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But monkeyshines what fun. Flesh is no burden now. It never lay so lightly on the bones. The body too can be spirit when set free by pure delight of motion without destination. Shows its own fantasy wit and imagination. Is this the being Lear could call a poor bear a forked animal. Strike that out. Say this that in a harsh season above a dark abyss the mortal creature rejoiced in its own nature. Reveled. Itself. The reason. Why life's a carnival. Snowfalls like confetti now. The moan and comic mood turns to a grotesque snowball. Hides in cloud comes back in a clown's mask. The skaters swirl and swirl. All their motions cry. It is
joy sheer joy that makes the atoms dance and wings the flying stars and speeds the sun. Upon his golden course. But. I should now like to read a poem called. The day care a type of shop and. I have been in love with Chopin nearly all of my life. And I have seen many portraits and sketches in caricature. And. Sculptures. But a number of years ago. To my infinite shock I came upon an actual photograph. Or in fact I did care a type. This poem arose out of my shock. And the
reflections following that shock. I thought at once I may say a couple of passages of Chopin's letters. And one of which she says and I abridged this and. The world fades about me in an entirely strange manner. I lose myself. I no longer have any strength. I feel alone alone alone. Here's the poem then. Huddled in a heavy coat as if shivering even indoors in the Parisian spring. Haggard. Faintly frowning. In a curiously you peer not the Chopin of caricature or portrait but the living dying man. Blanched collar. Dark. That. Long locks the strange hair of the sick. The arched nose shadowing hollow
cheek and feebly parted lips. The frail famous hands chalk white crossed as if to hint. At the not remote event. All still until a little patience should make momentary stillness absolute. Then too despair itself. Has its own quietude. On the great tablet. At which you do not look lies an unsuspected man. A closed book. You sit in different hearty meat. I'm your flesh. All but drained of blood and. Almost visibly vampyres feed. Son of your century you were haunted like Botha lair. Like. What summoned you to go down midnight galleries. Eavesdropping on cries and clangers from the abyss. Was it wise
trespassing on paradise. Could this world not suffice. The blood fretted in your veins till you turned all senses into one. And chanting into tone. Feel the velvet steel. Suns warmth moons chill smart of poisons fever of wines rose color form fragrance sound even of silence and all the Romantics images Miss Pound fragile palaces ships in curled fantastics the. Trophies of ancient loves and wars. And of course the fashionable objects of crypt and channel house. What temporary sorcerer was yours. Upon what terms. Over the wild worlds of air. When Poland fell you made out of your sacked and burning heart.
The Poland no enemy could invade. You. Here are the priceless gift at last reveals its terrifying cost. Body and soul laid waste. With all of melody in its delicate ornament. Have gone unheard. Unless a man were warped and bent like the vials would to be its instrument. And as such suffering such blight needful to such beauty then. As to the nightingale the knight. Then what powers demonic or divine. Curse blasts in one touch. Wreck. The mortal man. To build the immortal from his ruin. Or our God and demon one. One. With Do I have one of the
minions. I should like to read a poem now called crucifix. Always providing that I can find it. Crucifix. Here. It's a silver crucifix to recall in mortal agony. The mortality of the immortal. Christ crucified again. But painlessly in effigy. All rot to Grace. Anguish translated to beauty suffering feigned in calm sober. Look at this then think of the actual scene. Friday Friday the 13th as some think hot and bright at first but gradually darkening and chilling. The Rock and sway of a great packed crowd. A crowd like any other that comes
to witness executions. With market baskets and bundles and purses and other tokens of lives that would be resumed. After this interruption. A crowd with children and dogs crawling in and out through the forests of legs. Think of the straining the craning to see as hammers and nails beat the haid. After the fashion of hammers and nails. Though the nails went through veins and flesh and wedged terms apart. And then the Cross raised the third of that day displaying to our eyes. Eyes glittering or somber less glitter horror struck. But mostly curious. The head. Turning slowly from side to side as always with the pinned or the impaled. The eyes are already rapt with suffering. The hands nailed like frogs to the rough cross timber.
