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This is poetry on the American series of broadcasts on American poets and poetry produced and recorded by a 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 an anthology of readings and brief comment on a number of poems by American poets who are women. The participants are Miriam Ostroff who has appeared on other programs in the series. And when a foot man who was a member of the actor's workshop in San Francisco. Here is Mrs. Ostrov on this program we're going to read a number of poems by some of the important American poets who are women. I should hasten to add that this kind of grouping is not intended to have any special significance. It is rather a kind of accident resulting from the limits of time in this series of programs. This is simply a way of including work by a number of poets whose inclusion elsewhere in the series proper though it would have been would have necessitated leaving out certain other figures it also seemed
desirable to have represented. Here too of course representation has to be far from complete. But we shall be able to read work by a number of poets who have been and Auggie important in American literature. Amy Lowell Edna St. Vincent Millay Leony Adams Louise Bogan Mae Sot and Marianne Moore Deutsch Elizabeth Bishop and Josephine Miles. I think it's interesting that these are all 20th century writers. Yes I suppose it's not a surprising fact that there were no women poets of importance in American letters until this century. But with the great exception of course of Emily Dickinson when you say it's not a surprising fact. Are you referring to the so-called emancipation of women in America which is really for the most part a 20th century accomplishment in this until women were granted suffrage and had begun generally to be taken seriously as possibly more than just managers of children and households. It seems to me there was every reason for a woman not to be a poet.
I even suspect that Emily Dickinson's sex had something to do with her failure to publish during her own lifetime. Well that's a that's an interesting speculation and I imagine you're quite right. You know I find it curious that the literary arts are the only ones in which American women have distinguished themselves so far. I mean we have such fine poets as Emily Dickinson and Marianne Moore and some of the others you've named and such splendid writers as Catherine and Porter and Eudora Welty and CASA McCullough's but not a single woman painter or composer a sculptor of real distinction. Do you have any ideas on that. You know the truth is I don't. I thought about it of course and I've tried to imagine various reasons. But there are none that seem very satisfactory to me and I'm afraid I should have asked the question because I can't answer it either except to say I do think the situation is changing. There are a number of very young women now doing work that seems highly promising in both painting and musical composition. It may be that some of them will go on to careers comparable
to those of the poets we're going to discuss. Well let's hope so. And now suppose we read some of the poems we've chosen for this program. All right. I think we should start with something by Emily Dickinson. Even though she's been well represented in the series so far she is certainly the great woman poet of all time. Yes. And without doubt she is one of the greatest of American Poets. Perhaps I could begin this anthology by reading one of her poems as with all of her poems this one too is known by its first line go not too near the house of Rose. Go not too near a house of Rose the depredation of a breeze or inundation of a Jew a lobby its walls away. No try to tie the butterfly nor climb the bars of ecstasy in insecurity to LA I use Joy's ensuring quality. She is just an incredible poet isn't she. She certainly is extraordinary.
Well I suppose the next American woman poet we come to is Amy Lowell who was somewhat incredible too but not for her brilliance as a poet so much as for her influence and the image just movement of the early part of this century of which she and Ezra Pound were the chief leaders. Yes. She doesn't compare to Emily Dickinson in what she wrote but she certainly does deserve mention. I imagine her most famous poem patterns will stay in the textbooks quite a time. Well here's a little four line poem by Amy Lowell that illustrates a good deal of what she was trying to do in her work. It's called Wind and silver. Greatly shining the autumn moon floats in the thin sky and the fishponds shake their backs and flash their dragon scales as she passes over them. I think that shows something of what the images were attempting not only in freedom of form but also in in making an attitude toward something experiential
in terms of actual sensory images as here her sense of the old Marine light of the moon is expressed both in the moon as floating and in seeing it in the water of the pond which is turned into a fish itself by the moonlight. I'd like to read a slightly longer poem of Amy Lowell's in this one she sees mainly a New England church but the disparate worldwide images through which she tries to make us feel her response to the church are really quite interesting. The title of the poem is meeting house Hill. I must be mad or very tired. When the curve of a blue baby on the railroad track is shrill and sweet to me like the sudden springing of a tune and the sight of a white church above then trees in a city square amazes my eyes as though it were the Parthenon clear reticent superbly final with the pillars of its portico
refined to a cautious elegance. It dominates the weak trees and the shot of its spire is cool and candid rising into an unresisting sky. Strange meeting house. Pausing a moment upon a squalid hilltop I watched the spire sweeping the sky. I am dizzy with the movement of the sky. I might be watching a mast with its royal set full straining before a two reef breeze. I might be sighting a T-Clip or attacking into the blue bay. Just back from Canton with her hold full of green and blue porcelain and a Chinese coolie leaning over the rail gazing at the white spot with dull sea spent I was. I like that. I'm surprised because I didn't really think I liked Amy Lowell much.
