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This is poetry and the American produced and recorded by station KPFA in Berkeley California under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This program is entitled senior poets. The participants are Anthony and Miriam Ostroff and Mr. George Markey. So far in this series of broadcasts on American poetry and the poems we have read and discussed have been more or less related in some way either in terms of theme or subject or by common authorship. But of course in a series so short is this it has been impossible to be comprehensive in our coverage of American poetry. We have tried to be representative that is to suggest by the relatively few examples there has been time for something of the total wealth of American poetry. Even so there have been inevitable omissions and perhaps certain imbalances. To make such reparation as possible for this we have decided to make these last few programmes in the
series little EMF ologies of American poetry in the main what we'll do on these is simply present work by some of the poets we feel must be included and honored in any consideration of American poetry as a whole but who have thus far been in some measure neglected in the programs we have done. I think it is important to mention our decision with regard to discussing these poems we are going to take up. Yes you're quite right in in planning these anthologies of which this is the first we've had to choose between reading a few poems and discussing them a little and sharply limiting our discussion and reading more poetry. Our decision has been in favor of more poems and very little discussion for this first anthology we're going to consider the work of a number of what we might call from this mid century perspective the senior poets of the 20th century. Conrad Akan Archibald MacLeish Richard Eberhard Robinson Jeffers John Crowe Ransom EAA Robinson and Wallace Stevens. There are others of course who would
properly be included here such people as frost Williams and so on but who have been rather extensively treated in other programmes on the series. The first point we're going to read is Conrad Akins morning song from Sun. I'm going to have a hard time not talking about this poem. Well it'll be a temptation to discuss all of these they're all fine poems by important poets and this first one of Egan's doesn't by a common but perhaps some brief introduction might be in order. Well the poem is probably a best known lyric and it does demonstrate the lavish music and imagery that is the distinction of Akin's work. I don't know how really to introduce it briefly except to say it is a poem about Sandlin who is the central figure of a whole book by a Can we see him rising in the morning and facing the realities he must face above all the problem of the poem seems to be awareness of the seeming
dichotomy between self and the universe. The smallness and seeming triviality of man and at the same time his connection to his own perception of it to all the vastness of creation. I think that introduces the poem very well. Yes. Now would you do the hardest thing of all and read the poem. Yes morning song was sending. It is morning sentences and in the morning when the light drips through the shutters like that do you. I arise. I face the sunrise and do the things my father has learned to do. Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops pale in a saffron mist and seem to die and die myself on a swiftly tilting planet. I stand before a glass and tie my tie vine leaves atop my window dewdrop sing to the gods tones. The robin chops in the Chinaberry
tree repeating three clear tones. It is morning. I stand by the Mira and tie my tie one small while waves far off in a pale rose twilight crash on a white sandy shore. I stand by a mirror and comb my hair. How small and white my face. The green earth tilts through a sphere of air and bathed in a flame of space. There are houses hanging above the stars and stars hung under a sea and a sun far off in a shoal of silence doubles my walls for me. He does mornings and says and in the morning should I not pause in the light to remember God upright and firm I stand on a star unstable. He is immense and lonely as a cloud. I will dedicate this moment before my
marriage to him alone. For him I will comb my hair accept these humble offerings cloud of silence. I will think of you as I descended the stair line leaves tap my window the snail track shines on the stones dewdrops flash from the Chinaberry tree repeating to clear tones. It is morning I awake from a bed of silence shining I rise from the stylist's waters of sleep. The walls are about me still lies in the evening. I am the same and the same name still I keep the earth revolvers with me. It makes no motion. The stars pale silently in a Carlow sky in a whistling void I stand before my mirror on concern and Time My Time. There are horses neighing on far off hills tossing their long white manes
