“The Last Fisherman” Published in Best American Poetry Blog to Honor Hyam Plutzik’s 102nd Birthday

By Edward Moran

To mark what would have been Hyam Plutzik’s 102nd birthday on July 13th, poet David Lehman posted Plutzik’s “The Last Fisherman” on that day’s “Best American Poetry” blog. The poem originally appeared as the final poem in Plutzik’s acclaimed collection Apples from Shinar, published by Wesleyan University Press in 1959 and reprinted in 2011.  Its strategic placement as the envoi to this collection is a testament to the poem as a profound meditation on our endurance in the face of life’s transience.  Though a human’s life is ephemeral and short-lived, the fisher poet finds solace and significance in the elusive quest for his aquarian prey, as all “wait still for the wonder.”

Hyam Plutzik was no mere armchair abstractionist who wrote of nature from the comfortable confines of his study.  An avid angler for many years, he enjoyed rising in the pre-dawn hours to cast his line in one of the lakes or ponds around Rochester, New York, where he taught English for many years at the university. As a tribute to his devotion to fishing, the poet’s rod and reel is lovingly preserved along with his manuscripts, letters, and other artifacts in the Plutzik archives at the University of Rochester’s Rush-Rhees Library.

To Plutzik, this favorite pastime was not just “recreational”—it was profoundly “re-creational” in that it afforded him time to reflect on life and language in the solitude of his favorite fishing hole while crafting the images and tropes that teemed in his poetry like fish in a hatchery.  In “The Bass,” another poem from Apples from Shinar, Plutzik imagines them pleading, “We are the great fireflies,/Sweeter than soft minnows./Take us before we fade.”

David Lehman, the founding editor of Best American Poetry, has himself published several acclaimed collections of verse. He also edited The Oxford Book of American Poetry and Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present. For many years, he has taught poetry at the New School in New York City, where he serves as poetry coordinator.

Two Exciting Hyam Plutzik Centennial Events in April!

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We’re sharing two great events this month that bring the formal part of the HP Centennial to a close. It’s been an incredible two years (2011-12, 2012-13)!

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Hyam Plutzik (Trinity ’32)– Connecticut and Beyond – an Exhibition and Reading

Opening April 9, 2013 through May 31, 2013

First in Connecticut at Trinity College, an incredible reading and exhibition, done by the Watkinson Library (Richard Ring) in tandem with the Rush Rhees Library Department of Rare Books (Phyllis Andrews), and our very own Edward Moran (literary advisor to the Centennial and Hyam Plutzik Scholar). Guest readers included the poet laureate of Connecticut, Dick Allen. See blog entry below borrowed from Richard Ring’s Blog – at the Watkinson.

Check out the link here to a listening station created for this event, that features Hyam Plutzik reading his own poem, as well as a reading by Poet James Longenbach (Trininty ’1981′). You’ll also hear a musical setting of HP’s Sprig of Lilac with music by Robert Cohen: http://jvillafont.wix.com/hyamplutzikpoetry

Hyam Plutzik’s Horatio – at the Helen Mills Theater in New York City 

Featuring Nigel Maister - April 18, 2013

Hyam Plutzik, American Poet: The Making of a Remarkable Course

This spring, Sidney Shapiro, a professor emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of Rochester, taught a course on the life and poetry of Hyam Plutzik in Rochester, New York. In the essay abbreviated below, he shares some of the insights and stories that arose from the experience. Click here for the full text of Mr. Shapiro’s essay.

For ten weeks, from the first week of April through the first week of June 2012, I had the privilege of leading a course at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) that featured the poetry of Hyam Plutzik. This was my contribution to the Plutzik 50/100 Centennial celebration. Here is the story of that course. How class members, a number of them poets with several volumes of poetry to their credit, reacted to being made aware of the person and poetry of Hyam Plutzik. How one of the class members shared with us the Hyam Plutzik he knew as his professor and the influence that experience had in his becoming himself. How, astonishingly, our attention to just one of his poems led to its identification as a novel form invented by Hyam. How the study of his war poetry shed light on the contrast between his experiences of World War II and those of Anthony Hecht, who also became the Deane Professor of Poetry and Rhetoric at the University of Rochester (UR). And how this writer, a former physicist, ended up leading poetry courses at OLLI and the cascade of events over more than twenty years that culminated in this unique course.