Well there's something to be said for her too. But let's move on with our list here. I don't think it's particularly fruitful to try to draw relations between these poets. They all seem to be going their individual ways which is good. Yes you're right. That's something for which to be grateful. Shall we have this poem by Leony Adams next time. This is a deceptively simple poem but well I think it would be a mistake to talk about what's under the simplicity before reading it. The poem is a song from a country fair by Lenny Adams. When tunes dig nimbler than the blood and quick and high the bows would prance and every fiddle string would burst to catch what's lost beyond the string. While half afraid their children stood I saw the old come out to dance. The heart is not so light at first but heavy like a bow in spring.
Oh that's very nice. Is the deceptiveness of the simplicity you referred to in that closing figure. Yes I think it's a charming and gentle irony where after we've seen the old people dancing at the Country Fair while the children stand by and shyness Miss Adams says the heart is not so light at first but heavy like a bow and spring has a wonderful havingness being weighted with the bloom and full rich sap of spring. But it cuts in other directions too doesn't it. That irony I mean. Oh yes it's delightful and brisk and sobering and sad all at the same time. I think it is in what it suggests about the lightness possible to old age that most takes me in the poem and especially those closing lines. But we better restrain our appreciation and move on. I think we should remark first that Miss Adams is a contemporary. Yes she's been writing for some time and she continues to ride. Now could we go back a bit in time and take this poem by innocent Vincent Millay next. I'd
almost forgotten and Miss Marlay should not be forgotten. She is one of the very good lyricist and I think this poem we agreed on is a very fine lyric indeed. But I believe you are going to read this one Winifred. This poem is Edison Vincent Millay sonnet. Oh sleep forever in the let me in cave. It addresses Endymion the handsome shepherd youth of Greek mythology with whom Diana goddess of the moon fell in love. One version of the story has it that and Demi and after being loved by Diana is permitted or caused to sleep forever. But he is mortal and Diana a goddess and their love on Mount lack most has consequences for both of them. The poem speaks really about love through what this love does to Diana the movie. Oh sleep forever in the left main cave by Addison fence of M.A.. Oh sleep for ever and the last man cave. Mortal Endymion.
Darling of the moon. Her silver garments by the senseless wave shouldered and dropped and on the shingle strewn her fluttering hand against her for a depressed her scattered looks that trouble all the sky. Her rapid footsteps running down the west. Of all her altered state Livia sly whom other than you by deathless lips adored while died and stammering to the grasses thrust and deep into her crystal body poured the hot and sorrowful sweetness of the dust whereof she wanders mad. Being all unfit for mortal love that might not die of it. I find myself on these programs constantly wanting to stop and just talk and talk about individual poems or just read them over and over again and that's one of them.
Yes I know what you mean. Well I suppose we have a change of pace and turn to some of those little epigrammatic pieces by Louise Bogan. Yes well there's this one that everyone is quoted with the title longer than the poem called solitary observation brought back from a sojourn in hell. At midnight. He is run into your ears. That's quite Dorothy Parker isn't it. Yes you're right. Well not quite as good I think. Well here's one of Miss bogans that is it's called. To an artist to take hot. Slipping in blood by his own hand through pride. Hamlet Othello Koran Elena's fall upon his bed however Shakespeare died having enjoyed them all. That is very good. But Louise Bogan is a serious poet too.
