Tag Archives: poetry

Michael McClure: In Memoriam

A black and white photograph of four men against the backdrop of a wall and a door. The photo style is relaxed and candid.
Robbie Robertson, Michael McClure, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg in the alley behind City Lights Books, San Francisco, 1965.

On May 4th of this year, one of the great geniuses of poetry and the arts passed away, and we wanted to take a moment here to commemorate his passing. Michael McClure helped launch the counterculture Beat generation alongside Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Philip Whalen, and Diane Di Prima, and is also associated with The San Francisco Renaissance school of poetry along with Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser, Joanne Kyger, David Meltzer, and Robert Duncan, his mentor at San Francisco State. 

A tan book cover with a black spine, with alternating color text on the cover: Touching the Edge (burgundy, very large), Michael McClure (Black, Very large), Dharma Devotions from the Hummingbird Sangha (Burgundy, smaller). Text is under an image that appears to be a hand arising out of some kind of script or inky shape.
Cover for Touching the Edge by Michael McClure

McClure’s groundbreaking work transformed our understanding of the relationship of the poet/artist to nature. He helped pioneer our thinking on ecology and illuminated the connection between human expression and the expression of all living things. While often remembered for his poetry, McClure was also a playwright, essayist, and his performance collaborations defined a new way of bringing the audience to poetry. McClure’s Meat Science Essays was a clarion call to liberation. His play, The Beard, rocked the comfortable sensibilities of the theater-going public, leading to censorship battles and boarded-up theaters. That play would go on to win an Obie for “Best Play” and “Best Director.” His performances with musicians Ray Manzarek from The Doors and the minimalist composer Terry Riley explored the bardic tradition and brought poetry to pop culture with relentless mastery. 

FSU Special Collections and Archives is fortunate to hold materials, both in our rare books and manuscript collections, that chronicle the life of Michael McClure through his close relationship with Michael Rothenberg, FSU Libraries Poet-in-Residence.

Two men seated in a bookstore. One, Michael Rothenberg, has his arm around the other, Michael McClure. Rothenberg looks directly at the camera while McClure is examining a book in his lap.
Michael R. and Michael M. in recent years.

Rothenberg’s personal papers and book collection document the network of artists and thinkers that comprised the Beat Generation and San Francisco Renaissance movements. We are fortunate to have McClure’s official publications in our book collections, but also personal items from McClure from Rothenberg’s association with him through the years.

 

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A Bromeliad named after Rothenberg from his time working at the nursery in Pacifica.

Michael Rothenberg first encountered a copy of McClure’s Meat Science Essays when he was seventeen in Miami Beach. He recalls, “McClure’s work was a gateway to a greater understanding of the poet in the natural world. He gave me permission to express myself in a language that was indigenous to me. He offered a kind of thinking and concern that became my path. He blew my mind.” Then, something like ten years later, Rothenberg was 

Mammals
Cover of The Mammals by McClure

introduced to McClure at Rothenberg’s orchid and bromeliad nursery in Pacifica, CaliforniaThey went hiking together, shared many lunches, and almost instantly became very close friends. “I felt that we were kindred spirits,” Rothenberg remembers, “Everything that McClure had set out in his work was what I was looking for as a poet and as a mammal.”

 

 

 

 

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Meat Science Essays Inscription

Eventually, Rothenberg and McClure would travel to Florida together to read at the Miami Book Fair. During that trip, Rothenberg took McClure out on a tour of the Everglades, “to show him the nature that I grew up with,” Rothenberg says. It was there that McClure signed the old, tattered copy of Meat Science Essays that Rothenberg read when he was seventeen, the book that opened Rothenberg’s eyes to ecology-based writing. 

 

 

 

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McClure had a distinct writing style, and Rothenberg describes it like this: “McClure’s writing is cosmic. Open, romantic, haiku-ish, abstract, specific, concrete, and light-filled. You can hear the roar of lions, and the throbbing of a living cell in each word and breath he speaks.” 

“I will miss him dearly,” Rothenberg said, “but I know that his work will inform and enlighten generations to come.”

