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Archive for the ‘Poets & Poetry’ Category

“When Jack Kerouac wrote his will shortly before his death in 1969, he was broke. Forty years later, a ferocious battle rages over his multi-million dollar literary estate. Kerouac, at odds with his third wife, Stella Sampas, had left everything to his mother, Gabrielle Kerouac. But when Gabrielle Kerouac passed away in 1973, her will indicated that the entire estate would go to Sampas, news that had shocked Kerouac’s remaining blood relatives—his daughter, Jan, and his nephew, Paul Blake Jr. When Sampas died in 1990, her siblings inherited the Kerouac literary estate, with the youngest brother, John Sampas, acting as executor. It was a stunning series of events for Kerouac scholars and fans, but the real surprise was yet to come. Last July, a judge in Tampa, Florida ruled that Gabrielle Kerouac’s 1973 will was a forgery.

“Gerald Nicosia, author of the acclaimed Kerouac biography, Memory Babe, first suspected foul play in 1994, when Jan Kerouac saw a copy of the will for the first time and noticed that her grandmother’s name was misspelled.

“‘We are dealing with perhaps the most influential American novelist of the twentieth century, after all, and it is now proven that his $30 million estate was stolen, plain and simple,’ said Nicosia.” (cont’d @ Fine Books & Collections)

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D'Lugoff“Art D’Lugoff, who was widely regarded as the dean of New York nightclub impresarios and whose storied spot, the Village Gate, was for more than 30 years home to performers as celebrated, and diverse, as Duke Ellington, Allen Ginsberg and John Belushi, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 85 and lived in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. . . .

“Opened in 1958, the Village Gate was on the corner of Bleecker and Thompson Streets. The cavernous basement space it occupied — the building’s upper floors were then a flophouse — had once been a laundry. . . .

“The club closed its doors in 1994, amid rising rents, a changing market for live music and the aftermath of some unsuccessful investments by Mr. D’Lugoff. It briefly reappeared on West 52nd Street in 1996 but sputtered out after less than a year. . . .

“The Gate may have lacked the cachet of the Village Vanguard, a more intimate West Village club, but it was a bright star in the city’s cultural firmament for decades. A young Woody Allen did stand-up comedy there. The playwright-to-be Sam Shepard bused tables there. A waiter named Dustin Hoffman was fired there for being so engrossed in the performances that he neglected his customers, though service was by all accounts never the club’s strength. Dozens of albums were recorded there, by musicians like Pete Seeger and Nina Simone and by comics like Dick Gregory.

“Though most often thought of as a jazz space — among the eminences heard there over the years were John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk — the Gate offered nearly every type of performance imaginable. There were blues artists like B. B. King; soul singers like Aretha Franklin; rockers like Jimi Hendrix; comics like Mort Sahl and Richard Pryor; and Beat poets.” (more @ NY Times)

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jim_carrollJim Carroll, the poet and punk rocker in the outlaw tradition of Rimbaud and Burroughs who chronicled his wild youth in ‘The Basketball Diaries,’ died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 60. . . .

“As a teenage basketball star in the 1960s at Trinity, an elite private school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Mr. Carroll led a chaotic life that combined sports, drugs and poetry. This highly unusual combination lent a lurid appeal to ‘The Basketball Diaries’ the journal he kept during high school and published in 1978, by which time his poetry had already won him a cult reputation as the new, Bob Dylan.

“‘I met him in 1970, and already he was pretty much universally recognized as the best poet of his generation,’ the singer Patti Smith said in a telephone interview on Sunday. ‘The work was sophisticated and elegant. He had beauty.'” (more @ NY Times)

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duffy“Few positions in public life, apart, perhaps, from Pope or manager of the England football team, have proved quite so unattainable to women over the years as that of Britain’s Poet Laureate. For centuries, from Ben Jonson onwards, the prestigious honour with its peppercorn salary and liquid remuneration of a ‘butt of sack’ has been a masculine stronghold, handed down from man to man.

“But that dominance could well be set to come to an end this week after it was let slip that the name of Carol Ann Duffy has been put forward for the Queen’s approval to assume the role from the outgoing Laureate Andrew Motion. If all goes as planned, the Glasgow-born poet will become not only the first woman to hold the post but the first openly gay one.” (more @ The Independent)

Update: (5/1/09) After 341 Years, a Woman Is British Poet Laureate

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wordsworth-grave“The 23rd of April is a bad, bad day to be a poet. It’s the cruellest day in the cruellest month, as TS Eliot almost said.

