert Frost to read at his inaugural.
Frost was an early supporter of Kennedy.
Some twenty-five years ago, my acting class spent an entire semester on the plays of Anton Chekhov. At the time, it felt very vital, but like so much else I studied in college, what I wound up retaining is sadly piecemeal.
The First World War (1914-1918) changed Britain to a degree that was unthinkable in 1914. Pre-war certainties and values such as honor, fatherland and progress disintegrated on the battlefields and trenches in France and Belgium.
Yesterday we featured Piotr Dumala’s 2000 animation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic novel, Crime and Punishment, and it reminded us of many other literary works that have been wonderfully re-imagined by animators — many that we’ve featured here over the years.
Today is the birthday of Emily Dickinson, an extraordinarily shy woman who rarely left her house but whose poems have gone out to meet the world.
Dickinson’s poetry is widely celebrated for its beauty and originality.
I’ve ridden a lot of busses–back and forth from city to city, taking the cheapest tickets, which meant traveling overnight, and eating cheap and greasy food at hurried stops along the way. I remember thinking sometimes that I might never come back, that I might lose myself in some small southern town and disappear.
When the actor Richard Burton died in 1984 he was buried, as he requested, with a copy of The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas.
Burton was a great friend and admirer of Thomas, who shared his Welsh heritage and rakish demeanor. The two men also shared a love of literature. “I was corrupted by Faust,” Burton once said.
Here’s a collision of cultural figures you don’t see every day: Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom director Pier Paolo Pasolini sitting down with modernist poet Ezra Pound.
Beware the Jubjub bird…
Beware post-70s theatrical experimentation…
Beware a children’s classic – Alice in Wonderland, in a modern musical update …
Beware a grown woman cast as a little girl…
On the other hand, what if we’re talking about Meryl Streep? Specifically the Deer Hunter / Kramer vs.
Sylvia Plath would have turned 81 years old today. It’s a strange thing to imagine. Plath’s reputation as a poet is so sadly bound up with her death by suicide at the age of 30, and so many of the lines in her later poetry sound like suicide notes, that it seems impossible to picture her making it to old age.
Definitely worth a quick heads up: The folks who run PennSound, the poetry audio archive at the University of Pennsylvania, have been streaming a marathon of Allen Ginsberg’s poetry classes, all recorded at the Naropa Institute during the 1970s and 1980s.
In this rare recording from 1939, Ezra Pound gives a passionate reading of his early work about a warmongering 12th century troubadour, a poem called “Sestina: Altaforte.”
The poem was written in early 1909, when Pound was an ambitious 23-year-old American living in London.
Sure, you could experience the Beat sensibility on film by watching The Beat Generation.
This video combines three things that make me happy: the voice of Sean Connery, the music of Vangelis (Blade Runner, Chariots of Fire), and the poetry of C.P. Cavafy. Put them all together and you get a blissful soundscape of rolling synth lines, rolling Scottish R’s, and a succession of Homeric images and anaphoric lines.
Today marks the release of the final volume in the Allen Ginsberg box set Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems & Songs 1949-1993, a collection of previously released and unreleased recordings.
Although her own works are seldom read, Gertrude Stein cast an imposing shadow over the evolution of 20th century literature. Like other high modernists, she broke from tradition to experiment with new forms, but whereas her rival James Joyce’s writing became more dense and complex over time, Stein’s became abstract and simple.
In my book Cate Blanchett can do no wrong, but her performance in the Lord of the Rings movies was particularly spellbinding, especially when she spoke the Elvish language of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy universe.
Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot: they’ve got to rank as one of the twentieth century’s most surprising pair of pen pals. More intriguingly still, they first got in touch — as luminaries seem to do — out of the spirit of mutual admiration.
Some readers discover David Foster Wallace through his fiction, and others discover him through his essays. (Find 30 Free Stories & Essays by DFW here.
Ezra Pound was a key figure in 20th century poetry. Not only did he demonstrate impressive poetic skill in his Cantos; he also proved to be a crucial early supporter of several famous contemporaries, championing the likes of Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and H.D..
Allen Ginsberg died on April 5, 1997. Less than a week before, after the long terminally ill poet had made parting phone calls to nearly everyone in his address book, he wrote the poem above, “Things I’ll Not Do (Nostalgias).
(The clip above is part of the complete recording found here.)
In 1914, T.S. Eliot moved from his birth country, the United States, to England at the age of 25 and soon thereafter established himself as one of the most influential poets of this generation, writing some of the best known poems of the 20th century including The Love Song of J.
It’s not unusual for introspective indie songwriters to make forays into poetry. Some do it rather successfully, like Silver Jews’ Dave Berman; some, like Will Oldham, stir up the poetry world by turning against poetry.
My wife jokes that I’m pretentious for my love of what she calls “tiny awards” on the covers of movies—little laurel leaf-bound seals of freshness from the art film festival circuit. It’s true, I nearly always bite when unknown films come to me preapproved.
