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In cooperation with the Library of Congress national educational radio presents a lecture by the American poet Karl Shapiro as a memorial to the late Randall Jarell. This like sure was recorded in October 1066 under the auspices of the Gertrude Clark which all poetry and literature are fond. Mr. Shapiro will be introduced by the Librarian of Congress Dr. L. Quincy Mumford. Good evening ladies and gentleman on October the 14th 1965. Randall Gerard was killed in a traffic accident in Chapel Hill North Carolina. And thus was ended the career of a sensitive point and brilliant critic who brought of their great talents to American letters. Randall giraffe was remembered with affection at the Library of Congress especially for the two years he said of this institution as consultant in poetry in 1956 to 1958. Tonight we are privileged to hear a tribute.
To the quality of poetry and the integrity of intellect. That he brought to bear on his era in America. But the privilege of honoring Randall giraffe and the Library of Congress. We have sought a poet of his own generation. Who knew him well. And who we believe. Will bring to the task a blend of skepticism and commitment criticism and respect. Such is a blend which Mark Randall Jor-El's on writing. Shapiro is more than a contemporary of Randall Jiro. In this era somewhat ambiguous greatness. He's a brother Spirit who is looked steadily. Sometimes deliberately askance and has written what he saw. Shapiro also said the Libre Congress was consulted in poetry a decade before Randall Girard brought his own distinction to the
position in 1956. Both accepted this opportunity seriously to save the library. And brought great honor to this institution. Thank god Shapiro was born in Baltimore in 1913. He attended the University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins University. After his year the labrat Congress as consultant in poetry. He became an associate professor of writing at Johns Hopkins University. From 1947 to 1950. And later a professor of English at the University of Nebraska. One thing that the six thousand nine hundred sixty six. In September. Of this year he joined the English department of the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was editor of Poetry from 1950 to 1955. And prairie schooner. From
1956 to 1963. Among his many awards the American Academy of Arts and Letters Grant in 1944 the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1945. Shall a Memorial Award in 1946 and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1945 46. His books include person place and thing. The letter and other poems poems 1940 53. Poems of a Jew in defense of ignorance. The blues you are part of. And that is. It is a pleasure once again to welcome Carl Shapiro to that I recount just because of the AA. I want to thank you. Pardon me the librarian and Mr Rudd Bassler
for the honor which is what I think of it as of being able to speak here about Randall Jarrell. This lecture is not a eulogy. And it's not a memorial. And it's not one of those exercises in the object of perception a value for which the Age of Criticism is justly infamous. Randall Jarell it was not my friend nor was he my enemy but he was a poet whose poetry I admired and looked up to most often after William Carlos Williams. This I said many times in many ways in my criticism. I praised his poetry more and more wholeheartedly than any other of his contemporaries. My praise it may be did not sit comfortably with him for he spotted me as an outsider or wanted was constantly battling to get on the outside.
Your realm was very much an insider. There was a terrible conflict in his soul between his instinct for freedom and his desire for cultural asylum. This conflict gave him his style his literary style his life style. It is a style deceptively free. His book plate might be the question mark. The most common and significant expression he uses a crucial points in his poetry and in his prose is. And yet. I thought of naming this lecture Randall Jarell And yet. But I decided to be more ambitious I shall try to situate mantles your album on his fellows rather than doing his portrait. I think there is a message in his death for me and for this generation. Let me dispose of a little personal data first a few observations which will perhaps illumine my not too extensive relationship with it. When I was editing poetry Chicago and
after I had published hundreds or could it have been thousands of poets. I noted that the manuscripts of Randall Jarell whether poems or prose were the only perfect manuscripts I ever saw. I mean that they were letter perfect. There was no question of a typo or any other kind of graphical error. He was a he was my only scrupulous poet for most poets write the way they dress and their manuscripts looked like somebody else's laundry. This minor perfection of Jor-El's was reflected in the precision of thought especially in his prose which sometimes took on a slightly yoof USD contour. I think you fewest it is the word by rote describes certain of his stylistic processes in a style of inlay in which quotation is so exquisitely handled that everything Jor-El quote sounds as if he wrote it. He was a great you might say a dangerous listener.
