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Maya Angelou (born Marguerite Ann Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American author and poet. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years. She received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen, and brought her international recognition and acclaim. Angelou's long list of occupations has included pimp, prostitute, night-club dancer and performer, cast-member of the musical Porgy and Bess, coordinator for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, author, journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization, and actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. Since 1991, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Since the 1990s she has made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was heralded as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life. She is highly respected as a spokesperson of Black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture. Although attempts have been made to ban her books from some US libraries, her works are widely used in schools and universities worldwide. Angelou's major works have been labelled as autobiographical fiction, but many critics have characterized them as autobiographies. She has made a deliberate attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books center on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel. Angelou is best known for her autobiographies, but she is also an established poet, although her poems have received mixed reviews. Early years Marguerite Johnson was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928, the second child of Bailey Johnson, a navy dietitian, and Vivian (Baxter) Johnson, a nurse and card dealer. Angelou's older brother, Bailey Jr., nicknamed Marguerite "Maya", shortened from "my-a-sister". The first 17 years of Angelou's life are documented in her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. When Angelou was three, and her brother four, their parents' "calamitous marriage" ended. Their father sent them to Stamps, Arkansas alone by train to live with their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson. In "an astonishing exception" to the harsh economics of African Americans of the time, Angelou's grandmother prospered financially during the Great Depression and World War II because the general store she owned sold needed basic commodities and because "she made wise and honest investments”. Four years later, the children's father "came to Stamps without warning" and returned them to their mother's care in St. Louis. At the age of eight, while living with her mother, Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother's boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. She confessed it to her brother, who told the rest of their family. Freeman was found guilty, but was jailed for only one day. Four days after his release, he was murdered, probably by Angelou's uncles. Angelou became mute for almost five years, believing, as she has stated, "I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone..." According to Angelou's biographers it was during this period of silence when Angelou developed her extraordinary memory, her love for books and literature, and her ability to listen and observe the world around her. Shortly after Freeman's murder, Angelou and her brother were sent back to their grandmother once again. Angelou credits a teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, with helping her speak again. Flowers introduced her to authors such as Dickens, Shakespeare, Poe, Douglas Johnson (historian), and James Weldon Johnson, authors that would affect her life and career, as well as Black female artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer, and Jessie Fauset. When Angelou was 14, she and her brother returned to live with her mother in Oakland, California. During World War II, she attended George Washington High School while studying dance and drama on a scholarship at the California Labor School. Before graduating, she worked as the first Black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. Three weeks after completing school, at the age of 17, she gave birth to her son, Clyde, who also became a poet. Angelou's second autobiography, Gather Together in My Name, recounts her life from age 17 to 19 and "depicts a single mother's slide down the social ladder into poverty and crime." Angelou worked as "the front woman/business manager for prostitutes," restaurant cook, and prostitute. She moved through a series of relationships, occupations, and cities as she attempted to raise her son without job training or advanced education. Adulthood and early career: 1951—1961 In her third autobiography, Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas, Angelou describes her three-year marriage to Greek electrician, former sailor, and aspiring musician Enistasious (Tosh) Angelos in 1951, despite the condemnation of interracial relationships at the time and the disapproval of her mother. She took modern dances classes during this time, and met dancers and choreographers Alvin Ailey and Ruth Beckford. Angelou and Ailey formed a dance team, calling themselves "Al and Rita", and performed Modern Dance at fraternal Black organizations throughout San Francisco, but never became successful. Angelou, her new husband, and son moved to New York City so that she could study African dance with Trinidadian dancer Pearl Primus, but they returned to San Francisco a year later. After Angelou's marriage ended, she danced professionally in clubs around San Francisco, including the nightclub The Purple Onion, where she sang and danced calypso music. Up to that point she went by the name of "Marguerite Johnson", or "Rita", but at the strong suggestion of her managers and supporters at The Purple Onion she changed her professional name to "Maya Angelou", a "distinctive name" that set her apart and captured the feel of her Calypso dance performances. During 1954 and 1955 Angelou toured Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess. She began her practice of trying to learn the language of every country she visited, and in a few years she gained proficiency in several languages. In 1957, riding on the popularity of calypso, Angelou recorded her first album, Miss Calypso, which was reissued as a CD in 1996. She appeared in an off-Broadway review that inspired the film Calypso Heat Wave, in which Angelou sang and performed her own compositions. As Angelou described in her fourth autobiography, The Heart of a Woman, she met novelist James O. Killens in 1959, and at his urging, moved to New York to concentrate on her writing career. She joined the Harlem Writers Guild, where she met several major African-American authors, including John Henrik Clarke, Rosa Guy, Paule Marshall, and Julian Mayfield, and was published for the first time. After meeting and hearing civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in 1960, she and Killens organized "the legendary" Cabaret for Freedom to benefit the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and she was named SCLC's Northern Coordinator. According to scholar Lyman B. Hagen, her contributions to civil rights as a fundraiser and SCLC organizer were successful and "eminently effective". Angelou also began her pro-Castro and anti-apartheid activism during this time. Africa to Caged Bird: 1961—1969 In 1961, Angelou performed in Jean Genet's The Blacks, along with Abbey Lincoln, Roscoe Lee Brown, James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett, Godfrey Cambridge, and Cicely Tyson. That year she met South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make; they never officially married. She and her son Guy moved to Cairo with Make where Angelou worked as an associate editor at the weekly English-language newspaper The Arab Observer. In 1962 her relationship with Make ended, and she and Guy moved to Accra, Ghana, he to attend college, where he was seriously injured in an automobile accident. Angelou remained in Accra for his recovery and ended up staying there until 1965, later relating her experiences as an African American residing in Ghana in her fifth autobiography, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes. She became an administrator at the University of Ghana, and was active in the African-American expatriate community. She was a feature editor for The African Review, a freelance writer for the Ghanaian Times, wrote and broadcast for Radio Ghana, and worked and performed for Ghana's National Theatre. She performed in a revival of The Blacks in Geneva and Berlin. In Accra, she became close friends with Malcolm X during his visit in the early 1960s. Writing about their relationship in her sixth and final autobiography A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002), Angelou said she returned to the U.S. in 1965 to help him build a new civil rights organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity; he was assassinated shortly afterward. Devastated and adrift, she joined her brother in Hawaii, where she resumed her singing career, and then moved back to Los Angeles to focus on her writing career. She worked as a market researcher in Watts and witnessed the riots in the summer of 1965. She acted in and wrote plays, and returned to New York in 1967. She met her life-long friend Rosa Guy and renewed her friendship with James Baldwin, whom she met in Paris in the 1950s and called "my brother", during this time. Her friend Jerry Purcell provided Angelou with a stipend to support her writing. In 1968, Martin Luther King asked Angelou to organize a march. She agreed, but "postpones again", and in what Angelou's biographers call "a macabre twist of fate", he was assassinated on her 40th birthday (April 4). Devastated again, she was encouraged out of her depression by her friend James Baldwin. As her biographers state, "If 1968 was a year of great pain, loss, and sadness, it was also the year when America first witnessed the breadth and depth of Maya Angelou's spirit and creative genius". Despite almost no experience, she wrote, produced, and narrated "Blacks, Blues, Black!", a ten-part series of documentaries which dealt with the connection between blues music and Black Americans' African heritage, as well as what Angelou called the "Africanisms still current in the U.S." for National Educational Television, the precursor of PBS. Also in 1968, inspired at a dinner party she attended with Baldwin, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and his wife Judy, and challenged by Random House editor Robert Loomis, she wrote her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969, which brought her international recognition and acclaim. Later career Angelou's Georgia, Georgia, produced by a Swedish film company and filmed in Sweden, the first screenplay written by a Black woman, was released in 1972. She also wrote the film's soundtrack, despite having very little additional input in the filming of the movie. Angelou married Welsh carpenter and ex-husband of Germaine Greer, Paul du Feu, in San Francisco in 1973. In the next ten years, as her biographers stated, "She had accomplished more than many artists hope to achieve in a lifetime". She worked as a composer, writing for singer Roberta Flack and composing movie scores. She wrote articles, short stories, TV scripts and documentaries, autobiographies and poetry, produced plays, and was named visiting professors of several colleges and universities. She was "a reluctant actor", and was nominated for a Tony Award in 1973 for her role in Look Away. In 1977 Angelou appeared in a supporting role in the television mini-series Roots. She began being awarded with hundreds of awards and honorary degrees from colleges and universities from all over the world. In the late '70s, Angelou met Oprah Winfrey when Winfrey was a TV anchor in Baltimore, Maryland; Angelou would later become Winfrey's close friend and mentor. In 1981, Angelou and du Feu divorced. Her attempts at producing and directing films were frustrated throughout the 80s. She returned to the southern United States in 1981, where she accepted the lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she taught a variety of subjects that reflected her interests, including philosophy, ethics, theology, science, theater, and writing. