Join us for a dramatic reading of Hyam Plutzik’s HORATIO, presented by Nigel Maister

5:00pm Monday, March 26, 2012
Welles-Brown Room, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester
free admission ~ open to the public

In this long narrative poem, a finalist for the 1961 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, Hyam Plutzik explores the life of Horatio after his friend Hamlet’s dying request:

Absent thee from felicity a while,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain
To tell my story. (Shakespeare’s Hamlet, V.ii)

As an old man, Horatio recounts his weary life-long quest to recover and defend his lost friend’s wounded honor and name from corrupting rumor, superstition, and slander. “It is fifty years since the Prince Hamlet died,” begins the poem, before casting off into memory, recounting confrontations with a cast of characters including socialites, philosophers, hill shepherds, and statesmen. But Horatio’s final and greatest challenge is in his encounter with himself as he takes stock of what his life and his quest have become.

Horatio was published in 1961, after years of steady revision by the poet, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry that year. Stanley Kunitz and Louis Untermeyer, the jurors for that year’s prize, called the poem “a fascinating puzzle….primarily a tour de force….ingenious in its kaleidoscopic shifts from melodrama to metaphysics, from straightforward narrative to involved nightmare.” Sections of Horatio had previously been published in magazines and in Plutzik’s second collection, Apples from Shinar, which was reissued in October 2011 from Wesleyan University Press. In his afterword to the new edition, Yale Shakespeare scholar David Scott Kastan called Horatio “one of the genuinely original and important American long poems.”

Hyam Plutzik, born in Brooklyn in 1911, was the author of three collections of poems and a professor at the University of Rochester. He died of cancer January 8, 1962, shortly after Horatio was published, and his colleagues at the U of R have honored his memory ever since: the Plutzik Memorial Poetry Series has brought nearly 300 acclaimed writers to campus for free public readings since 1962.