Just as the publication of John Ashbery’s The Double Dream of Spring (1970) helped to cement the poet’s post-Tennis Court Oath reputation, the double presence of Ashbery’s papers (at Houghton Library) and his personal reading library (at the Woodberry Poetry Room) promises to do the same for generations to come.
While the greatest discoveries await you, some of our favorite in-house finds thus far have included a series of 1947-48 outtakes by T. S. Eliot, experimenting with how to give voice to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” On these distinctly different recordings, you can hear Eliot reading the hypnotic opening line….
The Woodberry Poetry Room is pleased to announce that Tracie Morris (of Brooklyn, New York) has been selected as the recipient of the 2018-2019 WPR Creative Fellowship for her project “The Impossible Man.”
I’ve long been interested in individual actions—and minimalist instances of resistance—that testify against a seemingly insurmountable power. It’s no wonder, I suppose, that this interest has been revived of late. As a poet, I have been especially fascinated by the role of refusal: particularly, actions on the part of writers—those whose very material is the language—to use “No” (and silence itself) as a dexterous instrument. In an article in the Boston Review, I explored several writers’ renunciation of writing as a “not-saying” that “becomes language,” describing how for some poets the removal of themselves for a time from certain modes of production and/or from participation in the so-called publishing industry is not simply a negative (or subtractive) act but an action that offers a positive and proactive means to articulate their convictions. Even in this small gesture we are reminded, as Paul Celan writes, of “Man as the being who can say ‘No.’” Over the course of the past century, poets and writers as varied as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Amitav Ghosh, Robert Lowell, Sharon Olds, Alice Oswald, …
At the Woodberry Poetry Room, I wondered if there were ways of hearing the poetry reading as porous, social and historical. I wanted to listen for waits, silences, halts, pauses, fire drills, missteps, mistakes, animals, altercations, brawls, technical difficulties, weather, interruptions, intrusions, etc.
This was supposed to be a story about one of the nation’s first “library of voices” and its phonographic instigator Frederick C. Packard, Jr. And, in many ways it remains so. But, as poet Lyn Hejinian has observed, people are collecting-experiences, and if one genuinely follows a single human being one inevitably happens on someone else who forms the fulcrum of a very different set of phenomena and occurrences.
In this story that person is a quiet, self-taught Boston audio engineer Stephen B. Fassett (1914-1980), and this article is a preliminary attempt to honor his generative, facilitating and unsung role in the early careers of countless mid-century poets, jazz & blues musicians, and folk music revivalists as they converged on the burgeoning epicenter of 1950s and 60s Cambridge/Boston.
I begin to go hear. –Charles Olson The Woodberry Poetry Room is pleased to announce that Kate Colby (of Providence, Rhode Island) is the recipient of the 2017-2018 WPR Creative Fellowship ($3,500) for her project “Mist on the Mirror: Writing in Olson’s Breath.” The annual WPR Creative Fellowship invites poets, writers, multimedia artists, and scholars of contemporary poetry to propose creative projects that would benefit from the resources available at the Poetry Room and to generate new work that further actualizes the WPR’s collections and contributes to the culture at large. Previous recipients of the fellowship have included Eileen Myles, Fanny Howe and (most recently) Erín Moure. Due to the unprecedented number of applicants and remarkable quality of the proposals, the committee will also be awarding two WPR Creative Grants ($1,000). The 2017-2018 grantees are Lillian-Yvonne Bertram (of Lowell, Massachusetts) and Christine Finn (of London, England). Finn’s grant is jointly funded by the Heaney Suite at Adams House. Past recipients of the WPR Creative Grant have included Dan Beachy-Quick and Lindsay Turner. The WPR Creative Fellowships and Grants are …
As we enter a new era of civic discourse—one governed by 140-character-limits, “air quotes,” and alt facts—and as we encounter an administration intent on destroying the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, it is helpful to reflect on a time that faced similar social and economical struggles (accompanied by rapid technological advances) and met them with a combination of artistic, scientific, and imaginative might.
On October 18, 1950, Socialist troubadour, Abraham Lincoln biographer, and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg read at Harvard University under the auspices of the Morris Gray Reading series. He was likely invited by Department of English faculty member Archibald MacLeish. Long-time friends Sandburg and MacLeish shared in being “critical of writers who [had] remained detached from the national emergency of World War Two.” True to his convictions, Sandburg states (in his opening remarks) that “a writer’s silence on living issues can in itself constitute a propaganda of conduct leading toward the deterioration or death of freedom” and—in a palpable hit at Harvard—he urged the students to remember that “men of ideas vanish first, when freedom vanishes….”
The primary questions I asked her related to the mid-century history of the Poetry Room and its then curator John Lincoln Sweeney. The stories that emerged included a much wider sphere of intersecting lives and poetries than I had heretofore imagined, among them: Adrienne Rich, Marianne Moore, Edith Sitwell, Fanny and Susan Howe, Edwin Honig, Robert Lowell, Dudley Fitts, Robert Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, and many more.