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem On the Pulse of Morning at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, becoming the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. Her recitation resulted in more fame and recognition for her previous works, and broadened her appeal "across racial, economic, and educational boundaries". The recording of the poem was awarded a Grammy Award. In June 1995, she delivered what Richard Long called her "second 'public' poem", entitled "A Brave and Startling Truth", which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. Angelou finally achieved her goal of directing a feature film in 1996, Down in the Delta, which featured actors such as Alfre Woodard and Wesley Snipes. Since the 1990s, Angelou has actively participated in the lecture circuit in a customized tour bus, something she continued into her eighties. In 2000, she created a successful collection of products for Hallmark, including greeting cards and decorative household items. Over thirty years after Angelou began writing her life story, she completed the sixth and final autobiography in her series of six, A Song Flung Up to Heaven, in 2002. Angelou campaigned for Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party in the 2008 presidential primaries. When Clinton's campaign ended, Angelou put her support behind Senator Barack Obama, who won the election and became the first African American president of the United States. She stated, "We are growing up beyond the idiocies of racism and sexism". In late 2010, Angelou donated her personal papers and career memorabilia to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. They consisted of over 340 boxes of documents that featured her handwritten notes on yellow legal pads for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a 1982 telegram from Coretta Scott King, fan mail, and personal and professional correspondence from colleagues such as her editor Robert Loomis. Personal life Evidence suggests that Maya Angelou, who preferred to be called "Dr. Angelou" by people outside of her family and close friends, was partially descended from the Mende people of West Africa. A 2008 PBS documentary found that Angelou's maternal great-grandmother Mary Lee, who had been emancipated after the Civil War, became pregnant by her former white owner, John Savin. Savin forced Lee to sign a false statement accusing another man of being the father of her child. After indicting Savin for forcing Lee to commit perjury, and despite discovering that Savin was the father, a grand jury found him not guilty. Lee was sent to the Clinton County poorhouse in Missouri with her daughter, Marguerite Baxter, who became Angelou's grandmother. Angelou described Lee as "that poor little Black girl, physically and mentally bruised." The details of Angelou's life described in her six autobiographies and in numerous interviews, speeches, and articles tend to be inconsistent. Her biographer, Mary Jane Lupton, has explained that when Angelou has spoken about her life, she has done so eloquently but informally and "with no time chart in front of her". For example, she has been married at least twice, but has never clarified the number of times she has been married, "for fear of sounding frivolous"). According to her autobiographies and her biographers, she married Tosh Angelos in 1951 and Paul du Feu in 1973, and began her relationship with Vusumzi Make in 1961, but never formally married him. Angelou has one son Guy, whose birth was described in her first autobiography, one grandson, and two young great-grandchildren, and according to her biographers, a large group of friends and extended family. Angelou's mother Vivian Baxter and brother Bailey Johnson, Jr., both of whom were important figures in her life and her books, die; her mother in 1991 and her brother in 2000 after a series of strokes. In 1981, the mother of her son Guy's child disappeared with him; it took eight years to find Angelou's grandson. As of 2008, Angelou owned two homes in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and one in Harlem, full of her "growing library" of books she has collected throughout her life, artwork collected over the span of many decades, and well-stocked kitchens. According to her biographers, she hosted several celebrations per year at her main residence in Winston-Salem, including Thanksgiving; "her skill in the kitchen is the stuff of legend—from haute cuisine to down-home comfort food". She combined her cooking and writing skills in her 2004 book Hallelujah! The Welcome Table, which featured recipes she learned from her grandmother and mother, along with stories that preceded each recipe. Beginning with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou has used the same "writing ritual" for many years. She would wake early in the morning and check into a hotel room, where the staff was instructed to remove any pictures from the walls. She would write on legal pads while lying on the bed, with only a bottle of sherry, a deck of cards to playsolitaire, Roget's Thesaurus, and the Bible, and would leave by the early afternoon. She would average 10–12 pages of written material a day, which she edited down to three or four pages in the evening. Angelou went through this process to "enchant" herself, and as she has said in a 1989 interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, "relive the agony, the anguish, the Sturm und Drang." She placed herself back in the time she wrote about, even traumatic experiences like her rape in Caged Bird, in order to "tell the human truth" about her life. Angelou has stated that she played cards in order to get to that place of enchantment, in order to access her memories more effectively. She has stated, "It may take an hour to get into it, but once I’m in it—ha! It’s so delicious!" She did not find the process cathartic; rather, she has found relief in "telling the truth”. Angelou's work Although Angelou wrote her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, without the intention of writing a series, she went on to write five additional volumes. The volumes "stretch over time and place", from Arkansas to Africa and back to the U.S., and take place from the beginnings of World War II to assassination. of Martin Luther King, Jr. Critics have tended to judge Angelou's subsequent autobiographies "in light of the first", with Caged Bird receiving the highest praise. Angelou has written five collections of essays, which writer Hilton Als called her "wisdom books" and "homilies strung together with autobiographical texts". Angelou has used the same editor throughout her writing career, Robert Loomis, an executive editor at Random House, who retired in 2011 and has been called "one of publishing's hall of fame editors." Angelou has said regarding Loomis: "We have a relationship that's kind of famous among publishers”. Angelou's long and extensive career also includes poetry, plays, screenplays for television and film, directing, acting, and public speaking. She is a prolific writer of poetry; her volume Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie (1971) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and she was chosen by President Bill Clinton to recite her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" during his inauguration in 1993. Angelou's successful acting career has included roles in numerous plays, films, and television programs, including her appearance in the television mini-series Roots in 1977. Her screenplay,Georgia, Georgia (1972), was the first original script by a Black woman to be produced and she was the first African American woman to direct a major motion picture, Down in the Delta, in 1998. Since the 1990s, Angelou has actively participated in the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. Reception and legacy Influence When I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1969, Angelou was hailed as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women who was able to publicly discuss her personal life. Up to that point, black female writers were marginalized to the point that they were unable to present themselves as central characters. Scholar John McWhorter agreed, seeing Angelou's works, which he called "tracts", as "apologetic writing". He placed Angelou in the tradition of African-American literature as a defense of Black culture, which he called "a literary manifestation of the imperative that reigned in the black scholarship of the period". Writer Julian Mayfield, who called Caged Bird "a work of art that eludes description", has insisted that Angelou's autobiographies set a precedent not only for other black women writers, but for the genre of autobiography as a whole. Through the writing of her autobiography, Angelou became recognized and highly respected as a spokesperson for blacks and women. It made her "without a doubt, ... America's most visible black woman autobiographer", and "a major autobiographical voice of the time". As writer Gary Younge has said, "Probably more than almost any other writer alive, Angelou's life literally is her work". Author Hilton Als has insisted that although Caged Bird was an important contribution to the increase of black feminist writings in the 1970s, he attributed its success less to its originality than with "its resonance in the prevailing Zeitgeist", or the time in which it was written, at the end of the American Civil Rights movement. Als also insisted that Angelou's writings, more interested in self-revelation than in politics or feminism, has freed many other female writers to "open themselves up without shame to the eyes of the world". Angelou biographer Joanne M. Braxton has insisted that Caged Bird was "perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing" autobiography written by an African-American woman in its era. Critical reception Reviewer Elsie B. Washington, most likely due to President Clinton's