“Lots of people know that today is the day William Shakespeare, the greatest poet in the language, was born in 1564 and that it’s the day he died in 1616. I don’t want to sound like a local radio DJ doing a less than cheery ‘on this day’ feature for dark times, but for poets in particular, and for creative literary people in general, this day really is hard to ignore: William Wordsworth wandered his last lonely walk on this day, as did the great Spanish author CervantesHenry Vaughan, the Welsh metaphysical poet, breathed his last lungful of gorgeous Welsh air on this day. Rupert Brooke died today in 1915, and Harold Arlen – whose songs such as Stormy Weather and Let’s Fall in Love (mind you, he didn’t write the lyrics) approach the status of poetry – passed to the far side of the rainbow on 23 April 1986.” (more @ Guardian UK)

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shakespeare-on-bookBaptized on April 26, 1564, William Shakespeare‘s actual birthday is unknown but is traditionally observed on April 23rd, St. George’s Day. But how likely is it that today is the Bard of Avon’s real birthday?

“There is no evidence, alas, to support the popular belief that William Shakespeare was born — as fifty-two years later he was to die — on 23 April, the date celebrated in England since 1222 as the feast day of dragon-slaying St George. As the poet’s posthumous fame grew, securing a unique niche for his country in the cultural history of the world, it was a natural enough temptation for posterity to unite the birthday of England’s national poet with that of its patron saint. But the tradition is based on a false assumption, that Elizabethan baptisms invariably took place three days after the birth.” (more @ English History)

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“On inauguration day, Tom Brokaw was moved to compare Barack Obama’s election to Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution. At the eye of each storm, of course, was an icon who merged the political and the aesthetic–Václav Havel, the rock-star poet and prophet, and Barack Obama, the post-soul master of his own story. Both struck down eras of monocultural repression with their pens.

“Artists played a largely unheralded role in Obama’s victory. But they had been tugging the national unconscious forward for decades, from the multiculturalist avant-gardes of the 1970s and ’80s to the hip-hop rebels of the ’90s and 2000s, plying a fearless, sometimes even unruly kind of polyculturalism. By the final months of the election season, these artists had secured Obama as the waking image of change.

“Every moment of major social change requires a collective leap of imagination. Political transformation must be accompanied not just by spontaneous and organized expressions of unrest and risk but by an explosion of mass creativity. Little wonder that two of the most maligned jobs during the forty years after Richard Nixon’s 1968 election sealed the backlash of the ‘silent majority‘ were community organizer and artist.

“Obama was both. So why haven’t community organizers and artists been offered a greater role in the national recovery?” (cont’d @ The Nation)

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alhambra“One of Spain’s most enduring historical mysteries is close to being solved as experts decipher and translate more than 10,000 Arabic inscriptions adorning the walls of the Alhambra palace in Granada.

“The intricate Arabic inscriptions carved into the ceilings, columns and walls inside the imposing hill-top fortress have long fascinated visitors. They contain everything from snatches of poetry and verses from the Qur’an to clever aphorisms, pious wishes and boastful slogans.

“There are so many of them, however, that nobody has ever managed to study each and every one. Now a team of researchers armed with 3D laser scanners and digital imaging software is slowly working its way around the complex recording, transcribing and translating every inscription.

“‘There is probably no other place in the world where studying walls, columns and fountains is so similar to turning the pages of a book,’ said Juan Castilla, of Spain’s Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), who heads the team.” (cont’d @ Guardian UK)

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amherst250logoAs part of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Amherst, Massachusetts, home to the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst College, Hampshire College and the University of Masachusetts, a number of literary events are scheduled for the month of April. Events include a “Children’s Literary Scavenger Hunt,” an “Emerging Young Writers Event,” and “A Reading by Poet, Essayist, Editor and Translator: Martin Espada,” to name a few.

A complete schedule of events in the “Amherst Lit Series” can be found here.

Additional information “About Amherst 250” can be found here.

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bookfairArguably the most important annual book fair in the United States will be held this coming weekend, April 3-5, at the Park Avenue Armory (643 Park Avenue, at 67th Street) in New York City. General information (hours, entrance fees, etc) about the 49th annual event, organized by Sanford L. Smith and Associates and sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America can be found here.

The list of international exhibitors can be found here.

The annual New York fair is well worth the admission price even for those uninterested in writing large checks – as an exhibition of incunabula, rare and unusual books, periodicals and literary ephemera, the New York event is unrivaled in the United States, and probably the rest of the world as well.

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“Short, lucid writing is needed in these uncertain times, according to the Booker prize-winning Nigerian author Ben Okri, who is releasing a new poem line by line on Twitter. . . .

