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In its visiting scholar series WBA wi presents visit with the poet part to. The visiting scholars program of the Cleveland public schools was developed under the direction of Superintendent Paul Briggs and was designed to bring teachers and students into direct personal contact with outstanding scholars. Our guest today is Mark Van Doren poet Shakespeare scholar and former professor of English at Columbia University. In 1039 not a VanDoren was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his collected poems. He has edited numerous anthologies of poetry the best known of which is his anthology of world poetry. For many years he served as literary editor and motion picture critic of the nation. Now in the second of two interviews with Dr Van Doren he read some of his own poetry and discusses the Beat poets of today. He is interviewed by Cecilia Evans of WB only but to Van Doren Could you read some of your own poems for us. I'd be glad to read one or two. I like nothing better. Here's
one that's a story called The first snow of the year. The only man listening to the careful steps of his old wife is up she came up so slowly. Then her slippered progress down the long hall to their door. Outside the women while they suddenly whirl the first snow of the air danced around and around with it coming closer and closer peppering the pain. Now here she was said Oh my dear remember what his trade took all of her attention having to hold it level. Oh my dear don't you remember what that time we walked in the white woods. She handed him it not can felt the glass to make sure the milk in it was warm. Sat down got up again. Brought comb and brush to tidy his top hair. Yes I remember. He wondered if she saw now what he did. Possibly not an afternoon so windless the huge flakes rustled
upon each other filling the wood. The world with cold cold. They sure were having a long way to go and then their mittens touched and touched again their eyes trying not to meet didn't meet. They stopped and in the cold held out their arms till she came into his awkward life as a girl to a boy that never kissed before. The woods the darkening world so cold so cold while they used to burn together. He remembered and wondered if she did how like a hidden heat it was. While there they stood and trembled and the snow made statues of them. My dear remember. Yes I do. She rocked in thought He wants me to say something. But we said nothing then. The main thing is I'm with him still. He calls me and I come but slowly. Time makes sluggards
of us all. Yes I do remember the wild wind was louder but a sweetness in her speaking stung him and he heard while round and round. The first snow of the year vanished on the lawn. Oh that's lovely. That's a love poem is going about two very old people. Yes and as you say the good thing is that they're still together. Yes well that's just the point. Now I suppose you're another one I want to read only too really. Another one for you that I understand as applying to her although that was not so in my own mind as you've written a number of years before that when I called it at the time a lullaby it was one of a group of poems I published and I bought him in 1948 a group called Lullaby. And this one is about an old lady who is rocking in her chair and old widow whose husband is dead and her children have of course gone away she's all by herself.
It's called a sleep grandmother sleep grandmother sleep the rocking chair is ready to go and harness bells are hung in a row as once you heard them in soft smile sleep grandmother sleep your sons are little and silly again. Your daughters are 5 and 7 and 10 and he that is gone was not gone them sleep. Grandmother sleep the sleigh comes out of the winter world and carries you all in Boots in hood to town for candy and white dress. Good sleep grandmother sleep the rocking chair is always the floor. But there he nods at the noisy door for you to be dancing one dance more. Love the repetition of the motif of the poem sleepy grandmother sleep. Of course I forgot she's already asleep. Unlike many old people she can sleep in her in her chair. It's like she my grandmother used to. She's
remembering the best time there. Not to be in her and I want to ask you Is there any one American poet that. You consider to be the most important. Do you feel as his special contribution. Well there's no question in my mind as long as I don't have to. To confine myself to this very moment there's no question in my mind that Robert Robert Frost is that poet. He's a poet of our century. He didn't really become known until about 1915 although he had written before that. But between 1915 and 1950 63 I believe it was when he died. He developed a very great reputation and became the best known poet of our world and the most popular incinerating thing here known as the more popular poet but the best. That's unusual
NoHo didn't say truth think that is true of any really great artist. Really great artist. It's just nonsense to suppose that an artist is good because he's not popular. Shakespeare is not only the greatest of all poets but he's the most popular of all boys throughout the world always have that in these people's writings you know obscure they're not difficult to understand you know. Well I'm not and I'm not never told if you if you give them your full attention. Of course not. Now they were never of course trying to be obscure. There are things in King Lear that can be understood only by someone who was willing to give his entire soul to the understanding of that tremendous and terrible play. But it's not obscure and deep now you know. Obscurity can be a shallow thing. The difficulty is altogether on the surface the difficulty in King Lear that is so they understand how people could do things like that. She then the people in that play are so terrible most of them so unspeakably terrible
