New Hampshire poetry Festival

I know there’s been a bit of silence in this area of cyber space. Preparations for the new semester are underway, and an update on the catalog conversion will be forthcoming. In the meantime, check out the NH Book Blog for details on the Poetry festival coming up in September! 

2nd Annual NH Poetry Festival — September 24 http://nhbookcenter.blogspot.com/2016/08/2nd-annual-nh-poetry-festival-september.html

NH Poet Laureate hosting reading at Robert Frost Farm

NH Poet Laureate hosting reading at Robert Frost Farm

From The Book Notes NH Blog:

DERRY, NH, July 6, 2016 – The Robert Frost Farm’s 2016 Hyla Brook Reading Series features New Hampshire Poet Laureate Alice B. Fogel on Thursday, July 14, 2016, 6:30-8:30pm. Hyla Brook Poet Sara Backer will also read.

The series, held in the Frost Farm located at 122 Rockingham Rd (Rt 28), is free and open to the public. An Open Mic follows the readings and all audience members are invited to share their work.
Read more here. Note the reading is this Thursday, so coming up quick. Confession time: I’ve never been to the Frost Farm. I’ve known scads of folks who have gone and all have had only good things to say, so the venture would be worth your time. If you’re looking to check out the Robert Frost Farm in general, the Robert Frost Farm poetry website is here.

The Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme

Today marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, considered one of the deadliest battles in human history. The Battle began on July 1, 1916 and did not conclude until November 18. During that time, the British and French saw a combined 794,238 casualties. The Germans saw 537,918 casualties. Those numbers are simply staggering — 1.3 million men dead or wounded in a single (albeit protracted) battle.

British and French forces were able to gain 6 miles during this time. That was with the introduction of the tank and air support. The Battle of the Somme was the second deadliest battle in World War I by casualties, and only two campaigns in World War II were more deadly.

I remember my history classes talking about the deadliest conflicts in American history– Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, Appomattox. And those were battles that obviously included American casualties, the Somme did not. For comparison purposes? 310,486 men died in the Battle of the Somme. 204,000 died in the American Civil War. These are deaths, not included casualties, prisoners of war, or those who died in prison. Just take a moment to consider that. 1 battle lasting 4 months saw more death than a war that lasted 4 years.

At the same time that men were losing their lives, limbs, and minds in record numbers, there was a huge volume of poetry produced. The Poetry of World War I generally comes from the British side of things, the doughboys who found ways to record the horror that was unfolding in front of them night and day in trenches that were hardly conducive to, well, anything other than disease.

The Poetry Foundation has a collection of Poetry from the time, organized by year with the major battles noted. The selection includes works from Thomas Hardy, Robert Stevens, Edith Wharton, William Butler Yeats, Siegfried Sasson, Wilfred Owen, Rudyard Kipling, Ezra Pound, and GK Chesterton. Some served, some watched from home, so there are a variety of view points represented.

Oxford has a Digital Archive of poetry from the First World War. Among the various artifacts that have been made available, I was struck by the revisions of Dulce et Decorum Est. While I’ve linked to one there are several. Wilfred Owen did not survive the war — he died at the age of 25, one week before the Armistice was signed.

There are any number of poems that were written during the War and in the aftermath of the War; written by those at home and on the front. The following have been recommended to me: In Flanders Field by John McCrae, The Shield of Achilles by WH Auden, Prayer of a Solider in France by Joyce Kilmer, The Soldier by Rupert Brooke, and the aforementioned Dulce et Decorum Est.

I know there are a number of JRR Tolkien fans out there, so it bears reminding that Tolkien was in the trenches at the Somme. In interviews later in his life, Tolkien would recall writing first drafts that would become Middle Earth in the trenches of France under shell fire. The New York Times has a good article on the connection between the great evils and battles of Middle Earth and the Somme.

For those who favor historical records, the British National Archives have digitized the British Army War Diaries from 1914 to 1922, covering the entirety of the war. They also have a crowdsourcing project for those interested; Operation War Diary allows anyone to help comb through the 1.5 million pages of unit war diaries from World War 1 and help note and annotate them, pulling out details as you can.

Finally, for those who prefer novels from the time, there are certainly scads of them out there. I highly recommend Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Most will know the author from her Anne of Green Gables books and Emily of New Moon books. Rilla of Ingleside is actually the 8th Anne of Green Gables book, telling the story of Anne and Gilbert’s children — all of them in their teens and 20s at the onset of the War. Montgomery’s novel is World War 1 from the home front, and in fact is the only Canadian novel written about World War 1 by a woman and told from a woman’s perspective. Rilla is also an example of uncomfortable history — the novel had several thousand words trimmed from it, not because they were inaccurate but because of heavy anti-German sentiment. That was the only version available until about 6 years ago, so be on the look out for the edited and unedited versions.