“‘I sing a new freedom,’ Okri Twittered yesterday, following it up today with the second line of the poem, ‘Freedom with discipline’, today. The poem was written to mark the release of Okri’s new book, Tales of Freedom, in April. The book brings together short stories and poetry in what Okri’s publisher described as ‘a fascinating new form, using writing and image pared down to their essentials, where haiku and story meet’. The entire poem will be posted on Okri’s Facebook and MySpace pages once it is completed.” (more @ The Guardian)

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bolanoawardThe awards keep rolling in for the late Roberto Bolaño and 2666:

“On Thursday, March 12, 2009, at a crowded ceremony at the New School in New York, the National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of its book awards, covering books published in 2008. . . .

“Roberto Bolaño’s monumental 2666 (Farrar, Straus), a tale of love and violence set within the framework of the fictional town of Santa Teresa, Mexico, that’s widely regarded as the late author’s masterpiece, won the fiction award. Fiction committee chair Marcela Valdes called the work ‘a virtuoso accomplishment that ranks with Moby-Dick and Blood Meridian as one of the trenchant and kaleidoscopic examinations of evil in fiction.'”

Other winners included:

  • Poetry (co-winners): August Kleinzahler, Sleeping It Off in Rapid CityJuan Felipe Herrera, Half the World in Light
  • CriticismSeth LererChildren’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter
  • BiographyPatrick French, The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul
  • AutobiographyAriel Sabar, My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq
  • NonfictionDexter Filkins, The Forever War.

(more @ National Book Critics Circle)

RelatedMas Bolano: Part VI of “2666” Discovered in Author’s Papers

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howlquartet“Artists from different disciplines have long been inspired by one another’s works, often with remarkable results. But both words and music suffer in Lee Hyla’s ‘Howl,’ a string quartet written in 1993 to accompany Allen Ginsberg’s 1956 poem of that name.

“A performance on Friday at Zankel Hall by the stellar Brentano String Quartet made me want to scream. The ensemble — Mark Steinberg and Serena Canin, violinists; Misha Amory, violist; and Nina Lee, cellist — played Mr. Hyla’s work against a recording of Ginsberg reading his colorful rant at the status quo, a major work of the Beat Generation.

“A poem as long and as dense as ‘Howl’ — whose myriad vivid images are crammed into long run-on sentences — is ill suited for simultaneous musical accompaniment. Music and words seem engaged here in a cacophonous battle with no clear victor.” (more @ NY Times)

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DubaiPoetry“The words of the late Palestinian poet and author Mahmoud Darwish echoed in a packed hall yesterday at the launch of the first annual Dubai International Poetry Festival.

“The festival was inaugurated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in the presence of more than 100 regional and international poets and writers from 45 countries.

“Jamal Khalfan bin Huwaireb, head of the festival’s organising committee, said in his keynote address that the aim of the festival was to create an opportunity for poets from around the globe to meet. . . .

“‘Poetry is among the most evolved of the arts and the strongest bridge between cultures. We believe that poetry can correct what politics has damaged,’ said Mr bin Huwaireb.” (more @ The National)

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kerouacradioJack Kerouac, author of “On the Road” and progenitor of the Beat Generation as well as subsequent generations of literary dreamers, was born on this date in 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts. He died in 1969 at age 47.

Gilbert Millstein’s 1957 New York Times review of “On the Road,” which Dwight Garner called “probably the most famous book review in the history of [the] newspaper,” can be found here.

The following excerpt from “On the Road” describes Sal Paradise’s (Kerouac’s) first attempt at traveling west alone:

