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Thomas Settle (North Carolina, 15th–16th Congress)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thomas Settle (March 9, 1789 – August 5, 1857) was a Congressional Representative from North Carolina from 1817 to 1821.

Settle was born near Reidsville, North Carolina, March 9, 1789; educated by private tutors; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1812 and commenced practice in Wentworth, North Carolina. He was elected to the State House of Commons in 1816; elected as a Republican to the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Congresses (March 4, 1817 – March 3, 1821); declined to be a candidate for reelection in 1820. Settle resumed the practice of law, was again a member of the State House of Commons, from c. 1826-1829, and served as speaker in the last session. Later, Settle served as a judge of the superior court of North Carolina from 1832 to 1857. [1] He died in Rockingham County, North Carolina, August 5, 1857; interment in the Settle family graveyard, near Reidsville, N.C.

His son was also named Thomas Settle (1831–1888), as was his grandson, Thomas Settle III. David Settle Reid was his nephew.

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  • ✪ Bicentennial Symposium: Poetry & the American People
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Transcription

[ Silence ] >> John Y. Cole: Good morning everyone. I'm John Cole. I'm the director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and it's my pleasure to welcome you to a continuation of the Library of Congress's Bicentennial Celebration of Poetry. This indeed is the Library of Congress's bicentennial year. We are 200 years old and we are marking the occasion by emphasizing and expanding on some of the Library of Congress's special programs. As many of you know poetry has been part of the Library of Congress's programing since the 1930's when the office consulted in poetry was established. In recent years we have been blessed with very activist poetry consultants who also are poet laureates of the United States and this has brought a whole new range of activity to the Library of Congress and it's a pleasure that you can be part of this poetry bicentennial celebration. There is material on the table as you came in -- as you come in about the Library of Congress's Bicentennial and about some of the other poetry events and activities that are going on now. I would like to say first of all how pleased we were that so many people turned out last night for the reading. I think that those of you who were there not only enjoyed it but you'll see that it provides a fertile field for today's discussions. I also would like to point out that we have a few of the people who were involved in last night's activity here. The co-chair of today's events will be Prosser Gifford whom you met last night, who's the director of Scholarly Programs here at the Library of Congress. I would like to recognize Grace Cavalleri who is here today. There's a press announcement about Grace's interviews with our poets, which are part of the bicentennial celebration. They are -- those interviews are now being broadcast on public broadcasting and are helping us celebrate poetry and the Library of Congress. One of the reasons we're doing the symposium is to give not only last night's experience that we had in hearing favorite poems on film and in person, we're trying to give it a historical context to give this particular celebration an after-life. Therefore we have today gathered together not only scholars but poets, participants, people who are interested in poetry, the spoken word, and the written word to talk about not only their perceptions of last night, but of course the topics that are in your program. And I hope you've all picked up a program which also has some biographical information about our participants. For this reason I'm not going to go into detailed introductions of each of the panel members, I refer you to your program, but I would say that what we are trying to do today and what we will do through the discussions and what we can do with your help is to give context, historical context and context for the future about this poetry experience. We're starting with the panel on "Recovering the Experiences of American Readers," where people interested in book history are going to present some points for discussion, contemplation. We then will move on with the panel chaired by Prosser Gifford talking about poetry and voice. We're hoping that Robber Pinsky our poet laureate has recovered his voice by the time this comes on. Robert is of course, and actually is -- we're hoping to get his throat taken care of. There will be a panel at 1:30 on the making of the Favorite Poem Project, which many of us saw last night. We'll talk about poets and publishers in the afternoon panel and conclude with a look at poetry in America today where we bring our consultants and some of our poets and our participants together for a final look at the day and reflections on the day. I would now at this time like to turn this over to our panel members. Each is going to make a brief presentation in the order in which they're listed on the program. After that is over we will open this up for your ideas and a panel discussion. I've asked our panelist to decide whether they want to come to this podium or speak from the table and our first speaker is David Hall of the Harvard Divinity School. David? Give David a hand. [ Applause ] >> David D. Hall: My remarks are not about my favorite poem but about a -- mostly about a favorite novel, although as you will see shortly, not everyone's favorite novel. In 1851, a young man named Charles Holbrook, very much a Yankee, very much a native of Massachusetts, graduated from Williams College. During the closing months of his college career he had worried a good deal about his future. Should he enter the ministry or perhaps start out as a school teacher? A few months after graduating he noted in a pocket diary he had been keeping and would continue to keep during the experiences I'm about to describe, that -- and this is very characteristic of recent college graduates, that he had been thinking of happy days at college and wished almost they were not ended. Several days later he received a letter informing him that a planter in North Carolina was seeking someone to instruct his children. Lacking, it seems, any other offer of employment and, as he put it, tired of working on the family farm, Charles, though unsympathetic to the institution of slavery as we know from various entries, accepted this offer. And in February 1852 traveled the long way down to Rockingham County, North Carolina where he joined the household of Thomas Galloway, a substantial planter who owns some 30 slaves and whose children, together with those of a brother, become the new teacher's responsibility. Several months later on October 1st a neighbor arrived, and now I quote the diary, from New York bringing many presents and <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin </i>. Immediately Charles took hold of this book and began to read it. October 1st, "I've been reading the first volume of <i>Uncle Tom's </i>tonight and am much interested in it." It was a two-volume work when it was printed. The next day, October 2nd. "I have completed volume one of <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin </i>. Became much interested in it. It relates some exciting scenes." October 3rd. "Read the sublime, the pathetic, and affecting description of Eva's death." That's the little girl who dies, described at some considerable length, just a long time to die. "Oh, there are some such children even in this land of darkness. The tears rushed into my eyes as I read about her peaceful death and resolve tonight to be more devoted." October 4th. "Finished <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin</i> this morning at recess. I believe it to be the most interesting book I have ever read. Poor, old Uncle Tom. He has gone to meet little Eva in the better spirit land." October 5th. "Read some of <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin </i>to Sandy," who happened to be one of his pupils. "He says Edie's sister at Mr. Harris's was tied to a tree and whipped!" Lots of exclamation points. "That the man struck her first in the forehead with the tobacco stick!" More exclamation points. Then we learn from the diary that this novel was passing into other hands on the plantation. October 14th. Mr. G. likes <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin </i>but Mrs. G.," Mrs. Galloway, "is bitter against it." October 15th. "Great talk in the house about Mrs. Stow. Mr. G. is honest, he says he admires <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin </i>for its true characters." October 16th. "Mr. Galloway says he will burn <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin </i>. He has changed his mind on it. Mrs. G. thinks Mrs. Stow is worse than Legree." Out of this sequence of reactions recorded for us in a diary that by chance has survived into our own times, I and Barbara Sicherman, and Joan Rubin, and others, many others, are helping to fashion a history of reading in America that has to simplify two principle objectives. The first is to understand the text that readers encountered in past times as well as in the present. And the second is to understand the responses of readers themselves. And as we are constantly rediscovering these two elements of a history of reading, text on the one hand, readers and their responses on the other are confusingly ambiguous and complex as indeed as indicated by these episodes narrated in the diary of Charles Holbrook. Texts most certainly imposed themselves on readers. Like Charles Holbrook weeping as he read <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin </i>, who among us has not been captured, or swept away, or possessed by something we have read? But on the other hand, who among us has not been suspicious of, or found ourselves resisting text that we encounter? A resistance summed up in the truism, the merits of which are demonstrated every day, don't believe everything you read. The history of reading is at once therefore a history of agency, that is of readers as actors choosing, appropriating, modifying, reworking in various ways, and of texts. And by texts I mean all kinds of texts, poems, and novels, and many other forms of printed work or written work. Of texts or narratives structures that impose themselves on us, that constrain in some manner, that are free and that shape us in some deep sense. Both aspects, agency and constraint are evident on the Galloway Plantation in October 1852, as the remarkable novel made its way around this group of readers. Charles Holbrook, swept away -- swept away by the power of this story of mothers, white and black, who lose their children to illness or to the social death that slavery causes as it splits families apart. A story which the underlying plot contrasts. An amoral world in which money and men have all the power and do cruel things to women, children, and slaves, as opposed to the moral power of women who resist this world of men and their amoral ways. And then there's still a deeper plot that Charles Holbrook surely was captured by as well, a world that God seems to have abandoned, the distant and caring God of the old [inaudible] theology that Harriet Beecher Stowe herself found so cold and unsatisfying. And then the redemptive action, not of churches and ministers, but of women and innocent children such as Eva, and of Christians such as Uncle Tom, who like Christ of whom he is a figure -- or refigured as. Who like Christ submits to suffering even unto death and in doing so from her perspective challenges and even triumphs over the forces of cruelty and amorality. Yet this of course is not the only way to read <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin </i>. Like Mr. and Mrs. Galloway southerners in the 1850's and even some northerners were outraged by the novel and produced a rash of fictional responses. Aunt Phyllis's cabin, or Uncle Robin in his cabin in Virginia and Tom without one in Boston. That's effort to -- maybe you already know this -- that's an effort to reverse the plot of <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin </i>and to suggest that wage slavery in the North was far crueler than the paternal, loving, domestic slavery -- slave system in which the planters, or the fathers and the planters wives, or the mothers, and so forth and so on, to take the same domesticity idea and make it work for the South. Incidentally an idea that is referred to in <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin </i>where little Eva at one point says, astonishingly enough when the question raised is slavery moral or immoral, she says, "Well slavery makes so many more around us to love." That's the domestic ideology transformed into a defense of slavery. I suspect however that Mrs. Galloway, who is clearly the one who detests the novel the most was reacting to other threats in the novel, including for example, the many examples -- including the characters who are black women serving as mistresses of white men and of white women who are lazy, indolent, and really in some sense anti-mothers. Much later after the Second World War certain African American readers would join the Galloway's in resisting this text, at a point where it's theological framework of suffering women and slaves as stand-ins for Christ and of redemption occurring not by social revolution but by some longer arc of God's providence, no longer made much sense. These readers refigured Uncle Tom, not as an agent of salvation but as someone who accommodated himself to a corrupt and amoral social system and in doing so betrayed the possibilities for direct resistance. Uncle Tom, the way we use the term so often today. Still closer to our own days feminist readers have resisted the idea and image of home as this remarkably harmonious and benevolent place that's still accepted and exalted as the proper place for woman. And feminist readers have also resisted Stowe's arguments the way for woman to overturn an amoral social system was through suffering and sacrifice in their own distinctive sphere. In these readings and re-readings, and I daresay mis-readings of <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin </i>lay the concrete particulars of a history of reading in America. A history that as I have indicated, is structured around an ever recurring tension between the power of text to impose themselves on us, to enter into our very selfhood, and on the other, as in these examples that I have given, the power of readers to suspend belief to accept or reject the logic of the text. There is therefore no simple answer to the question how was such and such a book read in the past or what does a particular text reading? The history of reading is a great field to work in because it is so remarkably open-ended as we attempt to do justice to the complexities both of text and of the responses of those who read them. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Barbara Sicherman: Thank you. Having been privileged to see the videos last night I see this contribution to today's events as the meeting of reading in two past lives, or at least a segment of that. "Books are the dreams we would most like to have," writes Victor Nell, author of <i>Lost in a Book </i>. "Like dreams," he continues, "they have the power to change consciousness, turning sadness to laughter, and the anxious introspection to the relaxed contemplation of some other time and place." Nell focuses here on reading as escape. A fitting concern for a book subtitled, "The Psychology of Reading for Pleasure." No mention of nightmares here. By examining the stories of reading of two women born under quite different circumstances in the late 19th Century I hope to show that reading not only changes consciousness, but by doing so can also change lives. M. Carey Thomas, later president of Bryn Mawr College, grew up in upper middle class privilege, tempered somewhat by the family's Quaker heritage, which in theory at least banned theater, music, and novels, though not, it should be noted, poetry. But Thomas had access to the world's great literature through a neighboring uncle and to more current fare at Baltimore's Mercantile Library. Reading was as necessary to her as breathing. On returning from an Adirondacks vacation in her early 20's she headed for the local library where she read for four days straight. "And the hours were like seconds, it was like treading on air. It is the purest happiness, the one thing which no man taketh from you." For Thomas reading was also a vehicle for articulating and thereby intensifying ambition. "The fact is," she proclaimed at 14, "I don't care much for anything except dreaming about being grand, and noble, and famous, but that I can never be." But even then she hoped to show that the woman who has fought all the battles of olden time over again, whilst reading the spirited pages of Homer, Virgil, Herodotus, been carried away by Carlisle, and mildly enchanted by Emerson. Is not any less like what God really intended a woman to be, than the trifling ballroom butterfly, an ignorant doll baby which they admire. The passage reveals the possibilities for female heroism Thomas found in classic text and demonstrates as well the reciprocal relationship between her reading and her ambition for it concludes, "My greatest ambition is to be an author, an essayist, an historian, to write hardy, earnest, true books that may do their part towards elevating the human race. The woman who could read herself into books might grow up to write them." Toward this end Thomas engaged in a wide variety of literary activities from the ages of 13 and 15, and later, but these are the ones I'm going to discuss. In addition to starting a journal she kept a commonplace book, a list of favorite poems, which I should've brought, and lists of books she had read or wanted to read. She also wrote poetry and short stories and sent one of each Harpers. Both were rejected. She was 12, 13 at this time. Although Thomas was precocious she claims to have learned to read by age three and she started Greek in her early teens. These pursuits were by no means unusual. Girls of her class were expected to cultivate literary self-consciousness. Like Thomas they kept diaries, wrote and recited poetry, read aloud together, and aspired to authorship, then the most prestigious career available to a woman. When Thomas began her journal in 1870, at the age of 13, she did so in the persona of Jo March, the heroine of <i>Little Women </i>. "Ain't gonna be sentimental. No, no, not for Joe. Not Joe." And I should explain, the first Jo is Jo March, and the second is a J-O-E, Joe. So she's saying that this is a female Joe that she's going to be like. Emulating a literary character was a common practice among young diarists as they attempted to establish their own personal and literary identities. Like Thomas, Jo was a tomboy, a bookworm, and eager to do something splendid. Most importantly she was a successful author who was paid for her writing. Alcott [inaudible] appealed, because as Jo, J-O, not Joe, J-O-E, she demonstrated that women could be writers and in other ways aspire. Years later when Thomas was embarking on graduate study in Germany a childhood friend who had joined her in adolescent roleplaying which centered around <i>Little Women </i>reflected, "Somehow today I went back to those early days when our horizon was so limited, yet so full of light, and our path laid as plain before us. It all came of reading over Ms. Alcott's books, now the quintessence of philistinism, then a Bible. Doesn't thee remember when to turn out a Jo the height of ambition?" <i>Little Women </i>was only the beginning of course. In early adolescence Thomas also crossed gender boundaries reading herself as a Carlislian hero a [inaudible] hero. Later a devotee of the romantic poets, Shelly especially, Thomas adopted a worldview mode of reading that fostered self-creation. In her early 20's her ambitions were reinforced by members of a feminist reading circle who read and wrote and dreamed and schemed to advance the [inaudible] women together. Their later achievements included securing the admission of women to Johns Hopkins Medical School. Can I get some water? Thank you. A very different story is that of Rose Gollup Cohen, who was born in the Russian [inaudible] in 1880 and grew up in an old world tradition where reading and storytelling both centered on religion. Like other Jewish girls she learned Yiddish, not Hebrew, the language of sacred text was for men only. Neither her mother or father could write. Coming to the United States at the age of 12, as the oldest child she went to work in a factory foreclosing the possibility of further education. In her autobiography, <i>Out of the Shadow </i>, published in 1918, Cohen narrates her progress from marginal literacy in Yiddish to authorship in English, a change accompanied by an awakening self-consciousness. Unused to reading in the new land she initially had to spell out the words of the neighbor's Yiddish book, astonished that it was not about religion but just a story. She became a regular customer at the soda water stand, borrowing books at five cents a copy. She read the volumes, mainly romances, to her mother and siblings. They transported her. "And I live now in a wonderful world." She was alternately a beautiful countess living in a palace and a beggar's daughter singing in the street. Her encounter with <i>David Copperfield </i>in the Yiddish translation was of a different kind. Electrified by the title of the first chapter, "I Am Born," and by the intimate first-person narrative, she was filled with a strange feeling of happiness. "Someone was talking to me. I could almost hear the voice." Cohen had no doubt that this story was real, something she used to love to know and she did not want to let it go. She and her family did not read another book for a week. Another volume, part letters, part diary, similarly appealed because of its intimate tone and precipitated her first hesitant efforts at authorship in the form of a diary. Though she had to rub out most of the first night's labor one but bold sentence remained. "I hate the shop. I feel sick. I feel tired. I cannot see any meaning in life." By this time Cohen's reading went beyond the stage of vicarious adventure. Books were now a springboard for emotional communication. Reading the diary had triggered the desire to express herself in personal writing. Diary-keeping and self-awareness were mutually reinforcing. The diary encouraged introspection, but the desire to keep one and her rejection at this time of an arranged marriage to an incompatible man symbolized in Cohen's account by his lack of interest in reading, signaled an already heightened self-consciousness. Like many immigrants Cohen learned English through a series of intermediaries. Night school, settlement houses, and libraries. Although, she encountered these only after she'd been in the States for five years. She finally learned to read English from the Bible during a three-month stay at Presbyterian Hospital. But her achievement was problematic. The volume was a New Testament and her reading in Gentile books enraged her father who threw one of them out the window. These books came mainly from the [inaudible] Free Library at the Educational Alliance, a Jewish Settlement in New York where she had gone first seeking a volume of Shakespeare. Unable to understand <i>Julius Caesar</i> she requested an English book, like for a child, and was rewarded with <i>Little Women </i>, which seems to have been the iconic book for immigrants. As her skills improved Cohen read widely, favoring Dickens, Longfellow's <i>The Day is Done </i>, and Olive Schreiner's <i>Dreams </i>, a series of allegories, which I think influenced her own writing style. Reading not to escape her situation but to comprehend it, Cohen turned to Silas Marner which a friend recommended when there was trouble at home. "It was so that I loved best to read. When I could see a connection between life and literature, literature to me was as real as life. Literature was life. Many amusement that was within my reach I gave up to read." Reading offered solace that made her own situation easier to bear, elicited a sensibility that helped her understand it, and provided her with a language into which she could translate her own experience. What did she mean when she declared that literature was life? That she lived in books rather than amidst her impoverished surroundings? That literature made life bearable? That she could not live without it? Perhaps something of all of these. <i>Out of the Shadow </i>ends on an ambiguous note, with Cohen still laboring to write English. We know she succeeds because she has written her autobiography. It begins with the line, "I was born in a Russian village." Perhaps an unconscious echo of the passage in <i>David Copperfield </i>that had captivated her years before. Cohen went on to publish several short pieces, one a story of Russian village life was selected as one of the best stories of 1922. As she described the process of creation, when the first pictures of the story came to her she fell into weeping with the peasant mother. "I was no longer building a story, I was living the life of my childhood over again." Perhaps the emotional intensity of the creative act helps to explain why the editor of the volume ranked Natalka's portion as one of the works that unite genuine substance and artistic form in a closely woven pattern with such sincerity that these stories may fairly claim a position in American literature. It was an extraordinary achievement for one who had struggled for literacy and who had learned English on her own in her late teens. It also I think is an interesting definition of what constitutes American literature, since these were Russian stories. In different ways then reading helped Thomas and Cohen obtain more self-assertive identities than were expected of women of their time and place. During adolescence both moved on from reading and dreaming to trying to realize their dreams in the first instance by bringing them to life through the act of writing. I would argue then that reader -- reading, even pleasure reading bears a more complex relationship to life than the one suggested earlier by Victor Nell. The imaginative space opened up by reading can, under the right circumstances stimulate creativity and foster a reciprocal rather than a one-way relationship between books and lives. [ Applause ] >> Joan Shelley Rubin: Thank you. After seeing the videos last night several of us were tempted just to throw out our remarks for today and to let those stand in all of their power. I guess I've been dissuaded from that move. But before I start my brief comments I do want to just say that our idea as John Cole already indicated, was to connect the Favorite Poem Project, to some of the work that we're doing in the History of Reading to give the project a kind of historical context and also, to indicate how much this project is going to mean for us as historians. This is exactly what we wish we had for readers in the past. I also want to thank all of the participants in today's symposium, many of whom I personally dragooned into being here. They have told me that they were delighted to be there last night and also of course to carry on the conversation with you but they already feel well paid by what we saw last evening. Well, I began to look into the history of poetry reading -- God now quite a few years ago and when I began that undertaking I came across a comment that William Dean Howells, the novelist but also at that time, this was 1902. Howells was occupying the editor's easy chair at <i>Harper's </i>magazine, and I came across a comment that he made after he polled his readers about whether or not they believed that the United States was in the midst of a slump in poetry. There was no denying Howells' acknowledged that the Anglo-American lords of rhyme, as he called them, Longfellow, Whittier, Bryant, Tennyson, Wordsworth, had passed from the ranks of working poets. Some of the readers Howells queried bemoaned this demise of the Anglo-American lords of rhyme and they felt that there was a slump in poetry. Others insisted that the genre was flourishing. But Howells himself made a crucial observation when he remarked the really interesting and important thing to find out would be whether the love of poetry shares the apparent decline of poetry itself. Today no one would argue that poetry is in a slump, quite the opposite. But in a sense the Favorite Poem Project after almost 100 years gives Howells his answer and that is because the poet laureate's inquiry has followed through on Howells' instinct to disconnect reading and writing. Those of us who have been working in the field of print culture have been attempting to construct a literary history that describes more than just a series of movements, romanticism, realism, modernism, and so forth. And instead to separate at least somewhat the history of reading from the vicissitudes of production. In that way we hope to recover the ideas and values of ordinary people and to understand how they have made sense of their experience. So I got into this myself a few years ago when it dawned on me that poetry was a genre. That because it was both intimate and public at least gave us half a chance of recovering both what people read and how and why they read the text that they had chosen and the way that the text gave them both agency and constrained them, as David Hall has remarked. I can remind you that in the period roughly from 1880 to 1950, Americans routinely encountered poems at school, in church, at family gatherings, at community events, and even as it turns out for some, in summer camp. I want to share with you this morning just a brief look at some of the lessons that I've learned by exploring poetry read at those sites. I've already hinted at the first lesson but I want to make it clearer to you by giving you an example. None of us can talk, including Robert Pinksy himself. Thank you. Okay, this is an example from the autobiography of a man named Walter Locke, who became editor of the Dayton, Ohio Daily News in 1927, but who grew up in the 1890's. Locke developed eye problems after, as he put it, he delighted intemperately in books. He decided that the way out of this was through poetry and through memorizing. Longfellow, Whitman, and later Sandburg, and Millay. This memorization and then recitation of the poems to himself became what he called a way to carry on a life. But Locke described his pursuit of poetry in language that suggests the cultural tensions surrounding the genre. He was aware, in his words that the age was choosing between poetry and speed and it was not choosing poetry. And so he saw himself forging an alliance with the poets the world was passing by. In addition he associated reading with addiction, intoxicant effects, and indulgence. So poetry was for Locke a guilty pleasure, a source of what he called his secret, joy, and shame. Now most of us are not accustomed to thinking of reading Longfellow in the terms we usually reserve for sex and so this is a jarring remark, his secret, joy, and shame. But Locke's clandestine relationship to poetry is highly instructive I think. First it points out the inadequacy of depicting the early 20th Century as simply the period when the beginnings of early modernism planted the schoolroom poets. Not only is Longfellow's work alive and well but Locke, as he goes on as reader, assimilates Carl Sandburg -- this is very interesting -- he assimilates Carl Sandburg, a poet of smoke and steel, to what he imagines was the simpler, slower life of the 19th Century. So this is an instance of that kind of appropriation or we might even say misreading because of his own needs and predispositions. Furthermore these eclectic texts survive in Locke's memory giving them an ongoing life in culture long after he has put aside the printed page. There's another reader in the same period who talks about his secret shelf collection. The books that he really loved even though he knew that he had to exhibit what he called an intelligent social self and that to do that meant that he wouldn't talk about Longfellow's most sentimental poems or the battered old volume of Tennyson that he had on his secret shelf. That remark reveals not only this closet of affection for verse but also, incidentally, the practice of rereading older works, this battered old volume that he keeps coming back to. So these confessional accounts of these [inaudible] poetry lovers thus illuminate for us how the history of reading can elude both conventional categories of literary scholarship such as modernism and customary measures of distribution such as sales figures. The second lesson that I discovered is that site matters, the setting in which readers are reading matters. Text acquire values and functions as a consequence of those settings. Here I want to give you an example of the classrooms of progressive educators in the 1920's, those teachers who experimented with new ways of instructing their students. In one of those classrooms we find that pupils are learning to approach Edna Saint Vincent Millay's lyrics by striving for what one educator called apprehension, not comprehension. It doesn't seem to me those have to be mutually exclusive but they were in this formulation. And so in that milieu the progressive classroom reading Millay became the occasion for submitting to feeling. We have this review that one student wrote after reading <i>The Harp Weaver </i>and other poems. "It is cruel to review it. It is too lovely. Nothing can be said better than read it." Now -- right. So, actually that's sort of akin to how some of us felt about speaking today. It's cruel for us to do this kind of analytical presentation. Nevertheless, for cultural historians who are inclined to regard the 1920's as an era of tough-mindedness and sort of new-minded sensibility, that comment is a telling counter example. That's a very romantic approach to the text to submit to the feelings of the text. And yet at roughly the same time, in the 20's, there's also the example of a Methodist minister who was given to incorporating poetry into his sermons and he pronounced Millay's <i>Renascence </i>an account of what he called a good, old-fashioned religious conversion, thereby yoking her rebellious sexuality to conservative impulses. Right? Which also characterized the culture of the interwar period. That is the conservative impulses are also there in the culture of the interwar period. Finally, for the journalist