I was lucky enough to be living in Chicago when Marc Smith’s Poetry Slam movement became a thing. What fun it was to hit the Green Mill on Sunday nights to hear such innovators as Lisa Buscani or Patricia Smith tearing into their latest entries in front of packed-to-capacity crowds.
When I saw William Blake’s illustrations for the book of Job and for John Milton’s L’Allegro and Il Penseroso at the Morgan Library a few years ago, I was first struck by how small the intricate watercolors are. This should not have been surprising—these are book illustrations, after all.
A quick fyi: The New Yorker has just launched a new poetry podcast, and it’s introduced and hosted by Paul Muldoon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who formerly taught poetry at Oxford. On The New Yorker’s web site, Muldoon writes:
I can’t be but thrilled at the prospect of the first of a series of New Yorker Poetry Podcasts.
Water, water, everywhere / Nor any drop to drink. Samuel Taylor Coleridge—poet, critic, opium addict—wrote his Rime of the Ancient Mariner in 1798, a time when long poems still began with a short synopsis called the “Argument.
During his final decade, Friedrich Nietzsche’s worsening constitution continued to plague the philosopher.
As a recent piece in The Independent notes, “students of literate songwriting” are unsurprised to find references to T.S. Eliot scattered throughout the pop canon: Genesis, Manic Street Preachers, Arcade Fire… and of course, Bob Dylan.
Kurt Vonnegut once commented, in an interview with Joseph Heller, that the best audience he had ever encountered was at the 92nd Street Y in New York. “Those people know everything. They are wide awake and responsive.
No student of modernism, no lover of modern poetry, can avoid Ezra Pound, or the problem that is Ezra Pound.
The world tends to think rather loosely about the concepts of Los Angeles, Hollywood, and the motion picture industry, throwing them around, running them together, naming one when they mean another — still, nothing a bracing splash of Charles Bukowski can’t sort out.
Poetry is as close as written language comes to the visual arts but, aside from narrative poems, it is not a medium easily adapted to visual forms. Perhaps some of the least adaptable, I would think, are the high modernists, whose obsessive focus on technique renders much of their work opaque to all but the most careful readers.
Although Joseph Brodsky was one of the most celebrated Soviet dissidents of the 20th century, the Nobel Prize-winning poet had been unerringly hounded by the repressive Soviet government, which had labeled his poetry as “pornographic and anti-Soviet.
Yes, Halloween is behind us, and some people may desire a break from the Lou Reed tributes in order to mourn him silently. Fair enough. But indulge us once more, because Reed’s best music and the dark imaginative work of Edgar Allan Poe are always relevant, and when they come together, it’s reason to celebrate.
Back in college, I took a fall-quarter introductory music course. We happened to have class on Halloween (an event quite seriously taken around the University of California, Santa Barbara, in case you didn’t know), and the professor held an especially memorable lecture that day.
Ah, the ancient art of rhetoric. There’s no escaping it. Variously defined as “the art of argumentation and discourse” or, by Aristotle in his fragmented treatise, as “the means of persuasion [that] could be found in the matter itself; and then stylistic arrangement,” rhetoric is complicated.
Perhaps the most famous of all literary recluses, despite herself, Emily Dickinson left a posthumously discovered cache of poetry that did not receive a proper scholarly treatment until the publication of The Poems of Emily Dickinson by Thomas H.
Inferno, Canto X:
Many artists have attempted to illustrate Dante Alighieri’s epic poem the Divine Comedy, but none have made such an indelible stamp on our collective imagination as the Frenchman Gustave Doré.
The Ouija-inspired poetry of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill (1926-1995) comes alive in a newly launched digital archive from Washington University in St. Louis.
In 1993, the GAP used the ghost of Jack Kerouac to help sell khakis to desk jockeys across the nation. That was odd. 20 years later, Dewars has called upon Charles Bukowski, dead since 1994, to peddle Scotch. That makes complete sense.
Gregory Corso was kind of the Joey Bishop of the Beats—a member of the inner circle of Kerouac, Burroughs, and Ginsberg, but never quite achieving their degree of notoriety. Nevertheless, he outlived them all, and he was also arguably the biggest comedian in a group of inveterate pranksters (see him crack up an interviewer in this clip).
In the spring of 1958 Jack Kerouac went into the studio with tenor saxmen Al Cohn and Zoot Sims to record his second album, a mixture of jazz and poetry called Blues and Haikus. The haiku is a traditional Japanese poetry form with three unrhyming lines in five, seven, and five syllables. But Kerouac took a freer approach.
You don’t need to understand French to appreciate the project. In 1964, the Swiss pharmaceutical company Sandoz (now Novartis) commissioned the Belgian writer, poet and painter Henri Michaux to produce a film that demonstrated the effects of hallucinogenic drugs.
The poet Wallace Stevens‘ reclusiveness would have made him an unlikely candidate for karaoke, but death is a great leveler. One who’s shuffled off this mortal coil can no longer claim to be publicity shy or highly protective of his privacy.
We were among millions deeply saddened to learn today that Seamus Heaney had passed away at age 74. Called the greatest Irish poet since Yeats, Heaney was not only a national treasure to his home country but to the global poetry community.
