All posts filed under: Articles, Ideas & Discoveries

featuring recent research, events, and discoveries at the Woodberry Poetry Room

ORAL HISTORY INITIATIVE: A Conversation with Jean Valentine

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.

POETRY’S NOBLE PAUSE: On Patti Smith’s Nobel Prize Performance & Poetic Rupture

Poet and singer-songwriter Patti Smith’s recent magisterial performance at the Nobel Prize ceremony—in which she interrupts her own rendition of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and takes a moment to apologize for her nerves—offers us a chance to reflect upon and celebrate poetry’s role in an increasingly mechanistic society.

AIR RAID: Archibald MacLeish and the Radio as Literary Device

On October 19th, 1938, a year and a half after the Columbia Workshop debut of his first (and what is largely considered the first) verse play for radio, The Fall of the City, Archibald MacLeish sat down at a microphone in Holden Chapel at Harvard University to record (and more importantly to inform the reading of) his most ambitious verse drama to date: Air Raid.

WPR CREATIVE FELLOWSHIP & GRANT: Announcing the 2016-2017 Recipients

As we prepare to welcome this year’s WPR Creative Fellow Eileen Myles (who will be present on campus throughout the month of April), the Woodberry Poetry Room is pleased to announce that the recipient of next year’s WPR Creative Fellowship is Erín Moure for her proposed project,“RESONANCE: A Modernism.” Moure will receive a stipend of $4,000 (generously funded by the Dr. Michael and Teresa Anagnostopoulos Fund) and plans to be in residence in April 2017. During her fellowship, Moure will travel from Montreal to sit in the Woodberry Poetry Room and engage in a journey of listening in situ to the recorded voices of four American women modernist poets, seeking an auditory trace that will lead her into a new piece of writing, her own trilingual take — for her ear is attuned to French and Galician as well as English — on the grain of the American modernist voice in poetry and on what it provokes today. Moure says: “I would start by placing the cavity of my ribs, my ears, and the cells of my own cerebrum in the …


I hear the “noise” and “skips”—products of a one-off experiment in digital playback and recording—as felicitous deformations of both the text and Stevens’ reading. They open up a way of listening to the poem’s own difficult re-reading of the substance of experience. In other words, in this recording I hear IRENE practicing a kind of unconscious deformative criticism.

A CONCERT OF WORLDS: On Ed Roberson & Joseph Donahue

It is a profound honor to introduce Ed Roberson and Joe Donahue, two poets who have enormously enabled my own writing and thinking, influencing me in ways I am still trying happily to discover. They are poets for me, and I trust for many here this evening, whose work is of such an astonishing, acute clarity and force that reading them is to learn how to inhabit the world, our world, more wholly; it is to learn, as Donahue’s most recent collection suggests, how to have our “ear turned to the earth / hearing the roots, / the rocks, the layers / of sediment, the residue / of oceans and heat / torn off from a star” (Dark Church, 151).

OUR SKILL SOMETIMES TO RECORD IT: On W.C. Williams’ Debut of “The Desert Music”

When William Carlos Williams first agreed to speak at Harvard’s Phi Beta Kappa Literary Exercises in 1951, he did not realize that the delivery of the poem would truly require exercise. He could not have foreseen at the time of commission the stroke he would suffer the following month, and the toll it would take on his capacity to perform it.

MAGPIETY: An Interview with Melissa Green

Poetry is Melissa Green’s landbridge, her strongest connection to the wider world—though it would be more accurate to say that, through poetry, the rest of the world gains access to Green’s “tremendous intensity and tremendous intelligence,” as Joseph Brodsky put it. Marie Howe has written that “Melissa Green might well be a 21st century version of Emily Dickinson, poet of ecstatic states and extremity.” Like Dickinson, a careful repose allows Green to sustain the sensitivity that the machinery of modern life erodes.

ODE TO THE INSTRUMENT: Liner Notes for a John Wieners’ Recording

“Now a poem from Black Mountain, written in 1955,” begins this affecting recital of “Ode to the Instrument,” recorded for the Woodberry Poetry Room at Boston’s Fassett Studio in March 1962. The crystal-clear track is the only known recording of this uncollected early poem, in which Wieners’ later lyricism—his soft-stated allusiveness and lovesick, apostrophic poise—can already be heard lifting into place. The poem, written during Wieners’s first month at Black Mountain College, also marked a sea change in his dawning, elemental friendship with Charles Olson.

IT’S ALL RIGHT: On Sean Cole’s “To Acropolis”

The Woodberry Poetry Room is pleased to announce a new online series called BOSTON ORIGINALS—a celebration of poets who hail from, dwell in, or write about the greater Boston area. Each BOSTON ORIGINALS post will feature a brief reflection on a Boston poet’s work (or interview with the poet) and an audio or video recording. The Poetry Room wishes to thank Audrey Mardavich (and videographer John Mulrooney) for generously agreeing to contribute to this inaugural post. I have been an admirer of Sean Cole’s work as a poet and as a radio producer for many years. He is a superb thinker: he can be irreverent when it matters most, he is inventive with his images and sounds, he is very funny and probably has the best laugh of any poet around. He brings that to every poem and every radio story of his I’ve heard. This poem, in particular, especially reflects that spirit. Sean Cole at the 2015 Boston Poetry Marathon: “To Acropolis” begins at 5:07.  “To Acropolis” touches on the history of the marathon in Greece, the history of the …