Tracy K Smith reads Emily Dickinson – Birthday Tribute

It was a full serving of Emily Dickinson poetry last night at the Folger. Co-sponsored by the Folger Library and Poetry Society of American (PSoA), Tracy K Smith led with a reading of Dickinson poetry as well as her own, much of it inspired by the Bard of Amherst herself. A special treat of the night, however, was a talk given by Dr. David DeVorkin, curator at Smithsonian Air and Space, on the state of astronomy during Dickinson’s time and how that may have affected her poetry, with an interesting acknowledgement of the work of Tracy Smith’s father on the Hubble telescope and her poetry in his honor. It was a most interesting convergence/confluence of ideas and of art/science.

Let’s recapture some of the poetry covered. A Dickinson catalog, we can call it, for all the Emily Dickinson lovers out there…

Alice Quinn from PSoA opened with a recitation of “This world is not conclusion.” Ironically, or maybe by design, it would be a recurring theme throughout the night.  Traci began her presentation with “I saw no Way – The Heavens were stitched,” a historical evolution of the poem “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” and “If I’m lost – now –.”

Here, Smith read from the Dickinson-Higginson letter of 25 April 1862, “I had a terror – since September.” Next, “I reason, Earth is short” and “To put this World down, like a Bundle.”  Smith questioned the antecedent of the pronoun in “I know that He exists.” One of Smith’s poems echoed some themes from “Because I could not stop for Death,” which she read immediately after. She continued the astronomy theme with “There is a solitude of space,” and the mystical piece “Through what transports of patience.”

I regret now not capturing the titles/first lines of the Tracy Smith poems to reproduce them also. I made the same omission with Kay Ryan four years ago, and with Peter Gizzi three years ago. I missed the birthday celebration two years ago (out of town) and last year (medical absence) but I plan to make every one from this year forward.

Tracy Smith closed the evening reading with “I like to see it lap the Miles” and “I’ve nothing Else – to bring.”

Dr. DeVorkin’s presentation dove-tailed exquisitely both with Tracy Smith’s readings from her own collection, “Life on Mars,” dedicated to her memory of her father who worked on the Hubble Telescope, and to the many mentions of astronomical phenomena in Dickinson’s poetry and the state of astronomy studies she would have been exposed to mid 19th century at Holyoke. Smith earlier mentioned her father’s experience with the Hubble Telescope, its initial failure followed by its success. DeVorkin reflected on the early days of development of the Hubble project and said the flaws in the project were not with the scientists and opticians, but with management. It might have been interesting to chat with him during the reception, but my date was tired from a long day at work. So we went home directly after having a taste of the Dickinson recipe birthday cake.

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Blogging 101 – Day 4: Identifying my audience – poetry lovers

I think this may be fun!

Today’s assignment is to publish a post you’d like your ideal audience member to read, and to include elements never used before.

My love of poetry is a bit of an obsession at times, so I am going to aim my post at blog readers who read, write, and enjoy all aspects of poetry. I’ve never embedded video clips, so I might just try it. OK, here we go!

Here are three favorites from the 19th century:


And here are three favorites from the Beats:


Hope there is something here for everybody. But just in case, more of my favorites are here on Pinterest:

Finally, Epictetus quote for today

Finally, Epictetus quote for today

Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson!

I can’t ignore that poetry (and my love for it) is a huge part of this transition.  It is the oil that lubricates, cools and cleans the gears and moving parts of my thinking and action (Is this a poem?).

So, we (me and two ModPo comrades) attended Emily Dickinson‘s birthday celebration at the Folger.  Peter Gizzi was the featured poet.

OK. So he started off with #1286, There is no frigate. Then #373, This world is not conclusion. Next was #124, Safe in their alabaster chambers, followed by #448, I died for beauty.  Here he mentioned that Keats was ED’s favorite poet (never knew that, makes me want to go back and check out Keats (think I have his complete works here in the bookcase)).

Next he read #883 (but my collection, edited by R.W. Franklin, says #930; that’s why I write down the number and the first line, or at least try to), The Poets light but Lamps, then #778, Four trees upon a solitary acre. Here he riffed about the “deep interiority.”Then #591, I heard a fly buzz – when I died. Here he quotes WCW and Wallace Stevens (but I can’t decipher my handwriting: “A poet always ### with her poems” quote from WCW and “A new poem is a new mind” quote from Stevens). Next #372, After great pain, a formal feeling comes.

Here I felt he was beginning the conclusion…

#508 (but my collection has it #383) I’m ceded – I’ve stopped being Their’s.  Here he mentioned the Civil War, and how ED wrote 1000 poems between 1860 and 1865.  #290 (but my collection has it as #319), Of Bronze – and Blaze, and he riffs on “An Island in dishonored Grass” which he says may have been about Whitman, whom he says ED detested, though it may have also been about the green grass of the battlefields. I was blown away by the line, “my splendors, are menagerie/ but their completeness show/will entertain the centuries/ when I, am long ago.” Reminds me a bit of the poetry of the Gettysburg Address. He also said ED was 30 at the beginning of the Civil War.

Then #1679, the ditch is dear to the drunken man. Here he mentioned James Schuyler, his mentor/professor in the 80’s (looks like he was there at the birth of the New York School, with Ashbery and O’Hara). And he concludes with that awe-inspiring 3rd letter to Thomas Higginson (that, I think I have located in Susan Howe‘s My Emily Dickinson, though the only reference I vividly recall is that to Carlo, her dog, so it might not be).

My last note is a mention of Jack Spicer on the difference between ED’s poems and letters.

http://media.sas.upenn.edu/pennsound/authors/Gizzi-P/Close-Listening/Gizzi-Peter_Close-Listening_conversation_3-17-08.mp3

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