Mark Linenthal: May 30, 1965

Mark Linenthal, co-director of The Poetry Center, presents a lecture on trends and directions in contemporary American poetry, with recorded excerpts of Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsberg, and Robert Creeley reading from their work.

Originally Recorded By
The Poetry Center
San Francisco State College
Total Run Time
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  • Mark Linenthal makes opening remarks on his talk concerning the nature of poetry in general, and contemporary directions of poetry (00:00)
  • Remarks on the lack of public understanding of poetry despite revival of interest in poetry over the last 15-20 years (00:22)
  • Remarks "We live in an age of prose" and summarizes various complaints readers have with poetry (01:59)
  • Poses question "What after all is poetry?" (02:50)
  • Contrasts literal statements with figurative statements and gives examples incorporating similes, metaphors, and suppressed metaphors (03:35)
  • Elaborates on comment "Systematic prose gives us logical or scientific information whereas poetry tells us what something is like, the actual felt quality of experience." Contrasts ways of making meaning in philosophy and poetry, saying "Poetry creates meanings in the very terms in which those meanings are encountered or invented in life." (06:37)
  • Remarks on how poetry "creates meaning" and discusses a poem by William Carlos Williams called "The Young Housewife" (08:00)
  • Linenthal reads and explicates "The Young Housewife" {William Carlos Williams} (09:28)
  • Clicking sound. A portion of the recording may be cut off (11:33)
  • Remarks "So much for poetry in general" and restates thesis about how poetry creates meaning in the very terms in which meaning is actually experienced in life (11:36)
  • Remarks "Where are we now in poetry?" and discusses his proposition that poetry has been having a romantic or lyric revival over the last ten years, and is leaving behind a dramatic (as opposed to lyric) body of work (11:56)
  • Defines the lyric and quotes Wallace Stevens "'Poetry goes from substance to subtlety'" and "'The thing I hum appears to be the rhythm of this celestial pantomime'" (12:41)
  • "The lyric writer subjectivizes the object" (14:03)
  • Remarks on the dramatic writer and his [sic] inner conflict (14:19)
  • "The dramatic writer objectivizes the subject" Quotes the American poet Yvor Winters "'The taste of air becoming body'" from his poem on the bear (15:23)
  • Continues discussion of dramatic poetry, touching on New Criticism, John Crowe Ransom and Robert Lowell, and the edict not to confuse desires with the facts of experience. Catch words: irony, paradox, tension (15:57)
  • Refers to essay by Robert Penn Warren "In Defense of Poetic Difficulty" in which he argues for "a complex art of contradiction" (17:41)
  • Remarks "The most vital tendency of the last decade has been this lyric or romantic revival's rejection of the dramatic in the interest of more candid personal expression" (19:18)
  • Introduces a poem by Robert Lowell called "The Drunken Fisherman," supplies biographical information on Lowell, and makes interpretive comments about the poem (19:49)
  • "The Drunken Fisherman" {Robert Lowell} (21:33)
  • Remarks on "The Drunken Fisherman" the difficulty of belief, and quotes Lowell reflecting on the style of his earlier work (24:13)
  • Remarks on Lowell's "new manner" discussed in his autobiographical book Life Studies. Linenthal reads an excerpt of a poem from that book (25:34)
  • from "Memories of West Street and Lepke" {Robert Lowell} (26:04)
  • Remarks on the prosody of Theodore Roethke, Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," and plays a recording of Allen Ginsberg reciting the opening lines from "Howl" (26:32)
  • "Howl" {Allen Ginsberg} (27:33)
  • Gap in original recording (28:40)
  • Remarks on Ginsberg's reading and its impact on the audiences who first heard it in San Francisco (28:46)
  • Quotes Ginsberg on writing "Howl" (29:22)
  • Remarks on Ginsberg, Roethke, and Lowell as indicators of change in American poetry and the requirement that a poem be more an action than a thing (30:35)
  • Remarks on lack of agreement among the avant-garde in poetry regarding how the new poetry is to be realized (32:12)
  • Remarks on the work of Robert Creeley, supplies brief biographical information, mentioning his (then) most recent book For Love which came out in 1962, and what Linenthal calls the "existential open" and Creeley's prosody in general. Linenthal introduces recordings of three poems by Creeley, which he then proceeds to play (32:47)
  • "I Know a Man" {Robert Creeley} (35:32)
  • Creeley on recording introducing the next poem (36:00)
  • "The Lover" {Robert Creeley} (36:32)
  • Creeley on recording introduces next poem (36:58)
  • "Wait for Me" {Robert Creeley} (38:37)
  • Linenthal remarks on Creeley's reading of the poems and his interest in the line (38:53)
  • Remarks on Charles Olson as a great influence on Creeley. Introduces a tape recording including Creeley speaking about Olson's importance to him, and reading a series of poems (39:18)
  • Recording of Creeley speaking about Olson's influence and projective verse (39:58)
  • "Le Fou" {Robert Creeley} (40:53)
  • Creeley introduces "The Crisis" (41:25)
  • "The Crisis" {Robert Creeley} (41:41)
  • Creeley remarks on "The Crisis" and introduces "The Riddle" (42:11)
  • "The Riddle" {Robert Creeley} (42:44)
  • "The Innocence" {Robert Creeley} (43:12)
  • "The Immoral Proposition" {Robert Creeley} (43:48)
  • Linenthal remarks on Creeley's prosody and distrust of a "conclusive concluding." He quotes an essay by Creeley in which Creeley rejects rhetoric taking precedence over subject (44:20)
  • Linenthal contrasts Creeley and Ginsberg as cool and hot (45:37)
  • Remarks on the poets James Wright, James Dickey, John Logan and William Stafford as the subject of his next lecture (46:40)

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