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by Earle Hitchner, Best American Poetry guest blogger, Oct. 23-29, 2011 Religion as bluster and bullying: it's sad to see faith reduced to its basest denominators. The current, seemingly interminable brouhaha over contraception versus religion recalls a darker, denser time in recent American history and obfuscates what unpoliticized, unfettered faith... Continue reading
Posted Feb 29, 2012 at Ehitch2's blog
As Terence Winch, one of America's finest poets, reminded us, Patrick Kavanagh's two best-known, best-loved poems are "Raglan Road" and "A Christmas Childhood." Of the two, I still prefer "Raglan Road" as both a poem and a song. I like Van Morrison and the Chieftains' rendition of the song, but the best version I ever heard appears on Dick Gaughan's sadly out-of-print and/or hard-to-find solo album in 1976, "Kist O'Gold," on Bill Leader's old Trailer label. No one has a voice like Gaughan's. Here are the song lyrics of "Raglan Road": On Raglan Road on an August day I saw her first and knew That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue I saw the danger yet I walked along the enchanted way And I said, Let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge Of the deep ravine where can be seen the true worth of passion's pledge The queen of hearts still making tarts and I not making hay O I loved too much and by such, by such is happiness thrown away I gave her gifts of the mind, I gave her the secret sign that's known To the artist who has seen the true gods of sound and stone And word and tint, I did not stint for I gave her poems to say With her own name there and her long dark hair like clouds over fields of May On a quiet street where the old ghosts meet I see her walking now Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay When the angel woos the clay he'd lose his wings at the dawn of day. Bravo, Terence, for bringing Kavanagh's poetic gifts back to us this holiday season. Earle Hitchner
First, buy, rent, or check out of your local library Sondheim! The Birthday Concert, a 116-minute DVD issued in 2010 that contains several stunning performances of songs chosen from musicals composed wholly or partly by Stephen Sondheim on a March 2010 night celebrating his 80th birthday at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Then buy or check out of the library Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes by Stephen Sondheim. It’s a coffeetable-size book without the dismissibility of a coffeetable book. It is fascinating and, to the surprise of no one who... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
[NOTE: The freakish pre-winter snowstorm of this past weekend shut down the power, heat, and computer in my Hudson Valley home in New York, and caused me to relocate to precipitation-light southern New Jersey in a hurry and thus to miss my last two guest blogger entries for the week of October 23-29. So here’s the first of the last two blog entries that I was working on. I’ll post the other soon. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. — Earle Hitchner] Literarily and musically, I tend to swim more in the runnels... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
It’s sold out, but figure out a way to get in. Last night was so crushingly crowded that you could barely move in your seat—if you were lucky enough to find one. Standing room was several rows deep. A total stranger from Norman, Oklahoma, told me that he pleaded and wheedled until he was told yes, you can come in. What’s this all about? It’s “Other Voices New York City,” an extraordinary, maybe once-in-a-lifetime club showcase—sponsored by Culture Ireland (CEO Eugene Downes is an indefatigable marvel) and one of its many laudable initiatives, Imagine Ireland—of Irish and non-Irish musical and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
“Literature in a hurry”: that’s how Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), perhaps best known for his poem “Dover Beach,” once defined my profession, journalism. Arnold died in the city where John Lennon, who appears in my previous blog, was born: Liverpool. In his A Concise Treasury of Great Poems (my crumbling copy is a 12th edition paperback from 1966), anthologist Louis Untermeyer, who is no longer well remembered as a critic or poet, introduced Arnold’s most famous poem this way: “It has been said that Arnold’s verse is respected but no longer loved, that his social criticism is infrequently read, and that... Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
John Lennon, the son of working class parents in Liverpool, recorded an answer. Dig out your copy of the John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band album from 1970 and listen to “Working Class Hero” on it. It’s a devastating track—spare, intense, chorally yet unpushily sarcastic—with just Lennon singing over an acoustic guitar. But there’s also an empathetic ache pulsing through his performance. Lennon had been caught in that life, the one he was raised in and learned with, the one he could never shake off or, perhaps, want to. If you’re a Green Day fan, as I am, also listen... Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
Trick and treat: The trick is to reach students in any effective way you can, including the treat of Homer Simpson or Basil Rathbone. You are obviously an effective teacher. Now I have to locate and hear Homer Simpson's recitation of "The Raven." I'll bet it's a hoot ... or caw ... or whatever sound a raven-manque might make inside Moe's Bar.
Hi, Terence, Thanks for directing readers to another Melville work of ongoing importance and, using that word of wide circulation in the 1960s, relevance. Now let me direct readers to Terence Winch's fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, includng his superb new volume of verse, FALLING OUT OF BED IN A ROOM WITH NO FLOOR. Just click on his name that appears in the column to the immediate left here. Given what I wrote about Melville's low self-esteem, I recommend Winch's villanelle "Against Low Self-Esteem" in his new book. Earle Hitchner
At the risk of annoying the apolitical or infuriating the politically antithetical, I admit I’m dismayed by all the brickbats hurled at the spreading Occupy Wall Street movement. The main accusations are that OWS, a nonviolent, nonsubsumable protest I find encouraging, is waging class warfare and lacks a coherent message or list of demands. What would Bartleby say to that? When I first read Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street,” I let out a reflexive chuckle every time the titular character greeted his boss’s request to do work with this mild-mannered reply: “I would prefer not to.”... Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
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Oct 19, 2011