choice of Angelou to recite her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at his 1993 inauguration, has called Angelou "the black woman's poet laureate" Sales of the paperback version of her books and poetry rose by 300–600% the week after Angelou's recitation. Bantam Books had to reprint 400, copies of all her books to keep up with the demand. Random House, which published Angelou's hardcover books and published the poem later that year, reported that they sold more of her books in January 1993 than they did in all of 1992, accounting for a 1200% increase. Angelou has famously said, in response to criticism regarding using the details of her life in her work, "I agree with Balzac and 19th-century writers, black and white, who say, 'I write for money'". Angelou's books, especially I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, have been criticized by many parents, causing their removal from school curricula and library shelves. According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, parents and schools have objected to Caged Bird's depictions of lesbianism, premarital cohabitation, pornography, and violence. Some have been critical of the book's sexually explicit scenes, use of language, and irreverent religious depictions. Caged Bird appeared third on the American Library Association (ALA) list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000, sixth on the ALA's 2000–2009 list, and one of the ten books most frequently banned from high school and junior high school libraries and classrooms. Awards and honors Angelou is one of the most honored writers of her generation. She has been honored by universities, literary organizations, government agencies, and special interest groups. Her honors have included a National Book Award nomination for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, aPulitzer Prize nomination for her book of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie, a Tony Award nomination for her role in the 1973 play Look Away, and three Grammys for her spoken word albums. In 1995, Angelou's publishing company, Random House, recognized her for having the longest-running record (two years) on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List. She has served on two presidential committees, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Angelou has been awarded over thirty honorary degrees. Uses in education Angelou's autobiographies have been used in narrative and multicultural approaches in teacher education. Jocelyn A. Glazier, a professor at George Washington University, has trained teachers how to "talk about race" in their classrooms with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Gather Together in My Name. According to Glazier, Angelou's use of understatement, self-mockery, humor, and irony, have led readers of Angelou's autobiographies unsure of what she "left out" and how they should respond to the events Angelou describes. Angelou's depictions of her experiences of racism has forced white readers to explore their feelings about race and their own "privileged status". Glazier found that although critics have focused on where Angelou fits within the genre of African-American autobiography and on her literary techniques, readers have tended to react to her storytelling with "surprise, particularly when [they] enter the text with certain expectations about the genre of autobiography". Educator Daniel Challener, in his 1997 book, Stories of Resilience in Childhood, analyzed the events in Caged Bird to illustrate resiliency in children. Challener insisted that Angelou's book has provided a "useful framework" for exploring the obstacles many children like have Maya faced and how communities have helped children succeed as Angelou did. Psychologist Chris Boyatzis has reported using Caged Bird to supplement scientific theory and research in the instruction of child development topics such as the development of self-concept and self-esteem, ego resilience, industry versus inferiority, effects of abuse, parenting styles, sibling and friendship relations, gender issues, cognitive development, puberty, and identity formation in adolescence. He found the book a "highly effective" tool for providing real-life examples of these psychological concepts. Style and genre in Angelou's autobiographies Angelou's use of fiction-writing techniques such as dialogue, characterization, and development of theme, setting, plot, and language has often resulted in the placement of her books into the genre of autobiographical fiction, but Angelou has characterized them as autobiographies. As feminist scholar Maria Lauret has stated, Angelou has made a deliberate attempt in her books to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Scholar Mary Jane Lupton has insisted that all of Angelou's autobiographies conform to the genre's standard structure: they are written by a single author, they are chronological, and they contain elements of character, technique, and theme. Angelou has recognized that there are fictional aspects to her books; Lupton agreed, stating that Angelou has tended to "diverge from the conventional notion of autobiography as truth", which has paralleled the conventions of much of African-American autobiography written during the abolitionist period of U.S. history, when as both Lupton and African-American scholar Crispin Sartwell put it, the truth was censored out of the need for self-protection. Scholar Lyman B. Hagen has placed Angelou in the long tradition of African-American autobiography, but insisted that Angelou has created a unique interpretation of the autobiographical form. The challenge for much of the history of African-American literature was that its authors have had to confirm its status as literature before they could accomplish their political goals, which was why Angelou's editor Robert Loomis was able to dare her into writing Caged Bird by challenging her to write an autobiography that could be considered "high art". Angelou has acknowledged that she has followed the slave narrative tradition of "speaking in the first-person singular talking about the first-person plural, always saying I meaning 'we'". Scholar John McWhorter called Angelou's books "tracts" that defended African-American culture and fought against negative stereotypes. According to McWhorter, Angelou structured her books, which to him seemed to be written more for children than for adults, to support her defense of Black culture. McWhorter saw Angelou as she depicted herself in her autobiographies "as a kind of stand-in figure for the Black American in Troubled Times". Although McWhorter saw Angelou's works as dated, he recognized that "she has helped to pave the way for contemporary black writers who are able to enjoy the luxury of being merely individuals, no longer representatives of the race, only themselves. Scholar Lynn Z. Bloom has compared Angelou's works to the writings of Frederick Douglass, stating that both fulfilled the same purpose: to describe Black culture and to interpret it for her wider, white audience. According to scholar Sondra O'Neale, whereas Angelou's poetry could be placed within the African-American oral tradition, her prose "follows classic technique in nonpoetic Western forms". O'Neale stated that although Angelou avoided a "monolithic Black language", she accomplished, through direct dialogue, what O'Neale called a "more expected ghetto expressiveness". McWhorter, however, found both the language Angelou used in her autobiographies and the people she depicted unrealistic, resulting in a separation between her and her audience. As McWhorter stated, "I have never read autobiographical writing where I had such a hard time summoning a sense of how the subject talks, or a sense of who the subject really is". McWhorter asserted, for example, that Angelou's depiction of key figures like herself, her son Guy, and mother Vivian did not speak as one would expect, and that their speech was "cleaned up". Guy, for example, represented the young Black male, while Vivian represented the idealized mother figure. The stiff language Angelou used, both in her text and in the language of her subjects, was intended to prove that Blacks were able to competently use standard English. McWhorter recognized, however, that much of the reason for Angelou's style was the "apologetic" nature of her writing. When Angelou wrote Caged Bird at the end of the 1960s, one of the necessary and accepted features of literature at the time was "organic unity", and one of her goals was to create a book that satisfied that criteria. The events in her books were episodic and crafted like a series of short stories, but their arrangements did not follow a strict chronology. Instead, they were placed to emphasize the themes of her books, which include racism, identity, family, and travel. English literature scholar Valerie Sayers has asserted that "Angelou's poetry and prose are similar". They both relied on her "direct voice", which alternated steady rhythms with syncopated patterns and used similes and metaphors (e,g., the caged bird). According to Hagen, Angelou's works have been influenced by both conventional literary and the oral traditions of the African-American community. For example, she referenced over 100 literary characters throughout her books and poetry. In addition, she used the elements of blues music, including the act of testimony when speaking of one's life and struggles, ironic understatement, and the use of natural metaphors, rhythms, and intonations. Angelou, instead of depending upon plot, used personal and historical events to shape her books. Poetry Although Angelou considered herself a playwright and poet when her editor Robert Loomis challenged her to write I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she is best known for her autobiographies. According to Lupton, many of Angelou's readers identify her as a poet first and an autobiographer second. Reviewer Elsie B. Washington has called her "the black woman's poet laureate", and has called Angelou's poetry the anthems of African Americans. Angelou has experienced similar success as a poet as she did as an autobiographer. She began, early in her writing career, of alternating the publication of an autobiography and a volume of poetry. Her first volume of poetry Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie, published in 1971 shortly after I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings became a best-seller, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Angelou's most famous poem was "On the Pulse of Morning", which she recited at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993. Lupton has insisted that "Angelou's ultimate greatness will be attributed" to the poem, and that Angelou's "theatrical" performance of it, using skills she learned as an actor and speaker, marked a return to the African-American oral tradition of speakers such as Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Angelou delivered what Richard Long called her "second 'public' poem", entitled "A Brave and Startling Truth", which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995. Also