Shakespeare 400 and the First Folio

Shakespeare 400 and the First Folio

Forgive the silence of the last week; even I cannot find away to make reorganizing spreadsheets sound fun. Because Excel doesn’t have a native functionality for sorting by call number, it is up to us to sort the sheets for the shelf read. It’s just as charming and delightful as you might imagine.

But! I return with a quick review of “First Folio! The Book that Gave us Shakespeare” We went last Saturday but I decided to hold the write up until today, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. For those in New Hampshire (or really anywhere in the Boston area), the place to go is the Currier Museum of Art. The Currier is a great little museum on its own, and New Hampshire residents get in free on Saturday mornings until noon.

When you first enter the museum, the exhibit is to your left (there’s plenty of signage). The Currier is also running an exhibit through their library on potion books from the time of Shakespeare, and that is signed as well.

So I freely admit that I could have elbowed people out of the way to take a picture of the folio, but I didn’t. I thought it was more important to read the exhibit, to actually read the folio, and to explain it to my son. What surprised me was how small it is; the fact is that this volume represents the first time that 18 of Shakespeare’s play appeared in print, but its not that big a book.I grant you, its bigger then a book you’d take on an airplane, but it can be easy to forget that the publisher at the time was just concerned with putting out a book, not a historical artifact. Its immensely cool, nonetheless and well worth a trip.

The Currier’s installation is in their European art wing, so we wandered through those pieces as well:

IMG_20160416_104256113

IMG_20160416_104215494

Most of the art in there can’t have photos taken, so I only snagged two of the medieval pieces, but they’re quite lovely. The Folio is up until May, but the Potion exhibit the library is running will be up a little longer, and you want to make sure not to miss it either:

 

The exhibit is made up of medical texts and herbologies from the time of Shakespeare. Its also less crowded then the Folio room so you can spend more time looking things over without feeling guilty that you’re blocking others.

You can find a great deal of information on what is out there for celebrating Shakespeare; a quick search of Twitter for #Shakespeare400 will do the trick. For the locals, consider checking out St. Anselm’s marathon reading of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, which takes place Monday.

Treasures from the Library: A Collection of Poems by many hands

As mentioned previously, April is National Poetry Month, so I’ve tried to find a few poetry volumes in the collection for our Thursdays. First up is a book that actually hasn’t been processed into the collection yet!

I was finishing up on Saturday afternoon when I realized I hadn’t set aside a book of poetry for this very post. Not having an abundance of time, I went to my office to see if there was anything of interesting hiding on the shelves among the books awaiting catalog. I found this particular work tucked gently on top of a row of books, I imagine because its incredibly fragile. For those worried about the current disposition of the book, it is safely isolated to help preserve it as best we can.

The poor thing has seen better days, to be sure. The cover is long gone, having not made its way to us, and the spine is pretty much gone as well. I was hesitant to touch it too much, so I’ve only got the one snapshot:

IMG_20160409_124009638.jpg

Take a moment to read that publication date (go ahead, I’ll wait). 1775! People, that book is older than this country. Given that New Hampshire was the first colony to establish a government separate from the Crown, it predates this state as an autonomous governing unit. It does not predate the town of Merrimack, however (Merrimack being incorporated in 1746).

Sadly this is the only volume of the 6 that we have. It was originally published in 1748 by Robert Dodsley. You’ll notice the copy we have is credited to J. Dodsley; that would be his brother James, who took over the publishing house after Robert’s death and published this particular reissue.

As to the poetry inside? Check out Archive.org for all 6 volumes.

Treasures from the Library: Murder in the Cathedral

TS Eliot is well known to many; The Waste Land and The Four Quartets are well loved and well studied, and even those not given to poetry have at least a passing familiarity with an homage to his work in the form of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats (Fun fact: Cats is derived from Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). Eliot also wrote plays; Sweeney Agonistes was written in 1926, The Rock in 1934, and Murder in the Cathedral in 1935.

The Collection holds a number of Eliot’s works (sadly, or not depending on your point of view, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is not among them.) Hunting through the collection, I made a point of tracking down volumes which were listed as being produced during the publication year. This was back in the fall, when the heat had just broken and the thought of prowling around the library in search of volumes held a certain appeal, so long as one could escape to go apple picking right after.

