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Posts Tagged ‘Abraham Lincoln’

Ghosts Stay Near Home

November 3, 2015 | by

In the third of three excerpts from The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains, Thomas Laqueur looks at the life and afterlife of the churchyard in literature.

John Constable, The Church Porch, East Bergholt, 1810.

In 1806, England’s greatest landscape painter, John Constable, began a series of drawings and oil sketches of the church and churchyard of East Bergholt in the Stour Valley of Sussex, the village in which he had been born. In one of these, a man and two women gather around a tomb and look intently at an inscription that we cannot quite read. Those who saw the final painting would have known the allusion. An engraving published as the frontispiece to a collection of epitaphs the same year makes it explicit: the girl with her back to us blocks most of the text, but we can make out “Here rest / A Youth.” Anyone in the early nineteenth century would have been able to fill in the missing words:

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth,
A Youth, to fortune and to fame unknown

from Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (1751). They would not have needed the words; any picture of a churchyard evoked Gray. The “Elegy” was an immediate success when it was published and remained resonant for at least two centuries. “Poem of Poems,” Edmund Gosse, the late nineteenth-century man of letters called it in his English Men of Letters book about Gray. Line for line, it has given more words to the English language, according to the attributions in the Oxford English Dictionary, than any other source; it was probably recited by more schoolchildren in the nineteenth century than any other; it was continually translated—thirty-three times into Italian alone by 1850. It was endlessly reprinted and anthologized in English. Read More »

Four Poems by Richard Milhous Nixon

February 16, 2015 | by

ab028100ee5176959782b685451434d414f4141Abraham Lincoln, John Quincy Adams, and Jimmy Carter all published collections of poetry—and I don’t mean to diminish their stately, often tender contributions to arts and letters by what follows. But the simple fact of the matter is, their poetical efforts pale in comparison to Richard Nixon, who was, and remains, the most essential poet-president the United States of America has ever produced.

The Poetry of Richard Milhous Nixon, a slim volume compiled by Jack S. Margolis and published in 1974, stands as a seminal work in verse. Comprising direct excerpts from the Watergate tapes—arguably the most fecund stage of Nixon’s career—it fuses the rugged rhetoric of statesmanship to the lithe contours of song, all rendered in assured, supple, poignant free verse. Below, to celebrate Presidents’ Day, are four selections from this historic chapbook, which has, lamentably, slipped out of print. Read More »

Happy Birthday, Abraham Lincoln

February 12, 2013 | by


“My Best Friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.” —Abraham Lincoln



The Presidency, in Verse

November 2, 2012 | by

We may know their takes on climate change, on reproductive rights, on economic policy. But what of poetry? The Poetry Foundation has investigated the poets the presidents loved, and presented their findings in an illuminating and timely post. Just a few pairings:Read More »


Babyish Handwriting, Malarkey

October 15, 2012 | by

  • Is Spotify for books coming?
  • University of Missouri Press gets a reprieve!
  • Abraham Lincoln: the inexhaustible subject.
  • Speaking of the presidency: a guide to malarkey.
  • “A bit sad and even a little babyish”: a handwriting expert analyzes the penmanship of Lady Gaga, Barack Obama, and Prince William, among others. (Spoiler: the quote refers to the leader of the free world.)
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    Writing: The Great Invention of the World

    August 24, 2012 | by

  • “Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.” Margaret Atwood’s rules for writing fiction.
  • “I would like to write another book for children but I spend all my spare time just answering the letters I get from children about the books I have already written.” —E.B. White, 1961.
  • “Writing, the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye—is the great invention of the world.” Abraham Lincoln’s favorite poetry.
  • Perhaps inevitable but ill-advised: a 50 Shades of Grey book burning. Explains Clare Phillipson, head of the anti-domestic-violence organization Wearside Women in Need, “I do not think I can put into words how vile I think this book is and how dangerous I think the idea is that you get a sophisticated but naive young woman and a much richer, abusive older man who beats her up and does some dreadful things to her sexually.”
  • Just in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Herman Hesse, a film of his time in Ticino.
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