tragedy and the horrors that grim the horror of his daughter's every two daughters and of at least one case of the mind of the son in law and so forth and so on. No it's a Shakespeare got down in the game to the very bottom of existence there. Now it is difficult to follow em if you flinch. If you tend to flinch from. So it's like exhibitions but there's no verbal difficulty there now. I say let me say again superficial difficulties. Do you think sometimes people don't want to give themselves so fully to work that they don't want to feel the pain in me and see what is being presented. Yeah and I could also ask you to stop at the word feel they don't want to feel period. They're feeling a very painful there's no feeling that pleasurable in itself. I mean a real feeling. I don't mean feelings or
sentimental people have sentimental people think it's nice to feel but it is like to feel really if you if you feel anything really is painful pretty is not a terrible thing to feel in the world it tells you the place of jealousy all the feelings connected to love working themselves painful longing and perhaps you know with some part of you that love will always change in some way. Yeah and so this is painful to but but feelings are terribly powerful and terribly important things. Remember to tell it once said A person who thinks it's nice to feel ought to try it once. Meditate on the whole we try not to feel I mean in the real person the real person trying not to feel guilty. You can't help what he does but he doesn't want to go around trying looking for feeling to have your brother's keeper. What sort of feeling do you think
the so-called beat poets of today can very well know anger anger chiefly their anger at a world which they consider to be bad to constructed and monstrously out of balance and proportion. A world that is given through cruelty and destruction as they see you. A world in which only comes with money so they try and live gracefully in poverty. I've heard them say that. Do you think they succeed. Well more or less they live their own lives. They don't want to hurt anybody they just want to go through the world not having to. Have an eight hour job. And I had a job. Doing things that are nonsense to them sitting in offices and wearing little suits and so forth they want to live as they say freely and basically well
well this can be silly at times and often icily and they dress outrageously and they don't and they get awful dirty maybe and they don't cut their hair. But all of that is a. As a protest as I understand it gets the nature of our world which which wants everyone to be like in turn. What do you think that there is validity in your view of it. Yes I mean and I fand think there's a great deal you think about our poets who live more conforming lives but in different times a man like Wallace Stevens. Yeah perhaps yeah. Who was a businessman and looked and looked and acted like any other businessman. But Walt Whitman of course in a time cultivated a free and easy way he dressed just the way he wanted to. Never have any money and I was interested in and having money you hardly know how me how I managed to live he did.
But he's good at it but he's a great poet and I mean we don't think any worse of him because he loafed and invited his soul. And he was the poet if you want that Definitely definitely. Over time you know he he wore long hair here and would have wanted to see her either and it didn't hurt him. And he wore loose shirts two or three shirts one over the other. And he liked to be on the fence in a dress he wore big pearl down here you know the his. Shirt. He basically himself and go to Cologne. He like to smell good. I know he did just what he liked. Now you're you know you can't object to this way. Why shouldn't people do this. They're utterly harmless. And some of the productive Yes of course. I want Ginsburg who by the way was a student of mine a few MBA and at that time was not a beat poet or told he was when you heard if you read the poetry he wrote then you wouldn't believe it
would you have called it traditional poetry. Yes I suppose so. I know him well I see him from time to time I hear the jump was conceivable soul. But his poetry is very angry itself by saying he is gentle but his book is not. And some of the quite terrible the poem What about Cory about his mother called. I don't know whether you've ever read that and I know I'd like to hear a very terrible but powerful thing I think about her illness of her operations and everything of the sort. I mean it's very literal or very liberal or very biographical was parked there you hardly see how you get better either. She did of course here and I was in it but I just go all out. As a as a portrait of a man a woman whom I've known as well as one I was one. Mother would you say this was catharsis for Ginsburg. Yes we once had meaning for other people. I think so I'm I'm afraid more for him than for anybody else. Her quote you
should find might have meaning for others. Thank you Dr. Van Doren for pointing out some of the meanings to be found in your poems and those of other writers you have heard Dr. Mark Van Doren in visit with the poet part to the visiting scholar series is produced by the Cleveland Board of Education station WABE or we have them by Charles Siegel engineering by Dennis Beatty your interviewer was Cecilia EVANS This is Lee factor speaking this is the Board of Education station WABE O.E. in Cleveland. This program was distributed by a national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
Visiting scholars
Mark Van Doren, part two
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Cleveland Public Schools
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the second of two parts, features an interview with Mark Van Doren, poet, formerly of Columbia University, and Pulitzer Prize winner for his "Collected Poems" in 1939.
Series Description
This series features interviews with outstanding scholars from various fields.
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Interviewee: Van Doren, Mark, 1894-1972
Interviewer: Evans, Cecilia
Producing Organization: Cleveland Public Schools
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-2-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:38
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Chicago: “Visiting scholars; Mark Van Doren, part two,” 1967-12-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 30, 2023,
MLA: “Visiting scholars; Mark Van Doren, part two.” 1967-12-21. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 30, 2023. <>.
APA: Visiting scholars; Mark Van Doren, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from