in 1995, she was chosen to recite one of her poems at the Million Man March. In 2009, Angelou wrote "We Had Him", a poem about Michael Jackson, which was read by Queen Latifah at his funeral. As Angelou's biographers have stated, Angelou had "fallen in love with poetry in Stamps, Arkansas". After her rape at the age of eight, she memorized and studied great works of literature, including poetry, and according to Caged Bird, her friend Mrs. Flowers encouraged her to recite them, which helped bring her out of her muteness. Angelou's biographers have also stated that Angelou's poems "reflect the richness and subtlety of Black speech and sensibilities" and were meant to be read aloud. Angelou has supported her biographers, telling an interviewer in 1983 that she wrote poetry so that it would be read aloud. Scholar Zofia Burr has connected Angelou's "failure to impress professional poetry critics" to both the public nature of many of her poems and to Angelou's popular success, and to critics' preferences for poetry as a written form rather than a verbal performed one. Critic James Finn Cotter, in his review of Angelou's 1976 volume of poetry Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, called it an "unfortunate example of the dangers of success". Critic John Alfred Avant, despite the fact that the volume was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, stated that Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie “isn't accomplished, not by any means”. Scholar Joanne Braxton has asserted that “Angelou's audience, composed largely of women and blacks, isn't really affected by what white and/or male critics of the dominant literary tradition have to say about her work. This audience does not read literary critics; it does read Maya Angelou”. Burr has countered Angelou's critics by condemning them for not taking into account Angelou's larger purposes in her writing: “to be representative rather than individual, authoritative rather than confessional”. Referenes Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Angelou
Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819. He was the second son of Walter Whitman, a housebuilder, and Louisa Van Velsor. The family, which consisted of nine children, lived in Brooklyn and Long Island in the 1820s and 1830s. At the age of twelve, Whitman began to learn the printer's trade, and fell in love with the written word. Largely self-taught, he read voraciously, becoming acquainted with the works of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and the Bible. Whitman worked as a printer in New York City until a devastating fire in the printing district demolished the industry. In 1836, at the age of 17, he began his career as teacher in the one-room school houses of Long Island. He continued to teach until 1841, when he turned to journalism as a full-time career. He founded a weekly newspaper, Long-Islander, and later edited a number of Brooklyn and New York papers. In 1848, Whitman left the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to become editor of the New Orleans Crescent. It was in New Orleans that he experienced at first hand the viciousness of slavery in the slave markets of that city. On his return to Brooklyn in the fall of 1848, he founded a "free soil" newspaper, the Brooklyn Freeman, and continued to develop the unique style of poetry that later so astonished Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1855, Whitman took out a copyright on the first edition of Leaves of Grass, which consisted of twelve untitled poems and a preface. He published the volume himself, and sent a copy to Emerson in July of 1855. Whitman released a second edition of the book in 1856, containing thirty-three poems, a letter from Emerson praising the first edition, and a long open letter by Whitman in response. During his subsequent career, Whitman continued to refine the volume, publishing several more editions of the book. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Whitman vowed to live a "purged" and "cleansed" life. He wrote freelance journalism and visited the wounded at New York-area hospitals. He then traveled to Washington, D.C. in December 1862 to care for his brother who had been wounded in the war. Overcome by the suffering of the many wounded in Washington, Whitman decided to stay and work in the hospitals and stayed in the city for eleven years. He took a job as a clerk for the Department of the Interior, which ended when the Secretary of the Interior, James Harlan, discovered that Whitman was the author of Leaves of Grass, which Harlan found offensive. Harlan fired the poet. Whitman struggled to support himself through most of his life. In Washington, he lived on a clerk's salary and modest royalties, and spent any excess money, including gifts from friends, to buy supplies for the patients he nursed. He had also been sending money to his widowed mother and an invalid brother. From time to time writers both in the states and in England sent him "purses" of money so that he could get by. In the early 1870s, Whitman settled in Camden, NJ, where he had come to visit his dying mother at his brother's house. However, after suffering a stroke, Whitman found it impossible to return to Washington. He stayed with his brother until the 1882 publication of Leaves of Grass gave Whitman enough money to buy a home in Camden. In the simple two-story clapboard house, Whitman spent his declining years working on additions and revisions to a new edition of the book and preparing his final volume of poems and prose, Good-Bye, My Fancy (1891). After his death on March 26, 1892, Whitman was buried in a tomb he designed and had built on a lot in Harleigh Cemetery. A Selected Bibliography Poetry * Leaves of Grass (1855) * Leaves of Grass (1856) * Leaves of Grass (1860) * Drum Taps (1865) * Sequel to Drum Taps (1865) * Leaves of Grass (1867) * Leaves of Grass (1870) * Passage to India (1870) * Leaves of Grass (1876) * Leaves of Grass (1881) * Good-Bye, My Fancy (1891) * Leaves of Grass (1891) Prose * Franklin Evans; or, The Inebriate (1842) * Democratic Vistas (1871) * Memoranda During the War (1875) * Specimen Days and Collect (1881) * November Boughs (1888) * Complete Prose Works (1892) References Poets.org - http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/126
Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963) was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College, Cambridge before receiving acclaim as a professional poet and writer. She married fellow poet Ted Hughes in 1956 and they lived together first in the United States and then England, having two children together: Frieda and Nicholas. Following a long struggle with depression and a marital separation, Plath committed suicide in 1963. Controversy continues to surround the events of her life and death, as well as her writing and legacy. Plath is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry and is best known for her two published collections: The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel. In 1982, she became the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously, for The Collected Poems. She also wrote The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death. Early life Plath was born during the Great Depression on October 27, 1932 at the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Her mother, Aurelia Schober Plath (1906-1994), was a first-generation American of Austrian descent, and her father Otto Plath (1885-1940), was from Grabow, Germany. Plath's father was an entomologist and was professor of biology and German at Boston University; he also authored a book about bumblebees. Plath's mother was approximately twenty-one years younger than her husband. They met while she was earning her master's degree in teaching and took one of his courses. Otto had become alienated from his family after choosing not to become a Lutheran minister, as his grandparents had intended him to be. In April 1935, Plath's brother Warren was born and in 1936 the family moved to Winthrop, Massachusetts. Plath's mother, Aurelia, had grown up in Winthrop, and her maternal grandparents, the Schobers, had lived in a section of the town called Point Shirley, a location mentioned in Plath's poetry. While living in Winthrop, eight-year-old Plath published her first poem in the Boston Herald's children's section. In addition to writing, she showed early promise as an artist, winning an award for her paintings from The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in 1947. Otto Plath died on November 5, 1940, a week and a half after Plath's eighth birthday, of complications following the amputation of a foot due to untreated diabetes. He had become ill shortly after a close friend died of lung cancer. Comparing the similarities between his friend's symptoms and his own, Otto became convinced that he, too, had lung cancer and did not seek treatment until his diabetes had progressed too far. Raised as a Unitarian Christian, Plath experienced a loss of faith after her father's death, and remained ambivalent about religion throughout her life. He was buried in Winthrop Cemetery; visiting her father's grave prompted Plath to write the poem Electra on Azalea Path. After his death, Aurelia Plath moved her children and her parents to 26 Elmwood Road, Wellesley, Massachusetts in 1942. In one of her last prose pieces, Plath commented that her first nine years "sealed themselves off like a ship in a bottle—beautiful inaccessible, obsolete, a fine, white flying myth". Plath attended Bradford Senior High School in Wellesley, graduating in 1950. College years In 1950, Plath attended Smith College and excelled academically. She wrote to her mother, "The world is splitting open at my feet like a ripe, juicy watermelon." She edited The Smith Review and during the summer after her third year of college Plath was awarded a coveted position as guest editor at Mademoiselle magazine, during which she spent a month in New York City. The experience was not what she had hoped it would be, and it began a downward spiral. Many of the events that took place during that summer were later used as inspiration for her novel The Bell Jar. During this time she was refused admission to the Harvard writing seminar. Following electroconvulsive therapy for depression, Plath made her first medically documented suicide attempt in late August 1953 by crawling under her house and taking her mother's sleeping pills. She survived this first suicide attempt after lying unfound in a crawl space for three days, later writing that she "blissfully succumbed to the whirling blackness that I honestly believed was eternal oblivion." She spent the next six months in psychiatric care, receiving more electric and insulin shock treatment under the care of Dr. Ruth Beuscher. Her stay at McLean Hospital and her Smith scholarship were paid for by Olive Higgins Prouty, who had successfully recovered from a mental breakdown herself. Plath seemed to make a good recovery and returned to college. In January 1955, she submitted her thesis The Magic Mirror: A Study of the Double in Two of Dostoyevsky's Novels and in June, graduated