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It has been reported that poet, Adrienne Rich has died today at the age of 82.
We welcome Ms. Rich to the Dead Writers Club and our hearts go out to the loved ones and devoted readers she leaves behind.
To read more about the poet, check out this link!
Do you have a favorite Rich poem? We are partial to “Diving Into the Wreck” and “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”.
Write on in peace, Ms. Rich!
We received a touching message from one of our readers that we had missed a deathday yesterday. And so, we would like to offer this belated deathday post to American poet John Wieners, who died on March 1st in 2002.Many special thanks to http://thesetelevisionblues.tumblr.com/, for bringing this to our attention.
Wieners was a student of the Black Mountain College and studied under fellow poets, Robert Duncan, Robert Creely and Charles Olson. He also worked in the Poet’s Theater in Cambridge, Ma. and lived in San Francisco for a stint, during which time his first book of poems, The Hotel Wentley Poems (1958), was published. In 1960, Wieners was committed to a psychiatric hospital. Though mental illness was something Wieners would struggle with all his life, it has also been said that his illness was thought by many to be “a very special reality”, by which the commonplace gave way to poetry. In fact, it was Robert Creely who once said of Wieners’ work, “His poems had nothing else in mind but their own fact.” Well put, Mr. Creely.
As a beat poet and member of the San Francisco Renaissance, Mr. Wieners was also an antiwar and gay rights activist and founder/editor of the literary magazine Measure (1957–1962). Wieners’ various honors include awards from the Poets Foundation, the New Hope Foundations, and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, as well as a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
While we have unfortunately not read much of his work, we have listened to it. And would like to share one of our favorite recordings with you here. We are looking forward to rushing down to the library and scooping up Ace of Pentacles, published in 1964, as it has been highly recommended to us. We hope you’ll do the same.
If you would like to read up on this fascinating poet, we recommend this work by Andrea Brady, "Making Use of the Pain: The John Wieners Archive".
Write on in peace, Mr. Wieners.
On this day in 1973, beloved Chilean poet and 1971 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature, Pablo Neruda, died of prostate cancer at the age of 69.
Neruda’s impact on other poets cannot be denied and due to the sheer volume of his work, there is little chance of Neruda ever being forgotten. Translations of his work can be found in almost every language and his poetry has been widely featured in popular music, film and even modern literature. Longing, passion, love… these are all central themes of Neruda’s universally beloved work.
If you are a Neruda fan and have never seen Il Postino, a film released in the nineties, we highly recommend that you go rent it or add it to your Netflix queue right now! The film’s soundtrack is also quite good and features various celebrities reading some of Neruda’s most moving love poetry.
Our favorite collections of Neruda’s work include World’s End , Crepuscularioand On the Blue Shore of Silence: Poems of the Sea, all of which can be found in English. If you are interested in a good biography of Neruda, we suggest a look at his memoirs which was co-written with Hardie St. Martin. It is simply called Memoirs.
This evening, we encourage our single readers to go out there and find your heart’s companion! Take a chance on love and expose your inner passions! For our couples out there…well… dim the lights, pop open a nice cab and read some Neruda to each other… satisfaction guaranteed!
Write on in peace Mr. Neruda!
On this day, in 1988, writer Raymond Carver died of lung cancer at the age of 50 in Port Angeles, Washington.
Carver was part of the Minimalism and “Dirty Realism” movements of literature. His stories were simple like Hemingway’s but as raw and darkly haunting as Kafka’s.
Our favorite collection of poetry by Carver is In Marine Light, which was published in 1988. Oddly enough, Carver’s first collection of short stories Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? , published in 1976, has often been referred to as his greatest work. A collection of his short stories were put together as a tie in with the 1993 Robert Altman film entitled “Short Cuts”. The film was inspired by Carver’s stories. Check it out; it is a fascinating compilation.
In 1981, Carver wrote an essay called “On Writing”. If you are a writer and have not read this essay… we encourage you to do so. It is chock full of lessons, advice and strong opinions on the craft. Take some, leave some… you cannot walk away from it having learned nothing new about your own writing.
Here’s our favorite advice from Carver on writing:
"Get in. Get Out. Don’t Linger"
Today, we hope you will read “On Writing” in remembrance of this truly gifted storyteller. Perhaps, reflect on your own craft and what you’ve learned about it thus far.
