Tag Archives: poetry

ELIZABETH BISHOP

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough
(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

On Elizabeth BishopON ELIZABETH BISHOP

Written by: Colm Tóibín

Narration by: John Keating

Colm Tóibín (IRISH NOVELIST, CRITIC, AND POET)
Colm Tóibín (IRISH NOVELIST, CRITIC, AND POET)

Colm Tóibín’s “On Elizabeth Bishop” is a brief outline of the life of a poet. It is a poet’s eye view of another’s life and work. For those not enamored with poetry, Colm Tóibín manages to encourage listeners to hear Bishop’s poetry.

ELIZABETH BISHOP (1934 AS A SENIOR AT VASSAR)
ELIZABETH BISHOP (1934 AS A SENIOR AT VASSAR)

Elizabeth Bishop begins life in hardship with the loss of her father when a baby and, as still a child, her mother to an asylum. Shunted from relative to relative with some stability from a grandmother and grandfather, Bishop completes high school and is accepted at Vassar College in 1929, just before the stock market crash. Listening to Tóibín’s analysis of Bishop’s poems, one understands why Bishop’s poetry is classified as cold, somewhat clinical, and only lightly emotional.

Tóibín’s analysis and Keating’s warm narration compel a listener who may have never heard a Bishop’ poem to hear one read. Several poems can be found on YouTube; one of which is “One Art”. Because of accompanying images in this production of the poem, the perfection, meaning, and depth of Bishop’s words are clear; even to the tone deaf.

Tóibín’s writing will encourage those who have never heard of Elizabeth Bishop to hear her poetry and learn more about her life. Though there is little one sees of the inner life of Bishop in her poetry, after listening to Tóibín’s book, the importance of the image of a farm-house in a reading of “Sestina” reminds one of a lonely young daughter being raised by grandparents in rural Massachusetts.

LOTA de MACEDO SOARES (1910-1967, BRAZILIAN ARCHITECT, ELIZABETH BISHOP PARTNER FOR 10 YEARS OF BISHOP'S LIFE IN BRAZIL)
LOTA de MACEDO SOARES (1910-1967, BRAZILIAN ARCHITECT, ELIZABETH BISHOP PARTNER FOR 10 YEARS OF BISHOP’S LIFE IN BRAZIL)
MARIANNE MOORE (1887-1972, WINNER OF PULITZER PRIZE FOR POETRY)
MARIANNE MOORE (1887-1972, WINNER OF PULITZER PRIZE FOR POETRY, MENTOR TO ELIZABETH BISHOP)

Bishop led an unconventional life. She traveled the world; lived in Brazil for ten years with her lover; corresponded with other poets, and learned more about poetry from a formal education, mentor-ship and collaboration with fellow poets. Though strongly influenced by others, she chooses her own path. Bishop abjures personal emotion but intellectually reveals what life means to her, and often what it means to others.

ROBERT LOWELL (1917-1977, POET)
ROBERT LOWELL (1917-1977, POET, FRIEND AND CORRESPONDENT OF ELIZABETH BISHOP)

This is a brief biography of Elizabeth Bishop, but Tóibín’s analysis of her poems offers a window through which one sees the value of poetry.

“At the Fishhouses” YouTube Reading with Pictures of Elizabeth Bishop, the Poem’s Creator:

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A MISOGYNIST SEA

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

A Room of One’s OwnA Room of One's Own

Written by: Virginia Woolf

Narration by:  Juliet Stevenson

VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882-1941, BRITISH AUTHOR, A WOMAN AHEAD OF HER TIME)
VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882-1941, BRITISH AUTHOR, A WOMAN AHEAD OF HER TIME)

Virginia Woolf is a woman outside of time.   As Woolf implies in the early twentieth century, women are drowning in a misogynist sea.  Woolf is born when female inequality breaches that existential threat with a first wave; i.e. American Women’s Suffrage in 1920 and British Women’s Suffrage in 1928.  The preeminent feminist, Betty Friedan, is just born (actually, 1921).  (Friedan later writes “The Feminine Mystique”–published in 1963.)

UNCLE TOM'S CABIN
UNCLE TOM’S CABIN

“A Room of One’s Own” contemplates –“why women are not great poets or fiction writers?”  With the exception of Harriet Beecher Stowe, there are no 19th century women renowned for fiction.  Apocryphally, the unlikely story of Lincoln saying “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this Great War” is an apt coda for the public’s view of women writers.

EMILY DICKINSON (1830-1886, AMERICAN POET, PRODUCED 1,800 POEMS IN 40 HANDBOUND VOLUMES)
EMILY DICKINSON (1830-1886, AMERICAN POET, PRODUCED 1,800 POEMS IN 40 HAND BOUND VOLUMES)
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (1806-1861, ENGLISH POET, FAVORABLY COMPARED WITH SHAKESPEAREAN IMAGERY)
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (1806-1861, ENGLISH POET, FAVORABLY COMPARED WITH SHAKESPEAREAN IMAGERY)

Woolf wittily skewers male paragons of the pen and their misogynist comments about women.  She sets the table for an explanation of why there is no female Shakespeare, erudite Johnson, or Longfellow word smith.  (As one listens to her complaint, one thinks about Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning but they did have rooms of their own.  They had time for contemplation.)