I think the poem to her brother who was killed in World War One is a fine and moving one. I'd like to read this one which is entitled to my brother killed all month would October 1918. Oh you so long Dad. You masked and obscure. I can tell you all things in the wine and the bread. The mob will cooperate for the auction. The iron becomes steel the spoke broken from the wheel. The sweat of the Long March the haystacks cut through like loaves and the hundred flowers from the seed. All things indeed those struck by the hooves of disaster of time due of foul Loss and Gain. All things remain. I can tell you this is true. They were burned down to
stone the last from the eye. I can tell you and not live save of peace alone. That is a fine poem. Another poem in a similar vein and an equally rewarding when I believe is the one we chose by May Sarton. I think you should read this one. All right. The poem is to miss Sargent as mother. And it's clear enough after four years. By May Sarton. How to lay down her death bring her back living into the open heart the over grieving very once and for all the starving breath and lay down her death not on Love's Breast. Lay down this heavy prize and close at last the open the gray eyes of her who in
my will can find no rest not on Love's Breast and not in solitude lay the long burden for she is there awake when I am alone who cannot sleep yet so early so early would oh not in solitude now everywhere. I'm blind on the far journeys toward the magical old trees and cities. It's the same rooted sorrow that I find and everywhere I am blind. Is there a human prayer that might not prolonged unnatural grief grief that has surely wronged her very radiant presence in the air. Is there a human prayer. It is poor love I know mother and modulus friend over that final poverty to bend and not remember all the rich life
to get his poor love. I know Rich love. Come in come home I treasure all that you were and that no word can measure melt itself through me like a healing by rich love. Come home and here lay down at last long dead and let her be in joy be ASH not rest and let her gentle day go into the past. Dia were to rest at last. We've had one long poem by Elizabeth Bishop on another program but I'd like to include at least one more of hers here. I think she is without doubt one of the
fine poets of the middle generation writing now. Yes indeed which one of you chose and I know we were talking about several before we started. Well I'd really like to do several. Well why don't we. No comment just briefly several of them. All right. Here's one called Casablanca and it rings on a good old story Casabianca By Elizabeth Bishop loves the boy stood on the burning deck trying to recite the boy stood on the burning day loves the sun stood stammering elocution while the push ship in flames went down. Love's the obstinate boy the ship even the swimming sailors who would like a schoolroom platform too for an excuse to stay on there. And loves the burning Bowl. Now are you. This poem by Elizabeth Bishop is a charming and poignant fancy
called sleeping on the ceiling. It is so peaceful on the ceiling. It is the plaster la Concorde the little crystal chandelier is off the fountain is in the dock. Not a soul is in the park below where the wallpaper is peeling. There's goddammed a plant has locked its gates. Those photographs are animals. The mighty flowers and foliage rustle under the leaves the insects tunnel. We must go under the wallpaper to meet the insect gladiator to battle with the net and Trident and leave the fountain in the square. But oh that we could sleep up there. You really see the sleeper lying there awake with the lights out looking out don't you. Yes I think one of the things about Bishop's poems is that you always see very well in them. Let me read one more short one by her about a bit of the world we live in. This is light
air by Elizabeth Bishop. From a magician's midnight sleeve. The radio singers distribute all their love songs over the Jew with lawns and like a fortune teller as their marrow piercing guesses. Whatever you believe. But on the Navy Yard area I find better witnesses for love on summer nights. Five remote red lights keep the nests there. Phoenix is burning quietly weathered you cannot climb. I don't find much similarity between Miss Bishop and Josephine Miles. But but I do think that Miss Miles is another superb Lee accomplished poet. And yes I can think of all kinds of praise for her poetry but no praise that really
names its excellence which seems to me great excellence. But suppose we read the poems we've chosen here. I'll write this first poem by Josephine Miles does one of the things she can do so brilliantly. It shows a real character in real crisis in real life a life made real by the familiar trivia around it. It's called appointment in doctor's office. The lady put off her fur it was so warm in the outer office. She was pale but not because she was frightened. She was afraid. She looked at the framed pictures particularly one of mountains with sunlight. Then she got out her glasses and read Harper's Bazaar in which was a striking tea set of cream and Jade. She smoothed her gloves because she was afraid the lady would not look at the little boy waiting in the outer office because he kept his hands together and did
not smile. She would not look at the one who held him reminding him at intervals not to cry. And yet there after she did reassuringly smile for what was evidently a long while the lady sat with her little broken bone and thought about Hawaii now and again stopping and taking breath. Every chair was filled with the smoke of waiting the pages turning in intense power like atmosphere to it when at the long long long overdue beckon she took breath. The lady was sick unto death. I'd like to read two very short poems by Miss miles of a slightly different sort the first one is called Bird. Hello
my beautiful small bird. Said the man to the mirror bird. There's so to vex itself pretended the feathered friend paid no attention but it did. Such a love was lost all around it. The bird ruffled its feathers and fled and sang. Too bad for the vexed so it sang only a singing language. The other is riddled by Josephine Miles. You are a riddle I would not unravel. You are the riddle of my life comprehends. And who abstracts the model abstracts the story to its sorry ist Adams but not your riddle. It is packed. Never more than it says. And since that is impossible it is the model.
