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Academic excellence at Montclair High School


The Death Club
Richard Wilbur Poet
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One thing I remember about that school is that I won the broad jump championship in a track meet we had, otherwise I wasn't distinguished as an athlete. Although I was a slightly odd bird there at that school, I found that I was sometimes the person who thought up what it would be fun to do. I was influential sometimes in that way. One day I remember I managed to get the entire student body during recess, not playing baseball or skipping rope or doing some other wholesome thing, but walking round and round the building in a great mass. This was regarded as very questionable behaviour by the Principal, Miss Tufts, and she did not altogether think well of me for that. I also became a little dubious in the seventh grade when I founded a club. I called it The Death Club, and of course made myself president of it, and much of my seventh grade year was spent in initiating other people into the club, sometimes in scary ways. By the time everybody in the grade had become a member of my club, it became apparent to us all that we existed only to initiate new members, and so we disbanded, but at any rate, that's something I thought of, that's a way in which I was influential.

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: school, athletics, teacher, club

Duration: 2 minutes, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008