Tag: Poem

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Professor Arnold Rampersad, the Sara Hart Kimball Professor Emeritus in Humanities at Stanford University and recipient of the National Humanities Medal for his books including The Life of Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison: A Biography. They discuss what teachers and students today should know about Langston Hughes’s celebrated literary life and poetry, including his influence on African-American literati during the Harlem Renaissance, and how his works, such as “Harlem (A Dream Deferred)” and “Mississippi –1955,” impacted the Civil Rights Movement. They then turn to Ralph Ellison, whose 1952 novel, Invisible Man, is among the greatest works of 20th-century American fiction. Professor Rampersad shares the major formative experiences and intellectual influences on Ellison’s life and writing, including his Oklahoma upbringing, Tuskegee Institute education, and interest in literary figures such as Dostoevsky, Hardy, Melville, Twain, and Faulkner. He also offers insights on the connection between the writings of Hughes and Ellison, and blues and jazz music, with its complexity and exploration of suffering. Professor Rampersad concludes the interview with a reading from his biography of Ralph Ellison.

Stories of the Week: In an effort to stem COVID-related learning loss, more than 230 public schools in Hawaii will offer summer school on campus for free, using federal relief funds. In Baltimore, high school students started a mentorship program to help younger peers on topics such as financial assistance, standardized testing, and course selection.

Unselfing, Marys and Marthas: Winter of Discontent, or Mind of Winter?

 

“One must have a mind of winter… And have been cold a long time… not to think / Of any misery in the sound of the wind,” the January wind. So says Wallace Stevens in his poem, The Snow Man. Misery and discontent aren’t identical, but a series of small miseries — unrelated to wintry weather — means February snuck up on me this year, almost as if January never happened, so misery must do for my “winter of discontent”. To “the listener, who listens in the snow,” hearing the sound of the wind, the poem promises if he becomes “nothing himself” he’ll “behold[] / Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” People “cold a long time” can go numb, of course, and numbness is a kind of “nothing” obliterating misery. But numbness seems insufficient for a “mind of winter”.

For our own survival, we see winter’s cold as hostile. Our success as biological beings depends on our sensing discomfort, in order to mitigate risk before it’s too late. Concern for our own comfort is a form of self-regard that isn’t optional, if we care to live. Nonetheless, necessary self-regard is still self-regard. A mind of winter leaves self-regard behind. And so, it sees wintry beauty — the snowy, frozen world lit with “the distant glitter / Of the January sun” — simply because it is there to see, irrespective of what it might mean to the self. Winter in itself isn’t hostile, just indifferent: self-regard makes the indifference seem hostile. A mind of winter is “unselfed”.

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So one thing I do is, I teach English. I’m teaching a boy Kipling’s Conundrum of the workshops this week. (Here are my old running notes, if you care for this sort of thing.) I wanted to play it for the boy to hear–he does not hear nearly enough of the King’s English, so to […]

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I’ve long been thinking about how to get conservatives to talk poetry. I have poetry podcasts; nix! I have comments on poetry or popular songs, long or short–it’s an old college habit I keep up with friends! Nix. It’s what I do to teach people languages; that one actually sort of pays off–people do care. But […]

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So he’s off to Cooperstown. I think, this is the fourth year he’s been on the ballot? I’m not sure I have anything to say about the reason it’s taken so long or about the ugly years of steroids scandals & suspicions. Instead, can I invite you to a baseball discussion? Anyone want to talk about […]

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Here in the West, and especially in ’Murica, people not steeped in a deep knowledge of poetry often think of poetry, “I know it when I hear or read it!” Parts of what they expect are the mnemonic devices and forms that have developed over the centuries that have worked well in the English language. […]

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This is the best song on Synchronicity. It is not superior as music goes, although there is something pleasing about the chord structure–one does not hear it everyday in popular or rock music. Should any of my fellow Ricochetti know enough music theory to explain about the change of keys from Bm to D & […]

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This is a Hoagy Carmichael song from 1939. It’s the first time the singer addresses directly the cause of the suffering. Again, we see the way the lover acknowledges his enslavement to his absent beloved without losing his mind is humor. This time, it is clear to what extent the humor is a form of […]

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After the newly-commissioned In the wee small hours of the morning, Sinatra went with a classic. He had a strange gift for bringing back old songs on his adult album–for example, this song was written by Duke Ellington back in 1930 & it turned out to be popular enough a melody to earn a lyric. […]

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Folks, if you missed the gun, Ricochet’ own Mark started what we could make into a long series of posts on Sinatra. It’s been an hundred years to the day. Sinatra has qualities that recommend him to conservatives–& other qualities, too. He may have been the first of the singers America learned to love whom […]

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Hello, everyone, the poetry podcast is back with an introduction to the reading of modern poetry as Felix & I are able to deliver ourselves of the task. This was long overdue, but I think it may be better this way. If you’ve listened to a few of these things, you’ll get a closer look […]

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