Nobody as I am nobody believes. And that's fine. You know the Marian Moore has been amply represented in a series as where we might include one poem by her. She is certainly another of the important poets. Have you decided on the one called Silence Yes. And this poem too is plain enough on its surface so that anyone can start is thinking about it without prefatory comment. This is silence by Marianne Moore. My father used to say superior people never make long visits have to be shown Longfellow's grave or the glass flowers at Havard self-reliant like the cat that takes its prey to privacy. The mouse's tale hanging like a shoe lace from its mouth. They sometimes enjoy solitude and can be robbed of speech by speech which has delighted them the deepest feeling always shows itself in silence not in the silence but restraint.
Nor was he insincere in saying make my house your in in are not residences. We have only a little time left. If I may I'd like to read a poem by bad bet during which another woman poet who should surely be represented here. This is just a poem about a kite and it's well it's full of flight and life and delight. It isn't titled An earthly toys. The river was blowing scarves. They waved to a cloud as it flew around the sun shod hour who stepped lightly as do from a glowing green to aloft a widening stream of windy blue pigeons. If people strolled and preened it was gesture enough for a saddlebag and one stone angel took off from the
steeple stone on a puff of smoke. Wings on feathering stuff. When dazzling their daughter told what a thing was it creature or sleight of magicians wrist that shone Scarlet in flight. If it startled how it seduced the eye where it don't move and swam the high in Dallas. Levity pursuing its willowy tail. It was all a fling of twin ribbons. The gale in a shabby fairy hilariously then left to float and trail no dolphin. Then shying clown on ski jumps of sky. Or the bite of an azure guy. A lap dancing. A mind that in flying blaze Dok a crown. It winked out of sight. The runaway kite in a somersaults twinkle. Oh lost undying demon of delight. It's a charming poem and it reminds me of the torment of reading all of these poems
which is the torment of being limited to such a tiny fragment of so much work that is delightful and rich and rewarding. So I have to put in a plug here and say the work of all these poets may still be bought in the bookstores and yes indeed there's lots lots more where these poems came from. And speaking of torment I see we have just about one minute left which is just time for one more short poem to close this anthology of American women poets. May I by all means. This is by Isabella Gardner who perhaps should be in the program on younger poets but it's just as well included here. It's a poem with with its deep accusative paying but it's a fine pain. And perhaps especially because of what it says and because it's so much so much a woman saying it it's a fitting poem with which to end. This is Isabella Godden as cock a hoop. How Strats my love my Cavalier how crows he like a
Chanticleer how softly I am spared my idea I bet is feathered with desire and this yard safe from Fox and fire. But spare less on the dung hill dead. The soldier's blood is rooster red his seed is spent and no hand fed. Alas no check of this sweet cough will speak for Christ at dawn of cloth. You have heard women poets. Another program in the series poetry on the American produced and recorded by radio station KPFA in Berkeley under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the NEA EBV Radio
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Poetry and the American
Women 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, read by Miriam Ostroff; and Winifred Mann of the Actors Workshop.
Series Description
Twenty half-hour programs designed to further the enjoyment of poetry.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Performer: Ostroff, Miriam Virginia
Performer: Mann, Winifred
Producing Organization: pacifica radio
Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-12-16 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:24
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Chicago: “Poetry and the American; Women poets,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 4, 2023,
MLA: “Poetry and the American; Women poets.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 4, 2023. <>.
APA: Poetry and the American; Women poets. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from