from Smith with highest honors. She obtained a Fulbright scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge where she continued actively writing poetry and publishing her work in the student newspaper Varsity. At Newnham, she studied with Dorothea Krook, whom she held in high regard. She spent her first year winter and spring holidays travelling around the continent. Career and marriage n a 1961 BBC interview (now held by the British Library Sound Archive), Plath describes how she met Ted Hughes: I happened to be at Cambridge. I was sent there by the [US] government on a government grant. And I'd read some of Ted's poems in this magazine and I was very impressed and I wanted to meet him. I went to this little celebration and that's actually where we met... Then we saw a great deal of each other. Ted came back to Cambridge and suddenly we found ourselves getting married a few months later... We kept writing poems to each other. Then it just grew out of that, I guess, a feeling that we both were writing so much and having such a fine time doing it, we decided that this should keep on. Plath described Hughes as "a singer, story-teller, lion and world-wanderer" with "a voice like the thunder of God”. The couple were married on June 16, 1956 at St George the Martyr Holborn in the London Borough of Camden with Plath's mother in attendance, and spent their honeymoon in Benidorm. Plath returned to Newnham in October to begin her second year. During this time, they both became deeply interested in astrology and the supernatural, using Ouija boards. In early 1957, Plath and Hughes moved to the United States and from September 1957 Plath taught at Smith College, her alma mater. She found it difficult to both teach and have enough time and energy to write and the middle of 1958, the couple moved to Boston. Plath took a job as a receptionist in the psychiatric unit of Massachusetts General Hospital and in the evening took creative writing seminars given by poet Robert Lowell (also attended by the writers Anne Sexton and George Starbuck). Both Lowell and Sexton encouraged Plath to write from her experience and she did so. She openly discussed her depression with Lowell and her suicide attempts with Sexton who led her to write from a more female perspective. Plath began to conceive of herself as a more serious, focused poet and short-story writer. At this time Plath and Hughes first met the poet W. S. Merwin, who admired their work and was to remain a lifelong friend. Plath resumed psychoanalytic treatment in December, working with Ruth Beuscher. Plath and Hughes traveled across Canada and the US, staying at the Yaddo artist colony in New York State in the autumn of 1959. Plath says that it was here that she learned "to be true to my own weirdnesses", but she remained anxious about writing confessionally, from deeply personal and private material. The couple moved back to the United Kingdom in December 1959 and lived in London at 3 Chalcot Square, near the Primrose Hill area of Regent's Park, where an English Heritage plaque records Plath's residence. Their daughter Frieda was born on 1 April 1960 and in October, Plath published her first collection of poetry, The Colossus. In February 1961, Plath's second pregnancy ended in miscarriage; a number of her poems, including "Parliament Hill Fields", address this event. In August she finished her semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar and immediately after this, the family moved to Court Green in the small market town of North Tawton in Devon. Nicholas was born in January 1962. During the summer of 1962, Hughes began to keep bees, which would be the subject of many Plath poems. In 1961, the couple rented their flat at Chalcot Square to Assia and David Wevill. Hughes was immediately struck with the beautiful Assia, as she was with him. He would later write in "Dreamers" (Birthday Letters, 1998) "The dreamer in her Had fallen in love with me and she did not know it. That moment the dreamer in me Fell in love with her and I knew it,” In June, Plath had had a car accident which she described as one of many suicide attempts. In July 1962 Plath discovered Hughes had been having an affair with Wevill and in September the couple separated. Beginning in October 1962, Plath experienced a great burst of creativity and wrote most of the poems on which her reputation now rests, writing at least 26 of the poems of her posthumous collection Ariel during this time. In December 1962, she returned alone to London with their children, and rented, on a five year lease, a flat at 23 Fitzroy Road—only a few streets from the Chalcot Square flat. William Butler Yeats once lived in the house, which bears an English Heritage blue plaque for the Irish poet. Plath was pleased by this fact and considered it a good omen. The winter of 1962 was one of the coldest in 100 years; the pipes froze, the children—now two years old and nine months—were often sick, and the house had no telephone. Her depression returned but she completed the rest of her poetry collection which would be published after her death (1965 in the UK, 1966 in the US) . Her only novel, The Bell Jar, came out in January 1963, published under the pen name Victoria Lucas, and was met with critical indifference. Death Dr. John Horder, a close friend who lived near Plath, prescribed her antidepressants a few days before her death. Knowing she was at risk alone with two young children, he says he visited her daily and made strenuous efforts to have her admitted to a hospital and when that failed, he arranged for a live-in nurse. Some commentators have argued that because anti-depressants may take up to three weeks to take effect, her prescription from Horder would not necessarily have helped. Others say that Plath's American doctor had warned her never again to take the anti-depressant drug which she found worsened her depression but Horder had prescribed it under a proprietary name which she did not recognize. The nurse[Notes 1] was due to arrive at nine o'clock the morning of 11 February 1963 to help Plath with the care of her children. Upon arrival, she could not get into the flat, but eventually gained access with the help of a workman, Charles Langridge. They found Plath dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in the kitchen, with her head in the oven, having sealed the rooms between herself and her sleeping children with wet towels and cloths. At approximately 4:30 am, Plath had placed her head in the oven, with the gas turned on. She was 30. It has been suggested that Plath had not intended to kill herself. That morning she asked her downstairs neighbor, a Mr. Thomas, what time he would be leaving. She also left a note reading "Call Dr. Horder", including the doctor's phone number. Therefore, it is argued Plath turned on the gas at a time when Mr. Thomas would have been able to see the note. However, in her biography Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath, Plath's best friend, Jillian Becker wrote, "According to Mr. Goodchild, a police officer attached to the coroner's office ... [Plath] had thrust her head far into the gas oven... [and] had really meant to die." Dr. Horder also believed her intention was clear. He stated that "No-one who saw the care with which the kitchen was prepared could have interpreted her action as anything but an irrational compulsion." In his 1971 book on suicide, friend and critic Al Alvarez claimed that Plath's suicide was an unanswered cry for help. Following death An inquiry on the day following Plath's death gave a ruling of suicide. Hughes was devastated; they had been separated five months. In a letter to an old friend of Plath's from Smith College, he wrote, "That's the end of my life. The rest is posthumous." Plath's gravestone, in Heptonstall's parish churchyard of St Thomas the Apostle, bears the inscription that Hughes chose for her: "Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted." Biographers variously attribute the source of the quote to the 16th century Buddhist novel Journey to the West written by Wu Ch'eng-En or to the Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita. The gravestone has been repeatedly vandalized by those aggrieved that "Hughes" is written on the stone; they have attempted to chisel it off, leaving only the name "Sylvia Plath." When Hughes' partner Assia Wevill killed herself and their four-year-old daughter Shura in 1969, this practice intensified. After each defacement, Hughes had the damaged stone removed, sometimes leaving the site unmarked during repair. Outraged mourners accused Hughes in the media of dishonoring her name by removing the stone. Wevill's death led to claims that Hughes had been abusive to both Plath and Wevill. In 1970, radical feminist poet Robin Morgan published the poem "Arraignment", in which she openly accused Hughes of the battery and murder of Plath; other feminists threatened to kill him in Plath's name. In 1989, with Hughes under public attack, a battle raged in the letters pages of The Guardian and The Independent. In The Guardian on April 20, 1989 Hughes wrote the article "The Place Where Sylvia Plath Should Rest in Peace": "In the years soon after [Plath's] death, when scholars approached me, I tried to take their apparently serious concern for the truth about Sylvia Plath seriously. But I learned my lesson early. [...] If I tried too hard to tell them exactly how something happened, in the hope of correcting some fantasy, I was quite likely to be accused of trying to suppress Free Speech. In general, my refusal to have anything to do with the Plath Fantasia has been regarded as an attempt to suppress Free Speech [...] The Fantasia about Sylvia Plath is more needed than the facts. Where that leaves respect for the truth of her life (and of mine), or for her memory, or for the literary tradition, I do not know." On March 16, 2009, Nicholas Hughes, the son of Plath and Hughes, hanged himself at his home in Alaska, following a history of depression. Works Plath wrote poetry from the age of eight, a poem that appeared in the Boston Traveller. By the time she arrived at Smith College she had written over fifty short stories and published in a raft of magazines. At Smith she majored in English and won all the major prizes in writing and scholarship. She edited the college magazine Mademoiselle and on her graduation in 1955, she won the Glascock Prize for Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea. Later at Newnham, Cambridge, she wrote for the Varsity magazine. By the time Heinmann published her first collection, The Colossus and other poems in the UK in late in 1960, Plath had been short-listed several times in the Yale Younger Poets book competition and had had work printed in Harper's, The Spectator and the Times Literary Supplement. All the poems in The Colossus had already been printed in major US and British journals and she had a contract with The New Yorker. It was however her 1965 collection Ariel, published posthumously, on which Plath's reputation essentially rests. In 1971, the volumes Winter Trees and Crossing the Water were published in the UK, including nine previously