Saturday, 25 September 2010

Wymondham Words: With Great Pleasure

I hadn't in all these years done something quite like this: an entertainment of poetry and music, consciously an entertainment for a Sunday midday, the subject in this case - my choice - being autumn. This was the programme as far as the words were concerned:


Rainer Maria Rilke: Autumn Day (tr Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann)


Reading from Chambers Book of Days: Introduction to September

Theme: Childhood & School
Philip Larkin: Afternoons
Katherine Mansfield: Autumn Song
William Shakespeare: from Jaques's All the world's a stage... speech (the schoolboy and the lover)
Geoffrey Willans: 'Short Speech for Headmaster', Beginning of Term, from Down with Skool, 1953

Theme: Autumnal Passions
John Donne: from Elegy IX (The Autumnal)
Stevie Smith: Autumn
Dorothy Parker: Autumn Valentine
Zsuzsa Rakovszky: The Were Burning Dead Leaves (Translated by GS)
Chambers Book of Days: The Puritans


Theme: Autumns Elsewhere
James Wright: Autumn Begins in Martin's Ferry, Ohio
Delmore Schwartz (after Rilke): Late Autumn in Venice
Matzuo Basho: Autumn Moonlight
Carl Sandburg: from Three Pieces on the Smoke of Autumn
Les Murray: Flowering Eucalypt in Autumn

Chambers Book of Days: Old Sayings*


Theme: Fullness and Rough Weather
John Keats: Ode to Autumn
John Clare: Autumn Birds
Emily Dickinson: The name of it is 'Autumn'
Boris Pasternak: from Seasons (translated by Robert Lowell)


Theme: Autumn into Winter as Comedy
Chambers Book of Days: On Dr Thomas Sheridan
Martin Bell: Winter Coming On
Charles Cotton: from Winter

Music: Klezmer played at slow pace

Theme: Leaves and Resurrections
Derek Mahon: Leaves
P. B. Shelley: Ode to the West Wind

Music play out: Here comes the sun..

I can't remember all the music and Andy Kirkham, the guitarist, hadn't written the titles down for me.

It was intended for a non-specialist audience. The three well-known pieces (Shakespeare, Keats and Shelley - a wonderful blast of a poem to go out on) would, I hoped, be recognised. The Chambers excerpts were to introduce a little quirky information into the poetry, the rest was whatever happened to come to hand, organised into blocks that made a certain chronological sense, starting from Rilke's '...The summer was immense' and ending with Shelley's 'If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?'

In the run-up I wondered whether Autumn was not too narrow a theme and whether the audience would be drowned in an endless swirl of dead leaves and regrets for youth, but the Autumns Elsewhere section was different enough and then Bell and Cotton certainly strike another note.

Again the place was packed out and all very complimentary.

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