Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mark Strand / The Coming of Light

by Mark Strand

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light. 
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves, 
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows, 
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine 
and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.

Read also
Mark Strand / With Only the Stars to Guide Us
Mark Strand at John Cabot University
Mark Strand / The Art of Poetry
Mark Strand / The Everyday Enchantment of Music
Mark Strand / The Coming of Light
Mark Strand / Eating Poetry
Mark Strand / From the Long Sad Party
Mark Strand / My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mark Strand / The Everyday Enchantment of Music

by Mark Strand

A rough sound was polished until it became a smoother sound, which was polished until it became music. Then the music was polished until it became the memory of a night in Venice when tears of the sea fell from the Bridge of Sighs, which in turn was polished until it ceased to be and in its place stood the empty home of a heart in trouble. Then suddenly there was sun and the music came back and traffic was moving and off in the distance, at the edge of the city, a long line of clouds appeared, and there was thunder, which, however menacing, would become music, and the memory of what happened after Venice would begin, and what happened after the home of the troubled heart broke in two would also begin.

Read also
Mark Strand / With Only the Stars to Guide Us
Mark Strand at John Cabot University
Mark Strand / The Art of Poetry
Mark Strand / The Everyday Enchantment of Music
Mark Strand / The Coming of Light
Mark Strand / Eating Poetry
Mark Strand / From the Long Sad Party
Mark Strand / My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mark Strand at John Cabot University

Damiano Abeni, Moira Egan & Mark Strand

Mark Strand at John Cabot University
On June 1st, John Cabot University welcomed Former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Strand.  Strand led a workshop on the craft of writing poetry using the English and Italian translations of several poems by Wallace Stevens as examples.
Strand is currently serving as John Cabot University’s first Poet-in-Residence in conjunction with the JCU Summer Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation.  During the academic year, Strand teaches English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. His many honors include the Bollingen Prize, three grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, the 1974 Edgar Allen Poe Prize from The Academy of American Poets, and a Rockefeller Foundation award, as well as fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the MacArthur Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation.  Most recently, he has been awarded the Gold Medal in Poetry by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a prize whose other recipients include Robert Frost, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, and John Ashbery.
The following evening, June 2nd, Mark Strand gave a reading of his work to a standing-room-only crowd in the Aula Magna at John Cabot University.  Strand’s long-time translator Damiano Abeni read the translations of the poems.

Poet Mark Strand & Translator Damiano AbeniMark Strand & Damiano Abeni

Carlo Carabba, Damiano Abeni & Mark Strand

Poet Mark Strand and former student Eliza Griswold

Mark Strand
Photos courtesy of Mario Ventura

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Day Carl Sandburg Died

The Day Carl Sandburg Died
New Documentary Commemorates Carl Sandburg’s Death. 

Explore the controversial life and legacy of Carl Sandburg through archival footage and interviews with Pete Seeger, the late Studs Terkel and Norman Corwin, family, poets, and scholars. The Day Carl Sandburg Died, premieres nationwide Monday, September 24 on PBS (check local listings).

For much of the 20th century, Carl Sandburg (1/6/1878 – 7/22/1967) was synonymous with the American experience, a spokesman on behalf of “the people.” One of the most successful writers in the English language, Sandburg was a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner for his poetry (Cornhuskers, 1918 and Complete Poems, 1950) and part of his six-volume Lincoln biography (Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, 1939). He was also a groundbreaking journalist, folk song collector, children’s storyteller, political organizer/activist, novelist, autobiographer, and captivating performer. 

Yet, after his death, Sandburg’s literary legacy faded and his poems, once taught in schools across America, were dismissed under the weight of massive critical attack. The new 90-minute documentary provides a dynamic examination of Sandburg’s life, work and controversial legacy from a modern perspective.

Fans of Sandburg should not miss the chance to tour his homestead, now a historic site, while visiting Asheville.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Len Steckler / Carl Sandburg and Marilyn Monroe

Carl Sandburg and Marilyn Monroe
by Len Steckler

Actress Marilyn Monroe is shown with poet Carl Sandburg in this December 1961 photo taken in New York City in this photo released to Reuters February 5, 2010. Photographer Len Steckler shot the black-and-white images of Monroe when she unexpectedly arrived at his apartment in December, 1961, to visit his friend, Pulitzer-prize winning poet Sandburg. Steckler is offering them for a sale as a limited edition series called Marilyn Monroe: The Visit.

Photographs of Marilyn Monroe appearing relaxed and lounging around a New York apartment nine months before she died were unveiled on Friday after being held in a private archive for more than 45 years.