unseen poems from the original manuscript of Ariel. Writing in New Statesman, fellow poet Peter Porter wrote: "Crossing the Water is full of perfectly realised works. Its most striking impression is of a front-rank artist in the process of discovering her true power. Such is Plath's control that the book possesses a singularity and certainty which should make it as celebrated as The Colossus or Ariel. The Collected Poems, published in 1981, edited and introduced by Ted Hughes, contained poetry written from 1956 until her death. Plath was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, the first poet to win the prize posthumously. In 2006 Anna Journey, then a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University, discovered a previously unpublished sonnet written by Plath entitled Ennui. The poem, composed during Plath's early years at Smith College, is published in Blackbird, the online journal. According to Hughes, Plath left behind "some 130 [typed] pages of another novel, provisionally titled Double Exposure. That manuscript disappeared somewhere around 1970.” Reception The Colossus received largely positive UK reviews, highlighting her voice as new and strong, individual and American in tone. Peter Dickinson at Punch called the collection "a real find" and "exhilarating to read", full of "clean, easy verse". Bernard Bergonzi at the Manchester Guardian said the book was an "outstanding technical accomplishment" with a "virtuoso' quality". From the point of publication she became a presence on the poetry scene. The book went on to be published in America in 1962 to less glowing reviews. Whilst her craft was generally praised, her writing was viewed as more derivative of other poets. Some later critics have described the first book as somewhat young, staid or conventional in comparison to the more free-flowing imagery and intensity of her later work. It was Hughes' publication of Ariel in 1965 that precipitated Plath's rise to fame. As soon as it was published critics began to see the collection as the charting of Plath's increasing desperation or death wish. Her dramatic death became her most famous aspect, and remains so. Time and Life both reviewed the slim volume of Ariel in the wake of her death. The critic at Time said: "Within a week of her death, intellectual London was hunched over copies of a strange and terrible poem she had written during her last sick slide toward suicide. 'Daddy' was its title; its subject was her morbid love-hatred of her father; its style was as brutal as a truncheon. What is more, 'Daddy' was merely the first jet of flame from a literary dragon who in the last months of her life breathed a burning river of bile across the literary landscape. [...] In her most ferocious poems, 'Daddy' and 'Lady Lazarus,' fear, hate, love, death and the poet's own identity become fused at black heat with the figure of her father, and through him, with the guilt of the German exterminators and the suffering of their Jewish victims. They are poems, as Robert Lowell says in his preface to Ariel, that 'play Russian roulette with six cartridges in the cylinder.'"[Notes 3] Some in the feminist movement saw Plath as speaking for their experience, as a "symbol of blighted female genius". Writer Honor Moore describes Ariel as marking the beginning of a movement, Plath suddenly visible as "a woman on paper", certain and audacious. Moore says: "When Sylvia Plath’s Ariel was published in the United States in 1966, American women noticed. Not only women who ordinarily read poems, but housewives and mothers whose ambitions had awakened [...] Here was a woman, superbly trained in her craft, whose final poems uncompromisingly charted female rage, ambivalence, and grief, in a voice with which many women identified." The United States Postal Service will introduce a postage stamp featuring Sylvia Plath in 2012. Themes Sylvia Plath's early poems exhibit what became her typical imagery, using personal and nature-based depictions featuring, for example, the moon, blood, hospitals, fetuses, and skulls. They were mostly imitation exercises of poets she admired such as Dylan Thomas, W. B. Yeats and Marianne Moore. Late in 1959, when she and Hughes were at the Yaddo writers' colony in New York State, she wrote the seven-part "Poem for a Birthday", echoing Theodore Roethke's Lost Son sequence, though its theme is her own traumatic breakdown and suicide attempt at 21. After 1960 her work moved into a more surreal landscape darkened by a sense of imprisonment and looming death, overshadowed by her father. The Colossus is shot through with themes of death, redemption and resurrection. After Hughes left, Plath produced, in less than two months, the forty poems of rage, despair, love, and vengeance on which her reputation mostly rests. The poems in Ariel mark a departure from her earlier work into a more personal arena of poetry. Robert Lowell's poetry may have played a part in this shift as she cited Lowell's 1959 book Life Studies as a significant influence, in an interview just before her death. Posthumously published in 1966, the impact of Ariel was dramatic, with its dark and potentially autobiographical descriptions of mental illness in poems such as '"Tulips", "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus". Plath's work is often held within the genre of confessional poetry and the style of her work compared to other contemporaries, such as Robert Lowell and W.D. Snodgrass. Plath's close friend Al Alvarez, who has written about her extensively, said of her later work: "Plath's case is complicated by the fact that, in her mature work, she deliberately used the details of her everyday life as raw material for her art. A casual visitor or unexpected telephone call, a cut, a bruise, a kitchen bowl, a candlestick—everything became usable, charged with meaning, transformed. Her poems are full of references and images that seem impenetrable at this distance but which could mostly be explained in footnotes by a scholar with full access to the details of her life." Many of Plath's later poems deal with what one critic calls the "domestic surreal" in which Plath takes every day elements of life and twists the images, giving them an almost nightmarish quality. Plath's fellow confessional poet and friend Anne Sexton commented: "Sylvia and I would talk at length about our first suicide, in detail and in depth—between the free potato chips. Suicide is, after all, the opposite of the poem. Sylvia and I often talked opposites. We talked death with burned-up intensity, both of us drawn to it like moths to an electric lightbulb, sucking on it. She told the story of her first suicide in sweet and loving detail, and her description in The Bell Jar is just that same story." The confessional interpretation of Plath's work has led to some dismissing certain aspects of her work as an exposition of sentimentalist melodrama; in 2010, for example, Theodore Dalrymple asserted that Plath had been the "patron saint of self-dramatization" and of self-pity. Revisionist critics such as Tracy Brain have, however, argued against a tightly autobiographical interpretation of Plath's material. Journals and letters Plath's letters were published in 1975, edited and selected by her mother Aurelia Plath. The collection, Letters Home: Correspondence 1950–1963, came out partly in response to the strong public reaction to the publication of The Bell Jar in America. Plath had kept a diary from the age of 11 until her death, doing so until her suicide. Her adult diaries, starting from her first year at Smith College in 1950, were first published in 1982 as The Journals of Sylvia Plath, edited by Frances McCullough, with Ted Hughes as consulting editor. In 1982, when Smith College acquired Plath's remaining journals, Hughes sealed two of them until February 11, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of Plath's death. During the last years of his life, Hughes began working on a fuller publication of Plath's journals. In 1998, shortly before his death, he unsealed the two journals, and passed the project onto his children by Plath, Frieda and Nicholas, who passed it on to Karen V. Kukil. Kukil finished her editing in December 1999, and in 2000 Anchor Books published The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. More than half of the new volume contained was newly released material; The American author Joyce Carol Oates hailed the publication as a "genuine literary event". Hughes faced criticism for his role in handling the journals: he claims to have destroyed Plath's last journal, which contained entries from the winter of 1962 up to her death. In the foreword of the 1982 version, he writes, "I destroyed [the last of her journals] because I did not want her children to have to read it (in those days I regarded forgetfulness as an essential part of survival).” The Bell Jar Plath's semi-autobiographical novel was published in 1963 and in the US in 1971, which her mother wished to block. Describing the compilation of the book to her mother, she wrote, "What I've done is to throw together events from my own life, fictionalising to add colour- it's a pot boiler really, but I think it will show how isolated a person feels when he is suffering a breakdown.... I've tried to picture my world and the people in it as seen though the distorting lens of a bell jar". She described her novel as "an autobiographical apprentice work which I had to write in order to free myself from the past". She dated a Yale senior named Dick Norton during her junior year. Norton, upon whom the character of Buddy in The Bell Jar is based, contracted tuberculosis and was treated at the Ray Brook Sanatorium near Saranac Lake. While visiting Norton, Plath broke her leg skiing, an incident that was fictionalized in the novel. Hughes controversy As Hughes and Plath were legally married at the time of her death, Hughes inherited the Plath estate, including all her written work. Hughes has been condemned from some quarters for burning Plath's last journal, saying he "did not want her children to have to read it." He lost another journal and an unfinished novel and instructed that a collection of Plath's papers and journals should not be released until 2013. In the reams of literary criticism and biography published after their deaths, after the release of new material, biopics, or any old-new controversy, the debate over Plath's literary estate is very often reduced to black and white, that is, whose story the readers choose. Hughes has been accused of attempting to control the estate for his own ends, although royalties from Plath's poetry were placed into a trust account for their two children, Frieda and Nicholas. Still the subject of speculation and approbation, Hughes published Birthday Letters in 1998, his own collection of 88 poems about his relationship with Plath. Hughes had published very little about his experience of the marriage and subsequent suicide and the book caused a sensation, being taken as his first explicit disclosure, topping best seller charts. It was not known at the volume's release that Hughes was suffering from terminal cancer and would die later