“A large number of the poems I most admire and which seem to be most original are talking back to other poets of other ages.”
On September 28, 2019 the Sandisfield Arts Center presented “Today’s Poets in Conversation with the Masters,” with poems of masters such as Frost, Auden, Wilbur, Plath, Owen, Boland, Kumin, Bynner, and Yeats performed by Ben Luxon and Sandisfield Players Mary Anne Grammer, Jean Atwater-Williams, Tina Sotis, and Val Coleman, in dialog with poems they have inspired by award-winning poets Hilde Weisert, Rebecca Hart Olander, Jayne Benjulian, Irene Willis, and others.
James Kraft, distinguished writer, poet, and general editor of the works of Witter Bynner and the biography Who Is Witter Bynner?, provided an introduction to the life and work of Witter Bynner and read several of the most enduring Bynner poems as well as one of his own.
Listen to the audio recording here. You can skip to any selection using the time chart below.
On the stage before the program began, photographs of some of the poets, left to right: Robert Frost, Maxine Kumin, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, and WB Yeats. In the center is the Poet’s Seat Tower in Greenfield, Massachusetts, with a plaque for the poet Frederick Goddard Tuckerman:
Poems and times
|Time (minutes)||Poem or section|
|00||Introduction — Ben Luxon|
|6:00||Poetic Connections, I — Hilde Weisert including introduction to James Kraft|
|8:00||Who is Witter Bynner? — James Kraft|
|13:00||Reading by James Kraft: Witter Bynner (1881-1968) “The Wintry Mind,” “The Dead Loon,” “Correspondent,” Kraft’s own “Words,”
Bynner’s “A Farewell to a Friend,” (translation from Li Po), “Defeat”
|21:00||War and Suffering – Hilde|
|22:19||Hilde Weisert: “Finding Wilfred Owen Again” ready by Hilde|
|Introduction to Wilfred Owen — Ben Luxon
Wilfred Owen: “Anthem for Doomed Youth” & “Futility” read by Ben
|WH Auden: “Musee des Beaux Arts” read by Ben
WC Williams: “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” read by Val Coleman
Weisert: “The News Photographers” read by Jean Atwater-Williams
|34:50||Mythology, and Family – Jayne Benjulian|
|Eavon Boland: “The Pomegranate” read by Jayne Benjulian
Jayne Benjulian: “Winter”read by Jayne
|42:24||Poetic Connections, II – James Kraft – intro to Tuckerman via Bynner|
|Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821-1873)|
|Introduction: James Kraft
More on Tuckerman – Weisert – comment by David Giannini recomending Tuckerman’s “The Cricket”
|47:15||Weisert: “Tuckerman: The Line” — read by Hilde|
|48:44||Rebecca Hart Olander: “Plein Air” read by Rebecca|
|55:00||Spirit and Imagination|
|Emily Dickinson: “I Dwell in Possibility” read by Mary Anne Grammer
Rebecca Hart Olander: “Grounds of Memory: Tour at the Homestead” read by Rebecca
|Robert Frost: “The Most of It” read by Ben
Weisert: “The Pity of It” read by Tina Sotis
|1:01:52||Mortality & Aging – Irene Willis|
|Sylvia Plath: “Among the Narcissi” read by Jean Atwater-Williams
Rebecca Hart Olander: “The Bow” read by Rebecca
|Maxine Kumin – a personal introduction by Irene Willis
Kumin: “Allow Me” read by Irene Willis
Irene Willis: “Getting to Choose” read by Irene
|WB Yeats: “The Song of Wandering Aengus: read by Val Coleman
Weisert: “The Year of Reading Yeats” read by Mary Anne Grammer
|Walt Whitman & the wideness of poetry across time|
|Weisert: “The Certainty of Others” read by Tina Sotis
Introduction to Whitman – Ben
Walt Whitman: “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (end of stanza 1 and all of stanza 2)
Read in order by:the Players and the poets:
Val, Mary Anne, Tina, James, Hilde, Jayne, Rebecca, Jean, Ben, Irene, James
About the Poets
Jayne Benjulian is the author of Five Sextillion Atoms, published in 2016. Her work appears in numerous literary and performance journals. She was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in 2017 and a finalist for the James Hearst Poetry Prize from North American Review in 2018. She teaches writing and performing poetry at The Foundry in West Stockbridge.
James Kraft’s long and distinguished career as an educator, arts administrator, biographer, reviewer, editor and poet includes being General Editor of The Works of Witter Bynner, teaching American literature at the Phillips Academy, Andover, the University of Virginia, Wesleyan University, and Université, Laval in Quebec City; and serving as Director of the Office of Special Projects at the National Endowment for the Humanities. He lives in Lenox, and teaches, among other places, at the Berkshire Institute for Lifetime Learning. His two poetry collections are reunion (1987, New York: The Pomise of Learning, Inc.) and Walker..
Rebecca Hart Olander’s poetry appears widely in literary magazines. Her chapbook, Dressing the Wounds, will be published in 2019 by dancing girl press, and her debut full-length collection, Uncertain Acrobats, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press in 2021. Rebecca teaches writing at Westfield State University and is editor/director of Perugia Press. rebeccahartolander.com
Of Hilde Weisert’s poetry collection The Scheme of Things, Ursula Le Guin wrote,
“Hilde Weisert’s quiet, versatile poetic voice, fully at ease in narrative and lyric, is distinguished by vivid accuracy of thought and speech, modest but absolute courage in choice of subject, a dry, sweet humor, and a generosity of spirit that brings me back to her book again and again.”
Irene Willis is the author of five collections of poetry including At the Fortune Café, winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize and National Book Award nominee (Snake Nation Press, 2005). Her poetry has won numerous awards. Irene is poetry editor of the online International Psychoanalysis, and is at work on an anthology on immigration.
0 thoughts on “Today’s Poets in Conversation with the Masters”
The Sylvia Plath Forum is a fascinating forum for discussing the issues surrounding the life and poetry of Sylvia Plath – in excess of 100,000 words. Books, links and …
Handwritten version of ‘Happiness Makes Up in Height For What It Lacks in Length’ by Robert Frost. Found inscribed in a Robert Frost book in the Special Collections Library at Duke University. Date of signature in the book predates formal release in publication of the poem.
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