 

 

More reading on Michael McClure’s legacy: 

McClure Bibliography: https://www.emptymirrorbooks.com/mcclure/

“The Flame Is Ours”, Michael McClure correspondence with Stan Brakhage ,edited by Christopher Luna http://www.bigbridge.org/…/Luna_McClu…/THE_FLAME_IS_OURS.pdf ,

“Engraving of Snakes”, a chapbook by Michael McClure with illustrations by Nancy Victoria Davis, http://www.bigbridge.org/issue5/snakes.pdf

 

A special thank you to Michael Rothenberg for participating in writing this blog post, and for sharing his personal memories of Michael McClure. 

Summer Quiet

Summer is indeed a quieter time on campus. Today starts the summer term here at FSU and we wish all students the best of luck in their summer classes.

Title page from the Summer Holiday issue of The Girl’s Own Paper (1883). See the entire issue here.

We recently posted in DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository more volumes of The Girl’s Own Paper, or The Girl’s Own Annual as it was eventually titled. You can browse issues from this publication geared at young British girls and teenagers from the years 1880-1893 in DigiNole. This is an ongoing digitization project so be sure to look out for “new” issues in the future. This publication is a part of the larger John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection. Titles from that collection which have been digitized may be browsed and searched in DigiNole as well.

Happy Summer!

The Lord Mayor’s Show

In loading some new titles to the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection, I noticed an event popping up in several of the texts. The Lord Mayor’s Show, an event still held today, was a popular topic in British children’s books in the 1800s.

Pages from Lord Mayor’s Show, or, The 9th of November (1810) [see original item here]

Children’s books in this era were often used to educate and explain people, place, nature and events to children. As the first example, Lord Mayor’s show, or, The 9th of November (1810) shows. This hand-colored picture book explains all the pageantry surrounding the event as well as takes the reader through each individual event that makes up the Show.

First page of the poem, “Lord Mayor’s Show” [See original item here]

Another example shows how prominent events in children’s lives could always be used to teach a lesson. In The rose-bud: a flower in the juvenile garland, a poem entitled “Lord Mayor’s Show” shows a young boy exclaiming over all the pomp and circumstance around the traditional parade at the Lord Mayor’s Show. His parents are quick to point out it is the hard work the Lord Mayor puts in that is valued and not the gold of his carriage.

The Lord Mayor’s Show is one of the longest running events of its kind, dating back to the 16th century and still celebrated today on the same date as the young children in the 1800s would have celebrated it. Both of these examples show how children’s literature can give us a glimpse into how events have changed, or remained the same.

You can explore more books and poetry of the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection through DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository. We’re adding new titles to the collection often so be sure to check back!

“Field Flowers,” a bouquet of poetry from Eugene Field

Long known as the “Poet of Childhood,” Eugene Field is famous for his satirical and whimsical poems that evoke dreams, mischief, and romance. One of his most well-known poems “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” conjures images of the three eponymous sailors casting nets for stars in a crystal-brilliant sea in a child’s dream. 

All night long their nets they threw 
   To the stars in the twinkling foam— 
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe, 
   Bringing the fishermen home; 
‘T was all so pretty a sail it seemed 
   As if it could not be, 
And some folks thought ‘t was a dream they ‘d dreamed 
   Of sailing that beautiful sea— 
   But I shall name you the fishermen three: 
                     Wynken, 
                     Blynken, 
                     And Nod.1

Field continued his lighthearted and fantastic poems continued to be published after his early death in 1895, at the age of 45. The posthumously published “Field Flowers”  (1896) continues this streak of the magical in the pastoral “Cornish Lullaby”.  

Out on the mountain over the town, 
All night long, all night long, 
The trolls go up and the trolls go down, 
Bearing their packs and crooning a song; 
And this is the song the hill-folk croon, 
As they trudge in the light of the misty moon,– 
This is ever their dolorous tune: 
“Gold, gold! ever more gold,– 
Bright red gold for dearie!” 
 
Deep in the hill the yeoman delves 
All night long, all night long; 
None but the peering, furtive elves 
See his toil and hear his song; 
Merrily ever the cavern rings 
As merrily ever his pick he swings, 
And merrily ever this song he sings: 
“Gold, gold! ever more gold,– 
Bright red gold for dearie!” 
 
Mother is rocking thy lowly bed 
All night long, all night long, 
Happy to smooth thy curly head 
And to hold thy hand and to sing her song; 
‘T is not of the hill-folk, dwarfed and old, 
Nor the song of the yeoman, stanch and bold, 
And the burden it beareth is not of gold; 
But it’s “Love, love!–nothing but love,– 
Mother’s love for dearie!” 