and mountains flashing the rose white dusk their shoulders black with the rain. It is morning. I stand by the Mira and surprise my soul one small the blue air rushes above my ceiling. There are suns beneath my flaw. It is morning Sennen says. I ascend from darkness and depart on the winds of space. Fine No not where my watch is wound. A key is in my pocket and the sky is dark and as I descend to the stand there are shadows across the windows. Clouds in heaven and a God among the stars. And I will go thinking of him as I might think of DAYBREAK and humming a tune I know vine leaves tap at the window dewdrop sing to the garden stones the robin chups in the
Chinaberry tree repeating three clear tones. You know I hadn't thought of it before but that poem does bring us nicely to this next one we thought to consider Archibald MacLeish is you Andrew Marvel. Are you referring to the sort of planetary scale of the two poems. Yes the smallness of man and the inexorable great movements of the universe and in the case of the MacLeish poem the movement of night. You know I think it should be mentioned that the title of the poem is an homage to that great 17th century English poet and her mom. Yes and even more specifically perhaps to Marvel's greatest poem to his Coy Mistress with those famous lines but at my back I always hear times when it chariot hurrying near and yonder all before us live deserts of vast eternity. Suppose we have a reading of the poem. All right. The poem is simply spoken by the poet who is lying face down
on a law in a meadow a hill someplace in the noon sun. And as he lies there he thinks of the night rounding the globe readily overtaking everything and as it moves it becomes the great inexorable night of sleep time and echoing Andrew marble of death. You Andrew Marvel. By Archibald MacLeish. And here. Face down beneath the sun and here upon Earth's noon word height to feel the all was coming on they all was rising of the night to feel creep up the curving East. The earthly chill of dust and slow upon those underlines the vast and ever climbing shadow grow and strange at the top of the
trees leaf by leaf the evening strain the flooding dark about their knees the mountains over Persia change. And now it Kermanshah the gate dark empty and the withered grass and through the twilight the late few travellers in the westward past and Baghdad darkened and the bridge across the silent river. Gone. And through Arabia the edge of evening widen and steal on and deep in numb cold Myra's street that we were rocked in the ruins stone and Lebannon fade out and create high through the clouds and over blown and over Sicily the air still flashing with the landward gulls and loom and slowly disappear the sails above the shadowy Isle and Spain go under.
On the shore of Africa the gilded sun and evening vanish and no more of the low pale light across that land nor Now the long light on the sea. And here face downward in the sun to Fieldhouse with secretly the shadow of the night comes out. That's a wonderful poem isn't it. Yes it certainly is. You know this next poem we're going to consider still another that vilifies the vastness of the earth and its inscrutability. Yes this rather short poem by Robinson Jeffers is one of his finest I think it is called the I. And I think it's particularly interesting in the way it shows Jeffers simultaneous involvement in and detachment from his own time. Even all human
history perhaps in the poem which we may judge from the reference to our present blood feud with the brave dwarfs dates from World War 2. Jeffers calls the dome the half globe the bulging eyeball of water which is the Pacific the eye of the earth and what it watches he suggests must be something commensurate with its size. The eye by Robinson Jeffers. The Atlantic is a stormy moat and the Mediterranean the blue pool in the old garden. More than 5000 years has drunk sacrifice of ships and blood and shines in the sun. But here the Pacific the ships planes wars are perfectly irrelevant. Neither are our present blood feud with the brave dwarfs nor any future world quarrel of westering and destroying man.
The bloody migrations. Greed of power. Battle for all things are a mote of dust in the great scale pattern here from this mountain shore headland beyond stormy headland plunging like dolphins through the grey sea smoke into pale sea. Look west at the Hill of water. It is half the planet. This dome this half globe this bulging eyeball of water. I watched over to Asia Australia and white and octagon. Those are the eyelids that never close. This is the staring unsleeping eye of the earth and what it watches is not our wars. That poem puts us very directly into the heart of that mystery that reaches most deeply into man doesn't it.
He does but is suddenly well all three of these poets we have just read Archibald MacLeish Conrad Aiken and Robinson Jeffers are certainly all three of them important figures in the work of the century in American poetry. Another poet who is their contemporary is John Crowe Ransom although Mr. Ransom has produced a considerably smaller body of work than these others. His poetry is I think among the finest of his time. One of his longer more metaphysical blondes was read on an earlier program in the series I'd like to read here a shorter poem of his of which I'm particularly fond called Blue girls. Here we are dealing with a mortal eye as compared to Jeffrey's immortal. I see. And it is looking on mortal matters as the poem begins. The speaker is viewing from adulthood some very young girls in a seminary. Little girls by John Crowe Ransom.
