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In its visiting scholars series WBA we present visit with a playwright. Part two. The visiting scholars program of the Cleveland public schools was developed under the direction of Superintendent Paul breakthroughs and was designed to bring teachers and students into direct personal contact with outstanding scholars. Today we bring you the second of two interviews with Dr. William outbred professor of English at Harvard University author of the successful off-Broadway play Hogans gold and of the verse play Agamemnon. Dr. Alfred discusses some of his reactions to contemporary poetry. He is interviewed by Cecilia Evans of WB are we. Professor Alfred if you were selecting two of our more important contemporary poets who would you choose. For the purposes of those who are beginning to read and learn poetry I would choose Orden and Dylan Thomas. They're not they're not my favorite. I like very much but. I think that they embody the reign of modern poetry that they
really dramas and dramatically show how the modern ammend your imagination can go in one of two ways. Each in his own way. Well there are certain characteristics that you feel these poets have in common a deliberate colloquialism. A deliberate eloquence in Thomas. But in Thomas the eloquence is based on a foundation of very strong foundation of playfully used colloquially and I think a pub like Fern Hill where the common places of speech. Suddenly exploded into fireworks it's really wonderful. And the music of Odin. Has a kind of chastened tone which belongs to why wives under it's you know and it's. It sounds like the fruit of years and years of so I mean it's stated so effortlessly
and with out any show of grunge music it's a very moving poet is moving I think it has which you talked about when you talked of frost last time it has compassion. I guess I'm going to speak for people if you say that they represent the range of modern poetry to Thomas and Auden. Could you tell us what are some of the different ways in which they express these characteristics. And timeless. Yes Dahmus of. Poems. Although they are as I say deliberately eloquent. Deal with the ordinary things of life. He bad in the war to write poems about the Holocaust in London and one of the most beautifully moving poem as you can imagine is a refusal to mourn for a child the first child that was killed in the fire in London. Now that kind of a poem
is a really dangerous thing for a poet to attempt because a great poet really. Feel themselves in competition with the great poets who went before. And a poem on a particular subject can die. When the subject is not near enough. You know it has to live in a forest of footnotes. If it's too particular. So what he did was to write when he wrote occasional poetry. He he managed for some kind of Biblical force. To make the occasion something that was eternal so that it was we who remember the will read it with a deep resonance of memory. But people to come will read it as a poem of mourning for all people who die instantly in the violence. You know it doesn't it is not only a particular person but everybody who is a victim of the pub celebrates.
That's an extraordinary achievement. Yes. So would you. And Jordan has the courage to. His latest book of poems is called about the house and it's a little bit of a pun. That means puttering about the house but it's about his new house and it was new and he celebrates the ordinary comforts of every day. He's. Really he makes a beauty out of rationality in and out of ordinary news. And here's a runner who to watch the growth in his imagination and in whose language. At first his language was a young man that tended to be abstract and occasionally facile ie ironical. Now the irony is very deeply your main irony is when he teases it teases with affection. A sign of maturity is no longer the need to display his wisdom
in his gift. Yes that's right. I should think of a collection of poems like this about the house would have very special meaning for us nowadays because we seem to be still materialistic and perhaps if we could see another element in this way of life. Yes yes an ordinary. I agree with you that we are materialistic. What we really don't enjoy material things and that's what I read in the poem. My teacher something is a particular poem called about the house which describes how he likes his new kitchen and things like that. We don't take it as deaths and I know nothing about it we don't take really any pleasure in those things which we went with. As we get them and there they are. When we forget we have them after about two or three days. So really when the electricity for her to realize how wealthy you are in achieve design with that then perhaps these things cut us off from experience we're so busy
expending our energy on mourning them in achieving that yes in some cases they do but I think that everything given to us by life is something to be grateful and celebrate. And certainly for that in that book he celebrates this in on a completely different level would you say that. Phyllis McGinley sixpence in her few also brings this kind of experience home this. Yes it's very much better than that. I like this begin Lisa or. Order is a little wider in his range of reference in this weekend and I suppose perhaps one could go from one to the other. That's right. There is much in risk we can lose where there's a very good beginning and understanding of money. I wonder would you read one poem by each of these poets bores one by
Auden and perhaps one by Dylan Thomas. Yes I read the music of Odin and I read one stanza of freeing him. It is a very daring thing for me to read and a poem by Dylan Thomas because those. Of the. People who ever heard him will never forget what he sounded like he sounded like the angel Michael when he read his own poetry. Yes that is one thing that I really should have recommended to people who are beginning to read modern poetry. Most public libraries do have. A library of recordings of poets and you'll learn a lot even if the reading is there's not a dramatic reading. By hearing the poet reading his own works. You learn how the lines are to be phrased and where the heaviest charge of meanings. You know I wanted to get your reaction to that would you say that you prefer to have the poet read his