As a popular poet of his time, Field’s work was commented in other publications, such as the article “Some Current Literature” by Van Der Dater in the journal Bradley, His Book (1897).

If Field’s poetic works intrigue you, you can further explore the digitized copy of “Field Flowers” at the Special Collections Research Center at Strozier Library or here at the FSU Digital Library.

  1. “Field, Eugene. Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” from “The Golden Book of Poetry” (1947), Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42920/wynken-blynken-and-nod; originally published in “Trumpet and Drum” (1892). 

The Poetical Star

This post is written by Megan Barrett, a long time student employee in the Digital Library Center in Special Collections & Archives. We’ll be sorry to see her graduate this spring but we know she’s off to big things!

I am currently a senior studying Art History, and I’ve had the opportunity to work as a Special Collections & Archives assistant for the past three years. I’ve helped with a number of fascinating projects, with topics ranging from Napoleonic newspapers to environmental studies, and this semester, I got to spend some time with the collection of John MacKay Shaw.

One of the books I worked with for this project was a poetry collection entitled The Poetical Star, published in London in 1843. The collection begins with an epigraph by the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne: “I have here only made a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the thread that binds them.”

The excerpt of the Byron poem as it appears in The Poetical Star [see original item]

As a student interested in Romanticism, one of the poems in the collection that caught my eye was the “Description of a Mad-House” from Lord Byron’s The Lament of Tasso. The poem narrates the time that the Italian poet Torquato Tasso spent in a mental hospital, and it has become the subject of one of my favorite paintings by Eugène Delacroix, Tasso in the Madhouse (1839). The Poetical Star also includes poetry on abstract ideas of love and time, as well as comedic poetry and wordplay.

Tasso in the Madhouse by Eugène Delacroix
Tasso in the Madhouse by Eugène Delacroix [Original Image: WikiData]

The Poetical Star is one of the many poetry books that can be found as an ebook in FSU’s digital library, especially in the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry collection.

Uncovering a Childhood Through Poetry

Hi! I’m Celita and I’m a senior studying Editing, Writing, and Media here at FSU. I’ve spent the past couple of months interning for Special Collections & Archives and beginning to dig into the collection of Scotsman John MacKay Shaw.

Shaw’s twofold collection, in addition to including his own works and memorabilia, also includes the works of other writers. To add to his personal collection of poetry, Shaw took to browsing secondhand bookstores, perusing their shelves for books to include in his “Childhood in Poetry” collection. While selecting a batch of these books for digitization, I gained an insight into Shaw’s collection practices and the implications of some of these artifacts in reflecting and shaping society.

Many of Shaw’s books are extremely rare or first edition books, and some are not recorded in any source. One of these is “The Lioness’s Ball,” believed to be the unrecorded sequel to another work entitled “The Butterfly’s Ball.” The 1807 book features six hand-colored plates produced by William Mulready, an Irish-born artist who worked out of London. “The Lioness’s Ball” is among the children’s books he illustrated, and his other artworks are displayed in prominent places like the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Tate Gallery, and Dublin’s National Gallery. One work is even in the possession of the royal family. The plates in “The Lioness’s Ball” feature vivid color images with a great deal of texture and depth. The frontispiece, which depicts the animals gathering, is shown below–

 

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In addition to some astounding images and engravings throughout the collection, Shaw’s collection of secondhand books reveals the familial and religious significance of poetry. Three of the items I found contained family crests inside the front cover. Several others included dedications (some personal and some religious), orphanage stamps, and other inscriptions.

To me, these artifacts highlighted the importance of books as social tools for spreading religious, moral, and educational values. Oftentimes, books were gifted by family members, organizations, or religious figures, with the primary purpose of serving as a teaching tool. Below is the author, Reverend Grant’s, dedication to a Miss Minshull, which faces her family crest on the inside cover.

 

IMG_1831

 

Inscriptions, advertisements, marks by booksellers, and dedications make the social significance of poetry books clear. Not only were these books read, but they were also circulated, whether it be as a gift, a prize, a donation, or something else. Preserved by some and marked by others, the books I selected to show how texts develop alongside people, creating a childhood through poetry.

Poetry in Protest, a new Exhibit in Strozier Library

Poetry in Protest

Poetry can be a powerful tool for eliciting emotion and is frequently used to express dissent or advocate for change. FSU Special Collections & Archives’ latest exhibition, “Poetry in Protest,” explores the genres, tactics, and voices of poets that write against the existing world and imagine societal revolution.

