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Candide comes to Broadway


A year in Rome
Richard Wilbur Poet
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My wife, Charlee, had been brought up in Italy, that is, her earliest days were on Capri and then in Florence, and she had pretty good Italian from the start and it became better and better, and she simply loved being in that city. My children had been hauled around from one place to another and put into one different school after another and they adjusted nevertheless heroically in Rome. Both my daughter and my eldest son went to a convent school, which was taught in Italian by French nuns, and they did pretty well there. What I had to do for my, for my eldest son, who was at first grade level at that time, was to make sure that he could read English and write in English. We went downtown in Rome to, to various bookstores looking for good text for him to work with, and we found a horrible English Macmillan text which we read for a few days in my study when he came, as he always did daily, to see me. It had passages that went like this, 'Ned be off to bed, Ned be off to bed, be off to bed, be off to bed, Ned be off to bed'. And my son simply rose up against that and he was right and of course I could not bear to be the administrator of such stuff. So what we did was to, was to find somewhere, a cache of comic books and the more legible comic books proved to be perfect texts for Christopher. He wanted to know what was going to happen in the next frame, and he very quickly was a good reader of English, or at any rate, of the sort of English that you find in comic books.

Acclaimed US poet Richard Wilbur (1921-2017) published many books and was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He was less well known for creating a musical version of Voltaire's “Candide” with Bernstein and Hellman which is still produced throughout the world today.

Listeners: David Sofield

David Sofield is the Samuel Williston Professor of English at Amherst College, where he has taught the reading and writing of poetry since 1965. He is the co-editor and a contributor to Under Criticism (1998) and the author of a book of poems, Light Disguise (2003).

Tags: Capri, Florence, Rome, Italy

Duration: 2 minutes, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008