I distinctly remember finding Murder in the Cathedral in the Newman room; it was right after I had been able to relax, knowing that an original Charles Dickens was not sitting on the shelf for all and sundry (how happy I was for the catalog to be wrong on that score!) IMG_20160206_132814908The Eliot works were newer, less than 100 years old, so there was no concern that the book would be hanging on by the threads that made up the paper. Sure enough, there on the shelf stood a slim black volume, stamped Murder in the Cathedral. It was a wholly unassuming volume, as so many are from that time. There was not detail work or embossing on the cover, nothing to make you think this book was anything other than a text book. And yet…

For those unfamiliar with the work, the titular murder is that of Thomas Becket in 1170; the Cathedral in question is Canterbury Cathedral in England. Even without being turned into a play, the incident is dramatic. Henry II, the King of England and founder of the Plantagenet dynasty clashed with his archbishop early and often once Thomas stopped being the King’s friend and started being the archbishop he was appointed to be. Famously (and inaccurately) Henry is said to have shouted “Will someone not rid me of this troublesome priest?” Some say turbulent, some say meddlesome. Edward Grim, a contemporary and witness of the assassination, is generally trusted when he records Henry’s utterance as “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?” Several knights took the statement to heart, rode out, and murdered Becket within the Cathedral itself.

The play was first performed in Canterbury; not just in the town, but in the Chapter House of the Cathedral itself. It has been performed many times, as well as being made into a film and turned into an opera. Portions of the original play were scrapped in the editing process; they later became the basis for Burnt Norton, the first of The Four Quartets. Copies of Murder in the Cathedral, as well as The Four Quartets, can be found in the Newman Room.

IMG_20160206_132805456

Burns Night!

There are a handful of literary holidays scattered throughout the year, but Burns Night is a singularly delightful one.

To begin at the beginning, Burns Night is generally celebrated on January 25th, to correspond with Robbie Burns’ birthday. The Poetry has a nice overview of Burns: his life, his poems, and their place in Scottish and English literary movements. You probably don’t want to tell a Scotsman that Burns has a place in the English literary tradition since he is the National Poet of Scotland (And this isn’t a post about Scottish independence. I’m not so foolish as to wade into that on a library blog). You can’t deny his influence on the poets to the south of him and after his time, however. For those on campus, we have a small selection of Burns in the Newman Room.

How does one go about hosting a Burns Night/Burns Supper/Burns day celebration? Since we’re in the US, there won’t be any real haggis, so a modified one with have to do (until the ban is lifted, as many of my acquaintances and friends fervently hope it will be soon). There are a number of Scottish dishes to prepare for Burns night. Fortunately for us, the power of the internet brings us a menu and recipes directly from Scotland. In fact, the Scots have put together a full guide to Burns Night: food, drink, wardrobe, even an app to download that contains the poetry of Robert Burns and an outline of which poems to recite when.

And what, exactly, will you get yourself into? Burns Country has the itinerary:

  • Gather, meet and mingle
  • Start the meal with the Skelkirk Grace, followed by the first course of soup (and whiskey)
  • The Parade of the Haggis– really, you ought to have it piped in if at all possible. Its marvelous.
  • Address to a Haggis– Don’t worry, its one of Burns’ poems, you needn’t make up your own. Make sure you have your dirk at the ready.
  • Immortal Memory– about the only serious point in the evening. Now’s the time for a speech about Robert Burns- general, biographical, poetic analysis are all allowed, and the speech is usually on the longer side: up to half an hour. Youtube has a number of taped speeches from Burns Societies and Burns nights around the world, and its worth watching a selection to get a feel for what you’d like to say.
  • Songs and recitations– many of Burns’ poems have been turned into songs, so these will be fairly easy to find at any of the sources linked to. That’s not to say this is the only time to sing or recite. Usually, there will be songs and recitations sprinkled through the remainder of the evening. “Musts” (though everyone’s list is different) include Tam O Shanter, Address to the Unco Guild, To A Mouse, To a Louse, Holy Willie’s Prayer, Ae fond Kiss, My Luve is like a Red, Red Rose.
  • Toast to the Lassies– originally a toast to the ladies in thanks for the meal, the toast or address to the lassies is generally a humorous take on womankind or any variety of topics. It is not meant to be offensive or crude and men beware, the reply is next!
  • Reply (or Toast) to the Laddies/Reply from the Lassies– whatever you call it, the women receive the last word. Also meant to be lighthearted and funny without giving offense, it is not uncommon for those delivering the toasts to collaborate beforehand so that the toasts compliment each other. If you can do it on the fly, then by all means do!
  • Closing– after the speeches your night can continue for as long as you choose with singing, dancing, and recitations but once the evening is drawing to a close, it is customary for the host to say a few words of farewell and for all to then sing Auld Lang Syne. Depending on the quantities of whiskey and ale drunk, you may want to have copies of the lyrics available.

 

slàinte mhòr!