Co-sponsored by the College of General Studies and the BU Center for the Humanities (BUCH), the Poetry Reading Series strives to make poetry a fundamental part of university and community life. By presenting the work of both renowned and emerging poets, the series attempts to broaden our vision of poetry’s concerns and effects. Last spring, the series co-sponsored the Center for the Study of Europe’s “Irish Voices” series, which featured readings by Colm Toibin, Ciaran Carson, and Paul Muldoon. We are delighted to see the series continue under the auspices of the Poetry Reading Series and the Institute for the Study of Irish Culture.
All readings are free and open to the public. Please direct any questions to series convener Meg Tyler.
Tuesday, October 15 @ 6 PM
Irish Voices: A Reading and Conversation with Michael Longley
One of the outstanding elegists and war poets of the last four decades, Michael Longley is also preoccupied with love – that ‘No Man’s Land’, as he calls it, ‘between one human being and another’ – and with the beauty (sometimes savagery) of the natural world. Those themes – as with such predecessors as Robert Graves and Edward Thomas – are entwined throughout his writings. Seamus Heaney calls him “a custodian of griefs and wonders.” Longley’s 1991 Gorse Fires won the Whitbread Poetry Prize. Subsequently, The Weather in Japan (2000) won the Irish Times Literature Prize for Poetry, the Hawthornden Prize, and the T.S. Eliot Prize. Longley’s recent publications include Snow Water (2004), Collected Poems (2006) and A Hundred Doors (2011). In 2001 Longley was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He divides his time between Belfast and County Mayo.
This event is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Europe, the Department of Classics (CAS), the literary journal AGNI, and the Institute for the Study of Irish Culture.
Tuesday, October 22 @ 6 PM
American Voices: A Reading and Conversation with Rowan Ricardo Phillips
EVENT POSTPONED TO FEBRUARY 2014!
Rowan Ricardo Phillips is the author of a volume of poems, The Ground (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), a collection of essays, When Blackness Rhymes with Blackness, and the first translation from Catalan into English of Salvador Espriu’s Ariadne in the Grotesque Labyrinth. He is an associate professor of English and the director of the Poetry Center at Stony Brook University. He lives in New York City and Barcelona.
Co-sponsored by the Department of English (CAS) and the literary journal AGNI.
Monday, November 4 @ 6 PM
Irish Voices: A Reading and Conversation with Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
The Castle, 225 Bay State Road
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s transforming and transporting ways of seeing are like no other: there’s the ‘whisper of a cashmere sleeve,’ the nuns’ ‘leathery kiss’ and a lighthouse ‘scraping the sea with its beam.’ Ní Chuilleanáin is the author of numerous poetry collections, including Acts and Monuments (1966), The Magdalene Sermon (1989), Selected Poems (2009) and The Sun-fish (2010). She translated Ileana Malancioiu’s After the Raising of Lazarus (2005) from the Romanian and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s The Water Horse (2001, co-translated with Medbh McGuckian). She has won numerous awards, including the Patrick Kavanagh Award and the prestigious O’Shaughnessy Poetry Award by The Irish American Cultural Institute, which called her “among the very best poets of her generation.” She lives and teaches in Dublin.
This event will be moderated by Mary O’Donoghue, Irish fiction writer, poet and translator, author of Before the House Burns (The Lilliput Press, 2010) and Among These Winters (Dedalus Press, 2007). She is also Associate Professor of English at Babson College.
Co-sponsored by the BU Arts Initiative, the Center for the Study of Europe, the literary journal AGNI and the Institute for the Study of Irish Culture.
Monday, November 11 @ 6 PM
European Voices: A Reading and Conversation with Tom Pickard
Tom Pickard’s volumes of poetry include Hole in the Wall: New and Selected Poems (2002), The Dark Months of May (2004), and The Ballad of Jamie Allan (Flood Editions, 2007) recounts the true adventures of an eighteenth-century gypsy musician who lived on the English-Scottish Borders and died in Durham jail, serving a life sentence for stealing a horse. His memoir, More Pricks Than Prizes, was published by Pressed Wafer in 2010. He has written for film, radio and television.