And yet his style of reportage is comic for he fears loftiness and bombast like the plague. One looks forward to the publication of his letters. We can be sure that the voice of the poet and of the cultural gossip is there. Charm is overwhelming in all his writing which is to platitudinous a word for his work and the sharply outlined in the allusions of his thought deserve a better word than wisdom. He gave a marvelous sum ation of contemporary poetry from this platform four years ago. I asked him if I could publish it in a prairie schooner which I then edited his reply was. I'd be delighted for you to print the lecture in the prairie schooner. You've always been my favorite editor because you're not like an editor at all. I put the best construction on this remark that I could. Especially as I knew it to be true more than true. A complimentary reprimand of
my style of life and letters except for an early merciless review of one of my books. He was always understanding about me and assiduous. We were of the same group so to speak and it fought all the same wars and he had a right to cry well when I came galloping by. All a poet sat on the edge of their seats while Jor-El whom everybody had to admit had earned the right to do so put together the jigsaw puzzle of modern poetry in front of our eyes. When I was finally fitted into place with a splash of color I felt a relief that I fitted and a regret that the puzzle had been solved. I will repeat what he said of me because it is germane to my evaluation of the relevant quote. Karl Shapiro his poems are fresh and young and rash and alive. Their hard clear outlines their flat Bowl colors create a world like that of unknowing and skillful Neo primitive painting. Without
any of the confusion or profundity of atmosphere of aerial perspective but with notable visual and satiric force. He then goes on to mention my influences on the Whitman and he does not need to say that these are also his influences more his than mine because you're rela simulated his art and real and Whitman along with his Corby air and grim and even Robert Frost. I assimilated nothing but was only influenced by. I rejected influence out of hand and waged a one man's children's crusade against the past. The Grieco due date Christian thingamajig so that Jor-El could say of me with amused amazement both in verse and in prose. SHAPIRO loves partly out of indignation and partly out of sheer mischievousness to tell the naked truth or half truths or Kroeger truths that will make anybody's hair stand on end. He is always crying but
he hasn't any clothes on about an emperor who has half the time surprisingly well dressed. There is a slight concession here Darrelle admits that the emperor is dressed like an emperor only half the time. While I contend that he is badly dressed even when he is naked. I'll be done with this interrelationship in a moment but I'm leading up to something important a hole or half or quarter truth which I am bound to utter. I will read a poem I wrote about you Ralph. It is a prose poem as prosecutors say when they run out of verbiage and it is in my last book. I don't remember the Urals reaction to the poem but I aim to please him when I wrote it. Randall. I like your poetry terribly. Yet I'm afraid to say so. Not that my praise keeps you awake. No I'm afraid it does. I can't help liking them. I even like the wind the make believe the whiplash with the actual
wire in it. Once when you reviewed me badly you must I wrote you. I felt as if I had been run over but not heard. That made you laugh. I was happy. It wasn't much of a triumph but it worked. When people ask about you I am inclined to say he's an assassin. A word I never used. I'm inclined to say why are you always yourself your lover. If it's love your intimacy with German and God knows what all your tenderness and terrorization your prose sentences like Bernie need graves. Staggeringly expensive. A tally in a warm sentences once and for all. And the verses you leave half finished in mid-air. I once knew a woman who never finished a sentence. Your mind is always at its best your craft the finest craft money can buy you would say with a bar. I'm afraid of you who wouldn't be. But I rushed to read you whatever you print. That's news. And this is also
news. That was the end of the poem. If you can you can't tell with these things. This is also news I'm quoting from The News Notes section of Poetry magazine of last spring. Quote There was a public ceremony at Yale on February 28 to honor the memory of Randall Jarell who was killed last autumn in an automobile accident. John Berryman Richard Eberhard John Holl understand what units Robert Lowell William Meredith Adrian rich Robert Penn Warren Richard Wilbur and Peter Taylor came together at Yale to participate in the tribute for which the chairman was Norman Holmes Pearson married to Rael widow of the poet read the last recently written poem that it really pleased him. The piano player as yet unpublished that was then on the Yale Daily News reports that she was saved unimpassioned standing ovation as she walked to the lectern. Elizabeth Bishop Kling And Brooks ROBERT FITZGERALD Marianne Moore John Crowe Ransom and Alan Tate who could not
attend sent testimonials which Professor Pearson read. When I read this little notice in Poetry magazine I was dismayed at my conspicuous absence from the list. Had you around left it in his will to keep me off the Yale campus. Impossible I had a blood boiling moment of suspicion or paranoia that the bombing committee or Professor Pearson or Robert Lowell had blackballed me from the club for my anti cultural committee activities spanned many years and I've tried to sabotage organized culture where whenever possible not always successfully of course when the National Institute of Arts and Letters elected me as a member I
decline. But when there are officers called me and said nobody had that had that much cheeks in Sinclair Lewis declined. And who the hell did I think I was. I chickened out and let the man roll me. When I went to watch the president signed the arts and humanities bill some writers said what are you doing here. Spying was all I could say. And now Randall had been organized in death by some cultural subcommittee and all I could think was. Now he knows what it feels like to turn over in his grave. Between the instinct for freedom and the desire for cultural asylum others can make a choice and always do. Cultural committees love funerals. There is even in one fellow in one's fellow poets a touch of the vulture when the poet lives on the roof of the Tower of Silence. You can hear the shattering of Peg AC and winging it.