* * *

Having spent the bulk of our time on the substance of [“The King of Ai”], I found it necessary to comment on its unusual form, since no one seemed to see it until I pointed it out. The poem is formed in ten couplets with the end words of the first couplet, “eventide” and “city,” repeated in reverse order in the second couplet. The alternation of these two end words continues throughout the remaining couplets.

Now David Hill, a retired Professor of English whose specialty was the intricacy of language, decided to follow up on the form of this poem. He contacted a friend, Lewis Turco, who is noted for his poetry but especially for The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics, which has seen several updates and revisions since its original publication in 1968. Turco was fascinated by the poem and asserted it was a novel form invented by Hyam Plutzik. He intends to include it in the next edition of his Book of Forms.

But the story gets even more astonishing. Just a few days later, David Hill told me that Turco had used this new-to-him form in a poem about his father, a poem he had been contemplating for a long time until the stimulus of “The King of Ai” and its novel form provided the push he needed to write it.

* * *

The last few classes were devoted to the war poems of Hyam Plutzik and of Anthony Hecht. Here were contrasted the differing experiences of war that each poet endured and the different poetic expression of these experiences. Whereas Plutzik enlisted in the Army in 1943 when he was thirty two, ultimately becoming an officer in the Air Force, Hecht was drafted before completing his undergraduate degree. He was placed in the ASTP—Army Specialized Training Program. Those selected for ASTP were assigned to one of the more than two hundred participating universities where they took courses designed to train them to serve in Army Intelligence or other specialized units. They received college credit for these courses and Hecht completed his degree with these transferred credits. But suddenly the Program was terminated and all of the two hundred thousand or so participants were assigned to infantry combat units.

A class member, Bob Nolan, spoke up when I referred to Hecht’s experience in ASTP and told us all that he too had been drafted out of college and assigned to the ASTP unit at Princeton. The credits from Princeton were enough to complete his UR degree. But he too found himself in the infantry and in combat when ASTP was terminated. Just as Hyam Plutzik and Anthony Hecht found in poetry the way to capture the effect of World War II on them, so did Bob Nolan who later shared with us some of his war poems. Hecht’s “A Friend Killed in the War,” which describes the death of a comrade in combat,

And his flesh opened like a peony,
Red at the heart, white petals furling out.

is echoed in Nolan’s “The Orchard”:

The back of the man ahead blossoms
With a quivering mass of tendrils
Ruby red against the olive drab

Here was yet another extraordinary coincidence in this course, and one that had each of us in our own particular way feeling the emotion of the combat experience from which we were personally spared.

* * *

The course was a remarkable experience for me and for the class members. For me there was the wonder, the excitement and the joy in being the transmitter of Hyam Plutzik’s poetry to such a receptive group. The impact on the class members was well put by one of the well-published poets in the class when she said how marvelous it was to become aware of and to study the work of such a truly remarkable poet. I hope the reader of these words comes to feel just how remarkable this course was, a fitting contribution to the Plutzik 50/100.

Sidney Shapiro
June 2012

Click here to read the entire essay.

Hyam Plutzik in the Paris Review Daily

The Paris Review has posted a new essay on their blog, the Daily, telling the story of American poet Hyam Plutzik and the new attention his work is receiving during this Centennial year. The piece is co-written by Edward Moran and Phillip Witte. Plutzik never had work published by the Paris Review, which, founded in 1953, had only been in existence nine years when he died. Published quarterly, it has since become one of the nation’s most respected literary journals. The Daily posts several pieces each day including a wide variety of interesting literary items.

Here is the opening of Moran and Witte’s essay, titled “A Great Stag, Broad-Antlered: Rediscovering Hyam Plutzik”:

The conclusion of Hyam Plutzik’s 1962 poem, Horatio, provide an apt commentary on Plutzik’s own unobtrusive presence in the world of American letters:

A great stag came out of the woods,
Broad-antlered, approaching slowly on the moonlit field,
And looked about him like a king and re-entered the dark.

