Nonsense and Sense

June 16, 2014
Nonsense and Sense -
A Tribute to Gertrude Stein
Written by Denis Daly

Performed by Bev Stevens

Introduction read by Bob Gonzalez

Music:
Excerpts from Three pieces for solo clarinet
by Igor Stravinsky
Performed by William McColl.
Among authors, Gertrude Stein is one of the most celebrated - some would even say notorious - iconoclasts.  After starting out as a novelistic story-teller  she explored the notion that words have sufficient power in themselves to create context, and hence the historical structures represented by the novel and narrative poem became inessential, although still useful. 
 
A writer like Gertrude Stein is an obvious target for parody.  However, no parody can be effective without an attempt to consider the integrity of the original author, obnoxious or maladroit though that person may be.  In devising the following piece, the following elements of Stein's method and personality were evoked:
1) the repetitive and idiosyncratic use of verbiage;
2) the juxtaposition of images usually considered to be unrelated;
3) the persistent and often specious style of argumentation;
4) an obscure but persistent preoccupation with self-justification;
5) a wish to keep the reader at a respectful distance.
Like many parodies, this piece is also a tribute.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to compile a substantial satire about an author for whom one has no respect. A joke usually seeks to diminish the dignity and worth of its subject: a parody rather strives to highlight the flaws in something which is greater than itself. Whether one wishes to admit it or not,  Gertrude Stein was a seminal figure in Twentieth Century Literature, and one whose contribution will be the source of study and discussion for generations to come.
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Last Poems - A. E. Housman

June 7, 2014
Last Poems (1922)

by A.E. Housman

Performed by Alan Weyman

Last Poems (1922) is the second and last of the two volumes of poems A. E. Housman published during his lifetime - the first, and better-known, being A Shropshire Lad (1896). Housman was an emotionally withdrawn man whose closest friend Moses Jackson had been his roommate when he was at Oxford in 1877-1882. In the 1920s, when Jackson was dying in Canada, Housman selected forty-one previously unpublished poems into a volume entitled Last Poems, for him to read. The introduction to the volume explains his rationale:

I publish these poems, few though they are, because it is not likely that I shall ever be impelled to write much more. I can no longer expect to be revisited by the continuous excitement under which in the early months of 1895 I wrote the greater part of my first book, nor indeed could I well sustain it if it came; and it is best that what I have written should be printed while I am here to see it through the press and control its spelling and punctuation. About a quarter of this matter belongs to the April of the present year, but most of it to dates between 1895 and 1910.

September 1922.

Introduction
I. THE WEST
II (As I gird on for fighting)
III (Her strong enchantments failing)
IV. ILLIC JACET
V. GRENADIER
VI. LANCER
VII (In valleys green and still)
VIII (Soldier from the wars returning)
IX (The chestnut casts his flambeaux, and the flowers)
X (Could man be drunk for ever)
XI (Yonder see the morning blink)
XII ( The laws of God, the laws of man)
XIII. THE DESERTER
XIV. THE CULPRIT
XV. EIGHT O'CLOCK
XVI. SPRING MORNING
XVII. ASTRONOMY
XVIII (The rain, it streams on stone and hillock)
XIX (In midnights of November)
XX (The night is freezing fast)
XXI (The fairies break their dances)
XXII (The sloe was lost in flower)
XXIII (In the morning, in the morning)
XXIV. EPITHALAMIUM
XXV. THE ORACLES
XXVI (The half-moon westers low, my love)
XXVII (The sigh that heaves the grasses)
XXVIII (Now dreary dawns the eastern light)
XXIX (Wake not for the world-heard thunder)
XXX. SINNER'S RUE
XXXI. HELL'S GATE
XXXII (When I would muse in boyhood)
XXXIII (When the eye of day is shut)
XXXIV. THE FIRST OF MAY
XXXV (When first my way to fair I took)
XXXVI. REVOLUTION
XXXVII. EPITAPH ON AN ARMY OF MERCENARIES
XXXVIII (Oh stay at home, my lad, and plough)
XXXIX (When summer’s end is nighing)
XL (Tell me not here, it needs not saying)
XLI. FANCY'S KNELL
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