that year. It went on to win the Forward Poetry Prize, the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry and the Whitbread Poetry. The poems, written after her death, in some cases long after, are an account of a failure; they circle round a missing centre, trying to find a reason for why Plath took her own life. Plath was portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow in the 2003 film Sylvia. Frieda Hughes, now a poet and painter, who was two years old when her mother died, was angered by the making of entertainment featuring her parents' lives. She accused the "peanut crunching" public of wanting to be titillated by the family's tragedies. In 2003 she published the poem "My Mother" in Tatler: Now they want to make a film For anyone lacking the ability To imagine the body, head in oven, Orphaning children [...] they think I should give them my mother's words To fill the mouth of their monster, Their Sylvia Suicide Doll Poetry collections * The Colossus and Other Poems (1960, William Heinemann) * Ariel (1961–1965) * Three Women: A Monologue for Three Voices (1968) * Crossing the Water (1971) * Winter Trees (1971) * The Collected Poems (1981) * Selected Poems (1985) * Plath: Poems (1998) * Sylvia Plath Reads, Harper Audio (2000) (Audio) Collected prose and novels * The Bell Jar: A novel (1963), under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" * Letters Home: Correspondence 1950–1963 (1975) * Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose, and Diary Excerpts (1977) * The Journals of Sylvia Plath (1982) * The Magic Mirror (published 1989), Plath's Smith College senior thesis * The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, edited by Karen V. Kukil (2000) Children's books * The Bed Book (1976) * The It-Doesn't-Matter-Suit (1996) * Collected Children's Stories (UK, 2001) * Mrs. Cherry's Kitchen (2001) References Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia_Plath
Sheldon Allan Shel Silverstein (September 25, 1930 – May 10, 1999), was an American poet, singer-songwriter, cartoonist, screenwriter, and author of children's books. He styled himself as Uncle Shelby in some works. Translated into more than 30 languages, his books have sold over 20 million copies. Shel Silverstein was born into a Jewish family and had one brother, Tyler Mahns. He attended Roosevelt High School and, later, the University of Illinois, from which he was expelled. He then attended Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and Roosevelt University for three years, until in 1953 when he was drafted into the United States Army. He served in Japan and Korea. He had one daughter, Shoshanna Jordan Hastings, born June 30, 1970, with Susan Taylor Hastings of Sausalito, California. Susan died on June 29, 1975, one day before Shoshanna's fifth birthday, and Shoshanna died April 24, 1982 at age 11, of a cerebral aneurysm. He also had a son named Matthew, born November 10, 1983, with Sarah Spencer of Key West, Florida; Sarah drove the conch train and inspired Shel's song "The Great Conch Train Robbery". On May 10, 1999, Silverstein died of a heart attack. He was 68 years old. He is buried in Westlawn Cemetery in Chicago. References Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shel_Silverstein
Edgar Albert Guest (20 August 1881 in Birmingham, England– 5 August 1959 in Detroit, Michigan) (aka Eddie Guest) was a prolific English-born American poet who was popular in the first half of the 20th century and became known as the People’s Poet. Career In 1891, Guest moved with his family to the United States from England. After he began at the Detroit Free Press as a copy boy and then a reporter, his first poem appeared 11 December 1898. He became a naturalized citizen in 1902. For 40 years, Guest was widely read throughout North America, and his sentimental, optimistic poems were in the same vein as the light verse of Nick Kenny, who wrote syndicated columns during the same decades. From his first published work in the Detroit Free Press until his death in 1959, Guest penned some 11,000 poems which were syndicated in some 300 newspapers and collected in more than 20 books, including A Heap o’ Livin’ (1916) and Just Folks (1917). Guest was made Poet Laureate of Michigan, the only poet to have been awarded the title. His popularity led to a weekly Detroit radio show which he hosted from 1931 until 1942, followed by a 1951 NBC television series, A Guest in Your Home. He also had a thrice-weekly transcribed radio program that began January 15, 1941, and was sponsored by Land O’Lakes Creameries. The program featured singer Eddy Howard. When Guest died in 1959, he was buried in Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery. His great-niece Judith Guest is a successful novelist who wrote Ordinary People. Excerpts Guest’s most famous poem is the oft-quoted “Home”: It don’t make a difference how rich ye get t’ be’ How much yer chairs and tables cost, how great the luxury; It ain’t home t’ ye, though it be the palace of a king, Until somehow yer soul is sort o’ wrapped round everything. Within the hi how are you there’s got t’ be some babies born an’ then... Right there ye’ve got t’ bring em up t’ women good, an’ men; Home ain’t a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute; Afore it’s home there’s got t’ be a heap o’ living in it.” —Excerpt from “Home,” It takes A Heap o’ Livin’ (1916) When you’re up against a trouble, Meet it squarely, face to face, Lift your chin, and set your shoulders, Plant your feet and take a brace, When it’s vain to try to dodge it, Do the best that you can do. You may fail, but you may conquer— See it through! —Excerpt from “See It Through” Guest’s most motivating poem: You can do as much as you think you can, But you'll never accomplish more; If you're afraid of yourself, young man, There's little for you in store. For failure comes from the inside first, It's there, if we only knew it, And you can win, though you face the worst, If you feel that you're going to do it. —Excerpt from “The Secret of the Ages” (1926) Reputation Guest’s work still occasionally appears in periodicals such as Reader’s Digest, and some favorites, such as “Myself” and “Thanksgiving,” are still studied today. However, in one of the most quoted appraisals of his work, Dorothy Parker reputedly said: “I’d rather flunk my Wassermann test than read a poem by Edgar Guest.” In popular culture A favorite poet of Edith Bunker from the TV show All In The Family. She quotes him in a few episodes including 'Prisoner In The House’, first broadcast on 4 January 1975. Edgar Guest is depicted on the badge worn by the crew of Count Olaf’s submarine Carmelita in The Grim Grotto, the eleventh book in Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. In the book Guest is mocked as a “writer of limited skill, who wrote awkward, tedious poetry on hopelessly sentimental topics” (The Grim Grotto (2004) page 281). In the novel I Am Legend, the main character Robert Neville sardonically comments on his own internal monologue: “The last man in the world is Edgar Guest”. Guest’s poem “It Couldn’t Be Done” was recited by Idris Elba on the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Award on 16 December 2012 whilst celebrating Team GB and Paralympics GB winning the team award for 2012. Guest’s poem “See It Through,” was used in a Chrysler 300 commercial. Guest’s poem “It Couldn’t Be Done” was used in an Audi commercial. Works * Home Rhymes, from Breakfast Table Chat (1909) * A Heap o’ Livin’ (1916) * Just Glad Things (1916) * Just Folks (1917) * Over Here (1918) * Poems of Patriotism (1918) * The Path to Home (1919) * A Dozen New Poems (1920) * Sunny Songs (1920) * Keep Going (Don’t Quit) (1921) * When Day Is Done (1921) * Don’t Quit (3 March 1921) * All That Matters (1922) * Making The House A Home (1922) * The Passing Throng (1923) * Mother (1925) * The Light of Faith (1926) * The Secret of The Ages (1926) * You (1927) * Harbor Lights of Home (1928) * Rhymes of Childhood (1928) * Poems for the Home Folks (1930) * The Friendly Way (1931) * Faith (1932) * Life’s Highway (1933) * Collected Verse of Edgar Guest (1934) * All in a Lifetime (1938) * Between You and Me: My Philosophy of Life (1938) * Today and Tomorrow (1942) * Living the Years (1949) * Sermons We See * See It Through * Life’s Slacker * “Team Work” References Wikipedia—https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Guest
William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564; died 23 April 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others. Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the 16th century. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's. Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare's genius, and the Victorians worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called "bardolatry". In the 20th century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world. Early life William Shakespeare was the son of John Shakespeare, an alderman and a successful glover originally from Snitterfield, and Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowning farmer. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and baptised there on 26 April 1564. His actual birthdate remains unknown, but is traditionally observed on 23 April, St George's Day. This date, which can be traced back to an 18th-century scholar's mistake, has proved appealing to biographers, since Shakespeare died 23 April 1616. He was the third child of eight and the eldest surviving son. Although no attendance records for the period survive, most biographers agree that Shakespeare was probably educated at the King's New School in Stratford, a free school chartered in 1553, about a quarter-mile from his home. Grammar schools varied in quality during the Elizabethan era, but the grammar curriculum was standardised by royal decree throughout England, and the school would have provided an intensive education in Latin grammar based upon Latin classical authors. At the age of 18, Shakespeare married the 26-year-old Anne Hathaway. The consistory court of the Diocese of Worcester issued a marriage licence 27 November 1582. The next day two of Hathaway's neighbours posted bonds guaranteeing that no lawful claims impeded the marriage. The ceremony may have been arranged in some haste, since the Worcester chancellor allowed the marriage banns to be read once instead of the usual three times, and six months after the marriage Anne gave birth to a daughter, Susanna, baptised 26 May 1583. Twins, son Hamnet and daughter Judith, followed almost two years later and were baptised 2 February 1585. Hamnet died of unknown causes at the age of 11 and was buried 11 August 1596. After the birth of the twins, Shakespeare left few historical traces until he is mentioned as part of the London theatre scene in 1592, and scholars refer to the years between 1585 and 1592 as Shakespeare's "lost years". Biographers attempting to account for this period have reported many apocryphal stories. Nicholas Rowe, Shakespeare’s first biographer, recounted a Stratford legend that Shakespeare fled the town for London to escape prosecution for deer poaching in