Author: Christina Davis

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 …

Announcing the Recipients of the 2015-2016 WPR Creative Fellowship & Grants

The Woodberry Poetry Room is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2015-2016 WPR Creative Fellowship is Eileen Myles for her proposed project, “About Boston.” Myles will receive a stipend of $4,000 (generously funded by the Dr. Michael and Teresa Anagnostopoulos Fund and the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts) and plans to be present on campus throughout the month of April 2016. Due to the impressive range and number of applications, two additional projects were selected to receive WPR Creative Grants of $1,500, also funded by the Anagnostopoulos family. The 2015-2016 grant recipients are: Dan Beachy-Quick of Fort Collins, Colorado (for his project, “A Quiet Book”) and Chris Mustazza of Philadelphia (for his project, “The Birth of the Poetry Audio Archive: The Vocarium Recordings and The Speech Lab Recordings”). In conjunction with her proposed essay project, “About Boston,” Myles will consider “Boston as a site of poetry (poetry as ‘poetry’ and the poetry of everyday speech).” As a native Bostonian, Myles is particularly interested in exploring the Boston accent, in which Myles herself writes her poetry. During her …