Q:What is the music played behind Tom Wait's poetry reading recently posted? Thank you. Jeanne Cronin, Cambridge MA
The music bedding Waits’ reading of Charles Bukowski’s poem “Nirvana” wasn’t pulled from another song or artist. It’s actually part of a track on Waits’ 2006 album Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards.
The election is over, and it seems like now is as good occasion as ever to turn to poetry. Non? Who better to turn to than Elizabeth Alexander, the poet who wrote and delivered "Praise Song for the Day" at President Obama’s inauguration.
She sees poetry as providing the language that elevates and emboldens rather than demeans and alienates. And, despite these times when more and more of the world requires hard data and the certainty of facts, Ms. Alexander tells us what poetry works in us — and in our children — and why it may become more relevant, not less so, in hard and complicated times.
Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Uncertainty, when accepted, sheds a bright light on the power of intention. That is what you can count on: not the outcome, but the motivation you bring, the vision you hold, the compass setting you choose to follow.
Our intention and our resolve can save us from getting lost in grief. … When we open our eyes to what is happening, even when it breaks our hearts, we discover our true dimensions, for our heart, when it breaks open, can hold the whole universe. We discover how speaking the truth of our anguish for the world brings down the walls between us, drawing us into deep solidarity. And that solidarity with our neighbors and all that lives is all the more real for the uncertainty we face. When we stop distracting ourselves, trying to figure the chances of ultimate success or failure, our minds and hearts are liberated into the present moment. And this moment together is alive and charged with possibilities.
—Joanna Macy, from her Tricycle essay “The Greatest Danger”
One of the shows I’m proudest of pitching, producing, and getting played on national public radio is this interview Krista Tippett did with Ms. Macy. Her name had come up anecdotally years before for a show on “the soul in depression” when Krista interviewed poet Anita Barrows.
When one hears a phrase like “The Great Turning” in a pitch session, veteran journalists may shy away (or run) from it. It’s somewhat difficult to make concrete and can sound rather soft and puffy. To some degree, this is true. But, my task was to acknowledge this response from our executive producer and staff — and then describe it, explain it more plainly, and make sure all knew why her voice is different. And then emphasize its importance and her wisdom as an elder this world needs to hear from ever so much.
I think Lawrence Joseph just awakened me. No coffee needed. How about these lines from “So Where are We?”:
Ten blocks away is the Church of the Transfiguration,
in the back is a Byzantine Madonna –
there is a God, a God who fits the drama
in a very particular sense. What you said –
the memory of a memory of a remembered
memory, the color of a memory, violet and black.
Now isn’t this fascinating! We’re all well acquainted with the only photo of Emily Dickinson known to exist, the daguerreotype of her as a 16-year-old girl taken in 1847 (right).
Now, it appears a second daguerreotype of the reclusive poet has made its way to Amherst College by way of a dedicated collector. But this one, taken in 1859, shows her in a different light as a young woman in her mid-20s sitting with a friend, Kate Scott Turner:
“If the daguerreotype is eventually accepted as Dickinson, it will change our idea of her, providing a view of the poet as a mature woman showing striking presence, strength, and serenity. She (whoever she is) seems to be the one in charge here, the one who decided that on a certain day in a certain year, she and her friend would have their likenesses preserved. In fact, even if this photograph is not of Dickinson and Turner, it has still been of use in forcing us to imagine Dickinson as an adult, past the age of the ethereal-looking 16-year-old we have known for so many years.”
The Guardian reports on the extent to which the daguerreotype has been analyzed, right down to the “corneal curvature” and the “hair cowlick.” Don’t you just love a mystery? Here’s your chance to be the verifying link.
After that last post, how could I resist following it up with Patrick Stewart reciting Sonnet 29.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
I am sooooo getting this iPad app. Ruth Negga reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 114:
Or whether doth my mind, being crowned with you,
Drink up the monarch’s plague, this flattery?
Or whether shall I say mine eye saith true,
And that your love taught it this alchemy,
To make of monsters and things indigest…
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor