Author: Christina Davis

“Outside the Fold”: A Conversation with/without Erín Moure and Chus Pato

“My position in the desert is that of one who stays outside the fold, outside the flag, outside the placenta….” –Chus Pato, trans. Erín Moure On Tuesday, September 29, 2015, the Woodberry Poetry Room’s Fall 2015 season launches with a celebration of one of the most dynamic and catalyzing literary partnerships in recent years: Erín Moure and Chus Pato. To mark the occasion and to honor the fact that this will be their first combined U.S. reading, the Poetry Room interviewed the Quebec and Galician poets (or rather, we emailed a few questions in English via Erín, who translated them into Galician, and subsequently conducted the answers back to us in English). Their visit is co-sponsored by “Rethinking Translation,” a Harvard translation think-tank founded by Professors Sandra Nadaff and Stephanie Sandler, and is also made possible by Dara Wier/UMASS Amherst, who will also be hosting a reading by Moure & Pato during their stay. The Poetry Room evening will be introduced by Prof. Daniel Aguirre Oteiza, himself a translator of John Ashbery, Wallace Stevens and Samuel Beckett. …

THE PACKARD COLLECTION: New Initiative to Chronicle & Preserve the Works of a Harvard Recording Pioneer

You could say he was the Alan Lomax of poetry recordings. As the founder of the Harvard Vocarium (1933-1955), one of the first poetry record labels in the world, Frederick C. Packard, Jr., was responsible not only for making the earliest extant poetry recordings of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Muriel Rukeyser, Randall Jarrell, and Marianne Moore, but also for capturing (in some cases for the first time) the works of a dynamic range of poets and performers composing in Gaelic, Yiddish, Afrikaans, and Haitian Creole. As an associate professor at Harvard’s Speech Clinic (one who helped generations of students and faculty with speech impediments) and the university’s first professor of public speaking, he had both a physiological and metaphysical relationship to the voice. He was convinced that the spoken word was to be the instrument of the age and that (if radio broadcasts in Europe were any indicator) the United States needed to educate its next generation of public speakers as a counterpoint to the hypnotic effects of fascist broadcasts and rallies. He considered poetry to be essential in …

Giving a New Meaning to the Phrase “Open House”

This week, on the very same day that hundreds of incoming students descended upon Lamont for the Freshman Open House, five members of the Harvard/Radcliffe Class of 1955 ventured to the Poetry Room (after meeting with President Drew Faust) to formally donate a chapbook of poems they’d created to the WPR collection. What might have been a brief meet-and-greet evolved into a deeply compelling and memorable hour of sharing and mutual learning. For one of the chapbook contributors, Jean Hardy Little (Radcliffe, ’55), the day marked the first time she had ever entered Lamont Library, which women were largely prohibited from entering until 1967. Harvard Medical School senior lecturer Robert Blacklow (AB ’55, MD ’59), a fellow contributor to the chapbook, recounted how male undergraduates would prop the Lamont door open with a chair and bring female students the books they needed. The women would  “straddle the threshold, with one foot in the library, and one foot out,” and read the texts that they could not otherwise get a hold of. As Little and Blacklow shared their experiences and joined …

The Making of CITIZEN: Claudia Rankine (Monday, April 27, 6:00pm)

We are immensely honored to welcome poet and scholar Claudia Rankine (author of Citizen: An American Lyric, the recipient of this year’s National Book Critics Circle Award) to Houghton Library next week. Rankine will read from Citizen and document the process involved in selecting, “doctoring,” and integrating the artworks throughout the collection. The event will be introduced by Jorie Graham.

Prufrockian Grooves: On Recording the Love Song of T. Stearns Eliot

“Prufrock” has always caused a little bit of trouble, and the Harvard Vocarium’s recording of the poem—one of the earliest in existence—is no exception. When you hear the recording (currently accompanying the centennial exhibit, “Ragged Claws: T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock at 100” at Houghton Library and at this evening’s event with Sir Christopher Ricks), you might be hard pressed to discern the procedural involutions and Transatlantic shuffling necessary to bring it into being. In many ways the trajectory of the recording recapitulated the evolution of the poem itself, which Eliot began to write at Harvard in 1909 and completed in England. In 1947, after delivering his Morris Gray lecture in May of that year (only his second trip to the United States after his long absence during the war), Eliot agreed to record a range of poems for the Harvard Vocarium record label, including “Journey of the Magi,” “Difficulties of a Statesman,” “Fragment of an Agon,” and “Prufrock.” Harvard Vocarium recording of T.S. Eliot reading “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1948), produced and distributed …