I’d been poring over maps of the United States in Paterson for months, even reading books about the pioneers and savoring names like Platte and Cimarron and so on, and on the road-map was one long red line called Route 6 that led from the tip of Cape Cod clear to Ely, Nevada, and there dipped down to Los Angeles. I’ll just stay on all the way to Ely, I said to myself and confidently started. To get to 6 I had to go up to Bear Mountain. Filled with dreams of what I’d do in Chicago, in Denver, and then finally in San Fran, I took the Seventh Avenue Subway to the end of the line at 242nd Street, and there took a trolley into Yonkers; in downtown Yonkers I transferred to an outgoing trolley and went to the city limits on the east bank of the Hudson River. If you drop a rose in the Hudson River at its mysterious source in the Adirondacks, think of all the places it journeys as it goes to sea forever — think of that wonderful Hudson Valley. I started hitching up the thing. Five scattered rides took me to the desired Bear Mountain Bridge, where Route 6 arched in from New England. It began to rain in torrents when I was let off there. It was mountainous. Route 6 came over the river, wound around a traffic circle, and disappeared into the wilderness. Not only was there no traffic but the rain come down in buckets and I had no shelter. I had to run under some pines to take cover; this did no good; I began crying and swearing and socking myself on the head for being such a damn fool. I was forty miles north of New York; all the way up I’d been worried about the fact that on this, my big opening day, I was only moving north instead of the so-longed for west. Now I was stuck on my northermost hangup. I ran a quarter-mile to an abandoned cute English-style filling station and stood under the dripping eaves. High up over my head the great hairy Bear Mountain sent down thunderclaps that put the fear of God in me. All I could see were smoky trees and dismal wilderness rising to the skies. “What the hell am I doing up here?” I cursed, I cried for Chicago. “Even now they’re all having a big time, they’re doing this, I’m not there, when will I get there!” — and so on. Finally a car stopped at the empty filling station; the man and the two women in it wanted to study a map. I stepped right up and gestured in the rain; they consulted; I looked like a maniac, of course, with my hair all wet, my shoes sopping. My shoes, damn fool that I am, were Mexican huaraches, plantlike sieves not fit for the rainly night of America and the raw road night. But the people let me in and rode me back to Newburgh, which I accepted as a better alternative than being trapped in the Bear Mountain wilderness all night. “Besides,” said the man, “there’s no traffic passes through 6. If you want to go to Chicago you’d be better going across the Holland Tunnel in New York and head for Pittsburth,” and I knew he was right. It was my dream that screwed up, the stupid hearthside idea that it would be wonderful to follow one great red line across America instead of trying various roads and routes.

In Newburgh it had stopped raining. I walked down to the river and I had to ride back to New York in a bus with a delegation of schoolteachers coming back from a weekend in the mountains — chatter chatter blah-blah, and me swearing for all the time and money I’d wasted, and telling myself, I wanted to go west and here I’d been all day and into the night going up and down, north and south, like something that can’t get started. (via Literary Kicks)

Kerouac’s explanation of his “spontaneous prose” writing method can be found here.

Video and audio clips from Kerouac readings, as well as rare tapes of Kerouac and Neal Cassady, can be found here. More can be found here and here and here.

A video documentary, Jack Kerouac – King of the Beats, can be viewed here.

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bukowskiCharles Bukowski died 15 years ago yesterday. During the early 1970s, I lived briefly in Denver, Colorado, where I imagined myself part of a “next wave” of beat writers working their way west from New York, via Denver, to Venice Beach in California. I panhandled on Colfax Avenue; I shoplifted groceries; I drank too much; I read my own poetry in bars for spare change; and from time to time, when I wasn’t imagining myself as Jack Kerouac, I imagined myself as Bukowski: I even wrote several poems in which I tried not just to channel his voice but to swallow the poet whole. One of my “Bukowski poems” is “published” here – about a woman who shrieked and stormed from the room during a reading I gave of a poem that mentioned a female body part. Following my poem are Bukowski’s “rules for writing.”

a conversation w/charles bukowski at the international house, denver

florence is wearing red lipstick,
sits with tired legs crossed,
handbag on lap.

“read a dirty poem!”

i hear bukowski
his mad eyes staring at me
through the window

i am introduced &
take my seat by the desk,
head hidden by the globe.

“read a dirty poem!”

bukowski has entered
unseen,
sits on my lap

“this is a filthy,
i mean,
erotic poem!”

he won’t let me speak

i become incensed,
roll my eyes &
tongue around the room.

florence returns my tongue,
pushes the globe aside
to see my face.
she asks me to read.

CUNT I SAY! CUNT! CUNT! CUNT!
THE CUNT IS HOLY: THE EYE OF GOD!

florence shows red teeth &
leaves through the window
with the globe.

bukowski smiles &
picks up my eyes.

(September, 1974)


so you want to be a writer?

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

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shakespearebooksIn The Guardian, Jeanette Winterson, after a recent visit, recounts a bit of the history of Shakespeare and Company, Paris’ renowned Left Bank bookstore, first opened in 1913 and since 1962 owned by George Whitman. No visit to Paris is complete without a visit to this venerable literary institution which always recalls for me New York’s recently closed literary landmark, Gotham Book Mart 

“Way back, in 1913, the original Shakespeare and Company was opened by a young American called Sylvia Beach. Her shop in rue de l’Odéon soon became the place for all the English-speaking writers in Paris. Her lover, Adrienne Monnier, owned the French bookstore across the road, and she and Beach ran back and forth, finding penniless writers a place to stay, lending them books, arranging loans, taking their mail, sending their work to small magazines and, most spectacularly, publishing James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922 when no one else would touch it.