The seismic shifts in American culture since 1960 have made footing precarious indeed for those broad-antlered poets who wrote in a hieratic and philosophic diction. Eschewing the more vernacular excursions of the Beats or the confessional poets of the 1970s, Plutzik published three full collections of poems, the last, Horatio, an eighty-nine-page dramatic poem in which Hamlet’s friend grapples with the charge to “report me and my cause aright.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Three Generations/Three Poets: a literary evening at The Betsy, Apr 29

The Betsy Hotel in South Beach, Florida, one of our partners in the Hyam Plutzik Centennial, has been celebrating this National Poetry Month with aplomb, breaking in its brand new Writers Room with residencies and readings by the poets Melissa Broder, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Malachi Black, and Ariana Reines, as well as a community reading featuring Billy Collins–all in partnership with the University of Wynwood Poetry Series.

On April 29, The Betsy will round out the month’s festivities with an evening of readings by the poets Daniel Halpern, founder and editor of Ecco; Campbell McGrath, Professor at Florida International University and winner of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant; and P. Scott Cunningham, founder of the University of Wynwood and O, Miami, a local poetry festival. After the readings, award-winning writer Les Standiford, Chair of the Creative Writing Program at FIU, will lead a discussion exploring the inextricable link between writing and teaching that is a reality for writers in our time and of all time.

The evening will also include a screening of the last interview the poet Stanley Kunitz gave before his death in 2006, originally shot for the documentary film Hyam Plutzik: American Poet.

The program will begin at 7pm, with a reception to follow at 9pm. The event is free and open to the public. View the full press release and invitation for additional information.

The theatrical Horatio in 1962 and 2012

Nigel Maister will read selections from Hyam Plutzik’s Horatio on Monday, March 26th, at 5:00pm in the Welles-Brown Room, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester. Free and open to the public. Click here for more information.

A few weeks after Hyam Plutzik died, his friends and colleagues at the University of Rochester (where he had been teaching for 17 years) gathered in the Welles-Brown Room of Rush Rhees Library to present a reading of his long poem Horatio. This was fifty years ago today—March 21, 1962. Robert Hinman, who had delivered a eulogy to Plutzik a few weeks earlier, read the introduction to the reading, part of which is below, from a typescript found in the Hyam Plutzik Papers at UR:

Archie Miller read the role of Horatio; Richard Gollin, the role of Carlus; Everett Hafner, the role of Faustus; David Hadas, the role of the Shepherd; and Philip Graham, the role of the Ostler.

[…] It is our sorrow that this reading of Horatio has become a memorial as well as a tribute, but it is our joy and our good fortune that Hyam Plutzik has left to us so significant a monument. He worked upon it for over fifteen years, and some of us had the privilege of looking in upon it from time to time, of watching it grow, of hearing him read from it. We were struck then, as we are stuck now, by the boldness of his conception, by his daring to do what only a true poet can hope to succeed in doing, to build upon the work of a great predecessor without being derivative.

At the end of Hamlet, Horatio finds himself doomed to live on. His beloved friend enjoins him: “Absent thee from felicity awhile / And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain / To tell my story.” Horatio must confront the task of living and explaining. But no critic or student of the play Hamlet can have any knowledge of that Horatio’s explanation. To the critic, Shakespeare’s Horatio has no existence outside Shakespeare’s play, where Horatio speaks perhaps 250 lines. However, a true poet can give a post-Hamlet Horatio existence by creating a universe for him to inhabit.

The Welles-Brown Room is cozily dim, wood-paneled, with marble columns at either end, shelves stuffed with oversized books, and an array of the library’s finest couches for napping between classes. It’s a perfect room for listening to poetry, modest and grandiose at once, intimate and regal.

I graduated from Rochester in 2010, an English major, and I could usually be found in the audience at the Plutzik Readings. It was not until last summer, however, that I began to know Hyam Plutzik himself, through his poems and letters. I was initially attracted to Horatio because of its unusual blend of poetic and dramatic characteristics, both in its own right and in its relationship to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I explored some of these characteristics in an essay, but the theory, that there is something theatrical about the poem Horatio, has remained, for me, untested, as I have not yet experienced any performance of Horatio. This Monday, however, I will have my chance.

Theatre is an event which depends on the coordination of three basic elements: a space, a performer, and an audience. Voice, movement, a script, props and so on are just the performer’s tools; imagination and attention are the audience’s tools. The event which results is a transformation, a bringing to life of inanimate things, perhaps, or a merging of many separate bodies into one, or the multiplication of one body into many. In Plutzik’s long poem, Horatio has the potential to become in turn each of the speakers whose voices he recollects. But will it be so? To find out whether Horatio is truly theatrical, it needs to be performed for an audience who has the will and the imagination to transform with the performer. If the audience, performer, and any of their tools (including the text) are thus transformed in a way not possible by any other means, then theatre has been achieved.