Burning your blue skirt traveling the sward and under the towers of your seminary. Go listen to your teachers old and contrary without believing a word tired of the white fillets then about your lustrous hair and think no more of what will come to pass than blue birds that go walking on the grass and chattering on the air. Practice your beauty little girl before it failed and I will cry with my loud lips and publish beauty which all our power shall never establish. It is so frail for I could tell you a story which is true. I know a lady with a terrible tongue blear eyes fallen from Blue. All her perfections tarnished and yet it
is not long since she was lovelier than any of you. That theme of the frailty of beauty and innocence and the ravages of time is one Mr. Ransome treats with great charm and somewhat behind Lee don't you think. Oh yes. But the terrors contained. I'd like to read a poem by ransom in which again he deals with a grim subject and yet again achieves a poem of grace and delicacy. This begins innocently enough like new girls but ends though dealing with the subject of death more fully on a note of love than does the other. This poem by John Crowe Ransom is called Janet waking. Beautiful A Janet's letter to that was deeply morning she woke
then and thought about her dainty feathered hand to see how it had kept one kiss she gave her mother only a small and gave she to her daddy who would have kissed each curl of his shining baby. No he said all for her brother all chalky own chalky she cried running across the world upon the grass to Chuckie's house and listening. But alas her Chucky had died. It was a trance modifying bee came droning down on Chucky's old bald head and sat and put the poison. It scares me Bland. But how exceedingly in purply did the knots swell with the venom and communicated to rigor. Now the poor Combs stood up straight. But Chucky did not. So there was Janet kneeling on the Wendt grass crying her brown hand translated far beyond the daughters of men to rise and walk upon
it and weeping fast as she had breath Janet implored us wake her from her sleep and would not be instructed in how deep was the forgetful kingdom of death. That's a wonderful poem too isn't it. I know I keep saying that but I think they're all more than a photo and thank goodness. Well this next poem we're going to take up another wonderful poem is by Richard Eberhard who is another contemporary It was written a great deal of poetry frets. His most famous poem is the groundhog which is another poem about death. Here the poet encounters death in the figure of a groundhog or perhaps I should say in the corpse of a groundhog which he encounters in a field and we watch through the course of the poem the impact of three years changing the groundhog and the poet's response to the groundhog during this period.
I think it's a moving and powerful poem. I think it's worth remarking that the ending of the poem is especially strong and where the experience of death in the groundhog becomes FIBA hot. The general experience of death as it effects us in its most dramatic instances the deaths of homo civilizations. China and Greece and of great individuals whose personal dramas have involved the world my Tang Alexander Saint Teresa. It's quite true that the close of this poem is really remarkable. If you read the poem George. And this is the groundhog by Richard have a heart. In June amid the golden few I saw groundhog lying dead dead. My senses shock and mind up shot our naked frailty their lowly in the vigor some of his form began. It sensed this
change and my senses a wave of dim seeing the nature of ferocious in him inspecting Close's maggots might and see the cauldron of his being half with loathing half with a strange love. I poked him with an angry stick. The fever rose became a flame and vigor circumscribe the skies. Immense energy in the sun and through my frame a sunless tumbling. I stick I've done no good no harm then stood I silent in the day watching the object as before. And kept my reverence for knowledge. Trying for control to be steeled to quell the passion of the blood until I had bent down on my knees praying for joy in the sight of decay. And so I left.
And I returned in autumn stripped of by to see the SOB going out of the ground all but the bony sodden Hulk remain. But the year had lost its meaning and in intellectual chains I lost both love and loathing and you'll end up in the wall of wisdom another summit took the fields again massive and burning full of life. But when I chanced upon the spot there was only a little head left and bones bleaching in the sunlight. Beautiful as architecture. I watched them like a geometer and cut a walking stick from a bed. It has been three years now. There was no sign of the ground all. I stood then the while eating some of my hand kept a withered hot and thought of China and of Greece with Alexander in his tent among ten units tala of same to resolve and a wild lament.