The feet spiked to the foot black. Amid cries and murmurs. The Cross raised and after a little while the eyes of the spectators straining their lips beginning to discuss other executions and other things than executions. The crowd slowly dispersing. The best parts being over. Leaving only a few whispering at the foot of the cross in the gathering dark. And the Roman soldiers to whom this was another execution glad to relax after the anxieties of maintaining discipline. Think of the terrible solitude of the cross. Of that body shattering for the body and the knees buckling as they were still straightened convulsively in the drag of the bodies weight on the hands and the aching armpits and again and again buckling and straightening again and again throughout the long day as
weakness overcame pain and pain weakness and the painful thirst of the wounded. Worse than that. And the flies to whom Christ's blood was as any other. And worse than all the fear the increasing fear that had been illusion save this pain. This death. For we think that none not even God may put on the man shape and not feel this fear. And this in the terrible solitude of the cross. Think of this. Gaze your fill on that. Then remember it is the Christ that sanctifies the cross not the cross Christ. And remember it is not preeminence in pain that makes the Christ. For the thieves as well were crucified. No but the Godhead the untouchable unguessable and suffering in mortality beyond
mortality which feigns our mortality. As the silver feigns it. And of which we are ignorant as that multitude. For the pain comes from the humanity the pain we know. The agony we comprehend. Of the rest. No nothing. Thank you. Thought. Does this story in the line of discourse and you because the server doesn't want to talk a little about that. I wonder if they have anything in common yes. The. What impresses me very much is the sense not only that Elder is thinking about. That that we are listening to a line of thought developing but that it comes to true conclusions because it it's so hard to make points
and right and and from Troy in the end just write I think and that's hard to do because you often don't know quite where you're taking yourself in applying. What I like the most of those poems is that is that he is I think preeminent among the poets of our time. Among those who see. Philosophic implications in in situations and objects that don't seem to suggest those to anybody but him. The chessboard for example becomes emblematic of quite another thing than a simple game. The castle is taken seriously as a castle for a time for which I think is wonderful. And and the bloodless intellectual game is seen as something which is very unfair much
like actual warfare and one of the most terrible. Says his enemy is still his enemy and can love do that. And they've had this quote lived and that that kind of dead fact is marvelously fruitful for poetry. Their philosophical philosophic and extension of it rather odd of their object which does indeed in itself involve just such philosophical implications as the poet draws out from them such as the law from the the chess game or the way the battle in the artist as in the poetry of Chopin. Of the thing that destroys him and the thing that creates his off daemon and the same. Oh the last thing the crucifix which is which is ordinarily looked on as kind of a shade down something something. Artists have worked with. I want to ask you to understand the real implications and
watched and think of what it was for the real man to die on the actual cross that made the soup of Cusa fix. That is so familiar to us. Possible. Think of what this means really. And then I like you. We have a little more time I would you read it. We were to move on. And be delighted. I read a poem called The Fountain. The marble water God amid what her lights. Utters called mysteries from unmoving lips. While her language. Babbling syllables her voice murmuring. As if to say. I. This mirth curial element. Was wave and cloud. The rainbow and the rain. Fire at the icicles heart. Heart's Blood of the rose and am and shall be
all again. I am a heaven. For clouds. Swans to sail. An abyss a raging Gulf a monster pit. A mirror wherein each thing sees its image. I become whatever drinks of me bird beast flower. Nevertheless I am none of these and myself alone. Without shape or color. But to an cradle one and many. Variable. And eternal. You will never comprehend me. Come. Drink. It. I will now read another grizzly Olson poem. I was like to end on a grisly note. This is called directions for building a house of cards.
This is a house of cards. To build this house. You must have patience and a steady hand. That is the difficulty. You must have a steady hand. No matter what has happened. And unless something has happened you will not care to build this house of cards. And you must have cards enough to tell your fortune or make your fortune. But to build this house you must see your fortunes merely as so many cards. Differing no doubt but not for you. You must know this and still keep a steady hand. And you must have patience and nothing better to do. Than to make this toy. Because it was your way to make a toy of fortune. Which was not your toy. Until at last you have nothing better to do.
Than to build this final thing. With nothing inside. Foods work. A monument of folly. But built with difficulty. Because everything is difficult. Once you understand. That after what has been nothing can be but things like this with nothing inside. Like you. You must see this and somehow keep a steady hand. Ah. Ha. Well we have some time for some talk and. Maybe we can redeploy the point to. Tom as. His kind and before the event we can take a bit of talk. I think Joe could you read us another one. Because I have something I
want to think about them but also I want to you read it. Well. I could I was reading poems about. Middle age there when I'm back maybe I can try when about. Middle age Plessy younger. Oh. You could say this is a poem about a trip. Yesterday evening as the sun set late we parked at Land's End past the Golden Gate to see the cypress Leamy I'm from that ocean. And the wave path length and to the lengthening sun. In the VW or beside us a yellow haired girl looked at us with a radiance hardly receivable. We smiled and turned back to the sea
as she held out her arms to us. Her blown voice said to the three with her. I know why you brought me here. To love these mixed up people and I do. See they are smiling at me. Poor sad mixed up people. Her friends sheltering walked with her to the cliff said ch. Deep to the rocks far to the followings and she reached her hand. She saw her hand held it close to her eyes. Widened its fingers and translucent. Who will keep it. She put it inside the coat of the yellow haired boy and he leaned over her like the wind. When she came back to the car she had lost her hand lost us. We said goodbye as they drove. A troller crossed between us and the sun.