Hinman et al conducted such a test, and they seem to have believed the theory; the typescript quoted above refers to the characters as “roles,” after all, and casts them as one might a play. Next Monday, we’ll be able to hear another take on the experiment. This time, one performer, Nigel Maister, will read as Horatio, playing his cast of memory-figures. I can’t wait to see and hear the kinds of transformations that take place.

Phillip A. Witte

Hyam Plutzik: U.S. Army Poet in England, 1944-45

I’ve recently been in touch with Cameron Self, a poet based in East Anglia in the United Kingdom. Specifically, he’s in the city of Norwich, county of Norfolk, and runs the Literary Norfolk website. During World War II, that region of England was the nerve center of the Allied military operations that led to the successful D-Day invasion of Normandy and the subsequent victory over the Axis powers in 1945. I had been to Norwich myself two years ago, visiting the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, which houses many reference works, letters, and other memorabilia relating to the American presence there.

Hundreds of thousands of American troops were stationed in Norfolk, at 67 airbases, including Shipdham, which inspired Hyam Plutzik to write two of his most significant war poems, “Bomber Base” and “On the Airfield at Shipdham.”

Cameron Self was so impressed with these two poems that he posted them on Literary Norfolk, making Hyam the only non-English poet to be so honored. He told me he drove out to Shipdham the following day to photograph the long-abandoned buildings, which can be viewed on the Literary Norfolk site.

As I gazed at the crumbling buildings at Shipdham, I immediately envisioned the site as a most theatrical venue. Suddenly, the old air base was no longer a 1940s relic but an ancient castle from East Anglia’s storied past, when Vikings and Saxons roamed the countryside. Hyam Plutzik was so inspired by this historic landscape that he drafted the prologue to Horatio, his long narrative poem published in 1961 that won him finalist status for the Pulitzer Prize. When I looked at the parapets of the Shipdham base, I could envision Horatio, friend and confidant to Hamlet, as he

went out on the platform, where the guard stood—
Bernardo, my friend—staring down at the city.
“What ghosts could come tonight if they so wished?”

It is obvious that the Norfolk countryside had a profound impact on Hyam Plutzik’s evolution as a poet. Through his wartime duties as an Ordnance and Information Officer at his base, he spent much time visiting local landmarks and meeting the movers and shakers of Norfolk’s literary culture, including the author Ralph Hale Mottram (later Lord Mayor of Norwich) and Lady Ironside, wife of the commander of the British forces in the early days of the war.

Cameron Self tells me that the British are planning a three-year-long program of events to commemorate the contributions of the American forces in Norwich during World War II. The poems, letters, and journals of Hyam Plutzik provide valuable insights into what life was like for military personnel during this crucial juncture in world history.

I am particularly moved by a letter he wrote to his wife, Tanya, on the eve of the D-Day invasion, just as the bombers were taking off for the invasion of France. When Hyam wrote this letter, he had no idea whether their mission would be successful or not. Enjoying the vantage point of hindsight, we know the outcome. But on the evening of June 5, 1944, nothing was certain, adding a deep poignancy to these words:

June 5, 1944

The invasion of France began this morning, after all the years of preparation and all the wrongs suffered at the hands of the evil ones. It has been a cold and bitter day and now in the evening the sky is overcast and a drizzle is falling. The planes are out on a mission. Another officer and I stood under the wing of a grounded plane and saw them take off, one after the other, roaring in the long takeoff and then rising laboriously in the air. For hours later a roar could be heard above the clouds.

How cold it must be in the sky now, and on the coasts of France!

I went around with the men as they loaded three of the planes. The hoisting contrivance for the 500-lb’ers is ingenious. They worked as though fiends were pursuing them. Then when the bombs were up in the plane’s belly, we fuzed them and threaded the arming wire. It was such a routine task, yet to think that this was a load of death for the enemy. The men are almost nonchalant in their work, except for their haste, yet even still they have a detestation for the fragmentate [sic] bombs.

On a bomber base in England, with a farmer harrowing an adjacent field behind a plodding horse, I pass the D-day of this war.