Photographer Len Steckler shot the black-and-white images of Monroe when she unexpectedly arrived at his apartment in December, 1961, to visit his friend, Pulitzer-prize winning poet Carl Sandburg Steckler is offering them for a sale as a limited edition series called "Marilyn Monroe: The Visit."

The pictures to be sold -- four single images and two triptychs, or pictures in three parts -- show Monroe wearing pointed, thick-rimmed sunglasses and a short sleeve dress while talking and laughing with Sandburg. Also offered will be 250 prints of each piece.

"It was serendipitous with these two icons in their moment and me there with my camera," Steckler told Reuters, saying he was "like a fly on the wall" while he shot Monroe, then 35, and Sandburg, 83, while they chatted and held hands.

Steckler, a former commercial fashion and beauty photographer who is now "about 80" and lives in Los Angeles, said on the afternoon Monroe visited, Sandburg had mentioned in a casual manner that they would soon have "a visitor."

"Hours later I went to open the door and there I was face to face with Marilyn Monroe, and she looked more ravishing than on the screen," he said. "She said 'I am sorry I am late. I was at the hairdressers, matching my hair to Carl's.'"

Monroe's hair does indeed appear like Sandburg's in the pictures, almost white, said Steckler, and he added that after he took the photos, they all drank Jack Daniels whiskey.
"As we know, Marilyn loved older men, she loved the intellectuals -- and Carl was very parental with her," said Steckler. "It was a lovely thing to see."

The actress died in August, 1962, and Sandburg, who won Pulitzer prizes for his poetry and for a biography of Abraham Lincoln, died seven years later.

Steckler said he decided to sell the photos after his son discovered the negatives in a recent appraisal of his work, and Steckler thought "the current generation" needed to see them.
"I had forgotten about them," he said. "And I thought this would be a good thing to show and for them to talk about."

The pieces range in price from $1,999 to $3,999 and have never been published for public use.

They are on sale at www.thevisitseries.com and by phone with collectibles dealer Eagle National Mint, who is offering a certificate of authenticity for each print.

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte anda Vicki Allen)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Carl Sandburg and Lillian Sandburg

Photo -- See Caption Below

Carl and Lillian Sandburg
Photograph by Edward Steichen

These two people were kindred spirits and shared many of the same values and dreams. Mr. Carl Sandburg and Miss Lilian Stechen were married after a six month courtship of letters. Theirs was a long marriage that ended with Sandburg’s death 59 ½ years later. Carl Sandburg wrote in a letter to his wife in 1908, "I would rather be a poem like you than write poems. I would rather embody the big things as you do than carve or paint or write them. You inspire art-& that's living!"

Paper. H 25.4, W 29.1 cm
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, CARL 222

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Carl Sandburg / How much

by Carl Sandburg

How much do you love me, a million bushels?  
Oh, a lot more than that, Oh, a lot more.  
And to-morrow maybe only half a bushel?  
To-morrow maybe not even a half a bushel.  
And is this your heart arithmetic? 
This is the way the wind measures the weather.

Read also

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Elizabeth Bishop / Dear Elizabeth

Elizabeth Bishop 

The Art of Poetry 


A Stamp on the Outside, Intimacy on the Inside

‘Dear Elizabeth,’ a Sarah Ruhl Play

Joan Marcus

Mary Beth Fisher and Jefferson Mays in “Dear Elizabeth,” the Sarah Ruhl play at the Yale Repertory Theater about the friendship between the writers Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell.