In the air. I'd like if I had oh if I had a wish if it could come true tonight I'd like to have. Concluded he's already concluded once but he can then conclude beyond conclusion with a kind of a scary ghost poem that I like. Would you read him the ballad of the four black bog when I read this to my children all the time and I'll have to find it if you give me a minute. You have well. And it really is very scary and one of the most ingenious poems. And the true ballad as well of the real. Gary Valentine. Movie. I. May. Put in a note to this poem that I was greatly impressed by
some of the songs sung in Pogo Possum. If you read Pogo Possum. With the nearly an unpronounceable clusters of consonants and I decided to food at. And see what I could do. So this is called The Four Black Dog Man. Oh she took the babe still slick from the water bag. Bathed it and swayed it and cradled it. Then in the willow basket and carried it through the black woods to a fog roofed fan. There I made the ferns. She laid it and watched the slug black shoes slip in. An old man rose from the smoking rushes or why do you rock on the tip over tussocks. And he big hummocks crags think twice when you do what you came to do. Or the furry black Brugmann who set such snags will track you down and switch shapes with
you. Every one of the four is a sharp shaped traitor who can look like a toad or a bubble in the bog a sniper on the stick or a snail on the stock a worm in the web or a bead in the fog. Or how do you know you're old swamp squatter. I am the first and he grabbed. The hatter. Oshie watched as he Swank dinner shaped through the swamp. Then shaky and she hobbled away. Till she tripped on the roots of a big stump. And there she struck the slick roots quickened slipped around like black snakes that trap of the tree Histon or ear. I am the second. Or a bad shape satin or sticks like a bird. Yet what could trouble a root rotten tree. Through the misty forest stumbled a rickety cripple of a leper bagging Wood who clutched at a bare branch as if to break
it. The lipless mouth said. I am the third. All now on the lepers Spags she pattered to stop her trick in the nick if she could. In the snake black mire in the calling mad. There was the child. Choking in muck. Oh how she snatched how she cuddled. It shuddered. Clung with its bug black claws and spoke. But. Good endings stay away from other swabs and that is if you're going to throw your babies and. Well we have just a few minutes. We can we can take off and go anywhere and intellectually in the way that it would look when we talk about the death of the lyric or you could do that.
How is that not to act like it's been a rebound on the math. I think you know now it's no longer possible to write verse or hill you must write it in syllables instead of meter. Oh yes well we can write tests on all that you think we can settle that way to violence. But listen to the form back Bhagwan and it struck me that that there's an enormous audience for poetry which which is as comprehensible as that isn't this and this is immediate and this and it always has an abstract philosophical dimension but it's also you know in immediately experience of war I wonder if if you feel that there's a there's a large audience to look at through this con or another more simple kind of verse that we've been used to used to get it. Well I think there's a great place for narrative verse and dramatic verse of all kind. In fact if I had to talk in answer to your question to Joseph in there. About what kind of poet she considered herself I would say I was a dramatic
poet. More than anything else. And. I have been distressed to see. The way in which prose forms have gradually taken over everything. Narration. Drama. And whatnot in the poets as it seems to me has simply been in retreat. All this while. Yet I find prose myself a very wasteful medium in which to write. It's much much more easily possible to say things that I think in verse. There's a great impact in the. In the Berkeley police force of a policeman who recites Edward Edward and Lord Randall myson and makes people realize that their problems were going on for years. The power of the ballot is a great thing. Yes I think so too right. I don't have some baggage but I don't have the guts but I'm going to get it.
But I think there's an enormous interest in this kind of. A media which really does medium which really does come out of the folk in some way high of a devious. And which in which in which the political the authentic political element will will will will be as a parent to the person on the on the lower end of the educational out as it is to the person on the higher end. And. Some companies are working in this but not enough. I think about writing about what what ought to be stressed is how much fun and enjoyment it is to make a story go this way with this to get this kind of memorability factor. Who could who could who could read for example the famous old ballad of Patrick Spens and forget the first lines. The king sits and done felling drinking the
blood red wine that this is not difficult not ambiguous not to full of boxes and sell although some critics might argue that it is full of proud offices. Let him but you don't have to say it that way you can say that well if you don't have to see it that way. And I think I think it it's an awfully good thing to conclude that Bill Clinton did this even that and with Ed as Black Bob because this is this is on one level of the I just screwed sly humorous column. And also it's a wonderful story. Do you think. They have that they've gotten bogged down in switching shapes of the initials and then coming around full circle this is this Israel through our troop craft but with any of their accessible kind of medium. Well I don't want to start a poetic revolution on the basis of
tonight's performance alone really I think it's a basis of quite good luck. But only on let's assume. That half gas have ever been happy. I now have to happen I was to have I have to listen to some of this is CNN and I want to conclude with the saying how happy I have then. To have them and also to have you with us as well. Very good. Joseph mios elder reading from a discussing their poetry with James Dickey a consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress. This was another in a series of lectures and readings recorded at the Library of Congress under the auspices of the Gertrude Clark whittle poetry and literature fund this is the national educational radio network.
Library of Congress lectures II
Episode Number
Episode 7 of 9
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WUOM (Radio station : Ann Arbor, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3701. This prog.: Poetry Readings and Discussions with James Dickey, moderator, and participants Josephine Miles and Elder Olson
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Producer: Library of Congress
Producing Organization: WUOM (Radio station : Ann Arbor, Mich.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-40-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:28:54
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Chicago: “Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 7 of 9,” 1968-10-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
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APA: Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 7 of 9. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from