Edward Moran

New Hyam Plutzik Poetry content for the New Year

Hello and welcome to 2012! As we enter this 50th year of the Plutzik Poetry Series and a full year of Plutzik Centennial celebrations, we’re pleased to announce the completion of a whole slew of new content added to the Hyam Plutzik Poetry site. A handy index on the Centennial page organizes the material in relation to 50/100 programming.

Two Centennial-centric additions are the Partners page, which includes biographies of creative collaborators and participating organizations, with links to their websites; and the Creative Opportunities page, on which we will post all invitations to get involved with Centennial projects.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Series, we’ve published “An Informal History of the Plutzik Reading Series” in the Poetry Series section. This is a fond and humorous reminiscence written by U of R Professor of English Emeritus and one of the Series’ longest-term directors, Jarold Ramsey. Additional research into this history was provided by Professor Russell Peck, also of the U of R English Department. The essay chronicles the intellectual climate in which the Series was born and the continuing success of series’ directors in maintaining a variety of high-caliber readings despite logistical and financial challenges. The essay concludes with an entertaining series of highlights and lowlights from Ramsey’s personal recollections. Also available is the complete roster of Series Readers from 1962 to present.

We’ve also added an expanded essay discussing the Life and Poetry of Hyam Plutzik. This essay is divided into sections detailing chronological periods in Plutzik’s life, as well as thematic sections including Jewish identity and the Cold War environment in which Plutzik spent the better part of his professional life in academia.

Next, you should visit two additions to the Resources section: The new Plutzik Library page provides information about the Hyam Plutzik Library for Contemporary Writing at the University of Rochester, including descriptions of exhibits held there as part of the Plutzik Centennial and Series 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Another new page, the Audio Library, presents a selection of audio materials relating to Plutzik’s poetry including musical compositions inspired by the poems; a recording of Plutzik reading and discussing his last published work, the long poem Horatio; and an NPR interview from 2007, in which Literary Consultant Edward Moran discusses the documentary film Hyam Plutzik: American Poet.

And there’s more to come–an online database of recent scholarly essays concerning Plutzik’s work will be available soon.

Christopher Ricks’ Luminous Imagination

On November 30, Professor Christopher Ricks of Boston University delivered his lecture “T.S. Eliot and the Auditory Imagination,” part of the Plutzik Centennial and the George Ford Memorial Lecture Series at the University of Rochester. Jenny Boyar, a first year Ph.D. student in Medieval literature at the U of R, offers her reflections.

In one of many thoughtful digressions to his talk, Christopher Ricks drew a distinction between the critic and the scholar; the latter, he claimed (somewhat in jest) has a habit of assuming or feigning knowledge. Of course, Ricks himself is a contradiction to his own classification: he has been referred to as both critic and scholar in equal measures of high praise, and it takes only minutes of listening to him speak to recognize that his knowledge, conveyed with the ease of true brilliance, is no pretense. Indeed it seems that for Ricks, the scholar-critic pair must naturally expand to include the poet. Not just the poet as subject–which Ricks illuminates with a lyricism that penetrates words to access soul–but also Ricks himself, in whom the roles of scholar and critic are seamlessly tied to a profound poetry of observation and insight.

In keeping with his written work, which ranges from editions of Paradise Lost and Tristram Shandy to criticism on blushing and the atrocities of the tongue, Ricks’ talk was less a driving argument about T.S. Eliot than a sweeping meditation on poetry, prose, scholarship, and, occasionally, Bob Dylan. Ricks took Eliot’s concept of the “auditory imagination” and described its manifestations, or reverberations, in a range of poetic devices: the way meaning can exist in a network of rhythms, the way a phrase can change dramatically by a simple alteration of its words, or the way words can reflect not necessarily the thing to which they refer but the sensation of that thing. These larger claims were supplemented by equally enlightening close readings, as when Ricks described the -ing endings that shape the meaning of Eliot’s “Little Gidding,” or when he observed how Milton in Paradise Lost takes the “h” sound and aligns it with words like “hail holy” and “hell” as a subtle implication that the damning can become, in the breath of an utterance, devastatingly attractive. It’s common to conceive of poetry as being governed by image, but what Ricks seemed to be arguing was that the music of the word itself is image. To imagine, then, is to both see and hear in the mind. The auditory resides not in the conscious but in its underlying sense, what resonates across authors and beneath the surface of their words. Ricks’ ideas can get involved, but they work in the same, intuitive way poetry is often read and understood.