T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” contains some of the most unforgettable images in modern poetry: the “pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas”; the yellow fog that “rubs its back upon the window panes”; the evening “spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table.
The poet Charles Bukowski has appeared often on Open Culture lately, and I have no objection. Not only do I savor writing about a literary figure thoroughly representative of Los Angeles, where I live, but about one who, even nineteen years after his death, keeps producing interesting things. Or at least we keep finding them.
An old friend of mine and I have a code phrase for a phenomenon that everyone knows well: One learns that an artist one admires, maybe even loves, is not only a flawed and warty mortal, but also an abusive monster or worse. The phrase is “Ezra Pound.
Billed and sold as the ninth and final studio album by The Doors, An American Prayer tends to divide Jim Morrison fans. On the one hand, it’s a captivating document of the late singer reading his free-associative poetry: dark, weirdly beautiful psychedelic lyrical fugues.
The outspoken, ragged-edged poet and novelist Charles Bukowski entered our world 93 years ago this Friday, and presumably began making trouble immediately. HarperCollins marks the occasion a bit early this year by releasing today eight Bukowski audiobooks, the first of their kind. (Sign up for a Free Trial with Audible.
We’ve brought you some choice tidbits recently from beat poet granddaddy Allen Ginsberg, including his first recorded reading of “Howl” and a glimpse of his annotated collection of photographs. And we’ve also served up a few delicious treats from godmother of punk poetry Patti Smith, like her recounting of William S.
Since his improbable but riveting rise from put-upon, cancer-stricken chemistry teacher Walter White to sociopathic meth kingpin Heisenberg, Bryan Cranston’s character in Breaking Bad has come to embody all of the characteristics of an ancient despot: cunning, paranoia, the nursing of old wounds and pretensions to undeserved greatness.
Anyone calling themselves even casual Bill Murray fans — and we here at Open Culture have taken it well beyond casualness — will by now have read a number of articles on how the actor, comedian, and early Saturday Night Live alumnus has reinvented himself in the 21st century.
Looking back on the literary career of Leonard Cohen—in full flower in the mid-sixties before his second life as a folk singer/songwriter—one encounters many comparisons to Joyce. For example, in the National Film Board of Canada’s description of Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr.
It takes a special kind of dedication for a writer to quit his day job. When notably hard-living, hard-writing poet Charles Bukowski took the plunge in 1969, at the behest of his Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin, he did it in the same spirit of seriousness he’d reserved for smoking, drinking, women, and the written word.
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Rebecca Onion over at Slate’s history blog “The Vault” has brought to our attention two delightful finds from the Massachusetts Historical Society: childhood drawings by poet and painter E.E. Cummings, made when he was 6 and 7 years old.
Occasionally I slip into an ivory tower mentality in which the idea of a banned book seems quaint—associated with silly scandals over the tame sex scenes in James Joyce or D.H. Lawrence or more recent, misguided dust-ups over Huckleberry Finn.
Here is a complete recording of T.S. Eliot reading the masterpiece of his later years, the cycle of poems called Four Quartets.
Eliot considered the Four Quartets his greatest work. “I’d like to feel that they get better as they go on,” he told Donald Hall in a 1959 interview for the Paris Review.
Last Wednesday night, New York Institution Patti Smith appeared at downtown venue Bowery Ballroom with a few friends to read poetry and play some music.
As summer approaches, let us look to Allen Ginsberg when we we feel discouraged by our lack of bikini-body. The author of “Sunflower Sutra” didn’t shy away from having his evolving physique documented shirtless or nude. Narrow minded beauty arbiters be damned.
If anyone should ask you how to promote a celebrity fragrance without losing face, click play and whisper, “Like This.”
It helps if the celeb in question is generally acknowledged to be a class act. Imagine a drunken starlet emerging from her limo sans-drawers to stumble through her favorite poem by a 13th century Sufi mystic.
“Add to the available accounts of Plath (there are so many) this, please: nobody brought a house to life the way she did.” So writes Dan Chiasson in a February New Yorker piece commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s death.
Long before the printing press, before parchment and papyrus, poetry was a strictly oral form. Many of the features we associate with verse—rhyme, meter, repetition, and extended similes—originated as mnemonic devices for poets and their audiences in times when bards composed extemporaneously from predetermined formulas.
“Skid row is where people are mutilated and almost dead, they’re creeping, crawling, uncared-for creatures.” - Charles Bukowksi
The future does not seem like much of a commodity in Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Peña’s 1990 documentary, The Best Hotel on Skid Row. The Madison Hotel, with its $8.
Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and began a terror bombing campaign of Warsaw, the nation’s capitol. In total, the Nazis dropped some 500 tons of high explosive bombs and 72 tons of incendiary bombs on Warsaw, beginning the planned destruction of the city.
Now fast forward to 2009, and we witness (above) Warsaw under literary assault.
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“Argh, you’re all amateurs in a professional universe!” roared Allen Ginsberg to a young class of aspiring poets in 1977 at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Their offense? Most of the students had failed to register for meditation instruction.