As a means of delving into the subject, the exhibition begins with poet Michael Rothenberg’s work in developing the global event 100 Thousand Poets for Change, where poets around the world read in support of “Peace, Justice, and Sustainability.” While some of the materials on display are explicitly poetry responding to some aspect of the status quo, others are less direct in their means of protest. Poetry containing eroticism that is transgressive push back against societal norms of sex and love; works written in dialects or languages of the oppressed insist upon the existence of those voices in the world.

The selections from FSU Libraries’ Special Collections encompass nearly 2,500 years of poetical dissent, including Sappho, William Wordsworth, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, Tupac Shakur, and many more. Materials from the Michael Rothenberg Collection are on display for the first time since their recent acquisition as well.

Stop by this Fall and take a tour of some of the greatest voices of protest poetry in history through this exhibition of items from FSU’s Special Collections & Archives. This exhibit is located in the Exhibit Room on the first floor of Strozier Library. It is open Monday to Thursday, 10am to 6pm and on Fridays from 10am to 5:30pm.

Andrea Gibson and Pride Month at FSU

Happy Pride Month, Noles! This month, people across the world are commemorating the Stonewall riots of 1969 by rejoicing in the wide spectrum of gender identities and sexual preferences represented in humankind.

To celebrate, I went digging for poetry in our Pride Student Union Records, part of the Heritage and University Archives. I came across evidence of FSU’s past celebrations of Pride month (June) and LGBT History month (October, as National Coming Out Day is October 11th).

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Pride Month poster from the past

Additionally, I found this poster signed by Andrea Gibson, poet extraordinaire and LGBTQ+ activist, who visited and performed at Florida State University in April of 2012.

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Andrea Gibson poster, signed

Gibson is brilliant enough on paper, but their pieces are best consumed aurally, as the FSU students in 2012 had a chance to do; YouTube videos, fortunately, abound! Here is the love poem “Maybe I Need You”:


Andrea’s voice is one of hope and community, reminding readers and listeners that they are not alone in their feelings or experiences. I leave you with another example of Andrea’s stirring work, which pairs poetry to music and creates a moving, motivating portrait of a young person discovering who they are and who they want to be.

Check out FSU’s Pride Student Union, still in action since its beginning back in 1969 and still hosting on-campus events: http://sga.fsu.edu/pride.shtml 

And to you and yours: HAPPY PRIDE!

Memorizing Math with Marmaduke Multiply

Poetry has, traditionally, served as an excellent way to remember things. The human brain just seems to better retain information that rhymes, and a rhythmic quality can bring the words to mind in an instant.

Lines that are intended to aid in memorization are called mnemonic verses, and we use them on a daily basis. Think of when you try to determine how many days are in a month: “Thirty days hath September…” Or when you consider how “neither” should be spelled: “I before E except after C…” Is that snake in your yard friend or foe? “Red on black, friend of Jack…”

There are even longer mnemonic verses for memorizing heftier material. For example, this witty little song for the history of the monarchy in England (sung to the tune of Good King Wenceslas):

Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry three;
One, two, three Neds, Richard two
Harrys four, five, six... then who?
Edwards four, five, Dick the bad,
Harrys twain and Ned the Lad;
Mary, Bessie, James the Vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again...
William and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Four Georges, William and Victoria;
Edward seven next, and then
George the fifth in 1910;
Ned the eighth soon abdicated
Then George the sixth was coronated;
After which Elizabeth
And that's the end until her death.
–Wikipedia, “Mnemonic verses of monarchs in England”

The little book from Special Collections that I’m sharing today is Marmaduke Multiply’s Merry Method of Making Minor Mathematicians of 1841. We have a facsimile of the work, which was a favorite among nineteenth-century schoolchildren for memorizing their numbers.

Originally published in 1816 and 1817, the book was largely popular in the UK, but it spread to the US toward the later half of the nineteenth century. The book has funny little woodcuts depicting various scenes and then a rhyming verse that helps the reader remember their times tables. Here are a few examples:

31
4 times 8 are 32, I once could dance as well as you.

 

46.1
6 times 8 are 48. Dear Aunt, your dress is out of date.

 

47.2
6 times 9 are 54. My little boat has come ashore.

