Beat poet Michael McClure, RIP

Esteemed Beat poet Michael McClure has died of complications from a stroke he suffered last year. He was 87 years old. A key figure in the 1950s San Francisco scene that formed around Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin's City Lights Bookstore, McClure was a contemporary of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Philip Lamantia. Along with his ecstatic, rhythmic poems, McClure also penned plays, songs, novels, and journalism for the likes of Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. Above, McClure reads his poetry to lions in 1966 for the USA: Poetry television series. From the New York Times:

A then 22-year-old McClure helped organize the famous Six Gallery beat poetry reading on Oct. 7, 1955, and later read at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park that launched the Summer of Love in 1967 and at The Band’s “Last Waltz” concert at Winterland in 1976[...]

In McClure’s 1982 nonfiction account of the Six Gallery reading, “Scratching the Surface of the Beats,” he set the stage for the revolution that was to follow in the mid-1950s:

“The world that we tremblingly stepped out into in that decade was a bitter, gray one," he wrote. “We saw that the art of poetry was essentially dead — killed by war, by academies, by neglect, by lack of love, and by disinterest. We knew we could bring it back to life.”

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Monty Python co-founder Terry Jones's last major project was this Canterbury Tales app

Monty Python co-founder Terry Jones who died last month was also a scholar of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, having penned two books about the great English poet. Before Jones's death, he was collaborating with an international team of Chaucer geeks on a Canterbury Tales app called "General Prologue." It is the first in a series.

“We want the public, not just academics, to see the manuscript as Chaucer would have likely thought of it—as a performance that mixed drama and humor,” said University of Saskatchewan English professor and project leader Peter Robinson.

“We were so pleased that Terry was able to see and hear this app in the last weeks of his life. His work and his passion for Chaucer was an inspiration to us,” Robinson said. “We talked a lot about Chaucer and it was his idea that the Tales would be turned into a performance.”

From the University of Saskatchewan:

The app features a 45-minute audio performance of the General Prologue of the Tales—the masterpiece work by the most important English writer before Shakespeare—along with the digitized original manuscript. While listening to the reading, users have access to supporting content such as a translation in modern English, commentary, notes and vocabulary explaining Middle English words used by Chaucer.

The app, an offshoot of Robinson’s 25-year work to digitize the Canterbury Tales, contains key new research work. This includes a new edited text of the Prologue created by USask sessional lecturer Barbara Bordalejo, a new reading of the Tales by former USask student Colin Gibbings, and new findings about the Tales by UCL (University College London) medievalist professor Richard North.

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Patti Smith has a new memoir on the way

The inimitable Patti Smith will release a new memoir, Year of the Monkey, on September 24. A blend of reality and dreams, illustrated with Smith's Polaroids, the book captures her experience of a single year, 2016. From the publisher:

Following a run of New Year’s concerts at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore, Patti Smith finds herself tramping the coast of Santa Cruz, about to embark on a year of solitary wandering. Unfettered by logic or time, she draws us into her private wonderland with no design, yet heeding signs–including a talking sign that looms above her, prodding and sparring like the Cheshire Cat. In February, a surreal lunar year begins, bringing with it unexpected turns, heightened mischief, and inescapable sorrow. In a stranger’s words, “Anything is possible: after all, it’s the Year of the Monkey.” For Smith – inveterately curious, always exploring, tracking thoughts, writing – the year evolves as one of reckoning with the changes in life’s gyre: with loss, aging, and a dramatic shift in the political landscape of America.

Smith melds the western landscape with her own dreamscape. Taking us from California to the Arizona desert; to a Kentucky farm as the amanuensis of a friend in crisis; to the hospital room of a valued mentor; and by turns to remembered and imagined places, this haunting memoir blends fact and fiction with poetic mastery. The unexpected happens; grief and disillusionment set in. But as Smith heads toward a new decade in her own life, she offers this balm to the reader: her wisdom, wit, gimlet eye, and above all, a rugged hope for a better world.

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10-year-old writes brilliant poem about dyslexia and it goes viral

Wow. This poem, titled Dyslexia, was written by a 10-year-old who goes by AO, and it's jaw-dropping.

As part of a class assignment, his teacher, Jane Broadis, asked the students to write a poem that could be read forwards and backwards. This one "stunned" her, so she posted it on Twitter, which has since gone viral. After you read it, read it again in the reverse direction, not like a palindrome, but line by line.

Here are some reactions via Twitter:

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