On Literature, the Humanities, and Humanity

The painting depicts the end of the 1381 peasant’s revolt, mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The image shows London’s mayor, Walworth, killing Wat Tyler. There are two images of Richard II. One looks on the killing while the other is talking to the peasants. / Library Royal via Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Theodore L. Steinberg Distinguished Teaching[…]

Coleridge and the Doctors

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Romantic poet and co-author of ‘Lyrical Ballads’. Image credit: National Portrait Gallery Much of the poetry in the Wellcome Library is anonymous – in many cases, it is amateur material bad enough for the author to be grateful for a cloak of anonymity – but our archives do also contain material by ‘proper’ poets[…]

Achilles as Lyric Hero in the Songs of Sappho and Pindar

Achilles sacrificing to Zeus for Patroclus’ safe return, from the Ambrosian Iliad, a 5th-century illuminated manuscript. / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of aphthito- The key word here is aphthito- in the sense of ‘imperishable’. And, by the time we reach the end,[…]

Achilles and the Poetics of Lament

Dying Achilles (Achilleas thniskon) in the gardens of the Achilleion / Photo by Dr.K., Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of akhos and penthos There are two key words for this hour, akhos and penthos, and the meaning of both words is ‘grief, sorrow; public[…]

Parsing the Poet, Bob Dylan

“I’m a Dylan professor and a Dylan fan,” says Harvard Professor Richard Thomas, who teaches a popular freshman seminar on the singer-songwriter and recently published “Why Dylan Matters.” / Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard Staff Photographer New book examines the influence of the classics on the Nobelist’s music. By Jill Radsken / 12.13.2017 Richard Thomas may be the[…]

Encounter at the Crossroads of Europe: The Fellowship of Zweig and Verhaeren

Stefan Zweig / Creative Commons By Will Stone / 12.02.2013 Poet, Translator ‘Friendship stands highest on the forehead of humanity…’ Keats I While still at school, Stefan Zweig had tried his hand at translating a number of French and Belgian poets, Verlaine, Mallarmé and Baudelaire, but also another name almost unknown to us today, Emile[…]

An Introduction to Homeric Poetry

By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University Iliad, Book VIII, lines 245–53, Greek manuscript, late 5th, early 6th centuries AD / Public Domain Homeric poetry is a cover term for two epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. The major part of this introduction will deal[…]

The Borderless Wordplay of Concrete Poetry

Beba Coca Cola (Drink Coca Cola), 1957, Décio Pignatari. Screen print from Poesia concreta in Brasile (Milan: Archivio della Grazia di Nuova Scrittura, 1991). The Getty Research Institute, 45-13. Courtesy of the Estate of Décio Pignatari   By Dr. Lauren Graber (left) and Dr. Henar Rivière (right) / 04.05.2017 Graber: Research Assistant Rivière: Curatorial Department[…]

What is Concrete Poetry?

Augusto de Campos’s Lygia Fingers, a poem from 1953 for his wife-to-be, Lygia Azeredo, highlights the international tendencies of concrete poetry; it appeared in a portfolio of concrete poems by European and Brazilian artists issued by the German printer and publisher Hansjörg Mayer in 1964. From 13 visuelle Texte (Stuttgart: Edition H. Mayer, 1964). The[…]

Songs of Stone

Sculptural Group of a Seated Poet (possibly Orpheus) with Two Sirens, 350–300 B.C., Greek, made in Tarentum, South Italy. Terracotta with traces of polychromy. Sirens: 55 1/8 in. high. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 76.AD.11. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program Is the greatness of poetry behind us? Writer Gabriele Tinti shares[…]

Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Frosty Notes from Roman Britain

Frosty temperatures at Vindolanda in winter 2014. / Photo by the Vindolanda Trust, Creative Commons By Dr. Peter Kruschwitz / 05.08.2014 From The Petrified Muse Professor of Classics Fellow of the Pontifical Academy for Latin (Pontificia Academia Latinitatis) University of Reading An inscription which has long fired my imagination is a fragmentary piece from Habitancum/Risingham[…]

The Invitation

By Oriah Mountain Dreamer / 10.30.2016 What do you ache for? An exquisite and potent poem about real life. It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you[…]

The Irrelevant and the Contemporary

By Daniel Penny / 08.02.2016 Those who are truly contemporary, who truly belong to their time, are those who neither perfectly coincide with it nor adjust themselves to its demands. They are thus in this sense irrelevant. But precisely because of this condition, precisely through this disconnection and this anachronism, they are more capable than[…]

11 Haiku to Teach Kids about Art

The elements of art, described entirely in verse—using real and mythological creatures By Porche’ Carter / 08.09.2016 My journey as a poet and haiku master began in grade school, in 7th grade to be exact. My English teacher, Ms. Knight, introduced me to a form of expression that I would continue to use in my[…]

The Steps of Life

The idea of a human’s life being divisible into distinct stages has been around for millennia, a recurring theme in the literature and art running through all historical periods and places. The early Greeks were particularly fond of the idea, the earliest reference being from lawmaker, and poet Solon (ca. 600 BC), who had ten[…]

And the Moon Sheds a Drop of Blood

Photo by Louis Cahill By Brian Jeganathan / 05.28.2016 In January last year, I visited Mullaitivu. Since it was after dusk, I decided to find lodging just for one night. During the day, I had the opportunity of listening to the horror stories of local Tamils who were caught in the final onslaught on Mullivaikkal[…]

The New Hope

Image courtesy Sri Lanka Brief Anonymous Poem I have learned humility, to respect my brother, to walk on the straight line when the man in blue requires compliance, but I am not drunk, and I am not free, yet tonight I will eat hoppers on national televsion, not in a private soiree, so the fisherman[…]

The Novelty of African Poetry

Image| Jerry Riley | http://www.jerryrileyphotography.com By Dr. Aaron Brady Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Texas Does “African poetry” exist? It’s the worst sort of question, because the answer is too easy to be interesting: Yes. There are poets who are African—lots of them—and when Africans make poetry, that poetry is “African poetry.” There are poets who[…]

Poem – Meeting My Younger Self

Bina Gupta / 03.10.2016 Reacquainting With my younger self I looked at ‘her’ face Full of rampant Curiosity Then In a withering tone Asked “You whose head stayed Buried in books twenty four Seven when not running wildly Outdoors….has fate met All those secretly nourished desires you’d romantically Purloined from your Romantic, witty heroines? She[…]

A Vietnamese-American Man Captures the US Immigrant Experience in Poetry

Poet and essayist Ocean Vuong was born in Saigon and raised in Hartford, Connecticut. Credit: Peter Bienkowski By Joyce Hackel / 04.16.2016 Listen to Hackel’s Story from PRI.org Vietnamese-American poet Ocean Vuong remembers the start of his immigrant experience, when on his first night in America he squeezed into a tiny, unfurnished Connecticut apartment with six relatives and[…]