NEW HAVEN — “I seem to spend my life missing you,” Robert Lowell wrote to Elizabeth Bishop, many years after the long and intimate friendship between these two great American poets began. In another letter he sadly observed, “We seem attached to each other by some stiff piece of wire, so that each time one moves, the other moves in another direction.”
The geographical distance between them, breached only rarely during their sometimes tumultuous lives, was a deeply felt burden to both — if perhaps occasionally a blessing, too. But it left behind a great literary treasure: more than 400 letters that they exchanged as their careers and lives blossomed, faltered, foundered, almost fell apart, then blossomed anew. The playwright Sarah Ruhl has distilled from their voluminous correspondence a concise selection to create “Dear Elizabeth,” an epistolary play that is having its premiere at the Yale Repertory Theaterhere.
Aside from sparingly used subtitles and a couple of the subjects’ best-known poems, the play consists entirely of writings from the letters. On a simple set suggesting a shared study, the actors Mary Beth Fisher and Jefferson Mays read or recite from the correspondence, which begins shortly after the poets’ meeting in 1947 and concludes only with Lowell’s sudden death, from a heart attack in a taxi in 1977.
Occupying a hazy theatrical landscape somewhere between a staged reading, along the lines of A. R. Gurney’s durable “Love Letters,” and a fully staged play — the director, Les Waters, animates the back and forth with some whimsical touches of stagecraft — “Dear Elizabeth” provides a satisfying if ultimately superficial glimpse of a complicated relationship. The result feels a bit like trying to take in a rich, beautiful landscape through a window fogged by frost.
Bishop and Lowell were devoted friends and passionate admirers of each other’s work. Their instant intimacy almost inspired Lowell to propose marriage. Ten years after their first meeting, Lowell confessed in one of the correspondence’s most moving letters, “Asking you is the might have been for me, the one towering change, the other life that might have been had.”
And yet it is all but impossible to imagine the two as a happily married pair: Lowell’s turbulent romantic life included three marriages — to the writers Jean Stafford (brief and tempestuous) and Elizabeth Hardwick (long and somewhat less tempestuous) and finally to the writer and British aristocrat Caroline Blackwood. He fought frequent battles with alcoholism and later severe manic depression that landed him in mental hospitals more than once.
Bishop, meanwhile, was a lesbian and a lifelong wanderer. Essentially orphaned (her father died and her mother was institutionalized), she always had trouble putting down roots and never seemed to find a haven in the world for long. (One of the most morbidly funny anecdotes related is the pity Bishop received at the hands of a hairdresser, who upon learning that she was orphaned, said, “Kind of awful ain’t it, plowing through life alone.” ) Among her most celebrated poems is the villanelle “One Art,” recited here, a witty and deeply sad meditation on “the art of losing.”
Through the dizzying highs and lows of their lives, their correspondence was often a steadying rock. Glimmering throughout “Dear Elizabeth” is the sense that despite the occasional disasters that struck them, both individually and occasionally together, they drank deep of the solace that a shared passion for their art and mutual love brought them.
I’d like to report that Ms. Ruhl, Ms. Fisher and Mr. Mays fully capture the mildly gossipy, subtly witty, moving beauty of their rapport, but much about this production struck me as ill conceived. Both of the actors seem miscast, to begin with. Ms. Fisher’s performance is wry, dry and at times too schoolmarmish; although she sheds tears at least once, the shyness and desperate loneliness that haunted Bishop for much of her life never come through. I rarely give thought to recasting, but fantasies of Cherry Jones in the role kept springing to mind.
Mr. Mays is a superb technician — his tour-de-force performance in more than a half-dozen roles in the musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” was one of the delights of my theatergoing year — but surface polish is the last thing I wanted from his portrait of Lowell, who comes across in the letters as emotionally reckless but infinitely bighearted. Mr. Mays seems more like an Oxbridge don. Both actors attempt too ardently for my taste to turn the letters into performances. To move and entertain us, the letters simply need to be read with honest feeling and, above all, an understanding of the psychology behind them.
Mr. Waters’s attempts to indicate the dramatic events that sometimes must be read between the lines of the letters are not always felicitous. Lowell’s repeated psychological breakdowns are signaled by having Mr. Mays suddenly slide to the floor — a striking image of the debilitating (and often sudden) nature of his attacks. But having Ms. Fisher crisply remove from the desk a bottle of whiskey and start taking big slugs from it strikes me as a tasteless way to treat the terrible bouts of alcoholism from which she suffered. My heart sank with unease when I heard the (understandable) tittering in the audience.
Ms. Ruhl, who studied poetry before becoming a playwright, obviously has great respect and affection for both writers, and for those unfamiliar with the correspondence (published in 2008 under the title “Words in Air”), “Dear Elizabeth” will surely shed light on both the writers’ emotional and working lives.
Beautiful passages abound. Perhaps my favorite, from Bishop to Lowell, in generous admiration of his recent poems: “They all have that sure feeling, as if you’d been in a stretch when everything and anything suddenly seemed material for poetry — or not material, seemed to be poetry. If only one could see everything that way all the time. It seems to me it’s the whole purpose of art — that rare feeling of control, illuminating — life is all right.” Then, in a telling phrase that says much about their troubled lives, she adds: “For the time being.”
Dear Elizabeth
By Sarah Ruhl; directed by Les Waters; sets by Adam Rigg; costumes by Maria Hooper; lighting by Russell H. Champa; sound by Bray Poor; projections by Hannah Wasileski; dramaturgy by Amy Boratko; stage manager, Kirstin Hodges; music by Mr. Poor and Jonathan Bell. Presented by Yale Repertory Theater, James Bundy, artistic director; Victoria Nolan, managing director. At the Yale Repertory Theater, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven; (203) 432-1234; yalerep.org. Through Dec. 22. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes.
WITH: Mary Beth Fisher (Elizabeth Bishop) and Jefferson Mays (Robert Lowell).