Thursday, 13 January 2011

The sounds of the States - Part one: the fool of books

So in just a few weeks we set off for Canada and the USA for six whole months. I've been to Canada before (in 2003) and even Central America before (Costa Rica and Nicaragua in 1987) but I have never set even a tiny bit of a foot in the U.S. of A. Perhaps because of this I've been drawn very much to poems, books and music of that country recently and so I found myself the other day, for example, dawdling over some Robert Frost. Assuming I've got the right poet, he looked like this (though he was generally more successful as a teacher and writer than a farmer, despite the pic and the rural poems – see life story here):





I've mentioned Frost on here before – he's in my 'influence' list back here, he was the source of my memorable line back here and he even made it into a poem back here. His poems are probably the first I remember enjoying at school and none more so than "The Death of the Hired Man". It's a quite long narrative poem and this reminds me that I've been wanting to try and write one of those myself. At the folk club here (where I've done a lot of readings) I know they would enjoy narrative poems (they enjoy narrative songs after all) and yet I've still to really try one out. Maybe that's something I'll have a go at whilst we're away and on the road.

Anyway, you can read the text of "The Death of the Hired Man" here and more excitingly perhaps you can hear Frost read it (and lots of other poems) here (in particular "West-Running Brook" and "The Death of the Hired Man" are here). I can't say they're the best readings I've ever heard (rushed... lack of drama... was he late for a bus or needing the loo or something?) but still, they are the man himself (so I'm told). To hear them best I'd advise listening in headphones too - bit fuzzy over speakers for me.

Now, who else shall I pick from the land of the, er, free?

x

23 comments:

shug said...

Billie Collins. He's a genius. And so funny. And so sad.

Rachel Fox said...

That is NOT a photo of Billy Collins. And at least I can spell names.

x

Karen said...

I agree with shug -
Billy Collins is one of my favorites! (Read "I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakely's Version of Three Blind Mice."

Then there's Edna St. Vincent Millay. I know how you love sonnets, and she wrote some of the most beautiful sonnets of all time. (Not a sonnet, but read "Renasence". Unbelievable.)

Then William Carlos Williams is fantastic. (You know...red wheelbarrow, plums...)

Of course, you can't forget Emily Dickinson (death, flies buzzing...)

or my favorite, favorite contemporary poet, Mary Oliver.(Read "Wild Geese." It's perfection in a poem.)

Rachel Fox said...

I wasn't really meaning to ask the question (was just thinking aloud...) but now I see the answers will be interesting anyway!

All of these I know in some way or other Karen. Maybe I'll even get to read them with you in the flesh!

x

Karen said...

Oops. I caught it from shug! (That would be "Renascence" -- left out my "c".)

If you're here for six months, keep in touch. West Virginia is not the typical tourist destination, but it's beautiful, and you would be most welcome!

Rachel Fox said...

Well, we might pass near you as we head west from New Jersey (where we've family) to Memphis.

No - oops required. Sharing favourites is what blogs do best.
x

Niamh B said...

Definitely not Kerouac anyway, that's all I know for sure - I love Charles Bukowski, though it wouldn't be for reading out to the kids or anything.

Ooh!!! Such adventures await!

Rachel Fox said...

Only one kid... and she'll have headphones on listening to musicals some of the time!

Plus this Bukowski that was hanging around FB the other day would be OK. I meant to post it on here too. It's cheese but good cheese.

x

The Solitary Walker said...

I thought Kerouac and Bukowski went together - like whiskey and coke?

Rachel Fox said...

We are NOT ending up talking about Kerouac again! Niamh... you mentioned him first. Ten press-ups and twice round the block in your pyjamas.
x

Justin said...

I hope you'll also give Canadian poets their due. Try this list for a start:

http://www.library.utoronto.ca/canpoetry/index_poet.htm

Rachel Fox said...

Well, that will be a different post - I was particularly trying not to blend the two countries as though they were one! I do have Margaret Atwood's 'The Door' poetry collection and I have heard at least one Canadian poet (Stephen Scobie) at the Stanza festival here and I know a few online too... but I don't think we studied any Canadian poets at school (where I got to know Frost). I am now getting to the age where a long relationship with a poet's work means something just because of its length!

x

Kat Mortensen said...

You can be very funny when you want to be. "Needing the loo"...that will carry me through until supper. Thanks.

There are a few of Frost's that really stick with me - a few lines here and there too. "Mending Wall" is a favourite and "The Oven Bird". I had to write an essay on "Design" in university and discovered "Range-finding" which inspired my own poem, "Air-Raid".

Of course everybody knows, "The Road Not Taken", and "Stopping By Woods...", but even just writing this makes me realize how little of his work I do know (and drat!) my Frost book is packed and in storage.

Have you read any Edwin Arlington Robinson?

Kat

Kat Mortensen said...

Re: Canadians I collect Canadian poetry when I can find it in used bookstores. I really like Earle Birney and Margaret Avison.
Robert Service was someone I was introduced to as a kid and I still enjoy him - witty, rhyming and sometimes dark.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, Kat... I plan to get a collected Frost and read it on the road. I've never owned one... just read bits here and there.

I've never even heard of EAR... and a quick skim shows he's written plenty! Bit of catching up to do...

And as for Canadians... you can all educate me as I go. Just don't expect my co-travellers to be particularly interested (they both get enough poetry at home and prefer other artforms really!).

x

Niamh B said...

well, you are going "on the road" after all.

my bad?

Rachel Fox said...

You are forgiven... largely due to that great golfing piece you put up today.
x

Justin said...

Good job not blending the two countries. I'm afraid if you did, you'd not be very welcome here! I do look forward to talking to you about that very issue when you arrive. Nothing pedantic, more "things to look for" whilst travelling. Fun fun.

hope said...

I'm no help...I like what professors like to call the "silly" poets, like Ogden Nash.

But give me time and I'll try to be helpful. :)

Art Durkee said...

I'm hoping you'll make a stop in my part of the country. Southern Wisconsin. (I'll also be on the road for a few weeks, out to the Rocky Mountains, starting later this month.) I'm looking forward to seeing your pics and reading about your trip. Excellent travels!

Rachel Fox said...

Looking forward to fun (Justin) and silliness (Hope) but no Southern Wisconsin on the tour plan just now (sorry Art). Things may change of course... with the weather as it is around the world... who knows what storms we'll end up running away from or something.
I know. Always look on the bright side...
x

Titus said...

Aaarghh! I'm so going to miss you!
Can we play that guessing game again when you post pictures of where you are? I'm lost outside of Western Europe.
I like Frost, and am immensely drawn to narrative poems. My most natural form, for sure. And American poets? Got to be Marianne Moore for me.

Have just purchased the collected works of Bukowski because all the YAMWABOB's (Young American Males with a bit of beard) on the course are so into him. Yet to dive in.

Rachel Fox said...

I think 6 months of that guessing game might get a little wearing...

Look forward to your Bukowski lecture - with beard.

x