Write on in peace, Mr. Carver!
Today is a tall order, so here we go…
On this day, May 30th, five writers passed under the great veil of the afterlife. Harlem Renaissance writer, Gwendolyn Bennett died in 1981. American poet, William Meredith died of respiratory failure in 2007. Beat poet and lover to Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky died just last year, 2010 from lung cancer. English poet, Alexander Pope died of unspecified causes on May 30th in 1744. And finally, the notorious French playwright and author, Voltaire, died on this day in 1778.
Gwendolyn Bennett was committed to the African-American arts community all her life, continually fostering the talents of young African American artists and energizing the Harlem Renaissance. During her undergraduate education at Columbia, Bennett’s poem “Nocturne” was published in Crisis in November, 1923, and in December of the same year, her poem “Heritage” was included in Opportunity, a magazine published by the National Urban League.
For more biographical information and a list of her complete works, click here. We highly recommend her first published piece, “Nocturne” and her short story “Wedding Day Fire!!”, published in 1926.
William Meredith was America’s Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1978 through 1980, and was the first openly gay poet to receive this honor. He was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1988, for his work “Partial Accounts”, which we cannot praise enough. Among his other achievements, one will find the Carl Sandburg Award, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, the International Vaptsarov Prize in Poetry and the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize as well. Meredith’s work is moving and at times… mysterious. For more insight into what we mean, check out The William Meredith Foundation website for more bio information and works.
Peter Orlovsky was a Beat poet and well known writer amongst the “Allen Ginsberg” crowd. It may surprise you to know that Orlovsky dropped out of high school and was deemed unfit to serve on the front lines after being drafted into the US Army for the Korean War. This led him to work as a medic in a hospital… guess where it was… SAN FRANCISCO! Orlovsky, who had never been terribly interested in becoming a poet, began writing in 1957 at the encouragement of Ginsberg. In 1974, Orlovsky joined the faculty of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado, where he taught poetry. While his volume of work is not staggering, his contributions to the Beat poetry scene can still be felt today. And we highly recommend his work Lepers Cry, published in 1972.
English poet and satirist Alexander Pope is best known for his work The Rape of the Lock, but is also well respected for his excellent translation of The Odyssey and his essays. While Pope was heavily influenced by Dryden, he was also industrious; and he spent eight or nine years in arduous discipline, reading, studying, experimenting with poetry before anything of his appeared in print. “Poetry his only business”, he said, “and idleness his only pleasure”. His first publication was his “Pastorals”, which are certainly worth a read through if you’ve never read them.
Lastly, but certainly not least, we give you… Voltaire. The famous French philosopher and wit is most remembered for his infamous criticisms of the church, his poetry and plays, and a plethora of books, most notably Candide. Voltaire was quite prolific, producing works in almost every literary form including plays, poetry, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets! For more biographical information and a list of complete works, please check out the Voltaire Foundation via University of Oxford.
These five writers came from different backgrounds and for the most part different time periods and cultures. But the one thing they all have in common, aside from the shared deathday, is that they will all be remembered for their unique literary contributions to this ever changing world. Let us never forget this wonderfully diverse deathday!
Enjoy Memorial Day and please remember to raise five glasses today in remembrance of these writers.
Write on in peace, Mrs. Bennett and Messrs. Voltaire, Pope, Meredith and Orlovsky!
On May 19th in 1971, one of America’s finest lyric writers and poets died of Crohn’s disease at the age of 68. It was once said by the New York Times that Ogden Nash’s “droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry”.
While the volume of his work may not be as great as some other epic poets of our time, his contribution to popular culture can certainly not go unnoticed. You may recall this famous line, used in the 1971 film adaptation of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”; “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker”. Well, that little gem was written by none other than Mr. Ogden Nash.
It may interest you all to know that Mr. Nash was a Harvard dropout who, having studied and become frustrated with the style of 18th century Romantic poetry, got his big break when he teamed up two Doubleday coworkers to produce Born in a Beer Garden; or, She Troupes to Conquer, which made fun of classic literature.
