Scholar Exhibits

Nine Poets Walk Into An Institute of Technology

Nine poets walk into an institute of technology. If this sounds like a joke, that's by design, for in modern times there seems to be something funny about the poet who moves among technologists—not funny ha ha, but funny strange. And yet, in 1962-3, nine poets did walk into an institute of technology. And not just at any institute of technology, but a pre-eminent example of the type: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, more popularly known as M.I.T. One after another, John Ciardi, Robert Graves, David Ferry, X.J. Kennedy, Denise Levertov, Mark Van Doren, Robert Penn Warren, Theodore Weiss, and Richard Wilbur rose up and held forth: sometimes reading original poems, or poems by others, sometimes speaking about the vocation of the poet, or about poetry more generally. A few of these poets were younger, a few older. Some ignored the context of their appearance at M.I.T., but others addressed that context directly, and, in some cases, rather provocatively. If these occasions were notable and unusual, so too was their further promotion via the airwaves of WGBH, Boston's public radio affiliate. This media event occurred at a signal moment in the collision between American poetry and an increasingly scientifically-oriented public culture: after Frost appeared at Kennedy's inauguration, but before their respective deaths; after Hiroshima, Sputnik, and the Pill, but before the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Earth Day, and the Asilomar Conference. In this setting, poets like Graves, Van Doren, and Warren took up the rare opportunity to speak as poets, on behalf of poetry, while confronting one of the primary seats of science and technology. Their remarks in the Poetry from M.I.T. series continue to resonate in our own times, with the relationship between poetry and science in flux now as then. In the following collection, we'll examine some of the key themes and representative poems that emerged from this remarkable reading series.

Resource Page on John Ciardi via poetryfoundation.org

Resource Page on John Ciardi via poets.org

Resource Page on John Ciardi via wikipedia.org

Ciardi, John. The Collected Poems of John Ciardi. Ed. Edward M. Cifelli. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1997.

Ciardi, John. The Hopeful Trout and Other Limericks. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1992

Ciardi, John. Saipan: The War Diary of John Ciardi. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1988.

Ciardi, John. You Read to Me, I'll Read to You. New York: HarperCollins, 1987.

Cifelli, Edward M. John Ciardi: A Biography. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1988.

Clemente, Vince, ed. John Ciardi: Measure of the Man. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1987.

Resource Page on David Ferry via poetryfoundation.org

Resource Page on David Ferry via poets.org

Resource Page on David Ferry via wikipedia.org

Ferry, David. Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Ferry, David. Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Resource Page on Robert Graves via poetryfoundation.org

Resource Page on Robert Graves via poets.org

Resource Page on Robert Graves via wikipedia.org

Graves, Robert. The Common Asphodel: Collected Essays on Poetry, 1922-1949. New York: Haskell House, 1949.

Graves, Robert. Conversations With Robert Graves. Ed. Frank L. Kersnowski. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1989.

Graves, Robert. Country Sentiment. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1920

Graves, Robert. On English Poetry: Being an Irregular Approach to the Psychology of this Art, From Evidence Mainly Subjective. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1922.

Graves, Robert. Fairies and Fusiliers. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1918

Graves, Robert. Poetic Unreason. New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1968.

Graves, Robert. The White Goddess. London: Faber & Faber, 2010.

Carter, D. N. G. Robert Graves: The Lasting Poetic Achievement. London: Macmillan Press, 1989.

Firla, Ian, and Grevel Lindop, eds. Graves and the Goddess: Essays on Robert Graves's The White Goddess. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 2003.

X. J. Kennedy reading in 1964, 1965, and 1971 via the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University

Resource Page on X. J. Kennedy via poetryfoundation.org

Resource Page on X.J. Kennedy via poets.org

Resource Page on Kennedy via wikipedia.org

Kennedy, X. J. In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and Selected Poems, 1955–2007. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

Kennedy, X. J. Peeping Tom's Cabin: Comic Verse, 1928-2008. Buffalo: BOA Editions, Ltd., 2007.

Kennedy, X. J. "X.J. Kennedy." Fourteen on Form. Ed. William Baer. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004. 237-254

Morris, Bernard E. Taking Measure: The Poetry and Prose of X.J. Kennedy. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 2003.

