426 Matsuo Bashō – Haiku’s Greatest Master

In addition to being what is probably the most widely used poetic form, haiku is almost certainly the most often misunderstood. In this episode, Jacke examines the life and works of Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), haiku’s greatest master, as he sorts through his thoughts on the uses (and potential misuses) of the haiku form. What makes much of it so bad? And how does that differ from what is truly great?

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Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at www.thepodglomerate.com/historyofliterature.

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419 Christina Rossetti

It’s the Christina Rossetti episode! Jacke finally musters up the energy to finish what he started, and takes a look at one of the great poets of the Victorian era (and the creator of “Goblin Market,” one of the strangest poems he has ever read. How did this seemingly prim, even matronly woman, known for her religious devotion and for rejecting three suitors on mostly religious grounds, come to write such a bizarre and hedonistic poem? What did she say about posing for the pre-Raphaelites and their paintings? What did John Ruskin and Virginia Woolf say about her? Let’s find out!

Additional listening suggestions:

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at www.thepodglomerate.com/historyofliterature.

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418 “Because I could not stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson

Because Jacke could not stop for the scheduled episode topics, a certain poem kindly stopped for him. Luckily it’s one of the greatest poems of all time! It’s by the 19th-century American genius Emily Dickinson, and it packs into seven short stanzas a journey through life, death, and the cosmos.

Read a copy of the poem here:

Because I could not stop for Death – (479)

Additional listening suggestions:

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at www.thepodglomerate.com/historyofliterature.

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416 William Blake vs the World (with John Higgs)

In his lifetime, the Romantic poet and engraver William Blake (1757-1827) was barely known and frequently misunderstood. Today, his genius is widely celebrated and his poems are some of the most famous in the English language – and yet we still struggle to comprehend his unique way of seeing the world. In this episode, Blakean biographer John Higgs, author of the new book William Blake vs. the World, joins Jacke to discuss Blake’s life, art, and visions.

Additional listening suggestions:

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at www.thepodglomerate.com/historyofliterature.

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415 “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti

As a devout and passionate religious observer, Victorian poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) lived a life that might seem, at first glance, as proper and tame. Even some of her greatest works, devotional poems and verses for children, strike us as just the kind of art a fine upstanding moralist might generate. But there was more to Christina Rossetti than that – and in fact, she produced some of the most passionate and idiosyncratic poems of her era. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at her long narrative poem Goblin Market (1859-1862), about two sisters seduced by the fruits being sold by a pack of river goblins, which is one of the most sensationally bizarre poems Jacke has ever read.

Additional listening suggestions:

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at www.thepodglomerate.com/historyofliterature.

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413 Walt Whitman – “Song of Myself”

In this episode, we resume our look at Walt Whitman’s life and body of work, focusing in particular on the years 1840-1855. Did Whitman’s teaching career end with him being tarred and feathered by an angry mob, as has long been rumored? What happened during his three months in New Orleans? And how did this printer and hack writer wind up writing the twelve poems in Leaves of Grass (1855), thereby becoming the “true poet” that Ralph Waldo Emerson had been searching for?

Additional listening ideas:

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at www.thepodglomerate.com/historyofliterature.

 

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411 Walt Whitman – A New Hope

In 1844, Ralph Waldo Emerson called for a new poet who would reflect the spirit and potential of America. In 1855, a then-unknown poet named Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass, his attempt to fulfill Emerson’s wish. In this episode, Jacke looks at Whitman’s early life and career, contrasting Leaves of Grass with the works of a pair of poets that Emerson may have had in mind when he railed against “men of poetical talents…of industry and skill in meter” who nevertheless failed to be what Emerson called “true poets.”

Additional listening suggestions:

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at www.thepodglomerate.com/historyofliterature.

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408 Dylan Thomas (with Scott Carter)

Do not go gentle into this good episode! Rage, rage against the dying of the… well, things fall apart there, don’t they? (Because we’re not gifted poets like Dylan Thomas!) In this episode, Jacke talks to producer, playwright, and performer Scott Carter about his lifelong passion for the Welsh bard who took the U.K. by storm in the mid-twentieth-century and America by even stormier storm soon thereafter. Which poems are best? What’s good about them? How did they feed into the mythic reputation of Dylan Thomas? And what does it all mean for us today?

Additional listening ideas:

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at www.thepodglomerate.com/historyofliterature.

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398 Fernando Pessoa

Questioning the nature of the self is a standard trope in literature and one of the hallmarks of the Modernist movement. But no one pushed this to the extreme like Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). While the use of a pseudonym or two is common enough, Pessoa wrote poems as more than a hundred “heteronyms” (as he called them), giving many of them their own richly developed biographies, writing styles, and distinct subject matter. The wild cast of characters, who sometimes argued with one another and who occasionally inserted themselves into Pessoa’s life, fooled many literary critics into thinking that they were individual poets. Although Pessoa was nearly unknown when he died, he left behind a rich body of work to pore through and analyze – and a trunkful of his papers, gathered by later editors intoThe Book of Disquiet, has rendered him essential to a consideration of twentieth-century literature. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the poet who exploded his self into literary fragments, only to find that he had filled a galaxy with stars.

Additional listening suggestions:

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at www.thepodglomerate.com/historyofliterature.

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397 Plath, Hughes, and the “Other Woman” – Assia Wevill and Her Writings (with Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and Peter Steinberg)

In 1961, poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath rented their flat to a Canadian poet and his wife, the beautiful, accomplished, and slightly mysterious Assia Wevill. Soon afterward, Ted and Assia began having an affair. Within a year, Assia was pregnant with Ted’s child and Sylvia, after years of suffering from depression, had committed suicide. Six years later, Assia would do the same.

It’s a horribly tragic tale, like something out of Shakespeare, with genius and artistic ambition and love and sex and poetry entangled with themes of power dynamics, infidelity, and mental health problems. The poetic gifts of Ted and Sylvia – and the tragic ending of their marriage – has kept biographers and essay writers busy. But what about the third woman, Assia Wevill, a successful professional with ambition of her own? What did she write? How did she fit into this triangle? In this episode, Professor Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and Peter Steinberg, editors of The Collected Writings of Assia Wevill, join Jacke for a discussion of the “Other Woman” in the Plath-Hughes marriage.

Additional listening ideas:

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. The History of Literature Podcast is a member of Lit Hub Radio and the Podglomerate Network. Learn more at www.thepodglomerate.com/historyofliterature.

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