Woolf’s point is that women had no money because they were dependent on men or family inheritance.  (Dickinson is supported by her family and Browning eloped with a writer.) Often, young ladies are discouraged from college by their families who feel marriage and bearing of children are their primary duties.  Without educational support and few opportunities for gainful employment, women (on their own) had little money.  Without money, there is little opportunity for independence; without money, there is little chance of having “A Room of One’s Own”.

MICHEL de MONTAIGNE (1533-1592)
MICHEL de MONTAIGNE (1533-1592, Michel de Montaigne’s essays are spectacular observations of life and living but the key to his success is in wealth that allows him time for observation and contemplation of life in a room of his own. )

Michel de Montaigne’s essays are spectacular observations of life and living but the key to his success is in wealth that allows him time for observation and contemplation of life in a room of his own.  In Woolf’s lifetime there were few women that had such luxury.

In the last section of her lecture on women who write fiction she notes a woman’s first book with a mixture of disdain and admiration.  Disdain from implied colorlessness in the writing but admiration for a twist in the story that suggests this first-time author has potential. However, for realization of potential, Woolf suggests the author needs money to have a room of her own; to have time to think and reflect.  To prove Woolf’s bona fides, she ends “A Room of Her Own” with short stories; presumably, in a room of her own.  They are beautifully written and worthy of the theme of which she writes.

BETTY FRIEDAN (1921-2006,At $.79 cents to the dollar in 2016, there is still a long way to go. )

Misogyny still roils the sea but more women writers have a room of their own.  The second wave is forty years in the future but Friedan steadies the helm-bearing toward equality.  At $.79 cents to the dollar in 2016, there is still a long way to go.  As Aristotle once said, contemplation is the highest form of activity for the soul.

Woolf implies great literature; great fiction, and poetry come from authors who have money and a room of their own.

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VOICE AND MANNER

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Poets’ Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole FamilyPOETS' CORNER

Written by: John Lithgow 

Narration by:  Morgan Freeman, Susan Sarandon, Helen Mirren, Glenn Close, Gary Sinese, John Lithgow 

JOHN LITHGOW (AUTHOR, ACTOR, MUSICIAN)
JOHN LITHGOW (AUTHOR, ACTOR, MUSICIAN)

There is something about the voice and manner of John Lithgow that burns brightly in one’s imagination.  Maybe it is the serious and comic ability of his Broadway and television presence or an underlying sense of knowing that he knows more than you when he speaks his memorized lines.  “The Poets’ Corner” confirms all three; i.e. Lithgow is everything you expect.  He is serious.  He is comic, and he knows more than you know.

Of course the Poets’ Corner is a location in Westminster Abbey dedicated to famous poets, playwrights, and writers.

POETS' CORNER IN WESMINSTER ABBEY (LONGFELLOW WAS THE FIRST AMERICAN POET TO BE MEMORIALIZED AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY),
POETS’ CORNER IN WESMINSTER ABBEY (LONGFELLOW WAS THE FIRST AMERICAN POET TO BE MEMORIALIZED AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY),

Some of the poets in Lithgow’s book are memorialized in the Abbey.  But Lithgow’s choice of inclusion is not limited to the Westminster’ scions of poetry.   Lithgow lists poets by the alphabet and offers a thumbnail biography of each.  He participates and enlists great, and near-great actors to read the poems.   The result is magically delicious.

MATTHEW ARNOLD (1822-1888 ENGLISH POET AND CULTURAL CRITIC BORN IN LALEHAM, UK)
MATTHEW ARNOLD (1822-1888 ENGLISH POET AND CULTURAL CRITIC BORN IN LALEHAM, UK)

Every listener will find something that raises their appreciation of poetry.  From the seriousness of Matthew Arnold,

to the pacing of Lewis Carroll’s nonsense

CHARLES LUTWIDGE DODSON aka LEWIS CARROLL (1832-1898)
CHARLES LUTWIDGE DODSON aka LEWIS CARROLL (1832-1898)

,

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616, POET,PLAYWRIGHT, AND ACTOR)
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616, POET,PLAYWRIGHT, AND ACTOR)

to Shakespearean songs

,to

WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS (1865-1939, IRISH POET, PILLAR OF IRISH AND BRISTISH LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT)
WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS (1865-1939, IRISH POET, PILLAR OF IRISH AND BRISTISH LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT)

William Butler Yeats’  “…Innisfree”. 

A listener enjoys Lithgow’s fascinating assembly of poets; whether admirer, critic, or amateur.  These Youtube representations are a pale comparison to the narrations done by Lithgow and his friends.  This is a highly entertaining audio book; i.e. poetry that is better represented by its narration than its reading.

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