Levertov reading in 1960, 1962, and 1986 via the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University

Resource Page on Denise Levertov via poetryfoundation.org

Resource Page on Denise Levertov via poets.org

Resource Page on Denise Levertov via the Modern American Poetry Site, at the University of Illinois

Resource Page on Denise Levertov via wikipedia.org

Duncan, Robert, and Denise Levertov. The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov. Ed. Robert J. Bertholf and Albert Gelpi. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004.

Levertov, Denise. Conversations With Denise Levertov. Ed. Jewel Spears Brooker. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998.

Levertov, Denise. Collected Earlier Poems: 1940-1960. New York: New Directions, 1979.

Levertov, Denise. The Life Around Us: Selected Poems on Nature. New York: New Directions, 1997.

Levertov, Denise. New and Selected Essays. New York: New Directions, 1992

Levertov, Denise. Poems 1972-1982. New York: New Directions, 2001.

Levertov, Denise. Selected Poems. New York: New Directions, 2003.

Levertov, Denise. The Stream & the Sapphire: Selected Poems on Religious Themes. New York: New Directions, 1997.

Levertov, Denise. Tesserae: Memories & Suppositions. New York: New Directions, 1996.

Gelpi, Albert, ed. Denise Levertov: Selected Criticism. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993.

Greene, Dana. Denise Levertov: A Poet's Life. Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012.

Hollenberg, Donna. A Poet's Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.

Rodgers, Audrey T. Denise Levertov: The Poetry of Engagement. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1993.

Resource Page on Mark Van Doren via poetryfoundation.org

Resource Page on Mark Van Doren via wikipedia.org

Van Doren, Mark. 7 P.M. & Other Poems. New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1926.

Maddocks, Melvin. "Close-Up: Van Doren at 75: A Complex Poet Who Talks Calmly in a Troubled Time." Life. June 20, 1969. 64-67.

Robert Penn Warren reading in 1967 and 1969 via the woodberry poetry room at Harvard University

Resource Page on Robert Penn Warren via poetryfoundation.org

Resource Page on Robert Penn Warren via poets.org

Resource Page on Robert Penn Warren via the Modern American Poetry Site, at the University of Illinois

Resource Page on Robert Penn Warren via wikipedia.org

Warren, Robert Penn. The Collected Poems of Robert Penn Warren. Ed. John Burt. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998.

Warren, Robert Penn. Conversations With Robert Penn Warren. Ed. Gloria L. Cronin, Ben Siegel. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005.

Warren, Robert Penn. Democracy and Poetry. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975.

Warren, Robert Penn. Selected Poems of Robert Penn Warren. Ed. John Burt. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.

Runyon, Randolph. Ghostly Parallels: Robert Penn Warren And the Lyric Poetic Sequence. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006.

Runyon, Randolph. The Braided Dream: Robert Penn Warren's Late Poetry. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990.

Resource Page on Theodore Weiss via poetryfoundation.org

Resource Page on Theodore Weiss via wikipedia.org

Weiss, Theodore. A Sum of Destructions: Poems. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994.

Weiss, Theodore. Selected Poems. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1995.

Richard Wilbur reading in 1950 via the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University

Resource Page on Richard Wilbur via poetryfoundation.org

Resource Page on Richard Wilbur via poets.org

Resource Page on Richard Wilbur via the Modern American Poetry Site, at the University of Illinois

Resource Page on Richard Wilbur via wikipedia.org

Wilbur, Richard. Anterooms: New Poems and Translations. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.

Wilbur, Richard. Conversations With Richard Wilbur. Ed. William Butts. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1990.

Wilbur, Richard. New and Collected Poems. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1989.

Wilbur, Richard. Opposites, More Opposites, and a Few Differences. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000.

Wilbur, Richard. Poems Of Richard Wilbur. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1963.

Wilbur, Richard. "Richard Wilbur" Fourteen on Form. Ed. William Baer. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004. 3-20.

Michelson, Bruce. Wilbur's Poetry: Music in Scattering Time. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1991.