Margaret Parton, reading Millay, this is somewhat later, became a test of the relationship between father and daughter. In the early 1930's while Parton was a student at Swarthmore College she grew anxious that, in her words, she might, "Let down her parents by failure." She wrote home, as she said, "To prepare them for this possibility." And her father calmed her down with a letter that reveals how this family worked. He responded, "If when I handed you that little Edna Saint Vincent Millay poem you had tossed off some flip crack, or had been insensitive to its quaint Elizabethan charm I would have flunked you in practical and applied aesthetics. And I would not have felt the serenity and assurance which now I give you my word I feel about you." She passed the test and the poem certainly further strengthened the bond between Parton and her father, though it is clear that there is a great deal at stake in this reading. So at school, in church, at home, Millay's poetry read according to different rules, served different psychological and cultural purposes which I think were integral to reader's understanding of its meanings. Furthermore, and I hope this isn't too dismaying to the poets among us, sometimes the history of poetry reading reveals that the content of a poem matters far less than the act of reading of it. Readers queried about their use of verse frequently report practices that we might call anesthetic. So, you know, in the dentist chair, on an airplane, and it doesn't really matter at that point so much what the text is. More subtlety in many circumstances of reading the setting and the feelings that the reader brought to that setting overshadow the poet's form and language. So here I'll give you just one example. This comes from a woman named Clara Holloway who was a teenager growing up on the Iowa frontier in the 1880's and who grew despondent because her future husband, Eddie Grossbeck, failed to show up for her 18th birthday party and she was actually given to self-blame. It's quite an interesting diary. But at any rate a few days later Eddie made amends by coughing up a book of Wordsworth poems. Clara found reading Wordsworth enjoyable but of much more importance was the symbolism of receiving a book of verse from a boy of whose affections she was uncertain. She later actually married him. But as she remarked in what I take to be a wonderful 19th Century expression, "I shall prize it for the givens sake more than for anything else." If the historical record reveals that the site of reading sometimes imparted to text, meanings we might call extraneous due to their literary qualities however, it is equally important to see that it also shows us how the same poems linked readers who occupy different social and economic circumstances. And here I am thinking not only of the Millay example where it's safe to say that all of the readers I mentioned were middle class but also of instances involving working class readers such as the ones Barbara Sicherman has noted, and more affluent ones. With the development of a relatively standardized educational curriculum by around 1900 virtually everybody read Longfellow and Byron in school. And to associate such poems only with middle class culture is to forget what one writer, a man named Rollo Walter Brown, recalled in his memoir about growing up in the clay mining country of Ohio. Brown discovered Byron and Longfellow in a cookbook his mother had borrowed -- printed that is in the cookbook, and this fact I think underscores one thing. The multiple and pervasive forms of printed verse assumed in the early 20th Century. Reading Byron over and over he committed lines to memory until, in his words, "I could drop back over my heels against a pile of clay and recite to myself with unvoiced eloquence these or any other poems I knew and then sit up and rake the shovel across the gritty floor with pandemonium of approval." In that way he transmuted his experience of work into an occasion when he said he could sort out the choice parts of a world that ran off everywhere from the face of the clay until a splash of roof somewhere reminded him, woke him up, that he was still in a clay mine. While Brown's poetry reading permitted him a vision of what we might call upward mobility, it does still seem to me a mistake to say that it was not part of working class life, especially since his approach to rereading is quite parallel to the way his father reads religious periodicals, which is to say that he reads them over and over half a dozen times. At the same time, Brown's class did not restrict his access to the same text that his more affluent contemporaries were memorizing in other settings at the same time. So, to those lessons that poetry reading exhibited sustained, if sometimes hidden, a clandestine vitality, that sites mattered, that in some respects class did not, I just want to add a final lesson, a final point, and that is that for American readers the figure of the poet has worn a variety of guises. The representation of the poet as seer and visionary has been and remains a powerful idea, but it has coexisted with more accessible images. In the correspondence of Carl Sandburg one finds letters such as this one from a woman in Fort Worth, Texas dated 1927. "I am not a poet and do not want anything accept to tell you how much I love you, and how your poems have been a good influence in my life which I hope to pass on to other lives. This is not a mash note. You have spoken to me individually in the loneliness of my heart. You have spoken to me individually in the loneliness of my heart and I have found in your sympathy understanding and encouragement to go on telling the story of my kind of people." No doubt the poets in attendance have sometimes wished for more remote [inaudible] or at least less mail. Certainly the question of the poet's ideal role in a democratic society is complicated and controversial but by bringing poet and public together today this symposium and the project it celebrates embody what the historical record affirms. That poetry has been a vibrant act of presence in the lives of the American people. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> John Y. Cole: I'd like to make the brief observation that through these three wonderful speakers we've had a terrific introduction to the field of the history of reading and many of its implications and indeed this is going to be a good background for our discussions for the rest of the day and for our reflecting on the Favorite Poem Project and the archive that's being built as Joan Rubin was saying. And I would like to thank Joan for her help in corralling, as she said, such a distinguished group of speakers and this is what we're going to be able to look forward to for the rest of the day as well. Before I open it up for questions I'd like to ask our panel if they have any questions or observations based on each other's comments. [ Inaudible Speaker ] It's interesting, though, even the concept favorite poem which, of course, Robert Pinsky has carried on so effectively is an idea that comes from our past and I'm sure those of you like myself who memorized a lot of poetry for different reasons. When I was a child I did also have a list of favorite poems which I found my old anthology, one of my first ones, the Louis Untermeyer anthology. Which in fact I discovered later when I traveled I actually clip -- I got a second copy of the paperback and I actually clipped out some of the poems and I took them with me in my guidebooks when I went to different places. So each of us I think will find as we go through today's discussion and observations that we can relate to this favorite poem concept in a different way. David any thoughts? >> David D. Hall: I have to say. I read an essay by Mary [inaudible] on the subject of [inaudible] plausible idea about the book. It argues essentially that [inaudible] this [inaudible] who has been [inaudible] by books and [inaudible] extraordinary idea and I wondered whether in [inaudible] reading of books that [inaudible] scholars like yourselves, this aspect of the history of reading plays and the part, any significant part [inaudible] interesting. >> John Y. Cole. Thank you. Please, yes, it's on. >> I can provide a 17th Century example and then others perhaps can add more recent ones. But in the 17th Century which is [inaudible] the very familiar [inaudible] the very familiar concept that reading could lead one astray and very often this is a gender [inaudible]. That's to say women were more easily led astray than men [inaudible]. And John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts, who kept an extraordinary diary/journal, tells us the story of [inaudible] Hopkins of Connecticut who he says actually becomes mentally ill [inaudible] misogynist [inaudible] because she had read too much. So it's a -- there are warning signs posted everywhere in the history of reading for what is good and what is bad and of course, what is reflected in our own school system and so many other systems in which we're a part [inaudible] trying to parse for us [inaudible] like the internet debate, you know, what is good and what is bad and trying to police or regulate or license in some fashion. License in the sense of regulating, not license in the sense of open-ended [inaudible]. So that's one quick way of saying absolutely. It's a charged field and the history of reading is in part a history of [inaudible] a history of efforts to of course run around or get around those regulations. >> Joan Shelley Rubin: I just wanted to add, on the notion of the power of the book is so striking. Certainly throughout the 19th Century and even today but I think by the late 19th Century it was also dangerous for boys as well as for girls [inaudible] a child murderer [inaudible] claims that he was led astray by reading novels and other -- claim other boys gave him specific novel [inaudible]. But it's fascinating isn't it [inaudible] of all sorts and I think some of it [inaudible] great fear about pleasure reading [inaudible] figure out exactly [inaudible] to some extent [inaudible] they should be doing more worthwhile things. >> Right. And I [inaudible] is the physicality of it and I have not seen that in any of the other [inaudible] I have seen it [inaudible] that is women readers who don't feel comfortable socially and [inaudible] social world and even sexual world [inaudible] it's not exactly an escape its [inaudible] control [inaudible]. >> Just one quick addition here. An American novelist who admired [inaudible] Henry James of course in <i>Portrait of a Lady </i>, it's a young growing up in Albany who reads novels [inaudible] Europe and then cannot read [inaudible] read it correctly because of the fictional framework through which she sees things, so she's violated in some sense by her reading. >> John Y. Cole: Other comments on this topic from anyone in the audience? Yes, sir? >> My name is [inaudible], I'm a reader. The thought just came to me, asking about [inaudible] we seem to [inaudible] television very easily, which is another way is kind of reading being translated into visual medium and I would appreciate your comments on that thought. >> Joan Shelley Rubin: After seeing the videos last night it's very hard -- if you saw them last night [inaudible] visual translation because they were so wonderful and they will be shown on television. So, and I guess I certainly share the dismay that many people feel when we see kids who are not reading and we think that, you know, they're putting their energy into computer games and TV, but I'm cautious enough as an historian and as somebody who knows a little bit about the concerns when radio came along [inaudible]. I'm cautious enough that I want to say, you know, we can't just [inaudible] just because we have this powerful medium and it's having this sweeping detrimental effect and we know that there's some good consequences [inaudible]. I'm not sure what your own views are. >> John Y. Cole: Joanie, let me say a word on this because in a way I'll give you the official Center for the Book position. Because Center for the Book was created 22 years ago to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and libraries and it was created by Daniel Borsten who was with us last night at the showing. But the very beginning Dr. Borsten said, "We must use the new technologies to promote reading." And in fact the one that we should be using is television. And it's not the enemy it's the way you entice people into the world of books and you must make certain that while we recognize that if people are watching television they're not reading. Nonetheless, through a project called "Read More About It" that we started 20 years ago with CBS Television, we've used television to introduce people to the world of books and the notion, as Joan has indicated, is to use all media which includes radio, and television, and now the computer. To open up this world of books and to look for ways that we can work in common rather than being viewing new technology as any kind of an enemy. So we join the enemy right away with some television projects and to this day have used technology in kind of this cautious way. But again, if what you saw last night in this -- with those wonderful films about reading and about the experience and fact of literature, again, I would submit that this is a wonderful enticement into the world of books. At least that's how we prefer to view it and always working to find new opportunities for partnership kinds of programs and promoting reading. Go ahead, please, Barbara. >> Barbara Sicherman: I think it's interesting that probably the most influential figure I've been reading these days is a television figure. Oprah's reading, I mean, when she sells, what, 750,000 copies of each of those books. So, I mean, that's pretty interesting. >> David D. Hall: Yes, sir. >> Paul Breslin: I'm Paul Breslin and I [inaudible]. My question is for you, Barbara. I was quite struck on the story of Ms. Cohen by her learning English by reading the New Testament, her father becoming furious. And it resonates with a great deal of what I've been reading in my studies across colonial literatures [inaudible] English [inaudible]. Was there any sense in materials you examined by her of resentment or a sense of tension [inaudible] to Gentiles to the other culture or just a sense of gratitude and [inaudible] in learning English? Just -- I mean Derek Walcott for instance feels that way about the English language, that it's not tainted [inaudible] colonialism [inaudible] that there'd been other kinds of responses. So I'm interested in anything you may have -- [ Inaudible Speaker ] Yeah. Yeah. >> Barbara Sicherman: Well, I think it was probably difficult for her but I think she really -- I found with the Jewish women I've read that much of the material is in autobiography, so it's [inaudible]. That because they were denied the sort of main literacy of their own culture in terms of not learning Hebrew they [inaudible] appreciated value of literacy. And so they really welcomed, they really went more than any other group of women to night schools here and tried to learn English so that in many [inaudible] early generation I think took to it rather wholeheartedly, at least the ones that I read who -- these are writers in English [inaudible] my own limitation. So in her case I don't -- it was difficult for her but I don't see her feeling it was [inaudible]. >> John Y. Cole: I was going to ask Jerry Ward first, did you have a question on this Jerry? Or -- your hand was up. And I'll come to you sir. >> Jerry Ward: [Inaudible] I forgot what it was. I'm Jerry Ward [inaudible] College. My question for the panel was really [inaudible] general one about how your research informed you about the history of literacy, which is a very complicated history when you [inaudible] wonderful videos last night. That people are crossing all kinds of artificial boundaries that are set up now in terms of race, gender, class, in order to access poetry and embrace it, make it part of their lives. I think this is going on for a very long time, but just what are you discovering about how this has informed American literacy [inaudible]? >> Do you want to take this? >> David D. Hall: Appreciate the question. Excellent question. Very, very often we, we in this audience and those of us who are historians working out of the present, start with the very limited notion of literacy, namely it's the capacity to read the printed text which is the way it's [inaudible] taught in our schools. But when we turn back at the past or stimulated by the past we think about the present moment we realize that we absorb text, we learn text through oral and performance context all the time. Hymn-singing would be a great example. Where I grew up in a hymn-singing church and although I've lost somewhat of the capacity to sing those hymns I'm not going to break into one right now. Nonetheless, it's a pure example of where persons, who might be described in the Census record in 1800, or 1810, or 1840 as illiterate, nonetheless could command the remarkable repository, repertoire of text. And there those texts do cross every line, class, race, gender. Camp meeting songs of the south, camp meetings were attended, they were interracial events, I mean they -- the slaves were free [inaudible] very often. [Inaudible] but nonetheless they were interracial events. Pure example of this. So we need to work with much more fluid notion of literacy in order to recognize how deeply we are influencing. People in past times, even more so than today [inaudible] by the performances in oral aspects of literacy, the making of literacy. I think of people who can sing. I once knew someone who claimed to be able to sing 5000 pop songs. I can't sing one. I can't remember one. But that's another example of a kind of astonishing literacy that is not part of the school curriculum but nonetheless is an empowerment; it's a form of empowerment, very direct empowerment. >> John Y. Cole: Barbara? Go ahead. >> Barbara Sicherman: Well, I just done some work on post-reconstruction African Americans going to school and it's very moving to see older people, younger people, and just be -- and the reversal in the way children teaching their parents and I don't know. Just -- it's a very different version and the importance of that version was very striking I think [inaudible]. >> John Y. Cole: Sir, the gentleman behind Jerry. Yes. >> My name is Robert Garten, I'm a poet. My question perhaps is better addressed to Ms. Rubin, if you are able to answer. My question is on the delivery of poetry. You mentioned that that was extremely important and my question is the trend towards dramatic presentation or [inaudible] presentation versus the more academic presentation, if you will. And any comment that you might have about that, whether it's poetry, or fiction, or non-fiction. I'd be interested to know. >> Joan Shelley Rubin: I think that -- probably hear more about this in the next session, which I hope is enough to talk about tomorrow [inaudible]. But I would just say that it varies tremendously and [inaudible] first of all just within the school setting different ways of reading. One of the practices in the late 19th, early 20th Century was to have poetry recitation on Friday afternoons in small towns and parents would sometimes come to the school and hear these. And these, I gather, were rather formal deliveries but also disclosed a different rhythm so to speak for the week and so there was some [inaudible] and at the same time I'm sure people wanted to get out of there [inaudible]. So, and then it's also an occasion for children to impress their parents and in some instances really to secure their love or at least their approval. And then by the same token we see this kind of [inaudible] some of the students are really replicating Millay's own behavior [inaudible] romantic. Or I've looked at meetings and church today, which is to say in non-denominational services, where the service is not constrained by fixed liturgy and poetry [inaudible], and there I would say the practice of a group reciting a poem in unison lends a kind of weight and authority to the text, so much so that [inaudible] really makes everything sound good. [Inaudible] confounds the hierarchy [inaudible]. So I think in particular the popular poet Edgar Guest whose lines were written in newspapers [inaudible] for decades [inaudible] century and when an Edgar Guest poem is recited at a congregation [inaudible] certainly a modernist [inaudible]. So I think it varies very much and again I've [inaudible] contribution [inaudible] this process. >> John Y. Cole: Other questions? Yes, in the back. I'll come to you next. >> One of the things that [inaudible] Favorite Poem project has been -- I think we were all struck last night at the videos about the poems were not just [inaudible] one text after another but it was like we were turning over and over to a single text [inaudible] memorizing it. And it was mentioned on the panel today that this kind of return to a single text was kind of religious model [inaudible] reading practices. So I was wondering if the panel might address this idea of poems or texts that have a relationship of returning to the same text. >> John Y. Cole: Thank you. Question relates to the tendency to return to the same text again and again, and how the panel members feel about that. David? [ Inaudible Speaker ] Okay. >> Joan Shelley Rubin: So, I [inaudible] because one of the ideas floating around the history of the book for a while was the distinction between intensive and extensive reading. And I think the notion here was that when there wasn't a lot of print around that people read the same page over and over and [inaudible] and also, the [inaudible] religious artifacts, which is [inaudible]. And then more recently people [inaudible] to see [inaudible] and what you're alluding to here, what you're talking about is a really good example of that. People do read both intensively and extensively at the same time, depending on what it is that they're reading. So, and I [inaudible] it's worth pointing out that the recitation of poem itself echoes the memorization of [inaudible] Bible and reciting Sunday school so there are these novels [inaudible] that precede and coexist with reciting poetry in a more secular way. >> David D. Hall: I'll just add one thing. I think what's interesting to watch from the point of view of the historian reading is how devotional practice linked to text that might be considered sacred, such as Psalms or what have you. That the sacred becomes an elastic and an expansive category, it can be transposed to other kinds of texts. So of course to say the 19th through the 20th Century much of what many [inaudible] have been given by Barbara and Joan [inaudible] have really demonstrated how this is a wonderfully elastic category and other things take on this quality for us not just things that are strictly speaking religious. So it's really a kind of -- it may be rooted in religion but [inaudible] once rooted in religion but later on it became something that could be transposed or appropriated by writers who could say or by readers working in very different ways. >> John Y. Cole: Thank you. Would you have a question? Come to the mic please. Thanks. Oops. >> My name is Deborah Snyder. I'm a poet and I live in Stafford, Virginia, and I'd like to preface my question with an observation. [ Inaudible Speaker ] Or a -- this past Saint Patrick's Day, a National Public Radio broadcast, a little excerpt of Yeats' [inaudible] and what I was really concerned about, I was driving in my car at the time so I couldn't pull over, but I was really concerned because when it was first broadcast on the radio, the famous line, "That is no country for old men," they told Yeats that had to be changed for the radio. And I was just devastated when I heard that. >> That he did it, right? >> He actually changed the first line so that it would be read on the radio when it was first read on the radio. And also what I do sometimes is go online and there is now a poem finder where there are some 500,000 poems. I have one of them in [inaudible] 500,000 poems and more and more are coming, we were told with the one. >> Prosser Gifford: As you can see from your program, this segment of our daylong discussion is on Poetry and Voice. We have one slight impediment and that is I think our poet laureate has no voice [laughter]. And I hope he doesn't try to do too much and strain it. But one way or another, he will communicate. So we'll just plunge ahead and for the same reasons that John Cole mentioned, the brief bios are on your program. I will not rehearse them. The eye is quicker than the voice. And let's just head right in with Kenneth Cmiel, who's from Iowa, which of course, has a long and distinguished tradition in poetry workshop. Many of our finest poets have come out of that experience. I don't know whether you want to talk from here or there, but all right. [ Background Sounds ] >> Kenneth Cmiel: The Iowa Poetry Workshop of which I have absolutely no connection [laughter]. I teach history. I don't teach poetry. I don't teach much poetry at all in what I do for a living. In point of fact, my connection with poetry is probably a lot closer to the people that we saw in the videos last night than most university types that you'd think of who would be up here talking about poetry. Poetry was extraordinarily important in my life. When I would say roughly from age 13 to age 17, when I thought I was going to be a poet, when I thought I was going to be, you know, Robert Pinsky [laughter]. But in fact, my life's taken a different turn, a downward spiral and I teach history instead [laughter]. And there was a point for several decades where poetry was not particularly important in my life at all. And there's become a point in the past few years where poetry has come back. But poetry is something that I read by myself, that I read unprofessionally, that I love to read unprofessionally, but matters a lot to me. So why am I here? I'm here because Joan Rubin corralled me to be here. And because I've written on eloquence and oratory in the 19th and early 20th Century before. And today, I'm going to talk which something which actually turns out to be a little bit of history and a little bit of me. And the history is probably half right and the me is probably uninteresting to most people but I've got 15 minutes and you're going to be listening to it [laughter]. First, the first -- I'd like to start out with a few facts. I teach, as I said, I teach history. I have 30-some colleagues. I talked to about six colleagues about coming here to do this. I was extraordinarily excited about coming here and doing this. And so I was actually flattered when Joan asked me to do this. And as I said, I was very flattered. And I thought last night was spectacular. Last night was just a grand experience for me personally. However, I talked to about six people in my department that teach history at a university, PhD's 21st Century. And not one that I talked to could figure out what the hell I was doing here [laughter], could figure out why a historian would talk about poetry? And it was clear that none of them really read poetry or thought about poetry themselves. I state that to start out by just saying and reminding people not everybody reads poems. Not everybody who's educated, who's considered educated reads poems, or likes poems, or cares about poems. And some do but many don't. And in a setting like this, I suppose it's important to remember both sides of the story. Contrast this, I would say, with the mid-19th Century where Walt Whitman could actually dream of a poet chanting a nation's soul into being, where the poet could be conceived of as -- I'm sure I'm getting this wrong, the unacknowledged legislator of mankind. What's the real [inaudible]? >> Of the world. >> Kenneth Cmiel: Of the world, the unacknowledged legislator of the world. That a president like Lincoln could greet visitors on occasion, as he did, with a poem. That by the time you went through the Sixth McGuffey Reader, you had read some Milton, Burns, Longfellow, Pope, William Cullen Bryant and Shakespeare, among others. I don't want to overplay this and I don't want to romanticize the Romantics but it is a surely -- assuredly a case that poetry held a different place in the world then than it does today. Now what I'm going to do in the next few minutes is give you as a historian, what I think are a few of the major pillars in that history. And to keep it short, I'm going to try to make three basic points and leave it at that. Poetry has to jostle with all kinds of new culture between 1890 and 1940. And as Joan has pointed out in her paper, poetry lives on and I want to talk about poetry living on but living on in a different cultural space. So this is related to new forms of sound which appear in the early 20th Century. Point number one. Point number two is that poetry starts to think about itself differently. It shifts in purpose from a more public civic to a more personal form of expression. It injects a form of expression that injects wonder, imagination, reflection as a counterweight to mass culture. It is a quieter voice in the culture. And third, I want to briefly talk about what from my personal perspective, leave aside the history, the dangers and benefits of this shift. Point number one; between 1890 and 1940, sound culture undergoes major shifts which affect the place of poetry. First, the popular music industry explodes. We always had popular music. And there's always been music. But there is just a dramatic explosion in the whole music industry beginning in the 1890's. Tin Pan Alley starts in the 1890's. Mechanically reproduced sound starts in the 1890's. The player piano goes on the market in 1898. Records which were around for a while, really take off in the teens. The radio is there in the 20's. The jukebox is there in the 20's and 30's. Poetry is a mix of cadence and words. Music is a mix of cadence, words often and melody and harmony. There are whole ranges of ways that these pieces then interact but music is not the same exactly as poetry. And always in music, words are diminished in at least some small measure by -- because some part of the response, some part of the oral response is devoted to the melody, the harmony, the beat. Cadence too -- actually while there's flexibility in both mediums, cadence too has less -- cadence too has less flexibility in music rhythm than in poetry where you can really dramatically change the reading of a poem by just deciding you're going to stop, pause, and make a point. You can do this at times with music but especially in ensemble music and live ensemble music, the flexibility is less. To the extent that popular music becomes so important in the culture, it pushes poetry and the form of poetic expression to a different place. If music is one thing in the popular music industry is one thing that changes, a second thing that changes in those periods is different attitudes towards words and performance. One, is the rise in a dramatic way of the plain style of prose. Rhetoric falls off the map between 1880 and 1930. It was the most important way that people initially learned some talk about poetry in the mid-19th Century. It was through rhetorics and rhetoric classes in high schools as well as in college. As rhetorics fade, as formal rhetoric fades, what takes its place, literally takes its place in the late 19th to early 20th Century, the rhetoric class is freshman composition. And freshman composition becomes ruthlessly devoted to straightforward, plain, solid, clear, unaffected English prose. Strunk and White's <i>Elements of Style </i>rmal, for instance, a book more -- I can't think of a book more ruthlessly devoted to the plain style. It is originally published by Strunk alone in 1919 as one of the end of the first wave of these freshman composition books which are meant to replace older rhetorics. If the plain style becomes one thing that becomes a new norm, the second is conversation or conversational style of public performance. If rhetoric falls off the map, oratory, formal oratory falls off the map as well. Oratory was a sister art to poetry. It was about words and rhythm, words and cadence. By the 1920's, people like H.L. Mencken and Walter Lippmann are making fun of formal rhetoric. By the 1920's, Dale Carnegie who's famous <i>How to Win Friends</i> <i>and Influence People</i> which was published in '30 -- in '36, I believe. But by the 1920's, he is already making a fortune teaching people how to speak in the new way and he keeps saying, "Don't be affected. Don't be formal. Don't be rhetorical. Be conversational." Even in music, the new conversational style appeared with crooning. Males had to project before the microphone. Males had to project and they had to and it led to a more formal sounding song style. Crooning allowed people to be relaxed and conversational in the 1920's and 30's, someone like, Rudy Vallee or Bing Crosby. And finally, of course, the person who masters the new conversational style of public communication is Franklin Delano Roosevelt whose fireside chats are have nothing to do with the formal oratory but are meant through the radio to convey the impression that here is someone conversing with you in your living room. Poetry can respond by and certainly you can think of William Carlos Williams as one example. But to the extent that poetry consists of charged words, and where the delight comes from language centrally then the conversational and the plain style also placed poetry some place outside where the mainstream of public communication was heading. Poetry then becomes, as Joan talks about, a secret pleasure, a guilty pleasure for people by the 1920's. By the late 1920's, Edmund Wilson is making the point, is making this point. In his <i>Is Verse A Dying Technique?</i> Wilson says basically yes, it's dying. And in this essay, he pointed to both music and prose as displacing poetry. "Don't trust the talk about the different schools of poetry. Don't let that get in the way," Wilson said. "The important thing is to recognize, it seems to me, is that the literary technique of verse which was once meant to serve many purposes, now we as a rule, use prose." Wilson basically thought that prose was being -- was replacing poetry and he thought, "For the prose was equal to the task." Wilson basically had a tin ear for poetry. He was not good on poetry and he was not concerned that he thought that verse was a dying technique. Yet, as we've seen today, as we've seen from -- as we've seen in the videos yesterday, as you all know very well from your life experience more than me, as my life experience says, "Wilson was wrong. Verse wasn't a dying technique." And this leads to point number two, poetry's role shifts. Consider the contrast with oratory. By 1930, oratory is gone. No one's studying it. No one's thinking about it. In 1880, both poetry and oratory were listed in most conventional lists of fine arts. They were fine arts. By 1930, oratory is a distant remain, and poetry continues to be one of the fine arts. In 1942, another essay on poetry was delivered, Wallace Stevens' is <i>The Noble Write and the Sound of Words </i>. Stevens saw as much as Wilson the triumph of the real. He knew that the modern poet "cannot be both -- cannot be too noble a writer, that he cannot rise up loftily in helmet and armor or horse of imposing bronze." Yet he still, unlike Wilson, he still thought that poetry had a place. Poetry was the fruitful mediation between imagination and reality. And imagination itself gave nobility to the real for Stevens. It was contemplation. "It was a way," he says in this article, "to step outside mass culture." And he says, it was not social but personal. He makes this point several times and he makes it firmly. "The poet's role in short," he says, "is to help people to live their lives." In that same paragraph he says, "I might be expected to speak of the social, that is to say the sociological or the political, that those political obligations of the poet but," Stevens says, "He has none." Stevens' essay, I'd like to make two quick points about. One is in some way; it's suggesting recognizing a shifting place for poetry in the culture. That is, poetry is not the real legislature for humanity, for mankind, for whatever it is, for the universe [laughter]. Like I always forget -- but poetry is -- >> The unacknowledged legislators of the world, [inaudible] of Shelley's<i> Defense of Poetry </i>. >> Kenneth Cmiel: Yes, so it's unacknowledged legislators of the world. In some way, he recognizes that it's not going to be the unacknowledged legislator of the world. And that if it's not having the sort of dramatic civic force that Shelley imagined, that it still had a strong place in the culture. So that's point number one. And point number two is that this role was personal. That poetry becomes a form of wonder, reflection on ourselves and condition. It is a moment of quiet in a loud mass culture. And this, as I watched the spectacular videos last night which actually confirmed my own thoroughly unprofessional contact with poetry in the past few years, is what I saw most of the reciters doing. Whether it is people reflecting and thinking about suicides in South Boston, about being a gay African-American male in Atlanta, I believe. Whether it was having a daughter dying of cancer or whether it was simply a meditation on a slug, these were people who were talking about reflecting about their condition, who were trying to bring some expression to the wonders of life. These were people where words worked like a clearing in the forest, where light can peer down allowing us to see what might have always been there but hidden from us. This was poetry as a sort of uncovering. This is a personal quieter form of poetry, a sort of wonder and reflection. If you think about it this way then Emily Dickinson becomes the paradigmatic first modern poet. Now, if this is where we said what Stevens in the 1940's, I want to briefly talk about -- mention for one second, the benefits and dangers and the benefits are this is a moment of quiet in a loud culture. And I like loud cultures. I think loud cultures are fun. As one of my favorite poets and great moralist of our time, the Cat in the Hat says, "These things are fun and fun is good." I like the internet. I like music. I like it all. I like my kids when they like it. But at the same time, I must say, that I come back to poetry because it is a moment of quiet for me in a rather loud culture. But the danger is that it can become -- it's the same thing, the quietness, that it could become too quiet, too personal. I do not like Archibald MacLeish's lines that a poem should be palpable and mute as a globed fruit. I have mixed feeling about Stevens' <i>Of Modern Poetry </i>which in some ways is a wonderful introduction to 20th Century poetry. But when Stevens speaks of "the poem of the act of the mind," or of words speaking "in the delicatest ear of the mind," or if he speaks -- when he speaks of the invisible audience listening, it seems too self-contained and a little bit too quiet. Poetry is sound, as Stevens knew but did not always adequately express, to my opinion. Too quiet, too personal. If you look at the last 10 to 15 years and if you think of two things that -- I strike me as important in the public culture of poetry, one being the poetry slam movement and the second being this sort of affair and the work that Robert Pinsky has done. Both of those things, it strikes me, are trying to say we can't let poetry be too private. We can't let poetry be too personal. It has to be a blend. Stevens was close but he didn't entirely get it right. You have to have a mix, lest it become too private, too personal. Lest it become too many people like my six colleagues who've never read a poem. Thanks. [ Applause ] >> Prosser Gifford: We move on now to Paul Breslin but I just like to take a moment to -- this is from <i>The Idea of Order at Key West </i>, the opening stanza. "She sang beyond the genius of the sea. The water never formed to mind or voice. Like a body wholly body, fluttering its empty sleeves and yet its mimic motion made constant cry. Caused constantly a cry that was not ours although we understood. Inhuman, of the veritable ocean." Stevens knew public as well. Okay, Paul's on. >> Paul Breslin: I was encouraged not to write a formal talk so I didn't. What I'm going to give you is first of all, a kind of quick jumping tour of a longer essay that I've written called "The Sign of Democracy and the Terms of Poetry." That's going to include the sections I'm going to deal with include an analysis of a poem that appeared in Dear Abby and my experiences as a participant observer at the Uptown Poetry Slam in Chicago. Then I want to talk a little bit about the perspectives on these things that I've gained by working for the last several years on a book about Derek Wolcott and spending time with West Indian literature and culture. And on the extraordinary perspective provided by what we saw last night, the various people presenting their favorite poems from the Favorite Poem Project. And I think what I have to say segues very nicely from what Ken was saying. It's sort of about the distinction between poetry as public performance and poetry, I think, it was Joan in the first panel who quoted someone who read a letter to Carl Sandberg saying, "You've spoken to me in the loneliness of my heart." That sense of poetry is something that happens quietly apart from collectivity, and poetry that also is a public performance and speaks to everybody. One of the classic sources on this is T.S. Elliot's Essay of the Three Voices of Poetry in which he distinguishes three -- the poem that is addressed to the whole community or collective, something like Virgil's <i>Aeneid</i> Homer's <i>Iliad </i>telling a story that everyone listening knows that defines in some way the collective identity of the group. The second is poems addressed to a smaller, more intimate audience, perhaps one person or a few particular people. And then the third kind seems to be the voice of inner thought overheard as if the poet is aware of speaking to no one. These things will be on my mind as I proceed. Well, to take up the essay, I got the title, <i>The Sign of Democracy</i> <i>in the Terms of Poetry </i>rmal from two lines in Whitman's <i>Song</i> <i>of Myself </i>which keeps coming up at this -- at these meetings as a kind of central founding text in American poetry. Whitman writes, "I speak the password primeval. I give the sign of democracy. By God, I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of in the same terms." These words appear in the 1855 edition and remain apart from minor changes unaltered in the deathbed edition of 1891 to '92. They are core Whitman. So I ask, "Can an American concerned with poetry read them unmoved? Can an American with any brains read them uncritically? What if some things worth having cannot be had on the same terms by all people?" Whitman seems worried enough by that possibility to include the translation term counterpart of. But what in poetry is an acceptable counterpart and where does counterpart end and impoverishment begin? Can poetry adapt its terms to the demands of all and remain poetry? And who defines the terms of poetry anyway? Are the verse homilies printed occasionally in Ann Landers and Dear Abby poetry? And I guess my first example was to try to deal with that. So I have a little section in this essay called "Poetry and Self-Flattery" which sort of is my attempt to understand what I'm looking for and what I'm not looking for in a poem. So I tried the experiment of trying to put down my preconceptions which I imagine are shared by most people in the room and try to think what it would mean to become the ideal reader of one of those poems in Ann Landers or Dear Abby. So you know, I point out that the poem I chose which is from a couple of years ago maybe kind of like shooting fish in a barrel for an audience like this. But the point of the exercise is to be as articulate as possible about why I can't take these poems seriously and to try to think about what it would mean to be able to do so. So here's the poem complete with the prose that framed it in Ann Landers. Dear Ann Landers, I found this verse in a column of yours in my father's desk drawer. It was in a datebook from 1974. It's just good today as it was 23 years ago. I can't argue with that [laughter]. Please rerun it, Dixie. Dear Dixie, I agree. Thank you for asking. Here it is. And the poem is called "Forget It" by Judd Mortimer Lewis. "If you see a tall fellow ahead of the crowd, a leader of men marching fearless and proud and you know of a tale whose mere telling aloud would cause his proud head in anguish be bowed. It's a pretty good plan to forget it. If you know of a skeleton hidden away in a closet, and guarded, and kept from the day in the dark and whose showing whose sudden display would cause grief, and sorrow, and pain, and dismay, it's a pretty good plan to forget it. If you know of a tale that will darken the joy of a man or a woman, a girl or a boy, that will wipe out a smile or the least bit annoy a fellow, or cause any gladness to cloy, it's a pretty good plan to forget it." So you know, if you're set upon someone says this is good today as it was 23 years ago, valued by father and daughter across generational lines, it passes Samuel Johnson's test of pleasing many or three at least, and pleasing long. So what does it please by? Well, it has this kind of insistent anapestic tetrameter meter and it's got a trimeter line that functions as a refrain. It sounds singable. It's instantly recognizable as verse, not prose chopped into lines. Each stanza has four consecutive rhymes and the refrain provides relief not only by varying the meter but by breaking the pattern of rhyme at predictable intervals. The refrain functions as a punch line, reversing the temptations to indiscretion in the previous four lines. Well, no poet I know would be caught dead owning up to a poem like that. But if you think back to the 19th Century when famous poets had three names like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, or Judd Mortimer Lewis, the author of this one -- highbrow poems might still have much in common with this piece. Of course, they'd be more gracefully written, with fewer redundancies and clumsy enchantments but they would rhyme and lilt and point a moral. I mean, if you know the once beloved recitation piece, <i>The Village Blacksmith </i>by Longfellow, it's got closing stanzas in praise of Ernest Humble industry. And yet this poem is written by the first Harvard professor of modern languages and able translator of Dante, an up-to-date literary intellectual of his time. So as has already been remarked this morning, the conventions of popular and what I'll call professional or "highbrow verse" have sort of drifted apart in the years between Professor Longfellow and Mr. Lewis. And then I start thinking about what you would have to not care much about in order to like that poem. There's no progression because each case is parallel to the last. And it's full of appositive rephrasings of the same idea and little paratactic add-ons. So in order to like "Forget It", you have to want a poem that develops a helpful maxim in a clear unmistakable way rather than a poem that questions its own statements or leaves them to implication. You can't value economy of means too highly or you'll find yourself asking why and then I have a bunch of questions about why all these things have to be in there. But the moral shallowness of "Forget It" -- and here's where I'm getting to my point about the poetry of self-flattery, the moral shallowness of "Forget It" bothers me even more than its prefab diction and lazy versification. To show what I mean, I tack on the stanzas still doggerel, of course, that would have made a difference. But suppose the young fellow whose head is so proud writes by night with the clan though he's never avowed the connection and afterwards going home, plowed starts beating his children until they are cowed. Speak up or you'll live to regret it [laughter]. Or to spell it out, tact is a virtue but it's not the highest virtue and there are times when other responsibilities outweighs its claims. So I guess what bothers me most about that poem is it thinks it knows we are. It thinks it knows what we think and what we ought to think before we begin reading it. And what it can offer us is a kind of pat on the back and tell us to keep on being whoever we were before we started reading it. And then I go on and say, it would be nice to think that when you pick up a reputable literary journal that all of this thing is far behind you and we enter a different order of discourse. But apart from the undeniably much higher level of pure literary skills that one encounters there, I found that there are poems in -- oh, I won't mention names, but I, you know, say magazines that I've published in and had been proud to be publish in that nonetheless strike me as having something in common with the poem that I just read you. There is one -- you know, I won't -- it could have been any of a number but there's a poem by Robin Becker called <i>"Why We Fear the Amish" </i>that was in American Poetry Review and it has lines like, "Because they smell us in fellowship with the dead works of darkness and technology" and at the end it says, "We know their frugality in our corpulence. We know their sacrifice for the group and our love for the individual. Our gods are cross dressers, nerds, beach bums and poets. They know it. By their pure talk and practice do they eye us from their carts?" Well you know, it's pretty good in a way but that self-indicting placement of poets at the end of the list of our gods is kind of a giveaway of something that bothers me a little bit on. I think that it sort of identifies its ideal reader as a poetry person, someone who might be contributing to this journal or at least the regular reader of it. And that's the "we" and that "we" is supposed to have certain attitudes known in advance. And that, I guess, is what troubles me about that kind of poem. Well, I'm skipping over a good deal. I think I will go to the second part of what I have to say which is to give you a report on my trip to the Uptown Poetry Slam equipped with a questionnaire. I returned -- I got 61 of them back from people in the bar. And I hadn't planned to participate in the slam when I went, but it was a slow night and to avoid things being too boring, I decided to enter at the last minute and ended up winning by a tenth of a point which is a very dubious honor since there were only three of us [laughter]. I recall from my youthful obsession with baseball that the lowest league-leading batting average in major league history was 306 so I think this was sort of like that year. So on -- all right, the night of the slams on. Attempting to gather less impressionistic evidence about audience for poetry than appears to exist at present and this was written a year ago. Got some very interesting evidence last night, which I'll come to in a couple of minutes. But I decided to write this questionnaire and pass it out at the slam. So I -- when only one person had signed up for the slam that night, Mark Smith, the host proposed that that person read against himself [laughter]. And for various reasons, I had my poetry manuscript as well as the questionnaires with me. I was polishing it up at that point. So I volunteered and somebody else volunteered. And so three judges were appointed at random from the audience. Some of you may know the drill at poetry slams but I assume that -- how many of you have been to one? Maybe 25 to 30% of the people in the room. Well, they got three judges at random from the audience who were asked to introduce themselves. One was a teacher. One worked for Dow Chemical and took no end of crap for that. I mean [laughter] and then there was one who was sort of in the arts but not in the literary arts. And Smith's role as emcee seems to be kind of heckling participants. So each judge was asked to hold up a score from zero to 10 after each poem so it's like Olympic skating or diving events in this respect. The three scores were then averaged and the contestant with the lowest score was dropped. The two survivors read another poem and whoever got the higher composite score would win. Smith sort of shall we say Mirandized the audience. He read it its rights and prerogatives. So if listeners thought a poem was dragging, they could come like this [laughter]. If it rhymed too predictably, they were invited to shout out the rhyme word along with the poet [laughter]. And any content judged to be sexist was fair game for the feminist hiss. So there were two other contestants, one of whom was a young woman who had signed up at that very last second. And she didn't seem used to reading in public. She was nervous and her delivery of her poem, I think, was what caused her to lose in the first round. The guy who gave me a run for my money was -- had participated in a slam scene for people under 25 in North Carolina and was an experienced veteran. His first poem was a diatribe against his poetry teacher delivered from memory with much dramatic flair. The student, it seems, had wanted to write an erotic poem about women's legs but and I quote from memory, "My PC teacher said you are objectifying women and I said, you are objectifying poetry." The instructor wanted analysis of poetry but the student thought or felt that poetry was all about emotion. Toward the end of the poem, the poet faced the audience and shouted, "Feel, feel, feel! Legs, legs, legs!" [ Laughter ] There was no feminist hiss and the poem got the warmest audience response of the evening and as I recall, the highest score. I came in second and survived through the next round. Mark Smith gave me almost as much flak about being a professor as the chemist judge got about his job with Dow. As my young opponent finished, I sat in the front row waiting my turn, and I closed my eyes to concentrate, Smith said, "The professor's nervous now. He's doing his yoga. He's been reading too much Gary Snyder." [ Laughter ] Determined to take up in good humor, I replied, "You could do worse!" And then it was time to read and I chose a political poem called <i>The Scale </i>published in TriQuarterly some years back. And I think -- shall I read it to you? Yeah, why not [laughter]? This is my 15 minutes of fame. The Scale -- and I read it about this way. It wasn't this kind of highly choreographed reading. The man doing life with no chance of parole watching the walls grow visible in the first light thinks how all over the city men wake up beside women, even the losers get lucky sometimes but nobody gets lucky here. Where they put you to make sure you have no pleasure and miss it constantly. The guilt that had seemed almost nothing inside him, they had made solid. So they could not look away from it to take some comfort from the sky without seeing bars also. It could have been worse. One hears that in certain countries, political prisoners are locked in boxes too short to lie down in, carried down to a cellar and stacked like so many warehouse crates in one dense tenement of tormented flesh soaked in its own excrement. For someone somewhere, this is actual. One of those boxes is where he is and has to continue being. If he dreamed of a prison cell with a bed and a toilet, he would weep bitterly to wake in his box and find it all a dream. This is the stone on the far pan of the scale. Load what you will on the other. It scarcely trembles. So that was -- it got me to the second round. [ Applause ] Anyway, on -- fortunately for me, the leg man's second poem wasn't as hot as his first and so my quiet second poem beat him by -- you know, my composite score came out fractionally higher than his, and I found myself the winner of $13 and a board game called Poetry Slam. Which Mark Smith said had it all wrong and every previous winner had returned it after receiving it. [ Laughter ] So the questionnaires were modestly revealing. I'm acutely aware having been in conversation with sociologists friends that my sample is minuscule. My methods probably need refinement. But at least my questionnaire was symmetrical which is apparently good [laughter]. And this is what I got. It was a young crowd, 44% gave their age as 20 to 29. But there were more people over 30 than under, 26% in their 30's, 11% in their 40's, and 11% in their 50's. One of my 61 respondents admitted to being 60 and over. Fifty-nine percent of them had attended slams and poetry readings before this one. Another 20% had attended poetry readings but not slams. The remaining 21%, so that's over a fifth, had never been to a poetry reading of any kind before. It was a more diverse audience than -- well, I compared it to one that Robert gave at Borders a few years ago on. But it was still predominantly white although a number of the respondents declined to give race or ethnicity or they ridiculed the question. So for race, they wrote triathlon [laughter] or this was my favorite, none of your damn bigness [laughter]. So it kind of spoiled my statistical results but if I go by what they said, 8% checked African-American, 3% identified themselves as Hispanic. Most interesting was the spread of occupations. Five percent said they worked as clerks or wait staff and these were usually the ones who were 21 or 22 years old, still looking to see what they wanted to do. Twenty-three percent worked in business or sales. Sixteen percent were in professions such as law or medicine. And 10% were engineers or technicians. Only 8% identified themselves as teachers and 11% as students. Another 11% indicated that they had careers in the arts but only 3% claimed to be writers. So the prevailing notion that only poets and their force-fed students attend to poetry does not hold for this audience. That was the most encouraging thing that I found. Now, just a couple of quick remarks. I've been engaged in for almost a decade in a book that I just finished about Derek Walcott when I started, I knew nothing about the Caribbean where he comes from. So I had to learn a lot. And that culture gives you a kind of basis for comparison because there is a tradition of verbal play and performance that is not necessarily confined to educated people. And there are extravagant uses of speech in things like the rants of the Midnight Robber and Trinidad Carnival. Or you know, when I look at the poetry slams, I think of another Trinidad Carnival convention, the Calypso War where the leading Calypsonians improvise verses sometimes satirizing each other and whoever makes the wittiest responses and gets the most applause wins the Calypso War. So it has this competitive edge as well. Walcott has said, "I come from a society that likes big gestures." And I think we come from a society where ever since the turn of the 20th Century when the conventions of Victorian poetry were getting kind of flyblown, we've been kind of walking backwards away from big gestures. Ken's remark about the decline of rhetoric and the replacement of rhetoric classes with composition classes that emphasize clarity and plainness rather than flourish, I think is quite indicative. I think World War I really did a lot to kill rhetoric. You know, people came back from the war like Wilfred -- well, Wilfred Owen didn't come back from the war. But people who saw it would look at the kinds of rah, rah war poems comparing it to soccer or rugby written by people like Sir Henry Newbolt and say, "What the hell is this?" and look for some way to register the shock of that experience. We've had since then, you know, I think another event that was bad for the faith of rhetoric was the Vietnam War because of the kinds of very calculate uses of language to manipulate the public that were used at that time. So you know, it's interesting to me to see a society that somehow has come from a different history where all of these inhibitions against rhetoric and flourish and bravado are not so much in place and it produces a different kind of art. In closing, just a couple of reflections about the slams in relation to what I saw last night. What I liked about the slams was the kind of possibility of openness and spontaneity. Although in fact, many things are heavily choreographed and rehearsed, you don't see too much of that but potentially, it can be that. And the idea of coming not to some kind of sanctimonious location but to a bar, you know, it could be a little bit more like an Irish pub, it would be better yet but it's, you know, it's a bar. You're sitting in there in a bar. People are reading poetry and if you like it, you can show it and if you don't like it, you can show it. And that's nice. What I don't like, two things. The competitive aspect, you know the aspect of it that's a little too much like wrestling or professional sports of other sorts. Blake said, "Among true poets, there is no competition." And the speed of judgment, that is on -- here's a poem, what do you think? Clap, don't clap. If you're bored, go like this. You know, it doesn't -- it says in essence and this is the relationship to the poetry of self-flattery, I am the all competent judge of this poem. I already know who I am. I already know what I want. This poem has nothing to tell me that I don't already know. That I don't like. And it struck me in the extraordinarily powerful videos of people from all walks of life presenting their favorite poems last night, that they don't think like that. The construction worker who loved <i>Song of Myself </i>said, "When I first read this, it didn't make any sense to me. I couldn't follow it but something caught my attention." And Whitman himself when he says, "Failing to fetch me one place, you'll find me in another, you know, keep encouraged." He says, "That seemed to be directing me how to be patient with the poem, how to get it." The Jamaican immigrant who loved <i>Nick</i> <i>and the Candlestick</i> by Sylvia Platt says, "I love this because it doesn't follow any rational process. It doesn't make any sense but it's powerful. It's raw. It's bitter. It doesn't seem to me a false use of language." Over and over again, they talk about being looked by something that was opaque to them for a long time until they've lived with it for a while. And that's what I think we're in danger of being too impatient with. The poetry slam has too much in common, I fear, with the rock video and with other sort of short attention span forms. That's one problem with it. The other thing I noticed last night was that there isn't the ferociously anti-intellectual and anti-academic bias in most of the respondents we heard from last night that seems to be a kind of stock attitude which you must affect whether or not you actually believe it or not at a slam. In other words, the professor isn't the enemy. A lot of these people said, "I first ran into this poem when I went to school." I have the impression that people come to poetry later than they did instead of being read it by their parent's maybe or being made to memorize it and recite it in grade school or in church. It's kind of terra incognito until they get into college. And college is a kind of door into this other thing. And some of these respondents seemed very grateful for that. So while I don't want to whitewash the literary academy and I'm well aware of its follies and failings and my own sins in that regard, I think it's refreshing to see that people don't necessarily have this kind of stereotypical academic versus free spirit notion of what poetry is. And I think the universities and colleges are one of the places where poetry survives, where people learn when they're young that they still want it for the rest of their lives. [ Applause ] >> Prosser Gifford: Thank you. A plug that is also, I think, germane, on the 26th of April, we will have here a reading from the New American Library two-volume collection on the -- essentially on the first half of the 20th Century. Some of you probably saw the review by Bill Pritchard in Sunday's Times. One of the things that he remarks on and that others have remarked on is the amazing breadths, two volumes of -- to be in that anthology, you have to be dead. So it only [laughter] -- it only goes up to around the 1960's. But it includes popular songs, ballads, blues as well as Elliot Pound, Stevens, et cetera. So it is a testimony to the enormous breadth and indeed, musicality of poetry in the first half of the 20th Century in America. >> Robert Pinsky: It's the voice of whoever likes the work of art and loves it. If poetry is as it appears to becoming more popular than it was, my conviction is that is in response to an eloquent, beautiful mass culture. I join Kenneth in admiring and enjoying mass media very much whereby their nature on a mass scale, the poem by its nature is on an individual scale. The instrument is the reader's body as we saw last night. Ken spoke of loud and quiet. I would speak on of individual scale and mass scale. I hope that some people here will help us find ways to get the Favorite Poem videos into schools. Two powerful forces I've learned as a teacher are autonomy and physicality. If you ask the student to choose, the student's individual dignity is your ally. If you ask the student to read aloud in their own voice, to listen to your voice, the voices of their peers, corporeality as well as autonomy is joining you. What we saw last night was evidence to me that the work of art lives in whoever loves the work of art. And if it has people or teachers, as humans, we're not willing to trust that cultural principle, we might as well give up anyway. Principle involves dignity of the individual and the belief in the beauty of the work of art. I'm sorry I don't have any more here. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Prosser Gifford: Okay, we now fortunately have a good deal of time for you. So I think the panelists would love to have it opened up to your questions and concerns, indeed, your voices. Who wants to start? Yes, can you come? I think its best if you come forward because otherwise people -- >> My question has to do with the influence of mnemonics on the composition [inaudible]. Does the end [inaudible] that tells about [inaudible] and in a certain memory or tradition [inaudible]. The same thing applies to the [inaudible] of the Iliad where the [inaudible]. It seems that there was a [inaudible]. And there used to be a [inaudible] whereby constant sounds were used in conjunction with [inaudible] and I was wondering if anybody knows about that tradition or knows anything [inaudible]? My name is Robert Birch, by the way. I live over in [Inaudible]. [ Laughter ] I turned around [inaudible] with one person [inaudible] is my colleague, Martin Miller, who has just put the Greek [inaudible] in the Odyssey on a database to study stylistic variation. Some of you is very interested in what might be learned about [inaudible]. >> Martin Miller? >> M-U-E-L-L-E-R, he's from Northwestern University. >> [Inaudible] that's the kind of [inaudible]? It applies also to Dante and to Conan Doyle [inaudible]. >> Prosser Gifford: Yes. >> I have been writing a lot of poetry in my native language -- >> Prosser Gifford: Could -- >> In Portuguese. >> Prosser Gifford: Could you come to the microphone, please? >> Recently, I have been writing a lot of poetry in my native language which is Portuguese. And I have been asking if you -- my question is [inaudible] to common knowledge and there is always a comment that puzzles me. And the comment is it needs more universality. And I've been thinking about this. What makes a poem more universal than just a [inaudible] collection of one's life or experience? >> People have been trying to answer that question for more than a thousand years. [ Laughter ] >> Robert Pinsky: The most universal thing is physical appeal. >> How does that go in a poem? >> Robert Pinsky: It's evidenced in beauty of the sounds. It's basically consonants and vowels. If they're arranged artfully enough, if you [inaudible] a long time for that arrangement, the most universal thing is this [inaudible]. >> Can I say something? >> Prosser Gifford: I think -- >> I think her point is universal when it can be written all over the world and can we [inaudible] a message to all over the world. Not for just one group of people or country. I think that makes it universal and that's the [inaudible]. >> Could I continue? You see, what happens is they say my poems have too much musicality. They rhyme too much. >> Robert Pinsky: Maybe you're right. [ Laughter ] >> It's not impossible. One further observation, sometimes it's not when people are setting up more self-consciously to be universal but they are so. We had last night a couple of instances of people saying, "You know, this poem is written by someone whose life experience was utterly different from mine," and often the poems were very personal in their use of the poet's life experience. Yet the reader for some reason said, "Yes, this speaks to me." Emerson's answer would have been that if you're utterly true to your own inner experience, you end up speaking universally without quite knowing how you got there. I would like to hope at least that it's true. >> Prosser Gifford: I think we ought to be a little cautious though. Bearing in mind the first panel this morning and that is, tastes change. Byron was certainly at one point considered almost universal. His death in the Greek revolution helped. But I don't know that that's true anymore. But it may become true again. In other words, what -- there's a -- universality is as much subject to changes of taste and influence and resonance as other things in our lives. Did you have a question? Please. >> Hi, I'm Mary Case. I teach at American University of Washington this semester in the arts program. My question is for Dr. Breslin. Do you -- >> [Inaudible] please, yeah. >> Yeah [laughter]. I don't want to [inaudible] way. >> No. >>You talked about the poetry [inaudible] and one of the things that you found that you [inaudible] the competitive nature of it. You won that poetry -- [ Laughter ] And I'm interested in this because you have this wonderful poetry slam program here in Washington, for the junior high school aged kids and they really engage. So, I'm wondering about this whole thing about competition. [Inaudible]. >> Paul Breslin: Yes, the arts competitive in a certain true sense. I mean, [inaudible] how well am I doing, you know, who's doing the work that I love the best. Would my [inaudible] be found [inaudible] by those standards? What can I do to make it better? My sense is that they were kind of more in competition with what is is given you by your combination of [inaudible] and weaknesses to achieve. I mean, if you worry too much about -- I mean, I'm speaking personally [inaudible]. I just find that the less I think about what X, Y, and Z [inaudible] are doing and measure what I'm trying to do against them, the less blocked I am, the better the work that I produce is the less satisfied with it I become. You notice I don't say the more it satisfies me, the less it satisfies me [inaudible] become. >> [Inaudible] society question which is a big one. The whole direction was in the form of [inaudible] literature test 25 to 30 years has been to attack [inaudible] and when people say something is universal, they mean that a lot of -- mostly white, mostly male people with a lot of access to culture and power [inaudible] pass it on. And if I take -- you know, I think this is taken to the point where the question of trying to explain why we value something other than as the outcome of the power struggle has become almost an embarrassment. And I'm very concerned with the idea that although [inaudible] to change, of course cultural power and cultural wars have a great deal to do with what [inaudible]. I don't think these suspicions are irreversible, and I think more it's a matter of faith than something that I could prove intellectually that in some kind of rough balance where -- survives the sifting [inaudible] meant to have something other than cultural good luck behind it, which is not to say that some things that don't survive it aren't worth reviving and might be just as good as [inaudible] has survived. And I also think there's such a thing as [inaudible]. That sucked, you know [laughter], and I think that that poetry is finally okay when we're young and we're starving, but at a certain point it becomes trouble. I do believe that. >> Paul Breslin: Just a word on competition. I think if you read between the lines, or not even between the lines, you read the lines in the Odyssey or the Iliad, there is a point when it's quite clear that the speaker, the Bard - and this goes back to the pneumonic question, is lauded because of the complexity and the fullness of memory. You get the same thing in the Griots and Senegal. There's a sense that the greatest of the Griots are the ones who have the great legends of [inaudible] and whatever, and they can bring them in the fullness. So, there's a sense of competition, the Calypso's already been mentioned. There's a sense of competition not, I think, solely in the quality of the poetry, although that's important, but in the fullness of recollection and the aptness of recollection certainly in the great oral traditions. And those are valuable qualities. Yes? >> My name is [inaudible]. In response to the universal success of poetry, I think it's the ability to connect because only in America are we going to market poetry with its competent repetitiveness, you know, [inaudible] but it's ability for some kids, junior high kids to connect and relate with a [inaudible]. When I first read Walt Whitman, he was like - where is he coming from? I had no interest and didn't connect at all. Later, I took the book off the shelf and I heard him calling to me and I heard him raising me, and affirming me, and really calling me back to life [inaudible]. And I have a friend from Ireland whose oral tradition is so precious, he's memorized poem after poem and he carries it with him when he visits here in America. And I watch him as he'll take a woman off the street, or a man off the street, or in some context [inaudible] socializing while he was here and he knows a poem would fit this man's life and he will say, "I've got a poem for you [laughter] [inaudible] recitation of this poem. It does have a [inaudible] to it." [Inaudible] watched the man tear up or to watch [inaudible] just open up of a flower under the light of somebody touching somebody and connecting with them. That's what it's all about. So, I would say connect with people, give them as many [inaudible] of imagery, [inaudible] and that's giving the gift of life and poetry -- [ Applause ] >> Prosser Gifford: That is indeed voice. Yes. >> I too have a [inaudible] by that question [inaudible] on his achievement. What I would like to do is recite a few lines and compare them and see what they [inaudible]. The last line, "It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul. With rue, my heart is laden, for the many friends I have, for many a rose-lip maiden and many a light foot lad. By brooks too broad for leaping, the light foot boys are laid. The rose-lip girls are sleeping in fields where roses fade. Which if the [inaudible] universal. [ Laughter ] >> Prosser Gifford: I -- we've just been enjoined not to act like judges in a poetry slam. [ Laughter ] >> One of the things that struck me is [inaudible] Roberts had sound and the person over there basically said meaning for younger sounding and in some ways, in some ways, those are the two poles by which people find universality. You know, to be universal, you know, I can hear the rhythms of a Portuguese poem and I can proudly hear most of the rhymes but I sure don't know what the hell that poem's about. [Inaudible] and so once it moves into translation, it has to be -- it has to be reworked, so there's a sound to it [background noises]. For me, the whole universality [inaudible], I -- in a sense, why do we care? I care less. My sense is that poems that takes change, tastes move in and out and that's a good thing, that taste move in and out sometimes for reasons of power but sometimes for other reasons, for reasons of the lifecycle, for reasons of culture sitting in certain places at certain moments. Other things going on [inaudible] culture. So, you know, things can move in, move out and who knows? In 20 years, people might be reading in a [inaudible]. Maybe many of you are, you know, but I just don't - for me, it doesn't seem to be a problem. Yes, it all has been a bunch of - a bunch of white males from the West and I do agree that there's considerable truth to that. On the other hand, I've been thrown here in the 21st Century and I'm busy trying to figure out how to live my life. Well, in keeping both [inaudible]. I guess I've come to like [inaudible] thinking more about ethics and translation for somebody. In other words, [inaudible] overnight, different context. After all, it's not as if God said, "Before there were human beings, let's create this idyllic form called [inaudible]." And all earth and poetry that's universal, be some asset that [inaudible]. Emerson said something like that, but I beg to differ with [inaudible]. No, it's more than, you know, people from ancient Greece on a ship [inaudible] coast through the language barrier say [inaudible] some people did serve [inaudible] different kinds of [inaudible] called Policious [assumed spelling]. You were something like that too and later when Westerners made contact with places like [inaudible], you know, gradually - but that, there's kind of an agreement to translate the term poetry that's covered all these different things. It's not absolute. We're talking about desire, not fact here. Poetry is what people in a wide range of times and situations have wanted to call poetry [inaudible] recognize [inaudible] kinship. To get back to your two examples, I think [inaudible] from [inaudible] recited the last stanza [inaudible] trouble with now because it celebrates this kind of [inaudible] of the inviolable [inaudible] soul that is somehow able to master its own fate out of context and I think a lot of people have trouble buying that anymore and have trouble - it sounds to my ears as a family protests too much. There's a kind of hysterical [inaudible] about that rhetoric. The house and the farm [inaudible] George Orwell's essay when he talks about having "[Inaudible] going back to Rita to finding out [inaudible]. It just tinkles." So, you never know [laughter]. >> Prosser Gifford: Let me suggest a couple of other examples. I've been thinking about this universality question and I'll give two from this very room. Let's take the Japanese haiku. A very constrained and restricted and long-polished form in Japan, but Bob Haas as many of you know, has translated - there's a whole book of translations from three great haiku, three of the greatest haiku writers and they do come across. You do feel the intelligence, and irony, and the delight in constraint and contrast, and then I think of an evening, one of the -- probably one of the most memorable evenings in this room with -- [ Laughter ] -- Joseph Brodsky. Joseph Brodsky was reading [inaudible] in Russian and I was reading translations in English from various translators and there's no question that some of that poetry is universal. That is, you feel the power, you feel the tragedy, you feel the magnificent uplift of the human spirit in terrible conditions and it doesn't matter really what the language is as long as you can understand the language. So, I think - I think universality is of course, it's best judged in the original language but if it can come across in translation into another language and if it can still give you that thrill of intellectual and emotional recognition, then it's on the way, I think, to becoming universal. Another question? Yes, please? >> My name is Jennifer Hubbard and I'm a hostile English teacher and since I'm taking the day off from my students, I thought I would ask a question on their behalf. They would love a professional opinion as to why we English teachers make them memorize and recite poetry. [ Laughter ] >> Prosser Gifford: Let's -- we'll save Robert's voice, so you're on, Paul. >> Paul Breslin: Well, as Robert said, maybe the most primal [inaudible] poetry [inaudible] included in the experience [inaudible] and you don't really get to recite poems [inaudible] page. I think there's a tremendous tendency in the way we're taught to read especially in [inaudible] college curriculum that people [inaudible]. The idea is [inaudible] what you have to read, extract what you need on the exam, get back out, and particularly [inaudible] is not important. The poetry [inaudible], it is first face of the language and [inaudible] the idea [inaudible] in which [inaudible] exists. So, when you memorize too, it starts to be [inaudible]. In order to memorize, you have to pay attention to how it sounds. You have to say it to yourself. You have to live with it a while and kind of dwell on it. I made my students memorize two poems per quarter when I teach Reading [inaudible] Poetry [inaudible]. This is how they have to live word by word, the decisions poets take. Every poem was once one page and every word that's added, it's [inaudible] direction and away from [inaudible] directions and it's in that changing process, that field of energy as that process continues, the poem has [inaudible] and that's true [inaudible], that's true for formal poetry, as well. [ Inaudible Speaker ] >> Prosser Gifford: Kenneth, you want to say? No? Yes? >> Good morning. I would like to address the universality of the poetry question. I feel that when we bring forth our truths, the truth of our experience, that is when we question to the universality of who we are and we all in different cultures, experiences, ethnic groups, can feel that universality when it is truth and the essence of the person's experience. Now, I am not an academia. My work is in healing and I have found that I have been able to touch the muse and teach through poetry, so I think when the truths are who you are and your experience comes through, that's who [inaudible] for me. >> Prosser Gifford: Thank you. Yes, back there? No, there's nobody behind you. Just speak. >> My name's Greta Erick and I'm a poet as well, a coming poetess and first of all, I appreciate all that you've talked about today and [inaudible] topics that you raised. But I guess I would -- I feel strongly to [inaudible] conservation, which is that for me there's been a real absence of women's voices on this panel. That the only two women poets that have been discussed by this panel [inaudible], uses examples of [inaudible], actually. And, I guess my question -- excuse me -- would be, given the context in which such a [inaudible] thing could occur [inaudible] celebrations, but how would you propose nurturing the voices of women [inaudible] minorities in our culture? And I don't mean to be, like, a huge downer, I was just -- -- [ Laughter ] [Inaudible]. And I'd like to hear from the panelists, as well, [inaudible] audience if you have ideas or suggestions about this issue, I would be happy to talk with you afterwards. Thank you. >> Well, let me think. It was a matter of what happened that the nervous person at the poetry recital was the woman who maybe [inaudible]. I mean, if I knew more why that was the case, it might turn out that she [inaudible] possible. In my teaching, [inaudible] course that was [inaudible]. It's funny you focus on different things in different contexts, and -- >> Prosser Gifford: I can only say come back late afternoon when you have Naomi Nye and Rita Dove and Louise Gluk. I don't think there's any attempt to discourage or exclude, I think -- >> Paul Breslin: No, the question is, why unconsciously [inaudible] played out that way. It's a serious question. Yeah. >> [Inaudible]. Given that context, how can we nurture the voices of young poets who don't see themselves represented [inaudible]? >> Paul Breslin: I think you're generalizing for -- were you here for the first panel? >> Pardon? >> Paul Breslin: Yeah, there were some women's voices prominently represented. >>. [Inaudible], especially [inaudible] voice. I just find it interesting that [inaudible]. I just find it interesting that the panelists happened to be like that, and that [inaudible] so were all these [inaudible]. >> Prosser Gifford: I recall mentioning [inaudible] at the [inaudible] one of her poems in the presentation [inaudible]. >> Prosser Gifford: We are-- [ Multiple Speakers ] >> [Inaudible] deal with that [inaudible] voices? [Inaudible] who wouldn't be sitting up there, you know, when it comes to be our time? >> Paul Breslin: They often are. I think you're -- [ Inaudible Speaker ] >> Prosser Gifford: Yes, we are drawing to a close -- no, please, come forward, but just let me say that we are drawing towards noon and we're going to have to cut off fairly soon. So, please keep your questions succinct. Thank you. >> Hi, my name is [inaudible]. How I started liking the poetry when I saw a poet performer, and that is the way that I think [inaudible] little children because many people used to say that poetry was boring and just it was very hard [inaudible] and people didn't like it. When I saw a teacher, when I was in school, I loved the performance, and I started studying. I started studying and [inaudible] and I didn't [inaudible]. I think once you go to all over the world, not just to a little group of people that [inaudible], they should go to everybody, because it changed the world. It changed [inaudible] change many things in this time and then. I just wanted to tell you that. And, [inaudible] actress, and I think we should work together [inaudible] to make enjoy more poetry, everybody. Thank you, very much. >> Prosser Gifford: Thank you. Yes, that gentleman, please. >> I very much admired the work that [inaudible] and I thought [inaudible] comment from the panel upon the subject or the fact that when you get into the various cultures [inaudible] to them, you find out in our history, our early history that each is very unique, each perceived music in different ways and the arts, the paintings, and so on. And of course, their poetry. I was wondering if there is a belief here, to some degree, that perhaps there are [inaudible] in existence which are not intercultural or cannot be completely or perfectly translated [inaudible]. >> Yes. Translation is always imperfect, it strikes me and that's what translation is. It's trying to move halfway or move partway or see what you can bring from one to the other. >> Yes, so I think what's plain now is the problems with translation are really more visible when you move between languages [inaudible] than a single language. We're taught the dictionary means words we acquire a sense of [inaudible] of words from all of the uses over time, which we [inaudible]. And, in fact, there's a lot of common ground [inaudible] because there's also things [inaudible] variation. And depending on which particular artist [inaudible] I'm from, I'll feel differently. So, we're already translating when we talk to each other in English or any other language. It only becomes more intense and more visible when we try to translate from one language into another. One of the best books I read [inaudible] is called <i>Acts</i> <i>of Identity: Creole-based Approaches</i> <i>to Language, Ethnicity, and Race </i>. And the authors come up with the idea that everyone is performing a kind of instant [inaudible], a kind of improvised lingual [inaudible] and it develops according to feedback in the sense that people are picking up on what they're saying and continue further. If you don't, you back up the truck and try something else. Another article [inaudible] how in London, it's considered cool in the youth culture [inaudible] to speak like a Rastafarian but most of the immigrants aren't from Jamaica. That's another [inaudible], they may never have heard a Rastafarian speak. So, there's this kind of invented Dred talk in London and to the extent that people buy it. That's Rastafarian speech [inaudible] in London until someone comes along and notes that or comes up with a more convincing version of it. I think that's kind of how things work. The miracle is and maybe this is [inaudible], the miracle is that we understand and are moved by each other's language as often as we are. Don't ask me how. >> Prosser Gifford: Yes? I think this is going to have to be the last question. Thank you. >> Hi, my name is Peg [inaudible]. I'm a poet, I'm half Cuban, [inaudible], so I have a great access to a great [inaudible]. And I'd just like to [inaudible]. I want to say that, it's our responsibility to take poetry to great richness of all of the traditions and one of the functions of poetry is to provide a window out of our parochialism, our national parochialism which [inaudible] gender parochialism. And I would say that it's irrelevant to want [inaudible] on the panel [inaudible] focus on [inaudible]. [ Applause ] [ Silence ] >> Prosser Gifford: That's a nice note on which to end from two great poetic cultures, Spanish and Irish. This panel, as I think the program is clear, is about this exciting project, that is the making of the favorite poem project and the tapes. And there will be some tapes shown, so those of you who are not favored visually may want to move back a little bit. I'll ask Maggie Dietz, who's standing talking to Robert, to introduce her fellow panelists, who are the producers of the tapes, is that correct? >> Maggie Dietz: That's correct. I'll introduce them. >> Prosser Gifford: All right. So it's over to you, Maggie. >> Maggie Dietz: Okay. We decided to change the nature of this panel, because this is actually, as you noted, a short panel, a more casual and kind of relaxed panel. We'd like to invite -- we're going to show you a few more videos [inaudible] that you saw last night, which we thought would be fun, which [inaudible] has ever seen, but you will be the first. And then invite questions to the number of people whose talents contributed to this project. It doesn't matter for this panel that Robert can't talk, because [laughter] the idea is that what you saw last night speaks [inaudible] to the project and to the goals of the project. We have on the end, next to Robert Pinsky, Mark Stafford, who is the senior audio producer for the Favorite Poem Project. You have not seen or -- you have not heard, excuse me, Mark's work, in particular because we didn't do an audio presentation, but it should be known that the audio segments are ended separately based on the same raw materials. And it may be of interest to some of you to ask Mark some questions about his approach to honing the pieces for that medium. Juanita Anderson is the executive producer of the Favorite Poem Project. She is on Robert's left. And I can't say enough good about her. Without Juanita Favorite Poem Project would not be possible. And Juanita was responsible for finding all of the people who are sitting up here at this table. On Juanita's left is [inaudible], who was one of the principle editors for the Favorite Poem Project video pieces. I think [inaudible] did more than half the pieces, 21 of the 50, and many of those that you did see last night. So one of the first things we're going to show you is a completed segment -- [ Inaudible Speaker ] Pardon me? [ Inaudible Speaker ] Oh, no, no, I'm getting to Deborah. In fact, I'll just go there first. Deborah [inaudible] was a production manager for the Favorite Poem Project and she had a big job, and she worked long hours. And she was also one of the field producers for the Favorite Poem Project, and the piece that Deborah shot in Barbados is the last piece on the tape, which we very much [inaudible]. It's Reverend Michael Haines [assumed spelling], a Baptist minister from Boston who did this shot in Barbados. I was talking about the first piece we were going to show with respect to [inaudible], because you're actually going to be probably the only people ever, besides the people at this table, to see Favorite Poem Project outtakes [laughter]. And we've just -- we've just chosen one. We're going to show the entire piece of Alexander Shir [assumed spelling], a law professor from Athens, Georgia, reading a favorite poem of mine, Elizabeth Bishop's [inaudible]. And then we're going to show, as a demonstration, some of the things that the production team has encountered when they were out on these shoots, and I won't say more than that. I'll let, again, the videos speak for themselves. So I will begin by playing that piece, and then we'll stop and it and maybe invite some questions for the production team, and then see if there's an appropriate point to see more. >> I'm Alexander Shir. I'm a Law Professor at the University of Georgia, in Athens. I'm 45 years old. I was born in New England, lived out West for awhile [inaudible] Midwest. Now I live on a farm about 15 minutes away from where I work. We have horses and the land has three fields on it, and a real nice barn, so it suits to them. The trees are just beautiful here. There's a real nice [inaudible] between where the building's sit and where the land is, everything seems aligned just the right way. So when I'm here, I really feel like I'm settled down in a place that I want to be. After the Fish Houses is a poem that [inaudible] read for years. I think I first read it when I was in college, 25, 30 years ago. It speaks, at least in parts, [inaudible] background from the Rocky New England coast, cold water ocean, and the very harsh landscape that exists at that spot. I have a real admiration for Elizabeth Bishop's method of paying attention to small, domestic, really tiny details. It's a preference of mine to look carefully at things and try to understand things the way they are. I have a complete book of her poems, which I keep around here in my office, [inaudible] my office at work. But I also -- I used to carry around a paper version of it, but I actually have one of those little palm pilots that I have it on, and when I need to, I [inaudible] read it whenever I can [inaudible] to hear it. So I try to keep it pretty close. I've long had the feeling that life has lots of hard edges to it. We all have [inaudible] in one way or another [inaudible] from our own doing or from circumstances beyond our control, and it's often hard to get a feel for why it's happening, or just how to understand it and stay steady, and stable, and keep your balance. The thing that's wonderful to me about At the Fish Houses is the way that she looks at all these things in the world, she locates everything, including the human being, the fisherman at the beginning [inaudible] this world response to it and allows herself to get the sensation of knowledge, which she speaks to at the very end, that encompasses that everything that she's seen. And because that's a real -- it's a dark sensation but a real reassuring feeling that however hard things might be we can look at it and understand it, and come to terms with it. At the Fish Houses by Elizabeth Bishop. Although it was a cold evening, down by one of the fish houses an old man sits netting. His net [inaudible] almost invisible, a dark purple brown. And his shuttle warm and polished. The air smells so strong of cod fish, makes one's nose run and one's eyes water. The five fish houses have steeply peaked roofs, and narrow [inaudible] gang planks slant up to storerooms in the gables for the wheelbarrows to be pushed up and down on. All is silver. The heavy surface of the sea [inaudible] slowly as if considering the spilling over [inaudible] opaque. But the silver of the benches, the lobster [inaudible] and mats scattered along the [inaudible] jagged rocks is [inaudible] like a small old [inaudible] with an [inaudible] growing on their [inaudible] walls. The big fish [inaudible] are completely lined with layers of beautiful herring scales and the wheelbarrows are similarly plastered with [inaudible] coats of [inaudible] with small iridescent flies crawling on them. Up on the little slope, behind the houses [inaudible] sprinkle of grass is an ancient wooden [inaudible], cramped with two long bleached handles, and some melancholy stains like dried blood, where the iron work has rusted. The old man [inaudible] lucky strike. He was a friend of my grandfather. We talk of the decline of the population [inaudible] cod fish and herring while he waits for a herring boat to come in. There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb. He has scraped the scales, a principle beauty from unnumbered fish from that black old knife, the blade of which is almost worn away. Down at the water's edge, at the place where they haul out the boats, up the long ramp, descending into the water, fins silver [inaudible] are laid horizontally across the gray stones. Down and down [inaudible] of four or five feet. Cold, dark, deep and absolutely clear. [Inaudible] to no mortal, to fish and to seals. One seal particularly I've seen here evening after evening. He was curious about me. He was interested in music. Like me, a believer and total [inaudible], so used to seeing [inaudible]. I also [inaudible] water and regarded me, [inaudible], moving his head a little. Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge almost in the same spot with a sort of shrug, as if it were against his better judgment. Cold, dark, deep and absolutely clear, the clear gray icy water. Back behind us the dignified tall firs begin. Bluish, associating with their shadows a million Christmas trees stand, waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended above the [inaudible] gray and blue gray [inaudible]. I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same slightly and differently swaying above the stones, [inaudible] free above the stones. Above the stones and then the world. If you should dip your hand in, your wrist would ache immediately, your bones would begin to ache, and your hand would burn as if the water were [inaudible] of fire that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame. If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter, then briny, then surely burn your tongue. It is like what we imagine knowledge to be, dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free, drawn from the cold hard [inaudible] of the world. Derived from the rocky grasses forever. Flowing and drawn. And since our knowledge is historical, flowing and flowing. >> Juanita Anderson: I have a number of things I wanted to say about this piece. When I think about the work in general, it seems Robert plays [inaudible] filmmakers a tremendous challenge for people who are used to working in television and film. The notion that the human body, the human voice is a form of a human expression becomes the instrument [inaudible] which poetry is [inaudible]. It meant for us that [inaudible] much of what [inaudible] in poetry, particularly in our public television, because we would not make the attempt to use visual medium to interpret the poem. But to let the human beings speak for the poetry themselves, which meant that they would be on camera at all times while the poem was being read. Which is very contrary to what most of us who work in public television are brought [inaudible]. So the challenge for us is to really try to look at engaging ways to make the poem come alive, to really use Robert's notion [inaudible] television to rebuild this concept of Robert's vision for this project. I think that one of the instructions that I left with the filmmakers was that, in addition to the reading of the poem, we wanted to give a sense of who they were, as well as a sense of place. And a sense of sense of place in some cases meant geography, in some cases it meant [inaudible] or other producer directors on the program looking for visual codes that would give you insights to who that person was, or in some cases using environment to convey something about the poem itself. I have to confess, I was not a poetry major, [laughter] and this is my first segment. I did seven segments as the producer/director myself, and they were all based in Georgia. This was our first shoot day and it illustrated all of the potential problems. First of all, I was intimidated by this poem. There were three pages in front of me that read to me more like a visual treatment of the setting as opposed to what I was accustomed to in terms of poetry. And I went like, gosh, the first stanza is a page and a half, what do you do with it? Fortunately both Natasha and I had the privilege [inaudible] who was the West-Coast based producer and Nick [inaudible] who shot in New York State, and in Washington DC did not have the privilege of doing, was to do site surveys previously with each of the participants. Natasha got to do it in Massachusetts and Connecticut [inaudible] all at once, and made two trips to them [inaudible] and meeting with people [inaudible] shooting. But in meeting Alex Shir, I remember reading his letter that talked about the notion of there being a dark side into his life. And when I met him I think I took him off guard and I asked him about and it and he was quite revealing about what he meant about his dark side, but I instinctively knew that he would not discuss it ever again. We had asked him in a pre-interview process -- there was a pre-interview that we did with each of potential readers to really gauge how they would read the poem to find out more about them, so that we could help plan how we wanted to deal with the visual treatment. Sort of figure out what their stories were and how best we could convey and bring them out, and each one individual was just like each of these pieces is so individual. We worked to really use the medium based on who the people were and what story they had to tell. It wasn't a formula that we created to make this happen. But, Alex, in his pre-interview was asked a question by the [inaudible] who did the interview, "Where would you like to do this? Where do you see yourself reading it?" And at first Alex thought, well, maybe I should try to take a look at someplace [inaudible] mostly [inaudible] describing it, which didn't quite make sense to me, because here he was in Georgia, there was no Rocky New England shore, there was no ocean, so why would he do that. So I spoke with him on the phone and I said, you know, we're not looking for a imitation setting, but I'm more interested in finding a place where you feel comfortable in, and does that make sense to you. He says, you mean the point of [inaudible]? Yes [laughter]. I have no clue exactly what he thought, but the point of connection for him [inaudible] talked to me about environment and how important environment was to him. So the concept that I had was that I would [inaudible] visually link what was important to him about his environment to the kind of environment that Elizabeth Bishop was describing [inaudible]. But I still didn't get the [inaudible]. And we drove two and a half hours in Athens, and I'm reading the poem, and I shared it with my crew people. By the way, [inaudible] makes a film solo. I mean, it takes a lot of work and a lot of people. We went [inaudible], camera person, and [inaudible] takes care of [inaudible] microphone [inaudible] and that's only the beginning [inaudible]. But we get there and I take my crew around and show them the location that [inaudible] has chosen and why they were important to him. And we begin to do the interview. We had a lot of problems because the sun was in the wrong in the place at the wrong time and we were working with these mini TV cameras which were not broadcast standard, but we wanted to [inaudible], but we had [inaudible] to what those cameras could and couldn't do, so lighting was extremely important in this case. We start the interview and [inaudible] at the very beginning during the interview [inaudible] where we had the antenna for the microphone and chewed the microphone [laughter]. So that was sort of the beginning of the day and [inaudible] opening is actually Alex going back [inaudible] and felt very badly because he had [inaudible]. I was actually trying to [inaudible] back up. So that was how the day went. Then, you know, Alex [inaudible] very quiet area, you know, [inaudible] very quiet. Well, he didn't realize that, you know, the