Young Tom Pickard for years ran the Morden Tower readings in Newcastle, Great Britain, and from early 1960s on was chief friend, host & proponent of new-wave American poetics . . . Under guidance from his friend the elder Basil Bunting he’s writ poetry with condensation, sharp focus and local speech directness, in lineage joining William Carlos Williams and ‘Geordie’ lyric vernacular.–Allen Ginsberg
This event will be moderated by the poet William Corbett, editor of Pressed Wafer.
Co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Europe and the literary journal AGNI.
The Poetry Reading Series is free and open to the public. Unless otherwise noted, events take place in the Katzenberg Center on the 3rd floor of the College of General Studies, 871 Commonwealth Avenue.
On Thursday, April 18, with Monday’s Boston marathon tragedy still weighing heavy on people’s minds, over 100 poetry lovers gathered for the penultimate event in our “Irish Voices” series: a reading and conversation with Paul Muldoon. Muldoon’s visit was funded in part by a grant to the Center for the Study of Europe from the European Commission Delegation in Washington DC. The event was co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, the literary journal AGNI, the Department of Creative Writing, and the new Institute for the Study of Irish Culture at Boston University. Meg Tyler, Director of the new Institute, opened the event, and following and performance by Step about Boston, BU’s Irish step dancing group, Joe Rezek, Assistant Professor of English, introduced moderator Dan Chiasson, who in turn introduced Muldoon, calling him “the crucial English language poet born since 1950, without whom nothing.” Chiasson described in some detail his own encounter with Muldoon’s work at the age of 17, his fascination with Muldoon’s “feats of association,” in particular, as evinced in the poem “7, Middagh Street,” from which he read the following passage.
Both beautiful, one a gazebo.
When Hart Crane fell
from the Orizaba
it was into the trou normand of the well
at Carickfergus Castle.
All very Ovidian,
as the ghostly
once remarked of both sorts of kipper
we were forced to eat
every night in Reykjavik;
one tasted of toe-nails, one of the thick
skin on the soles of the feet.
He now affects an ulster lined with coypu
and sashays like an albino rabbit
down the same Fifth Avenue
where Avida Dollars
once squired an ocelot
on a solid
gold chain snaffled from Bonwit Teller’s.
It seems that Scott Fitzgerald wrote Ivanhoe
or the Rubaiyat
and Chester Kallman = Agape.
The passage, Chiasson said, laid out for him at the age of seventeen a formidable curriculum: Yeats and Crane and Beowulf and Louise Macneice and Brooklyn and Iceland and Calvados – all of it would have to be sampled.
Addressing Muldoon’s turn to rock lyrics in a new volume entitled The Word on the Street, Chiasson had the following to say: “Muldoon has been writing poems with the vigor and swagger of rock lyrics for so long it was only a matter of time before he would publish a volume of rock lyrics that work as great poems.” He went on to plug Muldoon’s band, The Wayside Shrines.
Following Chiasson’s introduction, Muldoon took the stage and read a number of poems, including “Dancers at the Moy,” “The Loaf,” and “Hedgehog,” and several song lyrics, notably “Come Back,” “It won’t Ring True,” “Elephant Anthem,” and “Cleaning Up My Act.” Addressing the elegiac tone hanging over Boston, he read a poem called “Turkey Buzzards,” written in the aftermath of his sister’s death from cancer eight years earlier.
Topics addressed during the conversation ranged from Muldoon’s understanding of relationship between poems and song lyrics to his sense of himself as an “Irish” poet. View the entire event on BUniverse.
We concluded the Irish Voices series this evening, with a lecture by Irish historian Tim Pat Coogan on “The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy” [Listen to Coogan's lecture on WBUR].
On April 8, 2013, continuing our “Irish Voices” series, we welcomed the Irish poet and novelist Ciarán Carson to Boston. Carson, who plays the tin whistle, was accompanied by his wife Deirdre Shannon, an accomplished fiddler. The event, which was funded largely by a grant from the European Commission Delegation in Washington to the Center for the co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Europe, was co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, the new Institute for the Study of Irish Culture, the literary journal AGNI, and the Department of Creative Writing at Boston University. Vivien Schmidt, Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration and Director of the Center for the Study of Europe, gave the opening remarks, and Meg Tyler, poet, professor, and Director of the Institute for the Study of Irish Culture, introduced Ciarán Carson and moderated the event.