“Hemingway was a regular at the shop, and writes about it in his memoir A Moveable Feast. . . . It was Hemingway, as a major in the US army, who at the liberation of Paris in 1945 drove his tank straight to the shuttered Shakespeare and Company and personally liberated Sylvia Beach. ‘No one that I ever knew was nicer to me,’ he said later, rich, famous and with a Nobel prize.

“But after the war, Beach was older and tired. She didn’t reopen the shop that had been forced into closure by the occupation. It was George Whitman who took over the spirit of what she had made, but not the name – until 1962, when Beach attended a reading by Lawrence Durrell at the bookstore and they all agreed that it should be renamed Shakespeare and Company.

“George took in the beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Henry Miller ate from the stewpot, but was too grand to sleep in the tiny writers’ room. Anaïs Nin left her will under George’s bed. There are signed photos from Rudolf Nureyev and Jackie Kennedy, signed copies of Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.” (via Books, Inq.)

A New York Times article offering a brief history of Gotham Book Mart can be found here:

PHOTO: A December 1948 party at for Osbert and Edith Sitwell (seated, center) drew a roomful of bright lights to the Gotham Book Mart: clockwise from W. H. Auden, on the ladder at top right, were Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell, Charles Henri Ford (cross-legged, on the floor), William Rose Benét, Stephen Spender, Marya Zaturenska, Horace Gregory, Tennessee Williams, Richard Eberhart, Gore Vidal and José Garcia Villa. (Photo: Gotham Book Mart)

RelatedThe Gotham Book Mart’s Final Chapter?

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PD*27420284“Professor Stanley Wells, Chairman of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and one of the world’s leading experts on Shakespearean studies, today announced the discovery of a portrait of William Shakespeare, which he believes is almost certainly the only authentic image of Shakespeare made from life.

“The newly discovered picture has descended for centuries in the same family, the Cobbes. It hung in their Irish home, under another identification, until the 1980s, when it was inherited by Alec Cobbe who was a co-heir of the Cobbe estate and whose heirlooms were transferred into a trust. In 2006 Alec Cobbe visited the National Portrait Gallery exhibition ‘Searching for Shakespeare’ where he saw a painting that now hangs in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington. It had been accepted as a life portrait of Shakespeare until some 70 years ago, but fell from grace when it was found to have been altered. Mr Cobbe immediately realised that this was a copy of the painting in his family collection. . . .

“Up to now only two images have been accepted as authentic representations of what Shakespeare may have looked like. One is the engraving by Martin Droeshout published in the First Folio of 1623. The other is the portrait bust in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon; the monument is mentioned in the Folio and therefore must have been in place by 1623. Both are posthumous – Shakespeare died in 1616. The engraver, who was only in his teens when Shakespeare died, must have had a picture, until now unidentified, to work from. Professor Wells believes it to be the one he has revealed today and that it was done from life, in about 1610, when he was 46 years old.” 

The portrait will be on exhibit at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon beginning April 23 (which may be both the anniversary of his birth in 1564 and of his death in 1616). (via NY Times)

A video report on the painting’s discovery was featured on the CBS News “Early Show” and can be found here.

Related

UpdateShakespeare Unfound(ed)?

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PD*5068633Edgar Allan Poe apologizes to his publishers for drinking too much and asks them to buy an article because he’s ‘desperately pushed for money’ in an 1842 letter acquired by the University of Virginia for an exhibition marking the author’s 200th birthday. . . .

“‘Will you be so kind enough to put the best possible interpretation upon my behaviour while in N-York?,’ Poe asks New York publishers J. and Henry G. Langley. ‘You must have conceived a queer idea of me — but the simple truth is that Wallace would insist upon the juleps, and I knew not what I was either doing or saying.’ . . .

“The U.Va. Library released the letter this week ahead of an exhibit opening Saturday that highlights Poe’s enduring literary works, brief life and mysterious death at the age of 40. Poe attended the Charlottesville university, but had to drop out after less than a year in part because of financial difficulties, which plagued him the rest of his life.” (via Associated Press)

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PD*4001807“Rather than killing it off, modern technologies like email, social networking sites such as Facebook and online media players are helping poets reach new audiences.”

Signs of growth, by the numbers:

  • The number of entries for the Foyle Young Poets Award more than doubling from 2003 to 2008 to almost 12,000.
  • The number of pamphlets sent to the Poetry Book Society for publication rose from 37 to 90 between 2006 and 2008.
  • Websites like Poetry Archive, which enables people to listen to recordings of poets like TS Eliot and Allen Ginsberg reading their work, are now enjoying unprecedented success. Poetry Archive . . . now receives 135,000 visitors a month and a million page hits. (via Daily Telegraph)

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