I remember once I think it happened in the poetry office of this library but maybe it didn't happen at all and was just a memorable fantasy that Robert Lowell and Randall Jarell were playing again. The game was who was first and it was Lowell's again. The idea is to grade the poets until the downgrading wipes most of the competition off the board. Two or three remaining contenders then engage in a death struggle. Darrelle played this game with a will but his winning instinct was no match for a while. Injuries bibliography published in 1058 there's a good introduction which contains this sentence. Most critics you have to pardon these references to myself but they're inevitable. Most critics predicted the emerging greatness of a Robert Lowell or Karl Shapiro but few guess the Jor-El would outstrip them especially in so short a time. This judgment is sound as far as I'm concerned and certainly as far as lower it's
concerned. I'm not playing who's first I hope because I don't think the game is worth my time or anyone else's. Comparisons of Lowell in general are irrelevant anyhow. Lowell is primarily a figurehead which he personally carved out of solid rock. The effort was immense. Church chilly and blood sweat and tears but one feels that Lowell writes poetry to get even while Jor-El became a poet because he couldn't help it. Some years ago I volunteered to write an article for the Evergreen Review about Lowell. I said I would call it Robert Lowell as T.S. Eliot. A while later I said I would change the title to Robert Lowell as cashews clay. I finished up by not writing the article at all. It was not LOL I was after but the Metra Dotel psychology of literature which
Lois spouses. In the general lecture which he gave here and which I published in the prairie schooner Jor-El says this is LOL. I'm paraphrasing part of this. Robert Lowell is a poet of shock. His style manages to make even quotations and historical facts of personal possession make it grotesque could be Lowell's motto and the context throughout was contrasting LOL with Richard Wilbur a poet who makes poems out of the things of life rather than out of life itself. Darrelle thought that Lowell possessed and wrote out of a life yet he knew that this life was at least as unreal as Wilbur's life by virtue of the things of life. Here is a direct quote. Lowell has always had an astonishing ambition a willingness to learn what past poetry was and to compete with it on its own terms. Mike My comment is what General politely implies that competition is the sole inspiration of such a
poet. Darrelle says in a parenthesis at Lowell bullied his early work but his own vulnerable humanity has been forced in on him. A statement of tremendous humanity and Parkman with a shadow of fear. Of Lowell's poems he mentions their stubborn toughness their senseless originality and expression to conjure with and their contingency. Some of the poems justify the harshness and violence and what General calls their barbarous immediacy. He ends by complimenting it all without having convinced as why for his largeness and grandeur and throws him a fish in this sentence. You feel before reading any new poem of his. The easy expectation of perhaps encountering a masterpiece. And an earlier treatment of Lowell in poetry in the age of the railroad Cocteau's said the poets learn what you can do and then don't do it. And this is so. As a poet This is your real talking as a poet Mr. Lowell sometimes doesn't have enough
trust in God and tries to do everything himself. But probably the reader will want to say to me what Lincoln said about the drunkard Grant. If I knew his brand I would order my other generals a barrel. Our generation the generation of Darrelle Wilbur myself wrathy Lowell Schwartz Bishop Charedi Berryman Kunis What a more Nemeroff one is almost inclined to add Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner and Smith. Our generation lived through more history than most or maybe any. We lived through more history than even Stonn doll who fell as he says with Napoleon. We were reared as intellectuals and fought the Second World War before it happened and then again when it did happen. We witnessed the God that Failed and helped trip him up. We predicted the Alexandrian ism of the age and like everybody else we throve on it.
We drove our foreign cars to class to teach and we bit the hand that fed us but not very hard. Not hard enough. The hand went on signing papers. Once upon a time we were all revolutionaries of one stripe or another but when we got married and settled down with tenure we talk technique instead of overthrow. Half of us stop rebelling and not because of middle age. That age made it so easy to be a poet orders survive on lobster that age gave in so sweetly to our imprecations that age so needed us to help it hate itself. This spineless age ended by softening the backbone of poetry. Dylan Thomas was the anti symbol of our group that Dylan who died after he saw the faces of mice in the chandelier. It was Thomas who taught poetry to stop thinking and we resented that. Though we were or
are not all drunks and suicides we had our goodly share. But all of us felt the rot of institutionalism in our bones. Your L got it down in a novel the kind of novel The Age demanded the exposé of sensibility. If your L's novel pictures from an institution is so brilliant that it defeats itself as a fiction it becomes a hornbook of Avalon Garda's I'm sophisticated to the point of Philistinism. You're always misleading me Philistines say about modern art of all varieties. It is because he is impatient with failure or imperfection or goofing around with a muse. But this impatience of Jor-El's is also a veritable lust for perfection and both the impatience and the philistinism are what you might call Texan. You're always a good Texan in the sense that President Johnson is a bad Texan. And yet what Jor-El does to Gertrude and his anti
heroine in the novel is almost beyond belief. Can anyone be that worthy of hatred. One wonders what Gertrude thought when she read her portrait of Gertrude as one of those savage Southern female novelists who leave the world in terror of the art of fiction. The setting of the novel is Benton a very expensive Higher Education Academy only six versts from Sarah Lawrence. Veterans president Robins doesn't fare any better than the low they've Gertrude and the only lovable character in the book is a German Jewish composer in residence named Rosenbaum. If you're Ella tax Avenue guard institutionalism and everything it implies by emulating president robins and all his kin folk in the way Gertrude might. He attacks dehumanised letters in his lip smacking crucifixion of Gertrude. True humanity true culture true wisdom are preserved in the broken English Rosenbaum's.