work rather than an actor. Yes I would. It teaches me mon. I like I like to hear actors really post too. But it's the most wonderful experiences to hear a poet reader's own words Mariam who speaks in a very low way and very very low tone of voice and occasionally swallows her words out of shyness can move you to tears and by reading her lovely poem in distrust of marriage and it it is because you understand. Where her passion lies in the pool you watch it grow. Who stands at the stand that so erected a pleasure dome I don't think it's one and the other reckon she doesn't like to read or think it moves or to learn. I wonder if it would be interesting to listen to the same calling read by an actor and then perhaps later on written by a poet in itself. Yes it would. You know there's a reading by Tennyson and the charge of the Light Brigade
is one of the earliest records of a man who I think you know it's very very dim but it's it's it's very interesting. Is it available. I think I think it is we haven't heard of it concerns there is a series of historical records and it's on. It sounds exciting. Did you say you would read part of Fern Hill for us just the first stanza and I would like to talk a little bit about it as an example of what I said earlier. I read Fernhill first and then I read the easier he was a poser for inhale. Now as I was young and under the apple by Bob Dylan thing and happy as the grass was green the night above the Dingle starry time let me hail and climb golden in the heydays of his eyes. And I'm and among lag and
I was Prince of the apple towns and once below at a time I lordly had the trees and leaves trail with daisies and down the rivers of the wind like. Now the poem you can't tell from that stanza is about aging as many. Dylan Thomas's poems were you have a celebration and nostalgically of what it was like to feel young. But I think can see from a phrase like happy as the grass was green. What I mean by exploding a commonplace so that it becomes a kind of glittering poetry as happy as the day wears along. You see becomes happy as the guys are screaming. And our own way through you see the imagination taking ordinary things and and and seeing them with a kind of renewed glory and the the language does it and the poems as a
whole do it or that they are poignant because the love of life shows in them so deeply and the sense of loss. As one goes year by year to a death because that is a recurrent theme in Thomas and he was prone to not go gentle into that black night. The poem written to his father. And I. Read a simpler call on the music. How about suffering and they were never wrong. The old masters how well they understood its human position. I would takes place while someone else is eating or opening a window and just walking along. How reverently passionately waiting for the miraculous birth. There are always must be children who didn't especially want it to happen. Skating on a pond at the edge of the water. They never forgot that even the dreadful model with run its course
in a cone of some untidy spot where the dogs go on with the life. And the talk sure as hell or scratches its innocent behind on a tree. And Brian goes Icarus for instance how everything turns away quite leisure away from the disaster the ploughman may have heard the splash the Forsaken cry but for him it was not an important failure. The sun shine as it had done the white legs disappearing into the green water and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen something amazing a boy falling out of the sky had somewhere to get to and sailed comfortably on. The wisdom of which I took earlier certainly is in the idea and the perception is in this kind of noticing or something that other people wouldn't notice the
originality of you the fact that a great a great tragic painter or a great tragic poet knows that tragedy is not all of life. And it doesn't insist upon it too much. You can see how this early poem is a kind of prophecy of what will come later. That is a celebration of life and acceptance of it with the world of its disadvantages and awe and heartaches. But still a full pursuit of joy and a gratitude for it. Professor Alfred thank you for sharing some of your opinions and insights on modern poetry with us. You heard Dr. William Alford in a visit with the playwright. Part two. The visiting scholar series is produced for the Cleveland Board of Education station WABE Oh yeah Pam by Charles Siegel engineer Dennis Beatty.
Your interview or was to see Lee Evans. This is Levi goes speaking this is the Board of Education station WABE are we in Cleveland. This program was distributed by a national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
Visiting scholars
Dr. William Alfred, part two
Producing Organization
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 Dr. William Alfred, Harvard U., author of plays "Hogan's Goat" and "Agamemnon," and co-editor of "The Complete Prose Works of John Milton."
Series Description
This series features interviews with outstanding scholars from various fields.
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Interviewee: Alfred, William, 1922-1999
Interviewer: Evans, Cecilia
Producing Organization: Cleveland Public Schools
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-2-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:13:58
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Chicago: “Visiting scholars; Dr. William Alfred, part two,” 1967-11-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “Visiting scholars; Dr. William Alfred, part two.” 1967-11-14. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: Visiting scholars; Dr. William Alfred, 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