sounds of the airplanes [inaudible] small airport four miles away from him, and they were, like, crop duster planes. So we were getting sound, and I knew that Mark was going to kill me -- where was Mark [laughter] -- because we were [inaudible] recording on [inaudible] separately. And [inaudible] missed the turn off because I was [inaudible] figuring out the [inaudible], so I forgot to tell [inaudible], finally made it. All of a sudden the airplanes start going on. Across the road there is some construction going on, hammering and buzz saws, and so we have to stop taping and Alex goes and gives them the rest of our scones that he had bought us for breakfast to appease the [inaudible] so that they can be quiet for a couple of hours [laughter]. Then a bull gets stuck in the middle of the road [laughter]. Horns are honking, and [inaudible] stop, and [inaudible] which I really began to understand once he started to reading it, I finally got it. And, oh my gosh, Robert is so right [laughter]. But [inaudible] sort of envisioned, you know, we don't want television who are used [inaudible] get bored, you know, I'm still paranoid about this, and I've since changed my whole attitude by the time I've gotten through 50 of these now. But I had worked out in my head scenes in the different locations that we would use, and the scenes are there, but they're not in the way that I had envisioned them in terms of where they would fall in the placement of the poem, because so much happened. Every time we went to roll tape and shoot a particular scene there would be some noise, the bulls were the absolute worst because cars were honking. Finally somebody comes down the gravel road and says, "Is this your bull in the road?" And Alex has to go and [inaudible], let me call my neighbor because it's [inaudible] day. Finally [inaudible]. We got to [inaudible] last page and a half. It was 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I had been trying in two locations to do the whole [inaudible] through, and it just didn't happen, particularly with the very last part of the poem, [inaudible]. And I knew that it was supposed to be connected to [inaudible], very hard to figure out since we couldn't connect it in the same scene because there were either airplane noises or something going on, how to make the two different scenes connect. So [inaudible] what I thought was amazing audio transition where there was sort of this overlap of audio between the two locations. And I [inaudible] feel it in my gut, but Robert thought it was a mistake [laughter]. So we had to get rid of it [laughter]. And when Robert [inaudible] the poem really should [inaudible] in a different place. And [inaudible], you know, how to make these cuts work and finally, after we did the best we could [inaudible] the only way I'm going to convince Robert that we can't do the scene any other way, [inaudible], why not. So what I want to share with you is the one take that we did [inaudible] all the way through [inaudible] mid-way and [inaudible] to get to the end. Again, it's [inaudible] about 4 o'clock and we had maybe 20 takes of the poem. I'm still thinking of Mark because I know that he wants [inaudible] location, [inaudible] so that the audio will be consistent and we're trying to get [inaudible]. We're about halfway through. [ Noises ] >> -- moving [inaudible] then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge, almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug, as if it were against his better judgment. Cold, dark, deep and absolutely clear, the clear, gray, icy water. Back behind us, the dignified tall first begin. Bluish -- [ Laughter ] [ Inaudible Speaker ] [ Laughter ] [ Inaudible Speaker ] [ Laughter ] [ Inaudible Speaker ] [ Laughter ] If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter, then briny, then surely burn your tongue. It is like what we imagined [inaudible]. Dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free, drawn from the cold, hard [inaudible] of the world to [inaudible] forever, flowing and drawn. And since our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flowing. [ Laughter ] [ Applause ] >> Juanita Anderson: I think we'll be able to open it up to a few questions [inaudible]. >> I thought we should [inaudible]. Well, first, I thought we should do [inaudible], just because I thought it was so fantastic how he kept on [inaudible] such [inaudible]. And he reminded me a lot of something that [inaudible] a story about [inaudible] and she had just come to the point where she [inaudible] and she figured out what she was going to write, and she [inaudible] orange juice all over the [inaudible] and she just wrote [inaudible]. She thought she had that moment. So, you know, [inaudible] it reminded me of that kind of earnest approach, so. But I think [inaudible] film, I think we made the better choice. >> Juanita Anderson: [Inaudible] after I saw this I remember being there in that moment and saying, he's going to get through this, he's going [inaudible]. I'm not going to stop him. But actually looking at him, our cameraman didn't say anything [inaudible] he normally would stop in a heartbeat to say, can we stop and do another take. Everybody kept going [laughter]. >> We'll open it up. If anybody has any questions, not only about this piece, but about what you saw last night, or just for the production team in general. >> How did you manage to get everyone to be so [inaudible]? How did you manage to get everyone to be so [inaudible]? >> Juanita Anderson: I think that there is a bonding process that happens between producer/director and participant. It's sort of one of the key elements I think about [inaudible] filmmaking where the subject is really critical. Someone once used the term "cocoon", that as a [inaudible] you try to really get inside what that person is thinking, let them get to know you, and you them until [inaudible] are comfortable with you, and it works in many ways. I mean, you don't -- I mean, a lot of people think about asking questions and you write down the questions that you're going to ask. It doesn't work that way when you do that. You really have to have a conversation with people. I found that's work best for me, certainly. But I think part of the task is getting them to forget that the cameras there, which is really hard to do when people are saying, [inaudible], you know, this didn't quite work out. And, I mean, you're there and you're paying attention to them and you're paying attention to what your camera person is doing, what your sound person is doing. Some people are notorious for letting me know when [inaudible], at least the really good ones are. And you're in the moment. I had a case where I was really in a moment and my subject [inaudible] this very powerful story, was almost in tears, and my sound man said, [inaudible], and it broke the moment. So you have to really try to rebuild it. But I think -- I mean, what was so special about this is because we got to meet so many wonderful people. And last night when Mike [inaudible] was here, who did the [inaudible] poem, I mean, the first thing he says, "Well, where's David?" I mean, he and David [inaudible] is here today and David wrote -- [inaudible] maybe you can respond. >> Well, it got [inaudible] and David talked to me a few times on the phone [inaudible]. The first time that I was supposed to read, I had a terrible flu and there was no way [inaudible], so he -- I don't know, I haven't seen the piece, I don't know how it came out, but I think he did a superb job because he had very limited time, he had no chance to see where we could do the poem, and I had trouble finding a place. And so we wound up doing it in my office downstairs, which is a horrendous mess because I had just moved to that office, so there was piles of stuff everywhere, and I was embarrassed. He said, no, no, no, [inaudible] actually work. [ Laughter ] And he put me very much at ease and whether he meant it or not he seemed to relate very much to the poem and I think that he was inspired by the poems that [inaudible]. It was a very [inaudible] experience for me. I don't know [inaudible]. [ Inaudible Speaker ] >> You mentioned that you were concerned about pasting or editing with this so it wouldn't get boring and I was just going to ask you, you and the sound and actually everybody if there was anything that you discovered or realized or changed about how your thinking because you were doing poetry as you went into it. But is what was your thought process about, what was unique about doing this poetry versus, other things that you've done in any dimension of production, if any? >> [Inaudible] could you maybe repeat the question [inaudible]. >> The question I wanted to eloquently state. >> You stated that it's all very eloquently I think the short part was there was something in the process that was different for us because we were doing poetry [inaudible]. >> Juanita Anderson: Okay, well, I edited many of the pieces so in terms of pacing that's where a lot of things happened [inaudible] and I think one of the things that happened for us in the edit [inaudible] of the is an appreciation, for the rhythms of the poem and kind of leaving them be still. But is that different from other forums that in terms of a documentary filmmaker, I do not think so actually because one of the things that especially in editing, that we try so hard to do is kind of maintaining integrity the person that's given their time to be a part of the film. And then that's not always so evident in some of the films that you may have seen, but it is part of the process when you're editing you're actually really dropping things that people said, gestures, and you're highlighting others or, you know, I would maybe on first chance I would have [inaudible] the dogs. But that wasn't necessarily disciple to the poem, poet Alex, or the dogs. [ Laughter ] But -- so these are the choices that we had to make and I don't think that they are particular to poetry. The thing that I did feel in the process is really what Robert set out to do, came true. In the sense that, as we were cutting these pieces together there were many poems that I had no relation to, you know I just really wasn't attracted to. But when you match these poems and these poets again through these people they really had meaning that perhaps they didn't have before at first. And I thought that the reading and the creation of this poem being theirs was really a practice and that really in the end I feel like this is a very strong format for understanding poetry personally and I really enjoyed it, and loved most of the poems that we worked on in the end. And [inaudible] say that [laughter]. >> Could you talk about the collection because you got these letters right and you read them and decided which one [inaudible]. >> Juanita Anderson: I'll quote Robert. Always the governing principle [inaudible] selection for both narrowing the18,000 letters we received down to what became the 200 poems and 360 letters in the book and then these 50 first videos was that the main criterion for selection is the relationship between the person and the poem. >> So that the thing that we were trying to capture and perpetuate by creating this archive was the unique or particular relationships between Americans and very particular poems that had become part of what they go through their lives with. But one of the things that is actually interesting to me about the video is that it changes the scope that [inaudible] with these video pieces is quite unlike reading the letters and the accompanying poem for example as they are explained in the book. It does emphasize more the personal elements, the people and their stories and how that relates to the poem and that's what makes them dramatic, that's what makes it TV. But I was also very pleased to feel that that was successful and it's slightly different from the original idea. >> A two-part question, ballpark estimate what's the ratio of qualitative footage to finished product [inaudible]? And the second half of the question for the most part were the outtakes removed because of dog problems, [inaudible] in the middle of the [inaudible], carpenters or because something wasn't working, or something not going where you wanted it to in the shoot itself without external interruption? >> Juanita Anderson: No generally there were I mean there were cases where again, [inaudible] element to so we often would start in the middle of the take because of something [inaudible]. Any barrier [inaudible] the first thing you do when you're shooting indoors in someone's home is you ask them to turn off their refrigerator, which [inaudible] very [inaudible] thing to ask someone. But it's something that if we were in our home don't pay attention to but on a shoot when there are refrigerator noise in the kitchen, or when the heat or air conditioning [inaudible] it's very noticeable with the microphones. So yet it's often [inaudible] I asked each of the producers to limit the tapes that they shot to an hour. Most of them limited it to somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half, more like on the latter range. But there [laughter] but there was reasons and one of the things just in the whole process of [inaudible] think about it, when people are talking about their lives and they are talking [inaudible] who they are is to really try to work to make stories concise as possible. So there is lots of usable material, but it's really finding the most concise way of telling that story and [inaudible] can certainly attest to I came into the editing [inaudible] and saying oh my gosh I've narrowed it down to half an hour now [laughter], help! But to be honest though [inaudible] a number of the producers and I think it depended upon the person and that they were, who the reader was, as well as the poem itself to try to use different angles or different vocal [inaudible]. So we often found ourselves [inaudible] asking the reader to read the poem ten times maybe, seven or eight times. So that we could record it at different perspectives, different vocal [inaudible], different angles so there would be that option of how it would be cut into final segment. So it wasn't so much the material wasn't usable it was more about the choices that were actually made both visually, as well as -- [ Inaudible Speaker ] >> Sure. The amazing thing for me working on this project was to get to know the sound patterns of 50 peoples' voices because apart from the fact that I worked with David on actually holding the boom mic and recording on location twice I've never seen any of these people. The way that if you didn't already understand it from Juanita's introduction, the way it worked with regards to creating pieces which hopefully are going to be played on the web, or played through the radio, or available on cassette, was that I would take the complete recording, including the outtakes from the filmmakers. And I would listen to them and then I would try and make a piece of about between five and six minutes long. Getting exactly the same spirit of that the filmmakers have got in basically quite a different way because obviously I was just going to use sound and I had to get right to the relationship between the reader and the poem. So my process was to basically, for those of you who are not familiar with any aspect of digital sound editing. What you do is you take a dap tape that a filmmaker gives you, you put it through a mixer and then you're able to sample different tracks from all that's recording and the track basically yes you can listen to it, but primarily what comes out is, something that looks like a cardiogram just a very beautiful representation of the movement of somebody's voice. And the fascinating thing is that it goes both north and south so you have a sense in which the voice, the pattern of the voice is being reflected as like a tree would be reflected in a pond or a river. So for me I was involved in looking at this visual representation knowing what part of the poem it represented and then looking to see how concentrated I could make the recording not with any kind of visual reference, not with knowing that there is no way that anybody is going to understand from any visual image what this person is like. So my process was I had the privilege of being able to over you know overhear all of these takes and in fact I was able to use material that the filmmakers weren't able to use because the tape was spoiled or altered because the visual thing didn't work, but in terms of the actual expression it worked fantastically. So far as many times as there are beautiful moments where the person doing sound on location said, "You know you can't tape that because it's got too much background noise," there are also many moments which are only captured hourly and wouldn't appear visually. So I think that's part of the justification for having these two different directions to the project. [ Inaudible Speaker ] >> The panting was really great it gave a whole new -- [ Laughter ] That was Alex's darker side. [ Laughter ] >> Juanita Anderson: We'll show two more tapes, we have two more segments, we don't have a lot of time. The next one we'd like to show is particularly because of the [inaudible], it was the only exception to the rule that poets will not be recorded for this archive and its Stanley [inaudible] reading of the poem -- [ Background Noise ] [ Inaudible Speaker ] [ Inaudible Speaker ] [ Inaudible Speaker ] [ Inaudible Speaker ] >> -- technically on the almost always the really good ones are very connected, truthful in their filming and that they [inaudible] you know, if I can be -- if the poetry can come to me, if I can give you a little bit [inaudible]. My art is that this bonding process [inaudible] that other [inaudible] is usually visually in love with [inaudible] and then the editing would really -- we get to know the right mix of [inaudible] and feel like we known them for years [inaudible]. But you get to know these little idiosyncrasies that can [inaudible]. It's actually quite amusing to watch [inaudible] on tape and everything. And the moments that they're on and the moments that they're off. So that's one of the parts of the process that usually get them to [inaudible], showing themselves that are really revealing themselves. >> I know also that we took [inaudible] off the [inaudible] because of that [inaudible] said, I mean, we [inaudible] yesterday that we never met a person [inaudible] instantaneously knew that she wasn't -- she didn't have a clue [inaudible]. [ Laughter ] But we knew her [inaudible]. Mark, you wanted to add something. >> Just that one of the fantastic things about working on this project was the whole question of this context, of how it would be received. What is the -- how do you really relate to this person's relationship to the poem? And the fascinating thing to me is that the filmmakers, just because of the medium that they're working in, have to give some kind of context. They can't -- I mean, [inaudible] Rodney reading last night's very interesting because it worked fantastically largely because he was completely in black and that all you see is some photographs which, if he hadn't identified himself as a photographer, you never would have known that they are his work. And it still works fantastically. You could do all of them that way. But it wouldn't function as a whole project. So the filmmakers almost have an impediment in -- like looking for a context because the heart of the project is something in which you have to throw the context away. What's so moving about this is that what the person reading the poem reveals is that they -- yes, it's true -- physically are reading the poem. But, actually, the poem is speaking them, and that is really what is so extraordinary about this project, and why it's so wise in a sense not to have famous people read their poems. Mr. Kunitz [assumed spelling] does a fantastic reading, and we all learn something about the origin and meaning of poetry in his life. What you see when you listen and when you watch the videos of people who you don't know is you find something out about them which you could never have known, and which they never would have told you unless they had that poem to read. >> And it's a brave process. I wish we had 10 guys like [inaudible] to introduce [inaudible] were here because I think it's very brave of them. I mean, we really stripped them bare, and it's not only them. It's their families that participate in this, and for our readers to be willing to allow us to come into their lives and interrupt their lives and rebuild so much of who they are, I think is just an amazing thing, and they're all to be applauded. I wanted to introduce Deborah because Deborah who I had mentioned earlier was my production manager. She's also a producer of [inaudible]. I mean, she's a producer in her own right and agreed to come on this project to [inaudible] to make sure that our structure was in place because of all the [inaudible] that we had to deal with. But one of our participants who actually lived in Boston was scheduled to be in Barbados. He's from Barbados originally, the [inaudible] and when we asked him in pre-interview, "Where would you like to be taped," he said, "Oh, Barbados." And we thought it was a joke. But we realized that from the standpoint of a production schedule that we were dealing with it was the logical place to do it. Unfortunately, we did not have Barbados money. So -- [ Laughter ] I said, okay, Deborah, if you can get a deal and get the Barbados tourism for [inaudible] to pay for it. You shoot it. She did. [ Laughter and Applause ] >> And the rest is history. >> Doing this piece it seemed logical that going to Barbados to tape the piece that immediately it conjures up images of the beach and trees and just the beauty, that type of beauty of the island, and to be quite honest with you, before I got there that was the intention after speaking with Reuben Haines briefly, the intent was to have him walking the beach, to have him, you know, sitting at the beach reading books and sort of reflecting and talking about the significance of his poem in his life. And the other aspect of it was that it seemed quite simple was that he was -- about 10 years ago, he was faced with a life-threatening illness and, you know, he, himself, thought his days were numbered. As a matter of fact he had engraved on his headstone, you know, a verse from this particular poem. Fortunately, he got well, he got better. And so, you know, he said, "Well, we'll go to Barbados and we'll tape it there." We'll have a little bit of him preaching. He's a minister. And this is how it will all come together. Well, in terms of speaking with him, spending time with him, things began to unravel, you know. Clearly "The Psalm of Life" was his poem ever since he first heard it as an 11-year-old. You know, what makes a poem like that stick in an 11-year-old's mind? There are other things that happened, you know, to him throughout his life that made him commit to that poem, and I think when you see the piece you'll understand. [ Music ] [ Music and Singing ] >> Reverend Haines served as minister of the 12th Baptist Church in Boston, Massachusetts. I was born in [Inaudible] Crossing on the threshold of the Great Depression. My parents were -- half were Caribbean immigrants from the Island of Barbados. The Great Depression brought difficult times in our family, exposed us to public welfare, poverty, fear, and a lot of other things. My father had hopes of gold in America so he became depressed and became part of oppression of racism and all the other things that could impose itself upon a man of color at that time in history. So I grew up poor, but I grew up seeking for some faith and hope. In junior high school an Irish teacher kept quoting verses from Longfellow. "Be not like dumb driven cattle to be a hero in the strife." And that's how -- I didn't understand all that was really saying but I learned it and it stayed in my mind. Later on feeling called to the Christian ministry as a theological student "The Psalm of Life" began to take on real meaning for me in my own personal struggles in life, and as I looked back and reflected upon my childhood, you know, the experiences of my parents. Oftentimes West Indian immigrants with their foreign accents and their foreign ways were so stereotyped and ridiculed and laughed at, so I don't think that Iowa some of my brothers making a big fuss about having parents who had come from a foreign land and spoke a foreign accent and oftentimes might have been called monkey-chasers or banana-eaters or all these sort of negative stereotypical things. My mother was about 19 when she left. I'm happy she reached her 65th birthday. She stated that she wanted to visit her home one time before she died, and someone had to take her to Barbados. So then I ended up being that person. [ Music ] To come to this hill called Mount Tabor and to see this church that my father sung in the choir here. He was tenor soloist. My mother was very active in this church. And I developed a new interest and a new pridein what Barbados represented in terms of its independence, in terms of its culture, in terms of its religious faith. He became very proud to be, as they say here, of being some -- [ Inaudible Speaker ] Coming to this place just makes me think of all of the names that are tied in with my family. My grandmother was a Basque [inaudible] when she married Payne. My father's family were Haines's, Nichols and Howards. So they were all in here. "Life is real; life is earnest; and the grave is not its goal. Dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul." And this is the real significance of what Christian faith is all about. It gives you a hope that goes beyond the grave for the essence of who you are, that the soul can live eternally, you know, in a better existence. And if you didn't have that whole life become sort of a dead-end street and it becomes futile and you have the right to go to the cemetery and cry and give her hope. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Psalm of Life." "Tell me not in mournful numbers, life is but an empty dream. For the soul is dead that slumbers, and things are not what they seem. Life is real. Life is earnest. And the grave is not its goal; dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul. Not enjoyment and not sorrow is our destined end or way; but to act, that each tomorrow find us further than today. Art is long, and time is fleeting, and our hearts, though stout and brave, still, like muffled drums, are beating funeral marches to the grave. In the world's broad field of battle, in the bivouac of life, be not like dumb, driven cattle. Be a hero in the strife. Trust no future, however pleasant. Let the dead past bury its dead. Act, act in the living present. Heart within, and God overhead. Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime. And, departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time. Footprints that perhaps another sailing over life's solemn main, a forlorn and a shipwrecked brother seeing, shall take heart again. Let us, then, be up and doing, with a heart for any fate; still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait." Whenever I read Longfellow's "Psalm of Life" I'm challenged for living. [ Singing ] [ Applause ] >> Well, please join me in another round of applause for this very talented favorite poem production team. [ Applause ] >> I just want to say one thing about Barbara, is I've never been in a screening in my life when someone has gotten up after watching a few films and goes, "Yes." [ Laughter ] I must say just for that -- [ Laughter ] >> John Y. Cole: Well, thank you all. We will reconvene in about 10 minutes for the next session. Thank you, Robert, Juanita, Maggie. It was terrific. Their form of outreach if you will with poetry -- actually, I had a -- I was thinking during that wonderful film presentation a little bit about how we are talking about using all media. This morning one of our earliest questions had to do with television and use of other media in promoting poetry or in promoting books, reading, and the written word. And I feel, in part, we've now covered -- we are answering our own question a little bit by demonstrating the power of film with the demonstration for some of you who had not seen the films last night. We are going to continue to talk about other media. We had a good discussion this morning about radio as well. But now, if we're going to concentrate a little bit on the print media and publishing and talk about poetry, which is what, of course, brings us all together, and the publishing of poetry and how it has changed in recent times as well as a little bit through history. And for that discussion we have added a panelist who is nice enough to come up, take time -- Jack Shoemaker, who is from Counterpoint, the book publisher, and Jack has agreed to add his perspective to our discussion of poets and publishing. But what I would like to do, again, is to, rather than introducing everyone, to refer you to your programs and we will go through with brief statements from each of our panelists. Then we will ask the panelists to add anything they would like after hearing the others. And then we will open it up to hear one more time from you. So we would like to start with Bob Boyers who, I learned from talking to Bob on the phone, is indeed the Founding Editor of Salmagundi and -- the well-known poetry journal -- and also has been involved in poetry institutes and I would like to turn it over to Bob for his statement. Bob. >> Robert Boyers: I begin by noting just that contrary to what's indicated in the program, I'm not actually the Editor of a poetry journal exclusively, but of a generalist magazine that publishes lots of poetry. It's a small distinction but it may be an important one given what I have to say. My little talk comes in two very brief parts. The first one devoted to poetry in periodicals, the subject I suppose I know best, and the second to other questions recommended by Mr. Cole for this meeting. It's indisputable that most literary magazines exist principally for those whose work they publish. Very few of the tens of thousands of poets who send out their work to "AGNI, or "The Sutton Review," or "Grand Street," or my own "Salmagundi" support those magazines by taking out subscriptions or, in fact, most of the time reading those venerable periodicals. In fact, poets are as little inclined to buy literary magazines as the species once commonly referred to as the general literate reader. At a time when those of us with a stake in poetry have more than a little to be thankful for, when our Poet Laureate has stirred or renewed the interests and the sentiments of a great many people not apparently susceptible to or thoughtful about poetry, when throngs sometimes turn out for a public reading by Frank Bidart or Rita Dove or Louise Gluck, or Carolyn Forche, the situation of poetry is, let's call it complicated. A survey of the better-known magazines devoting substantial attention to poetry reveals the following. I have a little list. One, they continue to have and to hold relatively few long-term poet readers. Two, they receive greater and greater volumes of unsolicited manuscript material, mostly poetry, and mostly by poets not previously published in their pages or likely to read around in them unless they expect to be or to find their own work published there. Three, they have tended in recent years to reduce the reading period in which they consider manuscripts from 10 or 12 months to at most six months each year. Four, many editors routinely place a moratorium on the consideration of unsolicited manuscript material as the Kenyon Review did last fall and so I've been told as AGNI and the Missouri Review have lately done. Magazines like <i>Raritan </i>publish work by solicitation only, and this would seem to be the direction in which many magazine will go. Five, many magazines, my own included, which publish lots of poetry and devote space in each issue to younger poets also devote a large proportion of their space to writers who have published with them before so that even very fine work by potential new contributors will usually be rejected for lack of space. Six, most poets report that often their manuscript submissions are never responded to either by national magazines like the <i>New Yorker </i>or by many of the smaller literary quarterlies which routinely lose or otherwise lose track of manuscripts. The reporting time for most magazines is between four and eight months with some not likely to respond even within a year. Seven, very few magazines are able to offer a grown-up editorial assessment to manuscripts, many of them relying on unpaid student help, sometimes on the graduate students' help to give a first, usually final, reading to new poems. Rejection slips typically come in one kind only, the thanks-but-no-thanks kind and spare-me-the-explanation. Eight, younger or newer poets are right to complain that the situation often seems intolerable and editors overwhelmed by the inexorable tide of manuscripts coming in each week -- we get more than 5000 unsolicited manuscripts a year at Salmagundi. We're not the <i>New Yorker.