Urals love of The Good German. Let him deep into the black forest deep into German childhood I shared with him his love for it to Rose and Cavalier for Elizabeth Schwarzkopf who was not a very kosher German and even from Mahler. Germany is the pre-conscious of Europe. Almost all know all her geniuses are maniacs. Germany itself is a maniac. This is what you would call a quarter truth I guess. The bright dangerous offspring of the Western soul. Must you learn from your makers how to die. The war spirits and one of his many Germany inspired poems and a note to the poem again at Salzburg He says if there is a game that Austrians and Germans play with very young children the child says of the grown up here I am. And the grown up answers. There you are. Here be an issue. Do Bish dodge the issue. Then you rail says it seems to me
that if there could be a conversation between the world and god this would be it. There is an almost unbearable sorrow in this colloquy a German-Jewish sorrow so to speak. Your intellects Dr. Rosenbaum say the people in hell say nothing but what. To which you're a bad Americans in hell tell each other how to make martinis. I'm not reviewing the novel but I give it a central place in general's work as a kind of negative plate of the poetry the empty intellectual ism of America is pinpointed in Benton the author says. Nowadays Benton picked and chose girls who had read Wittgenstein as its high school babysitters were rejected because the school's quota of abnormally intelligent students had already been filled a year. Darrelle not quite a day as a sound suffers from a disillusionment of America which all our
best artists share suffers from the disappointment at the failure of the healing powers of poetry in this nation. Benton American higher education is only a rarer kind of custom built Cadillac. One can almost begin to see the coat of arms emerging on the enamel door and one is already afraid of who is inside. He says lapsing into what he thinks is an institution always a man shadows shortened in the sun the lowest common denominator of everybody in it. It is bitter to answer yes but so it is in the modern institution. And here's an anthology of short Russian novels Ural quotes tour again you have on Tolstoy Tolstoy quote never believed in people's sincerity. Every spiritual movement seemed to him false and with his extraordinarily penetrating eyes. He used to pierce those on whom his suspicion fell. That's the end of the quote. The early general published the beginning of a massive
attack on ottoman the most conspicuous idealist of the age. Later he forgave Ottoman ideals and all the Urals generation my generation inherited the question of culture mass culture versus true culture. It was our poems asinorum and we all had to cross it. If you're real worried the problem more than most of us because you could not take for granted the purely elite aesthetic of Eliot the motto of which is high culture only no foreigners allowed. Those of us who grew up with the Partisan Review on our kitchen tables and who wrote for it with great pride had a slightly altered version of high culture. With us it was high culture plus social revolution. We won the second world war but lost the social revolution we lost it to what you railed call the medium the medium being a kind of symbol for mass culture. In the backwash of power and prosperity that engulfed America after our
victory the writers fled to those islands citadels called institutions whether it was Benton or Harvard or Berkeley. Each of these moments Sam Michele's harbored as refugees from the world from mass culture or from the medium. Ural said the acceptably righteous things about mass culture that mass culture either corrupts or isolates the writer. That true works of are more and more produced away from or in opposition to society. And yet he knew the writer's need for contact with a mass and qualified his rejections of the medium. Part of the artist he said I'm quoting from a sad heart of the supermarket part of the artist wants to be like his kind is like his kind longs to be loved and admired and successful.
Library of Congress lectures
Karl Shapiro, part one
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National Association of Educational Broadcasters
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the first of three parts features poet Karl Shapiro, lecturing about poet Randall Jarrell, who died on Oct. 14, 1965, in a Chapel Hill, North Carolina, auto accident. Shapiro spoke on the one-year anniversary in October 1966. Introduction by L. Quincy Mumford.
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A series of lectures given at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
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: Mumford, Quincy
Producer: Library of Congress
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Shapiro, Karl, 1913-2000
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-Sp.2-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:28:46
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