Some of the most beautiful woodcut work appears on the borders. Here is close up of the corner piece on that last one:

cornerart1
Detail image of a corner woodcut.

Finally, my favorite page shows a child holding a book just like the one the image appears in! It also mentions the bookshop that sold Marmaduke Multiply’s Merry Method of Making Minor Mathematicians, which happened to be financially linked to the publishing house that produced the book (talk about savvy marketing!):

34.1
A little metatextual advertising!

What rhymes do you remember from childhood?


 

Marmaduke Multiply’s Merry Method of Making Minor Mathematicians. New York: Dover Publications, 1972. Print.

Responding to Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Children’s Book Calls for Peace

War & Peace for Children

The Special Collections book we’re highlighting today has a very specific mission: to teach children (and perhaps, the adults reading to or with them) about the post-nuclear world, and about the need for peace. On the Wings of Peace: In Memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a 1995 collection of prose, poetry, and accompanying illustrations that promotes a message of world peace by incorporating voices from communities that have been affected by the atrocities of war.

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On the Wings of Peace: Writers and Illustrators Speak Out for Peace, in Memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The introduction by compiler and editor Sheila Hamanaka lays out the historical events of August 6, 1945, aligning the victims to the reader: “In this city of 350,000 were people like you and me, and they were already suffering from the effects of war — the death of loved ones, starvation, separation” (11). Her words appear across from this harrowing illustration:

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Illustration by George Littlechild

Little Boy and Fat Man

Throughout the large hardback volume, essays, personal accounts, and poetry are accompanied by both illustrations that evoke difficult emotions and photographs that portray the reality of the circumstances. Across from “Thoughts from a Nuclear Physicist,” a short essay by Michio Kaku, is Little Boy and Fat Man, a photograph by Robert Del Tredici. A young man leans casually against what must be a mock-up of the bomb, appropriately reflecting Dr. Kaku’s wise observation:

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Little Boy and Fat Man photograph by Robert Del Tredici

 

“Regrettably, our scientific skills have far outstripped the wisdom and compassion necessary to control this deadly, cosmic power. We are like spoiled infants playing with matches while floating on a swimming pool of gasoline” (25).

Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection & Visual Literacy

The volume is a compelling addition to the growing Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection, a broad collection of works mostly written and designed with children in mind. What is most fascinating about the collection is the way that Dr. Gontarski conceives of it; in her years of studying visual literacy, Dr. Gontarski has made connections between the books within her collection via the myriad ways meanings are visually communicated to children in these works. This book, which handles heavy subject matter, incorporates a mix of illustrations by different artists.

“Sky”

One of the stand-out poems includes illustrations by the poet.

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A page from Junko Morimoto’s “Sky”

“Sky,” by Junko Morimoto, tells the story of the atomic bombs from the perspective of a child in a village very near the drop-site. The illustrations are small and appear alongside the stanzas, as though they are part of the poetry.

Communities

This month’s Year of Poetry theme is community, and the book On the Wings of Peace considers the mission of achieving world peace through the eyes of people from different communities with different relationships to war and peace. In the case of “Sky” it is of a person who has experienced atomic fallout.

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The Peacemaker, snake, and frog

In the case of “Rabbit Foot: A Story of the Peacemaker,” the poem is from the perspective of the Iroquois people. It recounts one of the legends that accompanies the foundation of the Great League of Peace, which joined five nations at war into a larger league comprised of the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca people (eventually, in 1722, the Tuscarora people joined as well). In the story, the Peacemaker warns of the dangers of war, illustrating his point with a story of a frog and a snake who eventually consume one another:

The snake swallowed more of the frog
the frog swallowed more of the snake
and the circle got smaller and smaller
until both of them swallowed one last time
and just like that, they both were gone.

They had eaten each other,
the Peacemaker said.
And in much the same way,
unless you give up war
and learn to live together in peace,
that also will happen to you.
— “Rabbit Foot: A Story of the Peacemaker” by Joseph Bruchac

If you’re interested in seeing how more artists respond to questions of war and peace, visit FSU’s Museum of Fine Arts to see the new exhibit, Waging Peace! There are beautiful pieces by a number of different artists, and local schools were involved in the design and installation of the exhibit.

The exhibit Waging Peace! will be up until July 6th, 2018. Don’t miss it!

 


Hamanaka, Sheila. On the Wings of Peace. Clarion Books, 1995.