Nash was elected to both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and National Institute of Arts and Letters. During the 1950s he wrote more frequently for the children’s market, with such titles as The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus (1957), Custard the Dragon (1959), and a personal favorite, Girls are Silly (1962). He also wrote for television productions of Peter and the Wolf and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Our all time favorite collection by Nash is undoubtedly Hard Lines, his first major work which was published in 1931. If you have never read Nash, we highly suggest you dash out to your local library or check him out online here.
Ogden Nash frequently wrote about his experiences babysitting his grandchildren. Today, pay close attention to the children in your life. Observe them, quote them, dedicate a story or poem to them. If there are no children in you life currently, then we challenge you to spend the day with your inner child.
Write on in peace, Mr. Nash!
Today, we are honoring the death of two poets who died on the same day, 76 years apart. American poet Kenneth Patchen died on January 8th in 1972 of unspecified causes. French poet Paul Verlaine died on this same day in 1896 at the age of 51 and is buried in the Cimetière des Batignolles.
Paul Verlaine is remembered as the leader of the symbolist poetry movement and for his metrical innovation. To put it bluntly, at the time Verlaine was writing- he was not one to color within the lines or be kept in a box. His poetry was drenched in themes of drug addiction, sex and all the wonderful vice that Paris had to offer at that time.
For awhile, Verlaine was linked romantically with outspoken poet Arthur Rimbaud. Unfortunately, this romance would lead to Verlaine shooting and injuring the younger poet and landing Verlaine in prison for 2 years.
Our favorite works by Verlaine are most definitely a collection of poems published in 1874 called Romances sans paroles and Parallèlement, published in 1889.
Now then…Kenneth Patchen… oh Kenneth, where do we even begin?! Dadaism, Beat, Surrealism… these are all words that cold be potentially used to describe Patchen’s work but Patchen himself would not have liked such a comparison.
Over the course of his career, Kenneth Patchen wrote over forty books of poetry, prose and drama, including Bury Them in God, Testament (both in 1939), The Dark Kingdom (published in a limited edition of seventy-five copies with individually painted covers in 1942) Sleepers Awake (1946) and Poemscapes (1958).
Wonderings: Picture Poems (1971) was his last work and it is by far our favorite work by him. For thirty years Patchen lived with a severe spinal ailment that caused him to be in constant physical pain. Not unlike Frida Kahlo, Patchen used to paint while confined to his bed for great lengths of time.
"It happens that very often my writing with pen is interrupted by my writing with brush, but I think of both as writing," said Patchen. "In other words, I don’t consider myself a painter. I think of myself as someone who has used the medium of painting in an attempt to extend."
Reading Patchen’s poetry is not unlike looking at a painting. It is rough, it is smooth, and at times, you’re not sure whether what you’re seeing is really an image or a glob of paint that appears to be that image. He’s difficult to categorize and his title as “Rebel Poet” holds strong even today.
We hope today you will remember these two very different poets and the legacy of style they both pioneered and left for us - the writers of today- to find and use to our advantage. Try this on for size- read one poem by Verlaine and then one by Patchen and see if you can write something in between the two!
Write on in peace Monsieur Verlaine and Mr. Patchen!
Irish avant-garde playwright and poet Samuel Beckett died on this day in 1989 of respiratory failure. The writer was 83 years old and is buried at the Cimetière de Montparnasse, in Paris.
Beckett is best remembered for his play Waiting for Godot. Interestingly, this play was riginally dismissed by some critics as a strange play in which nothing happens. In case you’ve not read it, we’ll not spoil it here but we will put in our two cents as to Beckett’s style. He frequently wrote of dark events, fear, lack of identity, death and even purposelessness. This is not to say that there are not brilliant bursts of comedy throughout his work, for there are.
An interesting little tidbit about Beckett… he is probably the only writer on Earth that was “appalled” at winning the Nobel Prize for Literature (1969). You see, he was afraid that it would possibly make him famous. In fact, he sent a friend to accept it on his behalf!
Some other works by Beckett which we have enjoyed in the past include The Unnamble (1953), Act Without Words (1956), Footfalls (1975) and a collection of poems entitled Echo’s Bones, published in 1935. He has an extensive collection of plays that are not to be missed, particularly if you are a fan of less conventional theatre.
Today, remember this accomplished writer by… well… why not try waiting for Godot yourself.
Write on in peace, Mr. Beckett!