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Posts Tagged ‘readings’

“For Holly Andersen”

March 25, 2014 | by

On April 8, at our Spring Revel, we’ll honor Frederick Seidel with the Hadada Award. In the weeks leading up the Revel, we’re looking at Seidel’s poems.

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Bemelman's Bar in the Carlyle Hotel, New York. Photo: Arvind Grover

Over the weekend, I turned on Studio 360. A cardiologist was describing the health benefits of dance—and this cardiologist was none other than Holly Andersen, hero of a great poem by Frederick Seidel, from his 2006 collection, Ooga-Booga. Dr. Andersen is also the dedicatee of the poem. I guess you could say she is its muse, but hero is the better word. This is a poem about heroism: doing your job in the face of death. It happens also to be a love poem, for in Seidel’s work love and admiration are rarely far apart. I never have a drink at the Carlyle Hotel without thinking of the first lines, and I think of the last lines much more often than that.

Seidel has never given a public reading, but he has made several recordings of his poems, including this one. I played it as soon as the segment was over.

What could be more pleasant than talking about people dying,
And doctors really trying,
On a winter afternoon
At the Carlyle Hotel, in our cocoon?
We also will be dying one day soon.

Dr. Holly Anderson has a vodka cosmopolitan,
And has another, and becomes positively Neapolitan,
The moon warbling a song about the sun,
Sitting on a sofa at the Carlyle,
Staying stylishly alive for a while.

Her spirited loveliness
Does cause some distress.
She makes my urbanity undress.
I present symptoms that express
An underlying happiness in the face of the beautiful emptiness.

She lost a very sick patient she especially cared about.
The man died on the table. It wasn't a matter of feeling any guilt or doubt.
Something about a doctor who can cure, or anyway try,
But can also cry,
Is some sort of ultimate lullaby, and lie.

 

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John Ashbery Reads “A Boy”

March 18, 2014 | by

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Today the composer Christopher Tignor releases a new record, Thunder Lay Down in the Heart, whose title track is a twenty-minute work for string orchestra, electronics, and drums. The composition is named after a line from John Ashbery’s 1956 poem, “A Boy,” and it begins with a haunting new recording of Ashbery reading the poem in his Chelsea apartment, which Tignor has graciously allowed us to feature here.

Tignor says:

“A Boy” rang out to me while I was writing “Thunder Lay Down in the Heart.” My song titles usually come in response to the music, and I often find myself looking through books of poetry to turn my mind on in that way. When I was a student at Bard, I studied poetry with Ashbery—he was my advisor—and when I read this poem, I responded right away to the conflict between the protagonist and the visceral narrative tension of the storm: the sound, like thunder, of falling “from shelf to shelf of someone’s rage,” the rain at night against the box cars, the inevitable flood.

It’s precisely that kind of unfolding I hoped to embody in my musical work, with its own flooded lines, dry fields of lightning, and cabbage roses. A reviewer recently described the work as its own “vast electrical disturbance.” Hard to disagree.

 

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Tonight: Jenny Offill in Conversation with Lorin Stein

February 24, 2014 | by

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This evening at seven, join us at McNally Jackson, where our editor, Lorin Stein, will be in conversation with Jenny Offill. Jenny’s excellent new novel, Dept. of Speculation, is out now; Vanity Fair calls it “a startling feat of storytelling—an intense and witty meditation on motherhood, infidelity, and identity, each line a dazzling, perfectly chiseled arrowhead aimed at your heart.” (I hasten to assure you that no arrows, perfectly chiseled or otherwise, will be aimed at anyone at tonight’s reading.)

Jenny’s name should sound familiar: her story “Magic and Dread,” an excerpt from the novel, appears in our Winter issue. If her name doesn’t ring a bell, it probably means you haven’t read our Winter issue—get on that!

 

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Tonight: Rachel Kushner and James Wood

February 11, 2014 | by

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Photo: Lucy Raven

Tonight at seven, Rachel Kushner launches the paperback edition of her wonderful novel The Flamethrowers—she’ll be in conversation with The New Yorker’s James Wood at the Powerhouse Arena, in Dumbo. (Note to the uninitiated: it’s a bookstore, not an arena, though it would be something to live in a world where a Kushner/Wood bill could sell out Madison Square Garden.)

As we mentioned briefly yesterday, The Flamethrowers is one of eight books to have been shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize, the first major English-language book prize open to writers from around the world. Its aim? “To celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre, and to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible.” Kushner is in good company: the other nominees are Anne Carson, Amity Gaige, Jane Gardam, Kent Haruf, Eimear McBride, Sergio de la Pava, and George Saunders. The winner will be announced on March 10; we wish her the best of luck.

But perhaps these recent developments aren’t enough to slake your Kushnerphilia. Should this be the case, we recommend her short story “Blanks,” excerpted from The Flamethrowers in our Winter 2012 issue. Or, from that same issue, the collection of art and photography she curated—images that inspired the novel. Or her interview with Jesse Barron, published on the Daily last year.

You can also read James Wood’s acute review of The Flamethrowers, published last year in The New Yorker—a fitting appetizer for his conversation with Kushner tonight.

 

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Tonight: Elif Batuman and Gary Shteyngart at 92Y

February 3, 2014 | by

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Join us this evening at 92Y, where, snow be damned, Gary Shteyngart and Elif Batuman will take the stage to read from their latest work. They’ll be introduced by Sloane Crosley and our very own Lorin Stein, respectively. The night begins at 8:15; those unable (or unwilling) to face the slush can watch a free livecast here. (If last night’s Super Bowl was any indication, it will be much better than whatever’s on TV.)

 

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W. H. Auden at the 92nd Street Y

January 22, 2014 | by

W. H. Auden at the Poetry Center, 1966. Photo: Diane Dorr-Dorynek, courtesy of 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center

W. H. Auden at the Poetry Center, 1966. Photo: Diane Dorr-Dorynek, courtesy of 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center

75 at 75,” a special project from the 92nd Street Y in celebration of the Unterberg Poetry Center’s seventy-fifth anniversary, invites contemporary authors to listen to a recording from the Poetry Center’s archive and write a personal response. Here, Cynthia Ozick reflects on W. H. Auden, whose readings she remembers attending as a Poetry Center subscriber in the fifties.

There must be sorrow if there can be love. —From “Canzone”

Ah, the fabled sixties and seventies! Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs! The glorious advent of Howling! Of Getting Stoned! The proliferation of Ginsbergian Exclamation Points! To secure the status of their literary subversion, these revolutionary decades were obliged, like the cadres of every insurrection, to denigrate and despise, and sometimes to blow up, their immediate predecessor, the fifties—the middling middle, the very navel, of the twentieth century. The fifties, after all, were the Eisenhower years, stiff and small like Mamie’s bangs (and just as dated), dully mediocre, constrained, consumerist, car-finned, conformist, forgettable, and stale as modernism itself. Randall Jarrell, one of its leading poets and critics, named this midcentury epoch “The Age of Criticism”—and what, however he intended it, could suggest prosiness more? And what is prosiness if not the negation of the lively, the living, the lasting, the daring, the true and the new? The reality was sublimely opposite. It was, in fact, the Age of Poetry, a pinnacle and an exaltation; there has not been another since. Its poets were more than luminaries—they were colossi, their very names were talismans, and they rose before us under a halo of brilliant lights like figures in a shrine. It was a kind of shrine: the grand oaken hall, the distant stage and its hallowed lectern, the enchanted voices with their variegated intonations, the rapt listeners scarcely breathing, the storied walls themselves in trance—this was the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in the heart of the twentieth century. Read More »

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