Carson was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1948, into an Irish speaking family. His collections of poetry include The Irish for No (1987), winner of the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award; Belfast Confetti (1990), which won the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Poetry; and First Language: Poems (1994), winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize. His volume Breaking News (2003) won the Forward Poetry prize; his poetry collection For All We Know (2008) was short listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Coastal Poetry Award; and Until Before After (2010) was short listed for the 2011 Irish Times Poetry Award. Carson is also an avid translator (producing translations of Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Dante), an adept prose writer, and an accomplished musician. His prose works include Last Night’s Fun: About Music, Food and Time (1997), a study of Irish traditional music, and his translations include The Táin (2009), the legendary early Irish tale.
As Tyler described it in her introductory remarks, “Carson’s work is bound inextricably to his home city of Belfast, its history, its topography, its place names, and to Irish music, the improvisational quality of which influences much of his work, as in Sean-nós, Irish for “old style,” a highly ornamented style of unaccompanied traditional Irish singing. In his poems, you find patterns of ornamentation and moments of melodic freedom. His poems are dense with literary reference and other kinds of linguistic association. ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ and onomatopoeia sound out in his pages. If you look closely enough, connections, and patterns between colors, forms, sounds, and even smells emerge.”
Carson read a number of his poems, including some of his recent translations from Rimbaud. His reading was interspersed with commentary – he described learning English at the age of four, on the streets of Belfast, the dream-vision nature of the “aisling,” and the “elsewhereness” of translation – and also music, underscoring the melodic quality of Carson’s work, a quality he said he strives to achieve in his prose as well. Not by use of flowery language, but by a certain attentiveness to how the words sound. He mentioned Raymond Carver as an example of someone using “plain ordinary language” that sings in its own “flat, eery, odd way.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of the evening was the discussion of “form” that ensued from Tyler’s query into the “formal challenges” Carson has been setting for himself over the years. Carson said that adherence to form (imitating Dante’s Terza Rima, for example) pushes him to new levels of meaning and understanding that he would not reach if he were able to settle for more obvious word choices, etc. There are ideas we stumble on, haphazardly at times, only through form.
Be sure to catch this enchanting evening on BUniverse.
On February 28 the Center for the Study of Europe hosted Irish writer Colm Toibin as part of a semester-long “Irish Voices” series in celebration of Ireland’s EU presidency. The “Irish Voices” series, which will include a visit by Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States and readings by poets Ciarán Carson and Paul Muldoon, is taking place as part of a larger “European Voices” series, funded by a grant to the Center for the Study of Europe from the European Commission Delegation in Washington DC. Colm Toibin’s visit was co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, the Department of Creative Writing, the literary journal AGNI, and the new Institute for the Study of Irish Culture at Boston University. Meg Tyler, Associate Professor of Humanities and Director of the new Institute, and Michael Lonergan, Consul General of Ireland in Boston, offered welcoming remarks, after which Joe Rezek, Assistant Professor of English, introduced his friend Colm Toibin and moderator Christopher Ricks.
Toibin read from his 2012 novel The Testament of Mary, a fictionalized account of the life of Jesus told from the perspective of an aging Mary, still grieving and angry over the inexplicable path taken by her son, still haunted by his death, and unable, like the disciples holding her prisoner, to find meaning in it. Between passages, Toibin talked about some of the influences on the work, from the temples of Diana in Ephesus to Tintoretto’s Crucifixion in Venice, as well as some of the challenges in adapting the work for the stage. As for the book’s reception in Ireland, he said he was aware of hitting Ireland while she was down, but curious at the same time at how an artist could intervene in such a situation.
Christopher Ricks expressed admiration for Toibin’s prose as well as his ability to evoke a world readers can appreciate without believing in and then asked whether Toibin feared for his work in “the vicinity of the predatory genius of Fiona Shaw,” prompting a discussion of “self-suppression,” a subject not unfamiliar to the Catholic Toibin, who evoked Eliot’s Gwendolyn Harleth by way of example.
In response to a query about “English” or “Roman” oppression, as evinced by Joyce, Toibin said that growing up he felt neither English nor Roman tyranny. On the contrary, England always represented to him liberty, and it is to the church (namely, Pugin’s cathedral in Enniscorthy) that he owes his connection to beauty. If there was a general sense of oppression in Ireland, it wasn’t, Toibin said, caused by the Church, much less England, but by the Irish people, and perhaps the Irish political parties.
For the full conversation, watch the video on BUniverse.