Journey to the 20th Century

I am repurposing this blog.

Henceforward, I’ll be keeping notes here as I prepare for my August Wilson Century Series study group which begins in March, 2018.

As the study group leader, I don’t plan to do long boring lectures. Besides, what do I know?  I anticipate something more akin to a long and winding conversation. So the goal will be to keep the conversation going. What do I know about conversations? Well, I have been having them with all kinds of people for a long time. Even did a paper once on conversation theory and posted it to a blog here.  Turns out it was a short paper, but at least I have something to start with.

And I have three ideas from the MOOC world I hope to apply. From ModPo, I want to utilize the idea of the collaborative close read. A play is not poetry, but then again, perhaps it is. Our particular writer certainly considered himself a poet BEFORE he turned to drama. I have come across some extremely poetic passages in plays. Now, most studies of close reading paired with conversation theory apply to education of children, but that’s ok, we are going to try it with adults.

The next two ideas come from a MOOC course I took, Rhizo15. They are (1) learning subjectives (versus “objectives”) and, related, (2) the idea of the community as the curriculum. The learning objective of the course is simple: to plow through ten plays in ten weeks, reading and discussing each. But the learning subjectives may and will vary from person to person. One person may be planning to write a play and is looking for some ideas and inspiration. Someone else may be lonely and looking for company.  If we spend a bit of time discussing what each person wants out of the course, I think we will come up with a much better list than what I could come up with by myself. Similarly, each person brings his/her background/expertise/talents/networks to the study group community. I think it will be fascinating to see what those resources are and how they overlap and intersect.

OK. Here is a link to the Goggle Group where we will all deposit some of our thoughts each week.


August 7

Seven days is enough, perhaps.

One of my favorite ModPo poems is Charles Bernstein’s In a Restless World Like This Is. Go to Coursera right now and sign up! Modern and Contemporary American Poetry. You won’t regret it.

I am going to spend the rest of the month on vacation and writing poems on postcards!

And here is the link to the Bernstein poem. Enjoy!

August 6

When I was an undergraduate in Tallahassee, I spent a spring break or two visiting New Orleans. To some extent, I fell in love with the place, the city, the lifestyle of the Big Easy. Perhaps a piece of me is still there, all the events of Hurricane Katrina notwithstanding.

When I read this Patricia Smith poem, Prologue – And Then She Owns You, so many images flood back in striking detail. Here’s a link, try it for yourself:

August 5

Not exactly poetry, but definitely poetic. Two pieces of noteworthy prose by artists, Harlem Renaissance painter and thinker, Aaron Douglas, and American Renaissance painter and writer, Kenyon Cox. Enjoy.

Aaron Douglas

“…Our problem is to conceive, develop, establish an art era. Not white art painting black…let’s bare our arms and plunge them deep through laughter, through pain, through sorrow, through hope, through disappointment, into the very depths of the souls of our people and drag forth material crude, rough, neglected. Then let’s sing it, dance it, write it, paint it. Let’s do the impossible. Let’s create something transcendentally material, mystically objective. Earthy. Spiritually earthy. Dynamic.”

Kenyon Cox

“The Classic Spirit is the disinterested search for perfection; it is the love of clearness and reasonableness and self-control; it is, above all, the love of permanence and of continuity. It asks of a work of art, not that it shall be novel or effective, but that it shall be fine and noble. It seeks not merely to express individuality or emotion but to express disciplined emotion and individuality restrained by law. It strives for the essential rather than the accidental, the eternal rather than the momentary. And it loves to steep itself in tradition. It would have each new work connect itself in the mind of him who sees it with all the noble and lovely works of the past, bringing them to his memory and making their beauty and charm part of the beauty and charm of the work before him. It does not deny originality and individuality – they are as welcome as inevitable. It does not consider tradition as immutable or set rigid bounds to invention. But it desires that each new presentation of truth and beauty shall show us the old truth and the old beauty, seen only from a different angle and colored by a different medium. It wishes to add link by link to the chain of tradition, but it does not wish to break the chain.“

August 3

Today’s poet choice is Paul Laurence Dunbar, and the poem, or poems, are “a couple of Rondeaux” he included in a letter that probably also show up separately in one or more of his books. I don’t know. But before I give you the link, I want to share a few thoughts.

Dunbar was one of many forerunners, perhaps a preeminent one, yes, definitely a preeminent one, to what’s referred to as the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote free verse, he wrote in Negro dialect, and he wrote highly structured verse (these Rondeaux are an example of that). People say the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance was a sort of resistance to modernist trends in poetry in its’ poets adherence to structure, tight rhythms, rhyming schemes, and classical conventions. As my Puerto Rican friend would say, I am not a saint to that devotion. Modernism ruled for many years, across all art forms, but wasn’t it really just a moment? Now we are post-modern, and reconsidering all art forms that modernism may have turned its snooty nose up at.

OK. I guess I can go on and on forever. Here is a link to the Dunbar Rondeaux. Enjoy!

August 2

Two postcards have arrived! I love August Postcard PoetryFest!
OK. Today’s poem. A couple of weeks ago I was reading the blog, Locus Solus. It is a blog maintained by an English professor at Florida State whose name escapes me right now, but he specializes in the Beats and the New York School. Anyway, the post was about Frank O’Hara’s untimely death and funeral. He mentioned in the blog post that John Ashbery recited from O’Hara’s poem “To the Harbormaster” at the funeral. So of course I googled it, and of course I tried to imagine which lines Ashbery might have spoken. Here is a link to the blog post:
And here is a link to the O’Hara poem, To the Harbormaster:
Let me know which lines you think Ashbery might have recited or which lines are most meaningful to you. Either or. I bet we will agree!