Rhina P. Espaillat is the perfect person to talk about an earlier “trailblazing woman,” Emily Dickinson, in this delightful program from PBS television.
I first met Syd when I took his creative writing class at Dartmouth College. He was my professor, though he did everything in his power to level that hierarchical relationship. Though he was not drinking himself, he’d bring a big jug of wine and set it down in the middle of the table where we would-be poets sat. He told us right up front, in our first class, that we’d learn more from one another than we would ever learn from him. Basically, his role would be to welcome us into a conversation with other writers and trust that our common interests would lead us… somewhere.
I don’t mean to imply that he was abdicating his responsibilities. I think he was showing us the truest thing he knew about poetry and about “Literature” in general: that it’s all one big conversation, a conversation that goes on for centuries, and when you pick up your pen and try to say something from the heart, you’re joining that conversation, trying to make your voice heard. But you’d better be saying something from the heart, or no one’s going to listen.
Thought, no matter how lofty, seems duller than lead,
Without heart to match, just as faith without works is dead.
Here is a video of Syd talking about his most recent collection of poetry, Here.
Throughout her career, sculptor Meredith Bergmann has created public art of enduring value, including the Boston Women’s Memorial and the FDR Hope Memorial. On August 26, 2020, her newest work will be unveiled in New York’s Central Park: the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument. It will be the park’s first — and only — monument honoring real women. “The fact that nobody, for a long time, even noticed that women were missing in Central Park — what does that say about the invisibility of women?”
On the Opinion page of Worcester Magazine appears a poem in which two of my friends —both terrific poets—have had a hand. Juan Matos wrote “Boot on the Throat” in Spanish; Rhina Espaillat translated it into English. I only wish you could hear Juan read the original; no one delivers a poem with greater passion.
Meet my friend Dan Bergmann, the son of sculptor and poet Meredith Bergmann and filmmaker Michael Bergmann, in this powerful and moving video from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Ward Sutton’s cartoons vis-a-vis the Trump administration are among the most incisive and memorable commentaries I’ve seen. We all realize how absurd it is for the President to dismiss the pandemic by saying, “If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases,” but we find ourselves at a loss for words to describe how inane the remark is. Sutton says it for us:
In 2010 Paul Mariani gently “outed” Commissioner of Social Security Michael Astrue, who had served in senior roles for four presidents, as the poet writing as “A. M. Juster.” That year Astrue won the Alzheimer’s Association’s Humanitarian of the Year Award to go with awards from many health care and disability organizations. A poet with a background very unlike that of most contemporary poets, Juster talks about auspicious and inauspicious trends in contemporary poetry and his own approach to the craft of writing and translating verse.
One of the first books that made an impression on me was a memoir by the legendary Bill Russell, Second Wind, co-authored with Taylor Branch, who later won the Pulitzer for Parting the Waters, the first of three books chronicling America in the King Years. Here is a brief but eloquent statement from Russell about the “strange times” we’re living in. Our president could learn a lot about winning from this true champion.
Salmon Rushdie delivers a warning to the United States, based on his own experience in other parts of the world.