</i> -- are right to respond that they are mostly doing as well as they can. Most editors, in fact, have accepted the fact that a good deal of what they consider will be a multiple submission so that the longer they take to look at a first-rate group of poems, the less likely will those poems be free by the time they get around to them. But though editors will occasionally be disappointed to learn that a poem they covet has been grabbed by someone else, there are so many attractive poems to be had that the disappointment will be short-lived at best. Nine, even the best-known literary magazines are apt in any given issue to publish one or two or more brilliant poems along with many others that are merely competent, though it is rare to find many bad poems in the better magazines. Of course, what seems merely competent to one editor may seem considerably better than that to another. But I would contend that the proliferation of write-in programs all across the country has raised the level of poetry generally so that the average submission takes rather longer to reject than was the case 25 or 30 years ago. I started 35 years ago, so I've actually been able to watch this for some time. Writing programs cannot make great poets, but they can often help hard-working poets to become serious writers who will produce creditable work. Number 10, the poetry scene is diverse in ways that seem to most of us very healthy. At this moment no one school dominates the leading magazines which rarely follow a predictable party line in their selections so that the followers of Ashbury and Bishop and Plath are not much better represented than the followers of Adrienne Rich or C.K. Williams or Louise Gluck. Adams Zagajewski, the Polish poet, recently argued in an article in the <i>New Republic </i>that most of the poetry out there is tepid, ironic, and conversational, and has no interest in high or final things. But I have a hard time applying those derisory epithets to much of the work that I see in the Salmagundi offices though, of course, tepid ironies are always plentiful. Eleven, last one, so few magazines any longer print or commission serious reviews of poetry that most poets have ceased to write them or, except where their own work is concerned, to miss them. And, of course, even poets inclined to regret the absence of steady, bracing criticism coming from first-rate poet critics can easily console themselves for the loss by simply intoning -- once or twice each afternoon should be enough -- the words "William Logan," and giving thanks for William Logan's decision, at least for the moment, not to offer a scathing review of their latest work. That's Part One. Part Two is somewhat briefer. These are responses to questions put to me on a phone by Mr. Cole. I'll tackle them in very summary fashion. One, who writes poetry? Answer, just about anybody. And to judge from the manuscripts coming into our little magazine mailbox five days each week, just about everybody. At the Summer Writers Institute I direct each summer our Poetry Workshops are filled with people, some of whom live and breathe poetry, but also with many others who are doctors, lawyers, musicians, businessmen, social workers, and so on. Question Two, who certifies for those who write poetry that they are poets? This is hard to answer, and no doubt most of those who write poetry just know what they're doing and need no reassurance about who they are when they write. Others less confident will require, I suppose, confirmation from some external source, often an encouraging mentor, sometimes an encouraging magazine editor willing to publish their work, and thereby to confer upon them I guess what we call an identity. Whatever the means, many people apparently believe that writing poetry confers upon their lives some meaning or dignity or shape that is highly desirable. And I don't blame them. Three, last question. What is the poetry scene today or what is it like? I've already indicated in Part One of this very brief talk what the scene is like from the peculiar perspective of a long-time magazine editor. But I'll add that the scene can claim many, many excellent poets whose work appears in so many different places, from so many different presses, that it is no longer possible to suppose that only the commercial presses or the national magazines will bring out really distinguished work, though things out there can seem dark or difficult especially for poets trying to break into print at the better magazines. There are many editors around who are more than eager to discover new talent and to promote it in the modest ways available to most of them. Yes, the scene is crowded with many voices, so many, that it is impossible for most of us to attend even to a small fraction of those many voices and, yes, most of us will be very fortunate if we can find the time to love and to master the new books coming out by Robert Pinsky or Louise Gluck, or Seamus Heaney. But some of us will continue to make time for the grayer frailer voice of a poet like Carl Dennis, the mordancies of a young poet like Danial Levin, or the orchestral resonances of a strange anachronistic poet named Herbert Morris. None of these three, with titles presently available at Kramer Books or Politics and Prose where I investigated the local scene on Monday morning, and did so with those three names of persons with recent books in print were not to be found in the rather nicely stocked poetry sections. In short, though there is too much poetry out there to take in, we can see that much of it is admirable and compelling, sometimes even thrilling or austerely beautiful. And though there is always reason to complain about look-alikes and sound-alikes in the graduate writing programs about the thinness of air and idea in many of the well-made poems churned out in major MFA programs, we have only to remember how much really good work there is that we haven't the time to master and how consistently our best poets have struggled to exceed themselves. We don't live in an age of poetry, but we have more than two or three handfuls of poets whose work may well be read and loved long after we are gone. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Jerry W. Ward: I'd like to thank Robert Pinsky, the Center for the Book, and the Library of Congress, and everyone else who was responsible for having me come here. I must tell tales out of school. Last spring, Robert Pinsky was in Mississippi, and we met for the first time. And I think we enjoyed the meeting despite our disagreement about a few things. And most of my discussion today is based upon that disagreement, which is a friendly one, about the use of the Internet. So I decided that maybe I ought to talk to you about my antiquated beliefs that poetry still loves the page more than the screen or, as a kind of subtitle for my remarks, it's what you have to say when you ain't no spring chicken, as my poet friend [inaudible] whom I was very pleased to publish in <i>Troubled Waters </i>said, and having been here for the videos and having watched the audience today and the way people are responding, I just felt moved to read this. "I am as old as sin, quiet as it's kept. As ancient as an exorcism from paradise. I used to swing by my feet, make a dance out of trees catching me. I used to stand on my hands and throw huge rocks with the bow of my legs. I used to outrun daylight home to a woman dressed in nightfall, older than the blues, older than the grace of sitting years later on the porch of a rocking chair poem. I used to turn my eyes inside-out and cure a headache in a time before color 3D TV, in a time before footprints on the moon, in a time before the wheel. Let me tell you of a time long before Lucifer when the sky and the sea were the same, when we could swim to the stars. I am slow dragging against the walls of a cave, combing the wind with my hair. I wear a rainbow as my diaper and a feather in my ear. I am tapdancing majestic waves, surfing for the rocky ground where the tribe waits. They throw chains out to fetch me, pulling me in like old age with open arms. They bite and growl a song which welcomes me. Even then there was more to the world than meets the eye." That's about the way I feel when I talk about what's happening to poetry now, because no doubt I belong to some ancient tribe of scriveners who were very much put out when the craft they loved and the livelihood they depended upon was undeniably diminished by the triumph of printing. As a writer who has moved from pencil and what we in the South used to call cornbread paper to pencil and nice paper, through the manual and electric versions of the typewriter, to a now shameless use of the computer as a word processor, I must admit that I have a kind of residual kinship with those ancient makers of manuscripts. No, I do not want to return to the use of pen and ink as a habitual mode of writing. My hand would cramp. But at certain stages in composition, particularly when I am writing poems, I must have the evolving product on the page and not on the computer screen. I must have the paper in hand. The screen does not permit me to touch the word as the page does. And as I remarked yesterday after looking at the collection of treasures in a new exhibit in the Jefferson Building, unless there was a paper there with ancient printing on it I don't know that that particular magic moment would happen for me. So in my creative projects and in my creative responses, poetry still loves the page. And as a reader of poems, I still want the look and feel of the printed page. My brain is not hardwired in the intellectual and aesthetic acts it performs for the e-book or the Palm book or whatever it's called, and any other extremes in the future to which we will wind up as we explore the full possibilities of hypertextuality. By sheer habit I respond more warmly to <i>Dover Beach </i>in a printed anthology than to the most handsome presentation the electronic village at the University of Virginia might be able to make. In 1992, Robert Coover wrote a rather starting piece for the <i>New York Times</i> called "The End of the Book." And I think what he had to say is to be taken seriously. He contended -- or at least I suppose he partially contended -- that poets and publishers cannot behave as if the electronic has not changed how we communicate, conduct our daily affairs, enjoy or suffer a quality of life. Indeed the revolution is well on the road toward changing the cognitive functioning of the human brain. We can't ignore either the unsettled questions regarding intellectual property, copyright, and something I learned recently which is called copyleft which pertains only to the computer. Other entitlements and most especially as the Authors Guild reminds me, I have to be concerned about the recovery of royalties from various misuses. Writing from the vantage of fiction, Robert Coover really humorously remarked, "You will often hear it said that the print medium is a doomed and outdated technology, a mere curiosity of bygone days just [inaudible] to be consigned forever to those dusty, unattended museums we now call libraries. Indeed. The very proliferation of books and other print-based media is held to be a signal of its feverish moribundity, the last futile grasp of a once vital form before it finally passes away forever, dead as God." That's the end of Coover's quotation. Coover has willing to face the new world by experimenting with hyperspace at Brown University in the creation of narrative that would free a writer from the tyranny of the line. As he said, "Hypertext reader and writer are said to become co-learners or co-writers as it were, fellow travelers in the mapping and remapping of textual and visual kinetic and aural components, all of which are provided by what used to be called the author," unquote. The number of fiction writers willing to go the whole nine yards with hypertext is small. To my knowledge, the number of poets willing to do so would be absolutely miniscule. We -- or at least I can speak only for myself -- we are reluctant to have co-poets tamper with out creations except in workshops or by way of private feedback solicited from other writers or kindred souls. Such poems as are published at various sites on the World Wide Web are more or less imitations of what one finds on paper. And it is disappointing to me that you can't even write marginal notes on the Web-published poem. It is probably pleasing to the publishers of the amazingly popular new translation of <i>Beowulf </i>that Seamus Heaney did not opt to sell it by way of the Web. That book is selling well according to the <i>New York Times </i>of 29 March. But maybe another edition of his translation will include a CD or of him reading or of some well-spoken print reading at -- which will return it to its natural context as poetry. The sales of this new version of an old epic is probably one small indicator that the book is not dead, the text lives, and will live in new transformations. I do not think that we need to do a hatchet job on poetry and new technologies of publication. There is something to be said about the positive good of getting people interested in poetry by way of the Internet. Robert Pinsky's project is probably, especially after last night's cybercast, a very fine example of how you can use the Net to reach a democratic audience. I think there's something very good to be said about this because some of those materials will find their way to the joys of print. Some of the people who find things on the Net will again learn to enjoy the heft of a book in hand and the turning of pages, rather than the clicking of mice. And I have to ask learned people here, is the plural of mouse used as a computer instrument "mice" or "mouses?" I really don't know, but I would like an answer, please. The act of reading encourages then a very active participation in one's literacy. The reading of a poem, as those wonderful videos have shown us, shows that there is a very active use of the voice, but also of various powers of imagination in figuring out the meanings that emerge from that kind of encounter which are quite different and perhaps more blessed than the meanings that ever occur in my classroom. For academic purposes I do not object to preparing the text of poems so that students can have access to links for now that can do what footnotes and glosses in the old technology used to do. On the other hand, as a teacher I always warn students about the dangers of thinking that somehow it's all there in hyperspace. No, it is not. There is so much in the library in print that awaits our discovery. The epiphany for me yesterday was, my God, I'm over half a century old and I could spend another century reading in the Library of Congress. No, this new enthusiasm and wonder for what a well-chosen configuration of words might contain has this possibility of springing forth even in the new technology. And the Library of Congress website has done much to disseminate the possibilities to hundreds of thousands of Americans who got there online. No doubt in the future things will be very different. Surely there will be fewer of us around to carry on a long-term love affair with the poem manifested on paper in ink. Perhaps some century hence poets will alienate their individuality for the good of the commonwealth of poetry. Perhaps e-Lit-zines web-located literary magazines will be all too commonplace and people will fashion anthologies from electronic poems with real audio readings. Neither poets nor publishers can stop the revolution involving the new management of boundless centerless space and unlocked time or, perhaps, unclocked time. But any conclusion that poetry on the Internet is more than an interesting and emerging set of possibilities is, as was the announcement about Truman losing to Dewey, premature. The page still simply loves the poem. [ Applause ] >> John Y. Cole: Thank you, Jerry. Our next speaker is Leslie Morris who will present another perspective. Leslie. >> Leslie Morris: I should probably begin by saying that I'm not a publisher. So I feel a little bit out of place on this panel. I'm an archivist and what I'm interested in is what the publishers and the poets leave behind. And what I'm talking about primarily today is my experience as an archivist with one particular publisher, and that was New Directions Publishing Company. The outline of the story of James Lockland IV and his New Directions Publishing Corporation is familiar to anyone interested in 20th century poets. So I will only recap it briefly here to set the scene. Jay, as he was usually known, became a publisher because he was told to become one by Ezra Pound. He had sought out Pound in Italy, taking leave from Harvard in his sophomore year to attend Pound's Ezuversity, hoping in this way to become a poet. After several months with Pound, Pound finally said to him, and I quote from Jay's reminiscences of Pound here. "No, Jazz, it's hopeless. You're never going to make a writer. No matter how hard you try, you'll never make it. Go back to America and do something useful. Go back and be a publisher. If you're a good boy your parents will give you some money and you can bring out books. I'll get all my friends to send you stuff." [ Laughter ] Lockland's family owned the Pittsburgh steel company Jones and Lockland and Jay did not really need to work to support himself. But following Pound's advice he returned to Harvard and in 1936 while still a student brought out his first New Directions book. Almost half of the titles that New Directions has published have been poetry. Many poets who are now part of the accepted mainstream of 20th century poetry had their early work published in New Directions, in one of the firm's annuals, or have been kept in print by New Directions, when other more commercial publishers were not interested. To name only a few of the poets -- Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams are foremost, of course. They are the two pillars upon which the house of New Directions rests. Tennessee Williams, who was a poet as well as a playwright, and New Directions has published almost all of Williams' work. Dylan Thomas, Delmore Schwartz, Kenneth Patchen, Thomas Merton, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. <i>A Coney Island of the Mind </i>was one of ND's biggest and best sellers. Denise Levertov, Elizabeth Bishop, Gary Snyder, and the list could go on and on. New Directions was also extremely important in bringing to an American public translations of foreign writers, exposing American poets to the traditions of French modernism such the work of the surrealist Paul Eluard, and a Spanish and Latin American lyric in the work of Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda, and Octavio Paz. When I read off the names of the poets that New Directions published, you might be excused for thinking that, of course, with such a list the firm must have made some money. And, after all, it's still in business today after 64 years. The fact is, however, that the firm operated in the red for close to 40 years until the explosion of courses in contemporary poetry in American universities in the mid-1970s. Only New Directions had the essential text still in print and so, finally, they began to make profits. Although often in the years the firm did make a profit it would not have been in the black had its publisher taken a salary. Life, even for successful poetry publishers, can be marginal and it helps greatly to be independently wealthy. Jay Lockland's publishing philosophy was to publish only work that he liked. Jay was proud to say that he'd turned down Rod McKuen who sold millions of books because quote, "It's poetry, sure. I admit it's poetry, but it's not a kind of poetry that I like." Because he didn't need to turn a profit in order to support himself, he could, again, in his words, quote, "do things I wanted to do without having to waste a lot of time publishing junk to support them." Jay also subscribed to a belief of Pounds that there was almost always a time lag of 10 to 20 years until a poet's work was appreciated. Consequently, New Directions keeps books in print for a very long time, waiting for that period to end and to be ready to sell those books when it does. But I'm on this panel today not simply to tell the story of New Directions as a case study in poetry publishing, but to speak also in my professional capacity as an archivist. What does the written record left behind by this company tell one about the relationships between poets and publishers? One might expect that the proofs and other production materials for the books of poetry New Directions published would be extremely revealing of how Jay worked with his authors. But, in point of fact, the proofs tell one very little. For the most part Jay did very little line editing for his writers largely because most of them wouldn't stand for it. Can you imagine trying to edit Pound or Williams? Instead, he invested time and long letters, occasionally dispensing advice or offering a point of view, but for the most part simply being the facilitator of their creative work. Denise Levertov, a poet whom Jay published early and often summed it up eloquently when she said, "For over 20 years I have had in Jay a publisher who has consistently affirmed and supported my development through all its changes, a friend whose personal kindness has been practically, as well as verbally, expressed. And in association with a fellow poet, consistently fine and at the same time modest and totally unselfserving" The letters between poet and publisher in the New Directions archive are quite truly remarkable and repeatedly showed the devotion, kindness, lack of ego, and passion for poetry that Levertov mentions. Fortunately, Jay usually kept carbons of his letters, so one can actually sit down and read both sides of these exchanges. I find one of the central pieces for understanding Jay as a publisher an exchange he had with William Carlos Williams in 1937. Williams had just published his novel, <i>White Mule </i>with New Directions and it had brought him some long overdue recognition and success. But, as do many writers who become successful with a small publisher, he was now thinking of taking his next book to a more commercial publisher. Williams wrote to Jay, in part, "Tentatively, I've been thinking that it might be wisest to approach a regular commercial publisher concerning my next book when it is ready. Harcourt Brace once smiled at me and Simon and Schuster grinned broadly. I'm just talking along, let it go in one ear and out the other. I won't make a move without a talk with you." Jay thought about this for 10 days and then wrote back -- and just a reminder, at this point, Williams is 54 years old and Jay is all of 23. "Dear Bill, you're thinking that you want somebody else as a crisis in my life. I had thought that I was doing all right in what I had taken up in what was probably to be my lifework and now, if you doubt me, I don't know. You are the cornerstone of New Directions, and if you left me I think I wouldn't be able to go on with it. I have built my plans around you. You are my symbol of everything that is good in writing, and if you go over to the enemy, I just don't know where the hell I'm at. [ Laughter ] "Would they take the mule? Now that you have made a success they want you. They think they can exploit you. "It isn't a case of publishers. It's a case of life and death, or right and wrong, of good writers starving and lousy writers going to Palm Beach. [ Laughter ] "Of course, I see the other side. I see that you need money. Well, if you will trust me for a little while I'll see that you get that. You are different from their trade. You and literature are not merchandise. They cannot fake you. Suppose your next book is too good and doesn't pay its share in their overhead. Those fair-weather friends will kick you right downstairs. They don't understand you. They don't know what it's all about. They just want to exploit your success. But you are free. You must do [background laughter] what you want to do. [ Laughter ] What can I do for you? I can push you steadily with the kind of people who are your proper audience. I can put out good books for you irrespective of whether they pay their way. And if you think you are losing money with me, I'll see that you get that. What are Simon and Schuster offering you? I'll meet anything they put up. Why do I care? Because I know that I need you in order to do anything for the young ones coming on. I can print their books for them. But unless the name New Directions stands for something, they'll have a hell of a row to hoe. With you, New Directions does stand for something. And the people it prints will get a start and a break. This is not just monkeyshine. It's the way the things work. But, again, you are absolutely free, and you must do what you want. You mustn't think of me -- >> Right. >> Leslie Morris: -- "but I think you should think of the other writers whom New Directions made strong by you could on their feet. Well, think it all over a while and let me know. Best, Jim." Williams wrote back [laughter], "Dear Jim, so be it. I frankly didn't think you were interested. Now it's different. We'll go ahead together, not any faster than is reasonable, but just as far and as persistently as we are able. It isn't that I need money now. That's not the point. My sole thought was that sometime or other, in the near future, I ought to try to make some sort of connection which would enable me to get some sort of return from my writing. I agree that my chances are slim, but I felt that I had to try. I'm convinced that my best chances now lie with you, looked at quite coldly. Nor do I expect the impossible. It was impossible for me to know before this last letter what your plans could be. It's noon now and I have to eat. Let me have your reactions. Sincerely yours, W.C. Williams." A second exchange, this one between Dylan Thomas, another core New Direction writer, and Jay. Thomas of course was perpetually short of money. In this letter, written in 1938, and shortly after the exchange with Williams I've just read, Thomas concludes a densely written five-page letter in which he describes his poverty in graphic detail as follows. "I apologize for this recital, but every one of my hopes is based on the possibility that New Directions may be able to give me an advance on royalties. It's extremely irregular, I know, and must be very annoying to you. For this unavoidably miserable letter I again apologize. I had hoped to write all this in a business-like manner but I failed. I failed because, although I know nothing about the business of publishing or the agreements that can be made between publisher and author, I know enough to realize that my most sincere appeal for an immediate advance on the work you wish to publish is unorthodox and possible insolent. I am sorry I had to write this, but I am forced to do away with dignity and formality and ask you this question. Can you, at once, give me money for which in return I promise you all the work I have done and will ever do? >> Whoo. >> Leslie Morris: "I hope beyond all things that you will answer me." Jay responded immediately. "Your letter had quite an effect on me [laughter]. When I got it in Paris I was just on the point of going off to Spain to fight in the war. Then I thought about your situation and -- [ Laughter ] "-- then I thought about your situation and that of two other young writers of mine in America and I said, 'My, God. No, I can't do that. I've got a duty to do.' So I didn't go. I can't get myself killed right now. As long as you stay good and write the real thing you will never make money. I must tell you that. You must resign yourself to that. That is the state of publishing today. But you can count on me to do what I can for you. At this moment I have almost no money at all. I'm living on $2 a day myself, but in good times I have plenty. So I cannot promise you very much right now. I can send you $20 now and the same again next month. If business gets better, I can do more for you. In the meantime, I'll do my best to see you through. New Directions is the best publisher for you in America because I fight for my books. None of the big houses will fight for a poet these days. If they think he'll write a novel, they'll play him along, but they won't fight for him as a poet. I worry about you, let me hear from you. Lockland. The correspondence in the archive continues to be rich throughout Jay's active involvement with the firm, even thought the telephone was handy. It's my impression that perhaps because he was a writer himself, he often wrote letters even when presumably a telephone call would have been possible. But faced with such a wealth of documentation in the New Direction's archive for the poet and student interested in how writers write and how writers survive as writers. I do lament the passing of the tradition of letter writing. Certainly, much of the author correspondence that I see these days is not terribly revealing. The telephone has made serious end roads [phonetic] in this record. Email does to me, at least offer the possibility of reversing some of this loss, but only if poets and editors keep their email and please not in electronic form, but on good old paper, which at least we know how to preserve. I hope that this very brief overview about New Direction's has given some indication of a possible formula for eventual success as a poetry publisher, although, to be honest I think that Jay was nearly unique. He attracted and kept good poets because he cared for the poet's interest in every possible way. He also had the patience to wait 10 to 20 years until the work was appreciated by a broader public and to be ready with their books and print when the call came. I also hope given that there are publishers and poets in this audience, that you will all think a little about future generations of poets and student's of poetry. Keep your drafts, print out your email, submit graciously to oral history interviews. If you don't, yes, the printed books and your poetry may survive for future generations. But those generations will have lost the opportunity to appreciate that very personal passion for poetry and the promulgation of poetry that comes through so clearly in correspondence like that in the New Direction's archive. And I think poetry and scholarship will be poor without it. [ Applause ] >> John Y. Cole: Well after listening to Leslie, how can one doubt the importance of archives and the kind of archive actually that [inaudible] building as well for the future, which is an important part of the endeavor, as well as efforts on the part of libraries and archives to retain these important records and copies of correspondence. Jack Shoemaker is a experienced, passionate publisher. Jack -- [ Audio Skips ] >> Jack Shoemaker: On one of the first pieces of advice he gave me was, get good advisors, listen to them and ignore everyone else. A writer that Leslie didn't mention that Laughlin died in despair over the lack of reading -- readership for was Kenneth Rexroth. In the early days, it was clearly Pounds influence that ran the engine that was New Directions. Shortly thereafter, a woman named Barbara Guess was really the French informant to New Directions, but when Pound returned after the Bollingen fiasco, returned to Italy and really entered a prolonged period of silence. It was Rexroth who stepped forward and taught Jay pretty much everything he knew about Chinese writing, about Japanese poetry, turned him onto a whole generation of poets that he -- Jay was not familiar with, and was I think, in a way that people have not appreciated, absolutely central to what we now think of as the Beat Scene or the San Francisco Renaissance or the New York School of Poetry. I also want to take a chance for a short -- we just shipped Herbert Morrison's new book, so you can make your way to a Border's. Because of the tyranny of chain bookstores, we can now know precisely when our book will be in their hands. It's 17 days from the day it leaves our warehouse, so it should be there this weekend -- fabulous book. Well, John was very kind, really what I said to him was that I didn't think I was going to be here and I didn't have very much time to think about what I was going to say, so I was just going to talk about myself or my career. And I'm most anxious because I thought that's what we were going to do to really respond to questions. I have many responses to what's been said already. But I will give you a brief overview of how I got to where I am. I've been involved with publishing and selling poetry for a long time. The first thing I published in 1965 was a broadside of Gary Snyder poem,<i> The Bed in the Sky </i>. The first book I published through a press associated with my book shop, we called ourselves, The Bookshop for Poets then, was a book of poems by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, <i>The Cry of Vietnam </i>. In 1966, Tye as he was known at that stage had a -- a singular job, he was the last person Zen monks saw before they burned themselves. For a few of us, the late '60s and early '70s were the golden age of poetry publishing. The counter culture was in full bloom, poets were among the leading scholars, philosophers, activists and leaders. Donald Allen's [inaudible] <i>The New American Poetry </i>introduces us all to the work of Charles Olsen, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and a dozen others. As a book seller, I could easily recall the excitement as people would hear about and look forward to new books of poems. I had a waiting list of all things, of more than 30 customers for the first volume of Ed Dorn's <i>Gunslinger </i>. As longhairs moved into the countryside, they took along their copies of <i>Rip Rap </i>and <i>Cottish </i>[assumed spelling] and to this day some of the largest audiences for poetry are found in these back country locations. This was the golden age too of small press magazines and journals and books. One could have an entire session of this conference on the history and demise of the small press movement. But let me just say that nothing has been seen since that even approximates the vitality of the scene at that time. It was in a direct way, government support that managed to kill it. It is hard to remember sometimes how visible poets were and what impact they had then. Press proceeded by the moderns, by the '60s Yates Pound Elliot classes were taught in virtually every university of the country. Frost was still in everyone's memory, more his persona really than his poetry. Stevens was -- Wallace Stevens was the most influential unread poet since [inaudible]. Marianne Moore was in Life Magazine for God's sake. She worked on a project with the Ford Motor Company that became the Edsel. I -- I once held in my hands a long playing record of Cassius Clay [inaudible] Muhammad Ali with the entire back cover printing an extended [inaudible] by Marianne Moore, wherein she [inaudible] Clay's couplets to Alexander Pope. The late '70s and '80s were a desert. Poetry sales plummeted. More importantly, the poets themselves withdrew or so it seemed. And the decade of greed convinced the literate audience in America to [inaudible] Calvinist ancestors reading nonfiction; reading for profit became the anthem. Small presses disappeared, poetry sales dropped, so did the sales for serious work in translation, serious experimental fiction and first and second novels. There was, as this library named one of its own conferences, a crisis in publishing. The poets who came after, those of the late '70s and '80s were mostly invested in either a small minded personal confession -- confessional poetry, sanctioned by the writing programs that grew up like a cancer all over the country, or they veered off into an opaque experimentalism that essentially mocked the audience with an arrogance that was more like academic writing than poetry -- modernist or otherwise. It may be that these matters are all cyclic. I've begun to wonder what the impact is of lyrics and popular songs on those most vulnerable, listeners in their 20's. Frank Sinatra, Ira Gershwin, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, The Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, REM, Nirvana, Public Enemy, Dr. Dre, Tracy Chapman, Portishead, Matchbook Twenty -- each generation seems to believe that the lyrics of their popular songs are superior or in fact art and this leads those 20 something's perhaps to an appreciation of the power of the heightened language that is poetry. Maybe that's a seed, but however it happened, the '90s was a time of audience expansion. From sales of poetry books to poetry slams, the more accessible poets in their 40's and 50's and very early 60's, show sales say above 20,000 copies that their forebears might not have dared imagine. A few of the old guard, Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry, William Merwin and the like can match the youngsters. This very week as we've already heard, we have Seamus Heaney's translation of <i>Beowulf </i>sitting on the New York Times bestseller list with more than 45,000 copies shipped. Writing schools are crammed, so are festivals and conferences, even the difficult work coming out now causes response. News magazines will actually devote articles to the difficulty of Jorie Graham. We must forgive them in their apparent belief that she is America's first difficult poet, but I've actually had meals interrupted when a poet I was dining with was recognized by fellow diners. This is a time on fire. But lest we become too complacent, let's insist on the long view and understand that it was not always so, but it has been good before and it will not always be this way and this probably won't last very long. As poets and publishers, we can enjoy ourselves for this moment. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> John Y. Cole: All right, first I would like to ask panel members if anyone has any comment or anything to add. All right, we all did our -- yes, Bob, go ahead. Okay. >> Robert Boyers: Any comments to the other people? >> John Y. Cole: Yes. >> Robert Boyers: [Inaudible] any comments for each other. >> John Y. Cole: You may. If not, let's go ahead to the audience. All right, we're open. Again, if you have a question, we'd appreciate if you would come to the mic so we could get it on the recordings that we're making of this memorable occasion. May I have the first comment or question from someone in the audience? [ Inaudible Speaker ] Yes, please. Sure, please. >> My name is Bob Stevens and it's my understanding that through the Internet, anybody can publish anything nowadays if they have the money to do it. And what this eliminates, at least to some extent is screening -- editorial screening and what it does is disseminate what used to be a term of [inaudible] vanity publishing. I wondered if the board would like to comment on those things. >> John Y. Cole: Anyone, Bob? >> Robert Boyers: Well, I guess I -- I'd say that [inaudible] has always been [inaudible] publishing -- >> Oh, sure. >> Robert Boyers: [Inaudible] and I suppose [inaudible] magazines of the sort much admired by the [inaudible] other small magazines imperative to [inaudible]. So, [inaudible] magazines in William's sense of them at least, wide open and not organized around the exercise -- the rigorous exercise of editorial judgment and assessment. There's always [inaudible] that we should have a [inaudible] like this, lots of magazines, lots of publications, publishing, all sorts of different people with many different levels and that people who wanted to write for those magazines and wanted to look around in them and discover what people were doing would have access to them, would [inaudible] those magazines. Alternatively, they have all these [inaudible], at least in this century, of the kinds of magazines organized around every [inaudible] apparently of more rigorous principles of assessment than discrimination. And for better or for worse, those -- those magazines, many of them [inaudible] have been rather long lived [inaudible]. I said for better or for worse. I think we need both kinds of magazines and I think the kinds of access that the Internet is [inaudible] to large numbers of people whom -- many of whom would not have access to widely circulated little magazines. This [inaudible] in the same way, you might mention that the -- the development of [inaudible] publishing has allowed lots of younger people to create small magazines with very small sums of money. And with considerable ingenuity to get them [inaudible], at least in some locations where most people are likely to see them and to purchase them. And as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing. [Inaudible] that kind of magazine, but I -- I [inaudible] St. Lawrence Book Store and Greenwich Village, I like to be able to look around [inaudible] magazines that have been published [inaudible] by groups of young people who don't have access to the [inaudible] or to [inaudible] to see what they're doing. So, I mean, in that sense, it seems to me a measure of a vital literary scene, that it creates access for lots of people to publishing -- different kinds of publishing, different kinds of audiences. I think that's what [inaudible]. >> John Y. Cole: Jack? >> Jack Shoemaker: [Inaudible] suggest that [inaudible] had money and I would suggest to you that in the late '60s it was a lot more direct and less expensive to buy a cassette [inaudible] machine, a stencil maker and you were in the business that afternoon as a publisher. You did not have to learn computers; you did not have to spend $895 to buy the basic equipment. And then, I was thinking of the comments about the [inaudible] publishing, I have to look at slate a lot. For a while, slate was publishing poems [inaudible]. Accompanied by their photograph [inaudible] American poetry review [inaudible], but also accompanied by a reading, so that if you could -- you clicked on the material and you could get a reading of that poem by the poet. Well, the first time I tried that, it took me nearly four hours [laughter]. I never did get it. So, we're talking about [inaudible] -- you're really worried about standards, I think. And standards in the literary magazines will always remind me of Margaret Anderson,<i> Little Review </i>, one of the most distinguished magazines in the history of literary magazines. She had the audacity to ship her subscribers a blank issue because she could not find work enough -- good enough [inaudible]. Now you can't imagine that happening these days [inaudible]. I'm not too worried about [inaudible]. You know the writer Richard [inaudible] many years ago, I published a little bit of Richard [inaudible]. Richard wrote a short story about the -- a library for unpublished work. You would send your copy off to this library where [inaudible] archived. And it was in fact, [inaudible] library was opened [inaudible] principles. And they added one interesting [inaudible], they refused to keep records or to expose records of what was checked out [laughter]. It didn't take very long to discover that nothing had been checked out [laughter]. So [inaudible] material up there on the web right now, it's easy to get it up there, it's easy to maintain it up there. [Inaudible] I think one of the most interesting of [inaudible] to develop is for us to understand what is meant by a hit [inaudible]. And once that's understood, I think that we're going to see [inaudible] that is going to make all -- all other [inaudible]. >> John Y. Cole: Thanks, Jack. One here and then I'll come to you. Yes, please -- would you come up to the mic please? >> I just wonder [inaudible] talked about, what are the necessary qualities for a good poetry editor? >> Leslie Morris: Well, I suggested what made Jay a good poetry editor. It was his passion for poetry, his willingness to lend money -- that was very important. And he was fortunate in having family money to a certain extent. He had a trust fund, it didn't generate that much income. He had an aunt, Lila, who would constantly give New Directions infusions of new money. But this also had, and it's something I didn't talk about, a somewhat dampening effect on what New Directions published because Jay was always concerned that Aunt Lila might get upset by some of the stuff. It had been submitted to him to publish. So, for example, he was offered Lolita by [inaudible] and did not publish it. And there are other instances of -- of big things that -- that he turned down simply because he was worried about his financial backer. I think the personal involvement that Jay had with his authors was the thing that they valued the most. And as a quote from Denise Levertov, I think made clear it was -- it was a personal involvement and an involvement with their work. Jay himself, although Pound, was so cutting about his own poetry was a good poet. And he understood what his poets went through in their writing and tried in every way that he could to support it. That was what made him I think a good publisher. >> John Y. Cole: Any other -- yes, Jerry, please. >> Jerry W. Ward: If I -- if I might address this very briefly, [inaudible] there were various kinds of editors [inaudible] depends upon whether we're just talking about magazines or anthologies and I have some experience with the latter -- all with both, I should say. But I think the -- the -- a good editor does use time differently and does take time, not just on the mimeograph or [inaudible], but actually even with the worst [inaudible] establishes a communication. And if this -- this is a writer that US [inaudible] are extremely interested in might even say, "Would you resubmit this if you agree that certain kinds of changes ought to take place?" Now when you're doing what few of us are doing with any [inaudible] anymore anthologies, you have another problem [inaudible]. I think we all need to know about this. There are many poets if you are doing anthology, which you think of as being constructive [inaudible] principles or your trying to [inaudible] of time. Yet you would like to have had [inaudible]. Now those who have been sufficiently [inaudible], because their work is usually in the public domain, but all angels and saints had better help you with living people who have [inaudible]. When I was trying to do <i>Troubled Water </i>, if I had not been able to figure out [inaudible] -- when I had Harcourt Brace Jovanovich asking me for $5000 for one poem, I just started cursing. And I said, although I like the work of this person very much, if it means I only include one poem that's going to be in it, people are going to ask, "Why didn't you have more of this writer?" And I'm going to [inaudible] say, "The writer costs too much." So, we have to be aware as editors I think, that very often our intentions cannot be [inaudible] anthologies simply doesn't matter [inaudible] publishers we have unless we were independently wealthy, not willing to put up the kind of money that would get some of the work we want because other publishers are out to line their pockets and rightfully the pockets [inaudible]. >> John Y. Cole: I think on this question, we can march right down the table, Jack and then Bob. >> Jack Shoemaker: [Inaudible] think for a minute. I think you should understand the place that a subsidiary rights and anthology rights, [inaudible] any given writer's income. A book like Robert Duncan publishes well by New Directions for several books is because of the class group [inaudible] for his work was making more money on subsidiary rights than he was on royalties. And it's partly the editor's responsibility because the editor gives a majority of that money to the poet himself. The part of our job is to protect them from their own benevolence and to help them maintain a certain [inaudible] level via academic and anthology rights. Somebody's making money on those books, whether it's the editor or the publisher, somebody's making money on those books. They're very expensive and somebody [inaudible] that -- that that somebody ought to include the writer's who are [inaudible]. I think, an answer to your question, I -- I don't think there's much difference between what makes a good editor and what makes a good poetry editor. What makes a good editor in my view is somebody who's capable of getting in the [inaudible], discovering their voice and helping them do the best job they can at what they've set out to do. And that doesn't matter whether it's fiction or poetry or nonfiction. Nonfiction manuscripts come forward and they're exquisitely prepared. Some -- I had to publish a writer who's [inaudible] as the writer of shitty drafts, Anne LaMott, she sends in the messiest manuscripts you've ever seen. She's [inaudible], but it ranges all the way through there. I've edited Gary Snyder's [inaudible] 1965, so what I gave him in essence when we were working on that long poem was a single faithful reader over a long period of time. I also was able to point out to him that the couple of times he faced actual [inaudible] and a couple of times he needed to double check his sources. So, you know, we do all kinds of -- of things like that that I can't imagine sitting there and writing a letter to every submission that comes in, I would think of myself as a therapist. I -- I cannot -- I -- I spent [inaudible] 85% of our [inaudible] writers that we have [inaudible] and 15% of the -- of the time trying to investigate those who wished to be [inaudible]. And it would be a terrible thing if we weren't able to do that. I don't know about this obligation for response is. Now if you're sitting at home one morning and you're drinking a glass of milk and you think, "Boy, I could do that." You go out and you buy yourself a cow and a couple of weeks later you send a handmade quart of milk to Berkley Farms and say, "See, I can do that, you should publish my milk." I mean, it doesn't happen in almost any other field. [Inaudible] we don't send stuff to Chevy saying, "I figured out how to make a car [inaudible]." I think, you know, there's a tremendous amount of -- of what we've figured out after [inaudible] was that those people who couldn't scientific, couldn't be creative. Those of us who couldn't carry a tune or [inaudible] virtually born [inaudible]. And so we then decided we could be writers since we couldn't be anything else, we could be writers. And there's a -- there's a tremendous [inaudible] tremendous competency out there. But I remember two things Lou Welsh once said, [inaudible] not very many people do it very well, no one knows why. And [inaudible] is no excuse [laughter]. >> John Y. Cole: Bob? >> Robert Boyers: Well, [inaudible] for the most part [inaudible] just said would be -- could be possible for anyone [inaudible] could not be done. So there -- there is that. [Inaudible] sheer physical impossibility [inaudible] and then I think also [inaudible] trying to suggest the need to be in regular contact with the people that you have committed yourself to [inaudible]. I will say, in response to something that was mentioned earlier in this panel, that a surprising number of the writers we publish, including many very experienced writers, but considerable [inaudible] that is in [inaudible] editorial criticism and suggestions for revision [inaudible]. Some writers, in fact, when they submit [inaudible] material, if they published [inaudible] before, actually invites critical assessment, share with you those feelings [inaudible] poem they've sent [inaudible] and we have those kinds of editorial relationships with lots of writers, which of course, absorbed an enormous amount of time and [inaudible] very important time, it's time well spent. >> John Y Cole: Thank you. You're next. >> This is sort of a two-part question too. One is addressed to [inaudible] or Robert [inaudible]. >> John Y. Cole: It's for the whole panel, I guess, right. Okay. >> Robert, you said that the amount of unsolicited manuscripts have skyrocketed and what I noticed is [inaudible] of people who are having crisis as a way of getting manuscripts and then that fee is attached. Could you discuss the trend that [inaudible] editors feel about it [inaudible]. This year's writer market by the way, has pages and pages of literary crisis. I wonder if this is a trend that is going to increase and -- >> John Y. Cole: You want to ask a second part of that now and then we'll -- >> The second part is because of the amount of work coming through your -- over your [inaudible] should poets like fiction writers send query letters or how to -- how does unknown [inaudible] press [inaudible]? >> Robert Pinksy: I've just written a letter complaining about [inaudible]. The first [inaudible] is a Ponzi scheme, it's a [inaudible] that is organized also, and I don't mean to be terribly cynical, but I think it's very clear that these people [inaudible] charging $15 reading fees for poetry submissions where first prize is $500 [inaudible]. So I would be very [inaudible] like I would be [inaudible]. There are very few that do very few legitimate [inaudible] will ask you for a so-called [inaudible] fee or a submissions fee. And having said that, I think some of the university [inaudible], oh it's [inaudible] under significant prizes that are [inaudible] by the institution and seem to have [inaudible]. Those are accesses to [inaudible] very important from the previous [inaudible] Robert Hess -- first book was [inaudible]. So, [inaudible] it's really a matter of judgment, but I would stay away from [inaudible] associated with a legitimate operation. >> Robert Boyers: I guess typically what you do recognize or what you're expected to recognize is the name of the judge or judges associated with a particular competition for which they [inaudible]. That automatically is expected [inaudible]. And I suppose it does. But you -- you [inaudible] a personal [inaudible] in a new competition, judged by [inaudible]. It's genuine and -- and in that sense, however skeptical you may be about being [inaudible], it's unlikely that [inaudible] poet looking to make a place for themselves, you pass up the opportunity to pay $15 here and $25 there [inaudible]. So that's -- that's one thing. I would not -- I think [inaudible] send my work out, send [inaudible] letters because I don't think that managers at that time [inaudible] letters, they just respond to manuscripts if they could do it [inaudible]. There are plenty of editors [inaudible]. >> Thank you. >> I'd just like to add that maybe we should remember some of the things that Paul Breslin said this morning about slams and think very seriously about the whole [inaudible]. Because along with that, I realized that many young people who would ordinarily [inaudible] being published have turned away from that [inaudible]. And now, you find that slams, cybers and other kinds of things, a lot of young talented writers who have simply bypassed the old route of getting published [inaudible] or they have used the laptop publishing of something. [Inaudible], but I think the world now has some of the choices that a number of people who are not looking for the [inaudible] from the establishment have decided that whether we think they're good or not, they are going to get their voices [inaudible]. >> John Y. Cole: Time for another question. Well, if not, I'm going to declare this panel over. I wish to thank the audience and in particular, I'd like to thank our panelists. We're going to reconvene, however, at 4:30, please join me in giving our panelists a hand. [ Applause ] >> Prosser Gifford: We're going from cyberspace to inner space. We've had a lot of context for poetry today. We've had historical context and interesting discussions of publishing context, now we get the real thing. And we're getting poets reading their own poetry, which is after all, a foundation for it all. They're going to read in the order that they are in the program, which is the order that you see them here, progressing down. Robert tells me, heroically that he will read for three or four minutes. May I just say, at this point, just remind the audience that there is at eight o'clock tonight in Coolidge, a reading of <i>Dante </i>. I think under the circumstances, Robert will not read, but William Merwin who is a absolutely first rate reader will read for both Robert and himself from <i>The Inferno </i>and<i> The [inaudible] </i>. I mean, excuse me,<i> The Purgatorio </i>. All right now, my job is to get out of the way and hand it over to Joshua. They will just go down the line. Joshua? >> Joshua Weiner: Well, okay, I'm as excited to be here today, as I was last night, which means my nerves are a little strained. I'm going to -- most of the poems I'm going to be reading are from a book called<i> The World's Room </i>. And this is the opening poem. Bruno's night -- up the hill of snoring, the father climbs in dream, the mother sinks in silence and baby sucks its thumb. But struggling next door, boy Bruno smells the dawn while the sick, the sad, the torn apart quiet their song. Dropped curtains hide the night's inspired fantastic pomp that liquidates with light. Don't oversleep, wake up, run to the grimy window, press your nose to the dirt. Under the dawn, you follow the mass of gathering earth. This next one is a -- is a poem in couplets and it's in two voices. The -- the first voice is the voice of a not yet conceived child. The second voice is the poet's voice and they're engaged in an argument. The first voice here is the child's. The not yet child, why won't you make me now, who wants a life inside your life. I fear you as a thief stealing about the -- stealing about the orchards of my future, green fruit glistening above a starving creature. To increase the coin buried inside yourself, you need exchange it for an alien wealth, wealth being you. I need to spend my horde on public conquests of a private world, take drugs and chances, love recklessly and build. I promise, I'm your most famous bright adventure. My stances will collapse, mere rooms in nature. I understand you dwell on agony, but there you'll shape your strongest poem, me. Your cry will play the tune ending my work as health plays boss over the art I serve. Not always helpless, one day I'll help you and you'll be grateful for what I give to you. Fever, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, I've my beloved to cause me such distress. And in my distress, I find again denial, if I'm the father how can I stay the child. Make me and as your face grows old, you'll find in my face, your face taking hold. That's vanity you call prosperity, afraid the future bears what you want to see, of where I could become but might not be. The -- the poet lost the argument and this next poem is my imagination of my son's voice at about 11 months, when he's just starting to discover a word or two for himself. It's called <i>The World's Room </i>. Big meat, fur teeth picks me up, puts me down. Do it, do it, do it now. Dotta, doggie, puppet God, he will, he won't, the floor is cold. I hunt my milk song, she titted sweet for me, tongue in, tongue out, mister, mister, I can sniff them at the household, wagging bye-bye. Bye-bye, why? Hi, hey where, hey how, a door, a page, both swing first word, hello. I said it, hello. Hear it, they hear it, they heard me, it grows to the room we're in. Next page please turn. Do it, do it, do it now. She will, she won't, why, try, my, cry. I'll find a shape, tongue in, tongue out, and be that shape I make obey me. I love it, big meat, warm arm, I love it, wants me, milk song. The page opens, a phone opens to, I'll turn it on and walk right through. Next page, please turn, do it, do it, do it now. I'm in the page and now I'm gone. Switching modes here. This is a -- this is a -- an ode to a former landlord and it gives me tremendous to be able to read it here at The Library of Congress [laughter]. In -- in the poem, I -- I address -- I address the landlord directly, but I've stolen a name, Crispis Solistius [assumed spelling] from a horse and this is a character that horse speaks to directly in a poem of his own that the poet, David Ferry, translates as Averis [assumed spelling]. Tempest, 3000 miles from this outermost seaside province, sky darkening to a purple amber wash across the harbor. You, Crispis Solistius, sit in your house perched among hills of a western paradise and consult with your lawyer how best to sue my ass. Lift your pen from the page and look out your window. How the heavy light seeks the world and warms it, drying the sod and earth and seducing reluctant buds. Just weeks ago, rain that never stopped would never stop it seemed, attacked the panes like buckshot flying sideways with the wind. Bad news in the mail, phone, fax, online, your enemy's triple headed barking on a river edge brimmed over, plosive and cascading. The river of your ire, strangling by submerging as dream -- as dreams too filled up with rain and banks refused to hold. But here as there, despite all precipitation, the rains rained out, while salt air and sun yank the covers off in lick us to rise up and hum. Why waste your precious coins in minutes on battle plans for some official dim interior? The polished wood and balustrade reflecting back in brass are convicts likenesses, as we prevail upon dignitary robes to judge us, who cannot sit still in silence. What could satisfy your hunger? The starving adventurer, having wandered lost in mountains drenched by rain, falls on a shepherd's humble table and eats until he's sick, chucks it up to force it down, bellying revolt against an agitating mind. Agitated to anger at my mere figure on your step, you shouldn't have come here. You're responsible, you owe, carbon pupils flaring, oh how I fucked you over, over good, as I stood wooden and bewildered lost in panics wood and you gathered breath to bellow like an actor on his final stage, overcome for the finish by black fury's torn finding its voice merging with your own. Your doubled voice enriched as venting pleasure frothing over, under, all around, carried me off in a ripping ugly rush. I'm not your father, your keeper. Well, I couldn't have agreed more. Though, months later, I'd reverse that if I saw you now and try, no doubt failing, to bow to you, my cheaper so close this long winter, I too gorge myself on platters of revenge and tart - tart sorbets kept cold in a metal dish of fear. Nights of revelry at the sink, each plate congealed with meat juice, a model of my mind, I tried scrubbing and scrubbing smooth, or was I just a fool? My mind more water, pouring from the faucet, seeking the basin to give it shape, contain it, it finding only drain and a polluted route to other larger waters. But your epic of triumph and suffering need this minor book, take your pen to a blank page of scrap, boot up and delete my name from your databank. You have others to care for, without taking care of me. Our fates mixed together, makes more stormy weather and see, it's just stopped raining. So, step to you balcony and breathe the new atmosphere thoroughly cleaned of me. That's life, egging your heartbeat on. I want more of it too than could ever fill me up, before the rain falls again, this time falling with no end. Late seasons flood water, sweeping out of cherished homes. Thanks. [ Applause ] [ Silence ] >> Naomi Shihab Nye: Gratitude to all the eloquent stunning speakers of the last two days. I don't know when I've heard more exhilarating presentations and I have conquered my phobia of panels forever having listened to the panels that have been up here today. It's -- it's been a marvelous time. I want to thank everybody who made this -- this program possible and special thanks to Robert Pinsky and Witter Bynner for this very unexpected and kind support. Since the topic is poetry in America today, I just wanted to say a word for where I've been for the last 25 years, which is out in schools as an itinerant visiting writer. And never have I heard a teacher say that her teacher -- her students have spent significant time with poetry in any way and gained nothing from it -- never. This past season I was asked at a conference of teachers, "But what have you done over the years when the students made fun of one another's poems." And I had think for a long minute before answering, "Well, they never have, not once have they." Once a teacher made fun of a student, but I had never heard students make fun of one another's poems, and how excited I am to think of them seeing these videos. How wonderful that will be for them. And I just wanted to read two little stories. I've worked as an anthologist for the past 10 years as well, trying to create books that would be friendly to students, bringing poets from around the world from Mexico, from the Middle East, voices I wanted to see in more American classrooms into the hands of teachers in this country. My most recent anthology though that's just out is called <i>Salting the Ocean,</i> <i>100 Poems by Young Poets</i> from people I've been with. And I just wanted to read two little stories, which we sneaked into the index from classroom experiences. And these were stories from my journal working with them. Waiting for the coffee pot to percolate, one teacher in the lounge speaks to another. Does poetry have anything to do with math? Her friend says, "What?" "Well," says the first teacher. "You know how I told you about Benjamin who never does his assignments? So then we started this poetry workshop a month ago, he volunteered to read his poems, the other kids cheered him on. Yesterday, he brings his math homework in for the first time all year and leaves it on my desk. I don't get it. What does poetry have to do with math?" A fifth grade boy telephones the poet who visited his class and asks if he could dictate a poem to her. She says, "Why don't you just write it down yourself and give it to me next week?" He says, "I feel I need to say it into somebody's ear or it won't come out right. There's nobody at home over here." So she writes down what he says. It's pretty great. She promises to give him a copy next week. Two hours later her phone rings again, "Do you have another piece of paper?" And just one of the poet's voices, this was from a fourth grader, Brenda Burmeister. I have managed to keep in touch with her over the years and she does say that this -- writing of this poem, which she wrote in approximately seven minutes, staring into a broken compact mirror on her desk was very significant because it was the first time she learned that you could find something out while writing a poem. You didn't have to know it in advance. Fourth grade, Brenda Burmeister. "Alone with my mirror, dreaming of love, wishing for love, thinking of my dear old grandmother. My eyes represent my grandmother, my nose represents my grandmother. Suddenly my face turns into my dear old grandmother. I start to speak, I hear my voice, I hear my grandmother's voice. I say to myself, that can't be my grandmother, she is dead. She says to me, it is your grandmother. I had trust in my grandmother, so I believe my grandmother lives beyond death in my mirror." And then a few from me. I wear this poetry advocate button from poet's house in New York, not to announce myself, but to invite people to tell me stories. And they do. In an airport two weeks ago, a woman came up and said, "So, can I tell you about the time a poem saved my life?" And she isn't the first one who's done that. They also let you check into hotels early and things if you wear a button like this, feeling -- feeling you've probably been sleeping in lobbies until now. But I want to dedicate this poem to The Library of Congress. Remembering my childhood library in St. Louis and our exquisite library in San Antonio, because of libraries we can say these things. She is holding the book close to her body, carrying it home on the cracked sidewalk down the tangled hill. If a dog runs at her again, she will use the book as a shield. She looked hard among the long lines of books to find this one. When they start talking about money, when the day contains such long and hot places, she will go inside. An orange bed is waiting. Story without corners, she will have two families, they will eat at different hours. She is carrying a book past the fire station in the five and dime. What this town has not given her, the book will provide. A sheep, a wilderness of new solutions, the book has already lived through its troubles. The book has a calm cover, a straight spine. When the step returns to itself as the best place for sitting and the old men up and down the street are latching their clippers, she will not be alone. She will have a book to open and open and open, her life starts here. Wedding cake -- once on a plane, a woman asked me to hold her baby and disappear it. I figured it was safe, our being on a plane and all. How far could she go? She returned one hour later, having changed her clothes and washed her hair. I didn't recognize her. By this time, the baby and I had examined each other's necks, we had cried a little, I had a silver bracelet and a watch, gold studs glittered in the baby's ears. She wore a tiny white dress, leafed with layers like a wedding cake. I did not want to give her back. The baby's curls coiled tightly against her scalp, another alphabet. I read new, new, new, my mother gets tired. I'll chew your hand. The baby left my skirt crumpled, my lap aching. Now I'm her secret guardian, that little nub of dream that rises slightly but won't come clear, as she grows, as she feels ill at east, I'll bob my knee. What will she forget? Whom will she marry? He'd better check with me. I'll say once she flew dressed like a cake, between two doilies of cloud, she could slip the card into a pocket, pull it out. Already she knew the small finger was funnier than the whole arm. William Merwin and I were talking at lunch about poems which we must write in response to certain things in the news and I'll just read these. This is two -- two poems, part -- one poem, two parts. Jerusalem headlines 2000, Holy Land experiences biggest snowfall in 50 years. Having been there for the previous two biggest, I felt a lot of images coming over me. If your house is covered, if someone's small lemon tree disappears under a drift, if your auto with the blue license plates, if your goat or my aged donkey, if the clay jar in which your mother hold water for 60 years, if the snow piles up past everyone's windows, all of the windows. Palestinians and Israeli's worked together in the west bank to rescue. A sweeter sentence than baklava, than all the oranges of Jericho offered up to God. Second headline, top Israeli official hints at shared Jerusalem. After all this time, just a hint. He could sing it loudly, gent from the top of a wall, he's a top official after all. Why whisper, why not stand in the street bursting with syllables shocking taxi drivers and bread sellers, why not, why not, why not? Does a mother hint that she loves her child? Now, while we are fresh, while the century is still a wide open page, now a new story to be made and everyone with their fragrant nouns and muscular verbs to write it. And on behalf of the Internet, I feel like I keep finding out a lot of intriguing things from the Internet that I appreciate knowing