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My treatment in experimental psychology


Randall Jarrell's life as a working poet
WD Snodgrass Poet
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I remember he came once to Detroit to give a reading and… and it was a wonderful reading. He… he read his translation of Faust — partly — and he was the best Gretchen that ever lived. I mean, no… no woman ever read the part of Gretchen as… as wonderfully and femininely as… as he did. Then, I remember the… the Art Institute is right across the street from the… from the university there and they went over there… over next door, he was with his wife — oh and I was responsible for their getting together at that earlier thing in Colorado — and now he brought her there and they went up and they were on the… the second floor of the Art Institute. She's down on one end looking at some paintings down there; he's goes down and there's a… there’s a cat down there painted by Kokoschka and… and it's like a… it's like… what was the term you used, feral, it… but it's like it's gone feral in… in the slums, and it… it is in a slum scene, it's up on a fire escape and… and there's blanked out windows everywhere and… and junk lying around and here's this fierce looking cat, hairs going out in every direction. Jarrell yells, the length of the Art Institute: 'Kitty Cat, come see the pussy'. You know, strong guards fainted. God he was so… he was so funny. And, the awful thing was that in a way he had moved out of the centers of power. Lowell was in New York and of course he was a Lowell so… so there was a lot of money behind him and a lot of family prestige and all of that. Jarrell did not, he came from what must have been a fairly poor family and so he was a kind of super snob and… but he was teaching at the Women's College of North Carolina; well that's… you know that's sort of sort of boondocks-ish; and so he… but… but he was writing criticism and he is the best… he was the best critic we ever had, and some of it very savage, but… he said to me, and I think it's probably true, he never beat up on people who didn't have much reputation or anything, but it was only people who had had a lot more reputation than they deserved and he made himself… that's why his poems aren't known much anymore. He got thrown out of the anthologies for this because he… he didn't hesitate to attack the people who were making the anthologies, Oscar Williams in particular. He said about Oscar Williams' anthology: 'You know, you have to have great self confidence to believe that your own work… that your own work is seven times better than Thomas Hardy, five times better than Hart Crane', and he went down the list like that. And, Williams had done that, seven times more of his own work than of Thomas Hardy — yea — how… something like five times better than Frost, you know. By return mail there was a copy of… of that anthology in his post... post box — in Jarrell's post box — with a marker to the place where his poems used to be and that's… that’s largely the reason that his poems are forgotten now.

American poet WD Snodgrass, entered the world of poetry with a bang winning several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, for his first collection of poetry, Heart's Needle. A backlash followed his controversial fifth anthology “The Fuehrer Bunker”, but in recent years these poems have been reassessed and their importance recognised.

Listeners: William B. Patrick

William B. Patrick is a writer and poet who lives in Troy, New York. Among his work are the poetry volumes "We Didn't Come Here for This" and "These Upraised Hands", the novel "Roxa: Voices of the Culver Family" and the plays "Rescue" and "Rachel's Dinner". His most recent work is the non-fiction book "Saving Troy", based on the year he spent following the Troy Fire Department.

Mr. Patrick has been Writer-in-Residence at the New York State Writers Institute and has taught at Old Dominion University, Onondaga Community College, and Salem State College, and workshops in Screenwriting and Playwriting at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference in Roanoke, Virginia. He has received grants from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Tags: Detroit, Faust, Detroit Institute of Arts, Colorado, New York, Woman's College of the University of North Carolina, Oskar Kokoschka, Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, Oscar Williams, Thomas Hardy, Hart Crane, Robert Frost

Duration: 3 minutes, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008