Ricks’ points about pronunciation—important to any consideration of the auditory–were especially fascinating. A modern and unknowing ear would not, for example, catch how Eliot’s choice in “The Dry Salvages” to rhyme “salvages” with “assuages” situates the poem in Cape Ann, Massachusetts during the time of Eliot’s childhood. Something that Ricks did not address, but what seems like a natural consequence of his point, is how pronunciation can render a poem transient, its auditory force inextricably bound by time and place. This is of course frustrating, but also part of poetry’s allure. As readers we are left only with the sense of what a poem might have been, and so we seek to recapture that memory as if it were ours to inhabit, to discover what was lost.

Still, Ricks repeatedly returned to the idea that the reader is in a much greater position to find than to lose. There were several times Ricks claimed that we as readers have the capacity to grasp more about a poem–or prose–than the author (a point that was supported with Dylan’s quote, “I’m the first person who’ll put it to you and the last person who’ll explain it”). To rely on an author’s description alone can be futile, perhaps muffling what we ought to be hearing for ourselves. Ricks’ talk, then, was just as much a celebration of the reader as it was the author and critic.

One of Ricks’ concluding points was that the word “auditory” lacks a suitable verb; to “hear” misses something and “auditorialize” is not even a word, and sounds like an especially vindictive form of tax collection (my comparison, not Ricks’). But based on Ricks’ discussion, it seems the verb for “auditory” would be found not in a phonetic derivative but rather the space of the word “imagine:” the sense of seeing and hearing that is perhaps best described as feeling, which is–as Wordsworth once observed–the province of poetry. And if poetry is by means of the auditory endowed with authority, then it is something Christopher Ricks makes us all feel like we inherently possess.

Jenny Boyar

“The last and most fabulous of beasts – language, language –”

We invite responses to all Plutzik Readings and George Ford Lectures at the U of R–don’t miss scholar Christopher Ricks’s lecture on T.S. Eliot on Nov. 30, and please write to tell us about it. Meanwhile, here’s a second take on Eavan Boland’s reading, by UR senior David Krinick.

To be in a room with Eavan Boland is to be an audience granted glimpses of an old, forgotten world. Not a world of heroes and prowess but one that escapes history. Her poetry rediscovers the domestic past, one of singing kettles, firedogs and clothes horses, a human past that, as she says, you will not find in any textbook. This past is excavated with a delicate hand, found buried deep in legends and keenly seen shrouded in the mist of her beloved home, Ireland.

I was lucky enough to be brought into this forgotten world through her authority Thursday as she read selections of her work, including and amongst others “The Glass King,” “Quarantine,” “The Pomegranate,” and “An Elegy for My Mother in Which She Scarcely Appears.”

Having read Boland before, I was always intrigued by her themes and yet thwarted by a subdued quality that I find in much of her poetry. Hearing her in person, however, having her voice applied to the poems she created made me think: these poems have to be muted; they are delivering accounts of the difficult domestic lives of women of the past, especially in the role, historically, of the repressed. Controversially I began to see how consistent, unique, this made her voice. Even over decades of writing, she manages to retain this confessional narrative that is distinctly her own.

It was winter, lunar, wet. At dusk
Pewter seedlings became moonlight orphans.
Pleased to meet you meat to please you
said the butcher’s sign in the window in the village.
- from “Domestic Violence”

What I came away with most after hearing Boland was realizing her capacity as a storyteller. Not only do her poems contain richly peopled landscapes, but her speech as well is full of anecdotes that draw you in. She described sympathy for mad King Charles VI’s wife, Isabeau, and her ordeal having to deal with a husband who thought he was turning into glass. We were told of her being the writer in residence in Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital, a position she honored (relishing the fact that the “Oxen of the Sun” episode of Ulysses was memorialized there with a placard) and yet she was left curious as to what her job description was.

Before reading “That the Science of Cartography is Limited,” she recounted her experience of the famine roads that the poem is based on. They, as her story and poem describe, are roads that were left unfinished after the workers died during the Great Famine. These roads can be found on no map and yet they cry out just the sort of past that Boland seeks out: fragmented vignettes recovered from enigmatic artifacts.

The line between storytelling, prose and poetry, is ultimately one that Boland brings to bear. Her prose seems dense, her poetry conversational. It is with this voice that she was able to absorb the audience’s attention as we sat content to listen.

David Krinick