about. And this was one of them, <i>The Many Hats of William Yale </i>. I love odd collections, cookie jars, light bulbs toothpaste tubes, the man who gathered sugar packets for 37 years. So when I heard about the hats made from rinds of lemons and limes, a century ago decorated with bits of frill and cloth to represent the tribes and occupations of the time. I loved William Yale, the strange gift for his Jerusalem bride. I sent my Boston friends to see those hats. They got lost driving there in a wild rainstorm, more lost coming home. But they reported the hats made by children's hands, lined up teeny tiny, displayed on thimbles and walnuts, were withered only a bit around the edges as any rind might be after so long. And they felt hypnotized. A sudden tangy hopefulness rose up from those hats, a stunning wish for women and men with tinier heads to solve Jerusalem's troubles [laughter]. And back to Poetry in America in the schools, I'll close with <i>Valentine</i> <i>for Ernest Mann </i>for the boy who stalked up to me in the hallway of his junior high school and said, "If you are the poet, write me a poem." And it was February 14. You can't order a poem like you order a taco. Walk up to the counter and say, I'll take two, and expect it to be handed on a shiny plate. Still, I like your spirit. Anyone who says, here's my address, write me a poem, deserves something in reply. So I'll tell a secret instead. Poems hide, in the bottoms of our shoes they're sleeping; they are the shadows drifting across our ceilings the moment before we wake up. What we have to do is live in a way that lets us find them. Once I knew a man who gave his wife two skunks for a valentine, he couldn't understand why she was crying. I thought they had such beautiful eyes and he was serious. He was a serious man who lived in a serious way; nothing was ugly just because the world said so. He really liked those skunks. So he reinvented them as valentines and they became beautiful, at least to him. And the poems that had been hiding in the eyes of skunks for centuries crawled out and curled up at his feet. Maybe if we reinvent whatever our lives give us, we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite and let me know. And I'd have to say to all of you here today, you let us know in a big way. Thanks. [ Applause ] [ Silence ] >> Robert Pinsky: I'm going to try to read the first poem and the last poem from my brand new book called <i>Jersey Rain </i>. They are short. Samurai song, when I had no roof, I made audacity my roof. When I had no supper, my eyes dined. When I had no eyes, I listened. When I had no ears, I sought. When I had no thought, I waited. When I had no father, I made care my father. When I had no mother, I embraced order. When I had no friend, I made quiet my friend. When I had no enemy, I posed my body. When I had no temple, I made my voice my temple. [Inaudible] before. I have no priest, my tongue is my choir. When I have no means, fortune is my means. When I have nothing, death will be my fortune. Need is my tactic, detachment is my strategy. When I had to lover, I courted my sleep. Last poem is the title poem, <i>Jersey Rain </i>. Now near the end of the middle of the road, now near the end of the middle stretch of road, what have I learned? Some earthly wiles that aren't, that often I cannot tell good fortune from bad; they had once seemed so easy to tell apart. The source of art and woe, a slant in wind, dissolves or nourishes everything it touches. What [inaudible] doesn't mend; it carves the deeper, boiling pony images. It spins itself regardless into the ocean, it stains and scours and makes things dark or bright. Sweat of the moon, a shroud of benediction, the chilly liquefaction of day to night. The Jersey rain, my rain, soaks all as one. It smites Metuchen, Rahway, Saddle River, Fair Haven, Newark, Little Silver, Bayonne. I feel it churning even in fair weather to craze distinction, dry the same as wet. In ripples of heat, the August drought still feeds vapors in the sky that swell to drench my state. The Jersey rain, my rain, in streams and beads of indissoluble grudge and aspiration, original milk, replenisher of grief. Descending destroyer, [inaudible] source of passion, silver and black, executioner, source of life. [ Applause ] [ Silence ] >> Rita Dove: I'd really like to hear another round of applause for everything that Robert Pinsky has done here at the library. It's been -- it's been just a remarkable two days and a remarkable three years. I want to thank him. [ Applause ] I'd like to start with a poem for sentimental reasons. It's for my daughter and she kind of grew up in these halls. She knew every elevator here, between the -- and the tunnels between the Madison Building and the Jefferson Building. This poem took a long to write, it's in my latest book, but it's a poem about her birth and now she's 17. And she's given me permission to read it. You have to ask at a certain age [laughter]. She was born in Phoenix, Arizona and we weren't sure exactly how this experiment was going to come out. It came out pretty well, but we took -- we had a good omen in our -- in our midwife. We did the safe way, we had midwives in the hospital so that in case something goes wrong, you can pretend that you were doing it naturally. But our midwife was a remarkable woman, we could not quite figure out what she was. And that'll become clear in the poem. <i>Incarnation in Phoenix </i>-- Into this paradise of pain, she strives on the slim tether of a nurse's bell. Her charcoal limbs emerging from crisp whites, unlikely as an envelope issuing smoke. I've rung because my breasts have risen, [inaudible] I'm not ready for this motherhood stuff. Her name is Raven and she swoops across the tiled wilderness, hair boiling thunder over the rampart of bobby pins poking her immaculate cap. She dips once for the baby just waking, fists punching in for work, right on schedule. Bends again to investigate what should be natural, milk sighing into one tiny [inaudible] mouth. Ah, she whispers, ambrosia, shaming me instantly. But no nectar trickles forth, no mana descends from the vault of Heaven to feed this pearly syllable, this package of leafy persuasion dropped on our doorstep and ripening before us. A miniature United Nations just like me, Raven says, citing the name of her mother's village somewhere in Norway, her father a buffalo soldier. Now of course, we can place her, and African Valkyrie who takes my breast in her fists grunting, this hurts you more than it does me. Then my laugh squeezed to whimper and the milk running out. The -- I'd like to read one poem from the title sequence of the book, <i>On The Bus With Rosa Parks</i> , is the title of the book. And this poem is about -- not about Rosa Parks and that historic moment, but by about another woman in a moment that by all rights could have been the historic moment. There were several women who refused to give up their seats on the bus -- on the buses in Montgomery, Alabama in the year of 1955, which was the year that Rosa Parks made her historic stand. And for various reasons, they were not taken up as the test case for the anti -- for the segregation laws -- against the segregation laws. This woman's name was -- that I'm reading about in this poem is Claudette Colvin, who now works in a nursing home in New York and she has been interviewed and people have asked her how she felt not being Rosa Parks and she's truly bewildered by this question as -- as if what she is is not something already. There's an epigraph for this poem from the boycott flier that was distributed a few days after Rose Park's arrest. And I quote, "Another Negro woman has been arrested and thrown into jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus and give it to a white person." This is the second time since the Claudette Colvin case, this must be stopped. Claudette Colvin goes to work. Menial twilight sweeps the storefronts along Lexington, as the shadows arrive to take their places among the scourge of the earth. Here and there, a fickle brilliance, light bulbs coming on in each narrow residence, the golden wattage of bleak interiors announcing, anyone home or I'm beat, bring me a beer. Mostly I say to myself, still here, lay my keys on the table, pack the perishables away before flipping the switch. I like the sugary look of things in bad light, one drop of sweat is all it would take to dissolve an armchair pillow into brocade residue. Sometimes I wait until it's dark enough for my body to disappear, then I know it's time to start out for work. Along the avenue, the cabs start up heading toward midtown. Neon stutters into ecstasy as the male integers light up their smokes and let loose a stream of brave talk. Hey mama, souring quickly to your mama when there's no answer. As if the most injury they can do is insult the reason you're here at all, walking in your whites down to the stock, so you can make a living. So ugly, so fat, so dumb, so greasy, what do we have to do to make God love us? Mama was a maid, my daddy mowed lawns like a boy and I'm the crazy girl off the bus, the one who wrote in class she was going to be president. I take the number six bus to the Lexington Avenue train and then I'm there all night, adjusting the sheets, emptying the pans. And I don't curse or spit, or kick and scratch like they say I did then. I help those who can't help themselves. I do what needs to be done. And I sleep whenever sleep comes down on me. Two newish poems -- I've been working a series about the painter, Albrecht Durer, for as long as I think I've been writing. I can't seem to finish it. He intrigues me I think because he was on the cusp of the Renaissance and it fascinated me to think of someone who knew that something new was happening, but didn't quite know what it was. He was early for his times. He wrote a painter's manual, which is extremely post modern, actually. I have a quote from it in which just to give you an idea of how his mind worked. He said, I [inaudible] my imagination throw a point high up in the air or drop it into the depths where I cannot reach it with my body. But in order to make it plausible, I must draw it with a pen and write the word point next to it, so that the point will mean point. This man, I mean, 15th Century was not for him, but he also thought that perhaps you could quantify human beauty if you just measured it enough. And this became a lifelong obsession. This poem takes place right about at the turn of his millennium into the 1500s. And it's called <i>Weltschmerz</i> , which is German for -- well, it means world pain, but that doesn't -- that's nothing. It means really, a longing that you can't put a finger on that's bigger than the world. <i>Weltschmerz </i>, You who refer to your wife as my good Agnes, and always in connection with the maid, a simple girl who cried out in the midst of a miracle, crosses dropped from the sky onto the clean white shirts of her master. What could you say to a creature so devoid of irony, she couldn't even laugh when you yelled, come out of the rain. Still, the centuries fresh, three days journey to view a beached whale and by the time you arrive, the whale has been swept to sea again. You stay awhile anyway, collect rocks, sketch a [inaudible] so plump and shy, she won't lift her eyes from your hot nailed boots. Morosity, you write, is the penalty for too much thought without exercise. So you dig dame sorrow out of metal, carve her slouched among orbs and compasses, swathed in grim drapery and yet, it is your jaw etched in fury, our gaze you find burning beneath her extravagant curls. What goes up, must come down. The maid saw that with her own silly eyes. Throw up your hands, put it down on paper, in ink, what can you say to a woman who refuses to pose nude even for a famous artist? Gather up your stones, your crab carapace's, your smudged equations for human perfection and remember a green broach for the melancholy Agnes. This poem is -- I kind of date the new poems as post-fire or pre-fire. Some of you might know we had a fire in our house, lightening struck it and burned quite a bit of it. And it -- contrary -- I mean it was devastating, but contrary to what I always imagined when I looked at disaster on television and you think how unspeakably sad, it has been a process or recovery. What you do discover is that you find things again and everything that you find is a gift. As a consequence, I've started writing poems which I guess some critic will say predictably enough, are poems about paradise, Adam and Eve. This is one of Eve's, of a quote from the Bible, I have been a stranger in a strange land and an epigraph from Emily Dickenson. Life's spell is so exquisite, everything conspires to break it. It wasn't bliss, what was bliss but the ordinary life. She's spend hours in patter moving through whole days touching, sniffing, tasting, exquisite housekeeping in a charmed world. And yet there was always more of the same, all that happiness, the aimless being there. So she wandered for awhile, bush to arbor, linger to look through upons rest of mirror. He was off cataloguing the universe probably pretending he could organize what was clearly someone else's chaos. That's when she found the tree, the dark crabbed branches bearing up such speechless bounty. She knew without being told, this was forbidden. It wasn't a question of ownership, who could lay claim to such maddening perfection. And there was no voice in her head, no whispered intelligence lurking in the leaves, just an ache that grew until she knew she'd already lost everything except desire. The red heft of it warming her outstretched paw. Thank you. [ Applause ] [ Silence ] [ Applause ] >> Louise Gluck: Now a foreseeable end, but it -- it treats the different periods of a life, youth, adolescence, theoretic life, domestic life and old age. As a -- in a kind of swirl of associative patterns, you won't be able to get that from a smattering, but I'll read a few of these poems. The sensual world, I call to you across a monstrous river or chasm to caution you, to prepare you. Earth will seduce you, slowly, inperceptibly, subtly, not to say with connivance. I was not prepared, I stood in my grandmother's kitchen holding out my glass, stewed plums, stewed apricots, the juice poured off into the glass of ice and the water added patiently in small increments, the various cousins discriminating, tasting with each addition. Aroma of summer fruit, intensity of concentration, the colored liquid turning gradually lighter, more radiant, more light passing through it. Delight, then solace, my grandmother waiting to see if more was wanted, solace then deep immersion. I loved nothing more, deep privacy of the sensual life, the self disappearing into it or inseparable from it, somehow suspended, floating, its needs fully exposed, awakened, fully alive. Deep immersion and with it, mysterious safety, far away the fruit glowing in its glass bowls, outside the kitchen the sun setting. I was not prepared, sunset, end of summer, demonstrations of time as a continuum as something coming to an end, not a suspension. The senses wouldn't protect me. I caution you as I was never cautioned. You will never let go, you will never be satiated, you will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger. Your body will age, you will continue to need, you will want the earth then more of the earth, sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond, it is encompassing, it will not minister, meaning it will feed you, it will ravish you, it will not keep you alive. Solstice -- each year on the same date, the summer solstice comes. [Inaudible] light, we plan for it, the day we tell ourselves that time is very long indeed, nearly infinite and in our reading and writing, preference is given to the celebratory, the ecstatic. There is in these rituals something apart from wonder, there is also a kind of preening, as though human genius had participated in these arrangements and we found the results satisfying. What follows the light is what precedes it. The moment of balance, of dark equivalence, but tonight we sit in the garden in our canvas chairs, so late into the evening. Why should we look either forward or backward, why should we be forced to remember it is in our blood, this knowledge? Shortness of the days, darkness, coldness of winter it is in our blood and bones, it is in our history, it takes genius to forget these things. Stars -- I'm awake, I am in the world. I expect no further assurance, no protection, no promise. Solace of the night sky, the hardly moving face of the clock, I'm alone. All my riches surround me. I have a bed, a room, I have a bed, a vase of flowers beside it, and a nightlight, a book. I'm awake, I am safe. The darkness, like a shield. The dreams, put off, maybe vanished forever and the day, the unsatisfying morning that says, I am your future, here is your cargo of sorrow. Do you reject me? Do you mean to send me away because I am not full in your word, because you see the black shake already implicit. I will never be banished. I am the light. Your personal anguish and humiliation, do you dare send me away as though you were waiting for something better. There is no better, only for a short space, the night sky like a quarantine that sets you apart from your task. Only softly, fiercely, the star is shining, here in the room, the bedroom, saying I was brave, I resisted, I set myself on fire. Youth -- my sister and I at two ends of the sofa reading, I suppose English novels, the television on, various schoolbooks open or places marked with sheets of lined paper. Euclid, [inaudible], as though we had looked into the origin of thought and preferred novels. Sad sounds of our growing up, twilight of cellos, no trace of a flute, a piccolo and it seemed at the time, almost impossible to conceive of any of it as evolving or malleable. Sad sounds, anecdotes that were really still lives, the pages of the novels turning, the two dogs snoring quietly and from the kitchen, sounds of our mother, smell of Rosemary, of lamb roasting. A world in process of shifting, of being made or dissolved and yet we didn't live that way. All of us lived our lives as the simultaneous ritualized enactment of a great principle, something felt, but not understood. And the remarks we made were like lines in a play spoken with conviction, but not from choice. A principle, a terrifying familial will that implied opposition to change, to variation, a refusal even to ask questions. Now that world begins to shift and eddy around us. Only now when it no longer exists it has become the present, unending and without form. I'll read two more short ones. [Inaudible]. I had drawn my chair to the hotel window to watch the rain. I was in a kind of dream or trance, in love, and yet I wanted nothing. It seemed unnecessary to touch you, to see you again. I wanted only this, the room, the chair, the sound of the rain falling, hour after hour in the warmth of the spring night. I needed nothing more. I was utterly sated. My heart had become small. It took very little to fill it. I watch the rain falling in heavy sheets over the darkened city. You were not concerned. I could let you live as you needed to live. At dawn the rain abated. I did the things one does in daylight, I acquitted myself, but I moved like a sleepwalker. It was enough and it no longer involved you. A few days in the strange city, a conversation, a touch of a hand, and afterward I took off my wedding ring, that was what I wanted, to be naked. Time, there was too much always and too little. Childhood, sickness. By the side of the bed I had a little bell. At the other end of the bell, my mother. Sickness, gray rain, the dogs slept through it. They slept on the bed, at the end of it, and it seemed to me they understood about childhood, best to remain unconscious. The rain made gray slats on the windows. I sat with my book, the little bell beside me. Without hearing a voice, I apprenticed myself to a voice. Without seeing any sign of the spirit, I determined to live in the spirit. The rain faded in and out. Month after month in the space of a day, things became dreams, dreams became things. Then I was well. The bell went back to the cupboard. The rain ended. The dogs stood at the door, panting to go outside. I was well, then I was an adult and time went on. It was like the rain, so much, so much, as though it was a weight that couldn't be moved. I was a child, half sleeping. I was sick. I was protected. And I lived in the world of the spirit, the world of the gray rain, the lost, the remembered, then suddenly the sun was shining and time went on, even when there was almost none left. And the perceived became the remembered, the remembered the perceived. Thank you. [ Applause ] [ Silence ] >> W.S. Merwin: I'm going to begin in a conventional way by thanking everyone whose been responsible for this program in every sense of the word. This particular program, and the marvelous things that have been said here, Robert's favorite poetry project program, and what they have both shown and what I believe that [inaudible] in the 6th Century, the poem said of the mules, it is natural to love her. I believe that this is something that we're all born with, and that we get educated out of ourselves. Why that great [inaudible] is so important. The children naturally love poetry, and if they don't love it by the time they're adolescents, it is because something wrong has happened, some derailment has come about. And then I wanted to thank everyone responsible for my being on the platform with these other poets, many dear friends and poet's who's work I've loved for years. It's a great pleasure anytime that anything of any chance for that happening. I'm going to read a few poems, beginning -- they're all short poems, and they're -- they -- going back to the book published several books back called, <i>The Vixen </i>, which all of the poems are in the same form and they're all related to the same place, a different length in time and in other various respects. But I noticed that the poems that I've chosen to read this evening, many of them have to do with animals, and I suppose that's no accident, that's one of the great sympathies of my life. And one of the things that one shares with other poets, by the way, is not necessarily animals, but passion, a passion. And a passion that I realize is a part of a lifelong romanticism of mine. I suppose I am a romantic in many respects. But I believe that the poets owe each other generosity, as much generosity as they can muster. It's not -- it's never total and it's [inaudible] sometimes. But it's for the rise from the fact that they recognize in each other that passion and that -- that concern and gratitude for being able to touch something so remarkable and so beyond our own use of language. That's something we also, I believe, share with many animals. Substance. I could see that there was a kind of distance lighted behind the face of that time and it's very days as they appeared to me, but I could not think of any words that spoke of it truly nor point to anything except what was there at the moment it was beginning to be gone. And certainly it could not have been proven nor held however I might reach toward it, touching the warm likens, the features of the stones, the skin of the river. And I could tell then that it was the animals themselves that were the weight and place of the hour as it happened. And that the mass of the cows neck, the flash of the swallow, the trout's flutter were where it was coming to pass, they were bearing the sense of it without questions through the speechless cloud of light. Totally different kind of poem next is one of several city poems in the book that followed <i>The Vixen </i>, <i>The River Sound </i>, a book of short poems that followed <i>The Vixen </i>. This is about an apartment that I lived in and that represented a very important part of my life for a great many years, and that I lost. That's a story in itself. Sixth Floor Walk Up. I was born in New York City and this is in New York City. New York to me is the [inaudible] city. I mean, to me, it's the core of history. I mean, we're not -- we don't live entirely in history, but nor do I live entirely in New York [laughter], but. And sometimes I felt there was a friend of mine who was also born in New York, said -- someone said, "Why if you notice all these terrible things about it all the time, and complain about it so much, why do you keep coming back?" And he said, "I hate it better than anywhere else." [ Laughter ] Sixth Floor Walk Up. Past 4:00 in the afternoon, the last day here, the winter light is draining out of the sky to the east over the grays of the roofs, over the tiered bricks and dark water tanks, clock towers, aerials, penthouse windows, rusted doors, bare trees and terrace gardens. In the distance a plane is coming in, lit by the slow burn of the sun, sinking two weeks before the Solstice. And the lingering perfect autumn still does not seem to be gone. The walls of the apartment and the long mirrors are becoming shadows. The latest telephone already cut off is huddled against the wall, with it's deaf predecessors. The movers have not showed up for what is left. Bare bed, bare tables, and the sofa, the piled LP's, the great chair from which at this hour once I called up a friend on Morton Street to tell him that all the windows facing west down the avenue were reflecting a red building flaming like a torch somewhere over near the old post office on Christopher Street. The sirens were converging, all the bells clanging, and the sky was clear as it is now. They're stacking Christmas trees along the fence again down at the corner to the music of the Subway under the avenue, on it's way to Brooklyn. 25 years. And then another -- one other poem from <i>The River Sound </i>, and this is -- [inaudible] said that for a poem to be real, this doesn't necessarily mean it is true, but it's very interesting to think about. For a poem to be a real poem you had to know what time of year it was. This is called Waves in August, so you cheat with the title, you see [laughter]. Waves in August. There is a war in the distance, with the distance growing smaller. The field glasses lying at hand are for keeping it far away. I thought I was getting better about that returning childish wish to be living somewhere else that I knew was impossible. And now I find myself wishing to be here, to be alive here, and is it possible enough to still be the wish of a child. In youth I hid a [inaudible] under the bushes beside the water, knowing I want it later, and come back and would find it there. Someone else took it and left me instead the sound of the water with it's whisper of vertigo, terror, reassurance, and old, old sadness. It would seem we knew enough always about parting. But we have to go on learning as long as there's anything. The rest of the poems that I want to read are all from a new manuscript that's just gone to the publisher. And there are a number -- quite a few poems in the early part of that poem that have to do with the night sky and day and night, light and darkness, time. And I want to read a short one of those called Glassy Sea. As you see each of the stars has a voice, and at least one long syllable before words as we know them and can recall them later one by one with their company around them. After the sound of them has gone from its moment, even though we may say it again and again, it is gone again, far into our knowledge. There were words as we know for whatever does not die with us, but the sound of those words lasts no longer than the others. It is heard only for part of the length of a breath among those clear syllables never heard from which the words were made in another time. And the syllables themselves are not there forever. Some may go all the way to the beginning, but not beyond it. I want to read a difficult kind of poem. This evening Robert and I were going to, but Robert is indisposed, his voice has left him, and I'm going to have to do it. I'm going to have to read [inaudible]. And I think probably the hardest subject -- one of the hardest subjects to get into poetry, to write about, properly and make a poem of is anger. Dante [assumed spelling] was a person who traveled through life with terrible anger, a great deal of anger, and he dealt with it in various ways, some of them we would think quite successfully in the [inaudible]. He dealt with it both in the inferno and in the purgatorial quite differently. He dealt with -- he was dealing with his own anger at the same time. I will deal with mine as well as I can in a minute if I can possibly find his poem [ Laughter ] I thought I knew where it was, but -- [ Inaudible Speaker ] No, I'm not, but [laughter] I'm getting desperate. I know it's here. And I've said all I wanted to say about it, so you'll [laughter] have to bear with me. I'll just end up by reading something else instead. I do want to read this one. It's a poem about something that's actually happening, and I'll tell you a little bit about it, because -- and the reason I want to read it here is because I think it concerns all poets. However you may care or not care about animals, poets and the marginal aspect, I've been hearing about the mainstream and about computers and so on in all this time and I've never felt that I belonged to the mainstream in a lot of ways. I felt that my life was marginal and there's a part -- there's a thing about poets that is deliberately marginal and always has been. We speak from the edges of things and that's where we recognize a place there. When poets -- when -- in the beginning of the romantic period from which Dante came, the line between those who wrote poems and those who recited them in public was vague and it kept dissolving. And the [inaudible] were -- the [inaudible] were the people who used to sing the poems -- this poem has just disappeared. The [inaudible] were associated with people who did all sorts of juggler acts and dancing acts, and with people who had dancing bears, dancing bears, a strange figure. Bears sometimes have been taught to dance kindly, but that's been seldom the case. Bears don't generally want to perform for human beings, unless they've been taught to do it, and usually they've been taught in terrible ways. Well that's what's been going on in Pakistan and is still going on in Pakistan, and it's been going on until quite recently in northern India, Greece, Turkey. One -- I won't -- I'll spare you some of the horrible details about how they're been trained to do -- well, this is very embarrassing. Here we are. Here we are. Sooner or later, you see, patience, your patience, not mine [laughter]. Founded. This will tell you why I think poets should concern themselves with this terrible thing. There's an association called the World Society for the Protection of Animals. You can look that up if you get concerned about what I've been telling you, and what I'm going to read, this poem, which is an angry poem called Fieste [assumed spelling]. Almost at the end of the Century, this is the time of the pain of the bears. They're agony goes on at this moment for the amusement of the wedding guests, though the bears are harder to find by now in the mountain forests of Pakistan. They cost more then they used to, which makes it all the more lavish. And once they are caught, their teeth are pulled out, and their claws pulled out. And among the entertainments after the wedding, one of them is hauled in now and chained to a post and the dogs let loose to hang on it's nose so that the guests laugh at the way it waves and dances. And those old enough to have watched this many times compare it with other performances, saying they can tell from the way the bear screams, something about the children to be born of the couple sitting there, smiling. You may not believe it, but the bear does. And I want to read one small, very small, another animal poem called The Name of the Air, about a dog. It could be like that, then, the beloved old dog finding it harder and hard to breathe, and understanding but coming to ask whether there is something that can be done about it. Coming again to ask and then standing there without asking. I'll read two more poems, and one of them is also about dogs. When the great South African writer, one of the greatest writers alive, in my opinion, [inaudible], was invited to give a series of lectures at Princeton recently on any subject he chose. He said he would like to do it about [inaudible] in the form of fiction, and they said that would be all right. [Inaudible] is an Australian woman novelist of some age, [inaudible] invited by the American university to give a series of lectures on any subject she chooses, and she chooses not to give on the topic of literature, but on the human treatment of animals, which is a taboo subject. You don't mention that in polite company. It's a very interesting book called, <i>The Lives of Animals </i>, this [inaudible] most recent book. Why are taboo subjects taboo subjects? Home Tundra. It may be that the hour is snow, seeming never to settle, not even to be cold now, slipping away from underneath it. Past, slip -- sorry. Slipping away from underneath into the past from which no sounds follow. What I hear is the dogs breathing ahead of me in the shadow. Two of them have already gone far on into the dark of closed pages, out of sight and hearing. Two of them are old already, one cannot hear, one cannot see. Even in sleep they are running, drawing me with them on their way, wrapped in a day I found today. We know where we are because we are together here, together, leaving no footprints in the hour. Whatever the diary's say, nobody ever found the [inaudible]. Past stream, the chipped lake, gold strokes on the high clawed hollows where you never set foot. What would you see from there? Not the past, which is fiction, nor the present, which is the past. You would stand there shaken in the presence of Vertigo, the God, clutching the air, hearing that one note you keep forgetting. Thank you. [ Applause ] [ Silence ] [ Silence ] >> John Y. Cole: Any words I could say would be superfluous. We've been taken into six different visions of human possibility, six different sets of sound and sense. It's been a marvelous end to a very full day. There is a reception outside where you can mingle with our poets. And thank you for being with us, and thank them for being with us. [ Silence ] [ Applause ]

See also

External links

  • United States Congress. "Thomas Settle (id: S000254)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Bartlett Yancey
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 9th congressional district

March 4, 1817 – March 3, 1821
Succeeded by
Romulus M. Saunders


This page was last edited on 16 April 2019, at 19:19
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