The Long Public Life of a Short Private Poem: Reading and Remembering Thomas Wyatt
by Peter Murphy
Sometime around 1535, Sir Thomas Wyatt, a poet and ambassador in the court of King Henry VIII, had a scribe copy into his personal commonplace book a poem that Wyatt had composed. The text was centered on the page and written out in “Secretary Hand,” an elaborate formal script often …
Karen Russell’s new collection, Orange World, contains eight stories whose weirdness rests largely in their premises. “Bog Girl: A Romance” is a love story about a teenage boy and the girlfriend he finds preserved in a peat bog; “The Tornado Auction” concerns storm ranchers who breed prize twisters, funnel clouds, dust devils, and waterspouts; “Madame Bovary’s Greyhound” focuses on the tragic heroine’s once-enthralled, now blasé canine, beset by a trickle-down version of his owner’s sexual boredom. In capsule form, Russell’s stories pass among readers like gossip or jokes or memes; some of them have become famous for the kernel of tall tale or urban legend they contain.
C.K. Williams died in 2015, just before the publication of his Selected Later Poems, and before his moving final volume, Falling Ill: Last Poems, saw the light of day. Williams was known as an unsparing chronicler of shames, a tender observer of human misery, a man of refinement somewhat ambivalent …
Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty
by Ben Ratliff
Ben Ratliff’s Every Song Ever is a music appreciation guide for our era of free or very cheap music, instantaneously available everywhere and to nearly everyone, delivered from the cloud to tiny, relatively inexpensive devices that deliver loud, clear, and accurate sound.
The latest edition of our brief dispatches by New York Review writers documenting the coronavirus outbreak around the world, including Coco Fusco in Brooklyn, Lucas Adams in Brooklyn, Sara Nović in Philadelphia, Gavin Francis in Edinburgh, Amanda Fortini in Livingston, Jeet Thayil in Bangalore, Stuart Lewis in Brooklyn, Nellie Hermann in Wellfleet, Carina del Valle Schorske in Manhattan, Jonathan Mingle in Lincoln, Reed Lindsay in Havana, Miranda Popkey in Watertown, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro on Fire Island, Dan Chiasson in Wellesley, and more.
Tibor de Nagy, the iconic midtown gallery, has been celebrating its sixtieth anniversary with a show that doesn’t so much trace its history as distill its early essence. “Painters & Poets” includes drawings, chapbooks, letters and well-known paintings that emerged from the fantastic collaborations between Frank O’Hara and Larry Rivers, O’Hara and Joe Brainard, Brainard and John Ashbery, James Schuyler and Grace Hartigan, among many others. The energy of the poets drove those projects, yet often the painters made them sit still and keep their mouths shut, as we see in the many striking portraits in this show of poets reading, writing, sitting there, spacing out, in every phase of dress and undress. Other times, they inspired one another to produce works—like Hartigan’s series of paintings made in response to O’Hara’s poem “Oranges”—that drew from their complementary strengths. “The strangeness of the collaborative situation,” wrote Kenneth Koch, another mainstay of the group, “might lead them to the unknown, or at least to some dazzling insights at which they could never have arrived consciously or alone.”
The Magnetic Fields is the name Stephin Merritt calls the band he often plays with, when he isn’t playing alone or with several other bands he invented. The core group is Merritt and his old friend Claudia Gonson, who started as a drummer but now plays piano, “toys” (wire whisks, xylophone, sleigh bells—it’s a long list), sometimes sings, and, as her day job, manages the band; plus Sam Davol, a former lawyer who plays cello and sometimes flute and sometimes other things, too; and John Woo, a guitarist who often plays banjo. Merritt himself plays just about everything, including ukelele and a Greek instrument called a bouzouki.