Edwin Arlington Robinson is another poet who has not been substantial enough represented on the series thus far at least in terms of his importance in 20th Century American Poetry. We have time for only one of his poems here one of his better known short lyrics called the sheaves. This poem might be thought of as somewhat related to the ever heart poem. Anyway it also deals with the passage of time and the inexorable changes it works. This is the sheaves by Iain Robinson. Well long the shadows of the wind had rolled green wheat was yielding to the changes signed and as by some vast magic on divide and the world was turning slowly into go
like nothing that was ever bought or sold it waited there for a body and the mind and with a mighty meaning have a kind that tells of the more the more it is not told so in a land where all days are not fair. Fair day's went on to the lawn another day follows a golden sheaves were lying there shining and steel but not for long to stay as if a thousand were girls with golden hair might rise from where they slept and go away. Should I say this is a fine poem to Khomeini. All right I say it will certainly end on a fine point here. This last poem we're going to read is Wallace Stevens Peter Quince At the close here. I'm especially sorry we don't have time to discuss this one somewhat
extensively because it really is a very rich and complex poem. Well it's better to read it with no discussion than not to read it at all. Yes and there is time to say a little about it anyway. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is it's music which requires no comment. But there are other things that perhaps do. It is a kind of love poem on one level. Peter Quince named I take it after Quince The carpenter in Midsummer Night's Dream is seated at the keyboard. The clip there of a piano or harpsichord as the poem begins. He thinks of a lady in her blue shadowed silk whom he loves as he plays and is reminded by his thoughts of her and by his music of the beauty and purity of the biblical Suzanna. After a long movement developing the theme of Susanna the bone closes on a philosophical consideration of the nature of beauty which Stevens calls momentary in the mind but immortal in the flesh he elaborates this idea which is a brilliant
reversal of the idea of beauty as pure form and we see that beauty is immortal. Continual in the mortal and perpetually fading flesh by being perpetually repeated in new creation and beauty of this evening dies but is replaced by the equal beauty of the next evening in a wave interminably flowing as Devens puts it. And in the very end of the poem this idea is further developed beyond any possibility of oversimplification. We see that the form of beauty too is continual. That the experience of beauty effects transformations of the world and we see the beauty of Quinces lady which the beauty of Susanna has become. That works both ways. But the beauty is metamorphosed into another form which is the form of music. And we are finally projected into the endless transformations of substance in the mind and experience beauty into beauty and devotion.
Peter Quince at the club near by Wallace Stevens. Just as my fingers on these keys make music so the self-same sounds on my spirit make a music to music is feeling then not sound. And thus it is that what I feel here in this room desiring you. Thinking of your blue shadowed self is music. It is like the strain waked in the elders by Susanna of a green evening clear and warm. She bathed in her still garden while the red eyed elders watching felt the bases of their being been witching cards and their thin blood pulse. It's a copy of I was at it. In the green water clear and warm.
Susanna lay she searched the touch of spring and found concealed imagining. She sighed for so much melody. On the bank she stood in the cool of spent the emotion she felt among the leaves the due of vocal devotion. She walked upon the grass still quavering the winds were like her mates on timid feet fetching her woven scarves yet wavering a breath upon her hand muted the night she turned a cymbal crash and a roaring horn. Soon with a noise like tambourines came her attendant Byzantines. They wondered why Susanna cried against the elders by her side and as they whispered the refrain was like a willow swept by rain. Anon their lamps uplifted flame revealed Susanna and her shame and the simpering Byzantines fled with a noise like a tambourine.
Beauty is momentary in the mind the fitful tracing of a portal but in the flesh it is immortal. The body dies the body's beauty lives so evenings died in their green going away is interminably flowing so gardens die. Their meek breath sending the cows of winter down repenting. So maidens died to the auroral celebration of a maiden's coral so as I'm as music touched the body strings of those white elders but discreet being left only death ironic scraping now in its immortality. It plays on the clear vial of her memory and makes a constant sacrament of praise.
Poetry in the American was produced and recorded by station KPFA in Berkeley California under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the NEA E.B. Radio Network.
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Poetry and the American
Senior poets
Producing Organization
pacifica radio
KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
An anthology of the poetry of some of America's major poets, read by Miriam and Anthony Ostroff and George Marchi.
Series Description
Twenty half-hour programs designed to further the enjoyment of poetry.
Broadcast Date
Media type
: Marchi, George
Producing Organization: pacifica radio
Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Speaker: Ostroff, Anthony, 1923-
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-12-15 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:25
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Chicago: “Poetry and the American; Senior poets,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “Poetry and the American; Senior poets.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: Poetry and the American; Senior poets. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from