148 Charles Street

From "148 Charles Street," Willa Cather's recollection of Mrs. James Fields in Not Under Forty, recommended to me by Brain Pickings

When one was staying at that house the past lay in wait for one in all the corners; it exuded from the furniture, from the pictures, the rare editions, and the cabinets of manuscript—the beautiful, clear manuscripts of a typewriterless age, which even the printers had respected and kept clean.

Though the essay tells of almost meeting Henry James and is filled with memories of Dickens, Arnold, Thackeray—he visited the Fields house, left a sketch of himself, and framed it with a note of thanks—Emerson, and others, with remembrances of reading, with conversation, and with great regard for the past, there is also this forward-looking note—

She was not, as she once laughingly told me, "to escape anything, not even free verse or the Cubists!" She was not in the least dashed by either. Oh no, she said, the Cubists weren't any queerer than Manet and the Impressionists when they first came to Boston, and people used to run in for tea and ask whether she had ever heard of such a thing as "blue snow" or a man's black hat being purple in the sun!

Dante in Space

The New Yorker alerted me that Dante is just about 750 years old and that the anniversary is being marked not just with a large number of celebrations but also with a special hashtag, #Dante750. The hashtag seems to be quite popular, but I haven't yet seen photographs with the cutouts of Dante as the article suggests. Open Culture actually linked to YouTube videos of the readings mentioned by The New Yorker, too.

Here's Samantha Cristoforetti, aboard the International Space Station, reciting from the Paradiso

And here's Roberto Benigni reciting the beginning of the Inferno.

Never mind that listening to Benigni calls to mind Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, that recitation makes me want more. I think I could listen to the whole Divine Comedy this way. (When I was first introduced to Dante, I read that translator John Ciardi was so moved by the poetry that he learned Italian so that he could read the work as it was written.)

An unexpected benefit of being reintroduced to Dante is that I thought to look for the Song of Myself marathon ahead of Walt Whitman's birthday next week. It's June 21 this year so I'll have plenty of time to look for a webcast or a Periscope stream.


Count me emphatically in the 6.7% who have read poetry in the last 12 months. And it's not just an halfhearted pass at an anthology once in 12 months—I've completed courses in the poetry of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson this year, I just celebrated Shakespeare's birthday by reading a selection of sonnets, I'm celebrating Poetry Month, I see poetry regularly on the web sites and in the Twitter accounts of various publishers I follow, on the On Being blog, and on the daily broadcast of The Writer's Almanac. And I guess that earns me a place among the 92%.

Predating the Beatles

Whitman makes his case boldly and enthusiastically in the first three lines of Song of Myself

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

As familiar as these lines are, it took a discussion at edX

Often what we talk about, in any piece of literature,
is struggle-- either struggle with oneself
or even Emerson and Thoreau, who talk about the fact
that we're all connected through some divine dust.
They're still talking about the fact that the individual
is at odds with society and the government.
And even with, perhaps, European culture or farther back than that.
And so the opening of this poem is so unique and strange in that
it says there is no struggle here.
I am you.
And you are me.
And we celebrate ourselves.
And let's go forward with that.

to help me realize the similarity in thought in I am the Walrus.

I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together

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