the estate of local squire Thomas Lucy. Shakespeare is also supposed to have taken his revenge on Lucy by writing a scurrilous ballad about him. Another 18th-century story has Shakespeare starting his theatrical career minding the horses of theatre patrons in London. John Aubrey reported that Shakespeare had been a country schoolmaster. Some 20th-century scholars have suggested that Shakespeare may have been employed as a schoolmaster by Alexander Hoghton of Lancashire, a Catholic landowner who named a certain "William Shakeshafte" in his will. No evidence substantiates such stories other than hearsay collected after his death, and Shakeshafte was a common name in the Lancashire area. London and theatrical career It is not known exactly when Shakespeare began writing, but contemporary allusions and records of performances show that several of his plays were on the London stage by 1592. He was well enough known in London by then to be attacked in print by the playwright Robert Greene in his Groats-Worth of Wit: ...there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger's heart wrapped in a Player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country. Scholars differ on the exact meaning of these words, but most agree that Greene is accusing Shakespeare of reaching above his rank in trying to match university-educated writers such as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe and Greene himself (the "university wits"). The italicised phrase parodying the line "Oh, tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide" from Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 3, along with the pun "Shake-scene", identifies Shakespeare as Greene's target. Here Johannes Factotum—"Jack of all trades"— means a second-rate tinkerer with the work of others, rather than the more common "universal genius". Greene's attack is the earliest surviving mention of Shakespeare’s career in the theatre. Biographers suggest that his career may have begun any time from the mid-1580s to just before Greene's remarks. From 1594, Shakespeare's plays were performed only by the Lord Chamberlain's Men, a company owned by a group of players, including Shakespeare, that soon became the leading playing company in London. After the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, the company was awarded a royal patent by the new king, James I, and changed its name to the King's Men. In 1599, a partnership of company members built their own theatre on the south bank of the River Thames, which they called the Globe. In 1608, the partnership also took over the Blackfriars indoor theatre. Records of Shakespeare's property purchases and investments indicate that the company made him a wealthy man. In 1597, he bought the second-largest house in Stratford, New Place, and in 1605, he invested in a share of the parish tithes in Stratford. Some of Shakespeare's plays were published in quarto editions from 1594. By 1598, his name had become a selling point and began to appear on the title pages. Shakespeare continued to act in his own and other plays after his success as a playwright. The 1616 edition of Ben Jonson's Works names him on the cast lists for Every Man in His Humour (1598) and Sejanus His Fall (1603). The absence of his name from the 1605 cast list for Jonson’s Volpone is taken by some scholars as a sign that his acting career was nearing its end. The First Folio of 1623, however, lists Shakespeare as one of "the Principal Actors in all these Plays", some of which were first staged after Volpone, although we cannot know for certain which roles he played. In 1610, John Davies of Hereford wrote that "good Will" played "kingly" roles. In 1709, Rowe passed down a tradition that Shakespeare played the ghost of Hamlet's father. Later traditions maintain that he also played Adam in As You Like It and the Chorus in Henry V, though scholars doubt the sources of the information. Shakespeare divided his time between London and Stratford during his career. In 1596, the year before he bought New Place as his family home in Stratford, Shakespeare was living in the parish of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, north of the River Thames. He moved across the river to Southwark by 1599, the year his company constructed the Globe Theatre there. By 1604, he had moved north of the river again, to an area north of St Paul's Cathedral with many fine houses. There he rented rooms from a French Huguenot called Christopher Mountjoy, a maker of ladies' wigs and other headgear. Later years and death Rowe was the first biographer to pass down the tradition that Shakespeare retired to Stratford some years before his death; but retirement from all work was uncommon at that time, and Shakespeare continued to visit London. In 1612 he was called as a witness in a court case concerning the marriage settlement of Mountjoy's daughter, Mary. In March 1613 he bought a gatehouse in the former Blackfriars priory; and from November 1614 he was in London for several weeks with his son-in-law, John Hall. After 1606–1607, Shakespeare wrote fewer plays, and none are attributed to him after 1613. His last three plays were collaborations, probably with John Fletcher, who succeeded him as the house playwright for the King’s Men. Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616 and was survived by his wife and two daughters. Susanna had married a physician, John Hall, in 1607, and Judith had married Thomas Quiney, a vintner, two months before Shakespeare’s death. In his will, Shakespeare left the bulk of his large estate to his elder daughter Susanna. The terms instructed that she pass it down intact to "the first son of her body". The Quineys had three children, all of whom died without marrying. The Halls had one child, Elizabeth, who married twice but died without children in 1670, ending Shakespeare’s direct line. Shakespeare's will scarcely mentions his wife, Anne, who was probably entitled to one third of his estate automatically. He did make a point, however, of leaving her "my second best bed", a bequest that has led to much speculation. Some scholars see the bequest as an insult to Anne, whereas others believe that the second-best bed would have been the matrimonial bed and therefore rich in significance. Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church two days after his death. The epitaph carved into the stone slab covering his grave includes a curse against moving his bones, which was carefully avoided during restoration of the church in 2008: Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare, To digg the dvst encloased heare. Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones, And cvrst be he yt moves my bones. (Modern spelling: Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear, | To dig the dust enclosed here. | Blessed be the man that spares these stones, | And cursed be he that moves my bones.) Sometime before 1623, a funerary monument was erected in his memory on the north wall, with a half-effigy of him in the act of writing. Its plaque compares him to Nestor, Socrates, and Virgil. In 1623, in conjunction with the publication of the First Folio, the Droeshout engraving was published. Shakespeare has been commemorated in many statues and memorials around the world, including funeral monuments in Southwark Cathedral and Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. Plays Most playwrights of the period typically collaborated with others at some point, and critics agree that Shakespeare did the same, mostly early and late in his career. Some attributions, such as Titus Andronicus and the early history plays, remain controversial, while The Two Noble Kinsmen and the lost Cardenio have well-attested contemporary documentation. Textual evidence also supports the view that several of the plays were revised by other writers after their original composition. The first recorded works of Shakespeare are Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI, written in the early 1590s during a vogue for historical drama. Shakespeare's plays are difficult to date, however, and studies of the texts suggest that Titus Andronicus, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew and The Two Gentlemen of Verona may also belong to Shakespeare’s earliest period. His first histories, which draw heavily on the 1587 edition of Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, dramatise the destructive results of weak or corrupt rule and have been interpreted as a justification for the origins of the Tudor dynasty. The early plays were influenced by the works of other Elizabethan dramatists, especially Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe, by the traditions of medieval drama, and by the plays of Seneca. The Comedy of Errors was also based on classical models, but no source for The Taming of the Shrew has been found, though it is related to a separate play of the same name and may have derived from a folk story. Like The Two Gentlemen of Verona, in which two friends appear to approve of rape, the Shrew's story of the taming of a woman's independent spirit by a man sometimes troubles modern critics and directors. Shakespeare's early classical and Italianate comedies, containing tight double plots and precise comic sequences, give way in the mid-1590s to the romantic atmosphere of his greatest comedies. A Midsummer Night's Dream is a witty mixture of romance, fairy magic, and comic lowlife scenes. Shakespeare's next comedy, the equally romantic Merchant of Venice, contains a portrayal of the vengeful Jewish moneylender Shylock, which reflects Elizabethan views but may appear derogatory to modern audiences. The wit and wordplay of Much Ado About Nothing, the charming rural setting of As You Like It, and the lively merrymaking of Twelfth Night complete Shakespeare's sequence of great comedies. After the lyrical Richard II, written almost entirely in verse, Shakespeare introduced prose comedy into the histories of the late 1590s, Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. His characters become more complex and tender as he switches deftly between comic and serious scenes, prose and poetry, and achieves the narrative variety of his mature work. This period begins and ends with two tragedies: Romeo and Juliet, the famous romantic tragedy of sexually charged adolescence, love, and death; and Julius Caesar—based on Sir Thomas North's 1579 translation of Plutarch's Parallel Lives—which introduced a new kind of drama. According to Shakespearean scholar James Shapiro, in Julius Caesar "the various strands of politics, character, inwardness, contemporary events, even Shakespeare's own reflections on the act of writing, began to infuse each other". In the early 17th century, Shakespeare wrote the so-called "problem plays" Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, and All's Well That Ends Well and a number of his best known tragedies. Many critics believe that Shakespeare's greatest tragedies represent the peak of his art. The titular hero of one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies, Hamlet, has probably been discussed more than any other Shakespearean character, especially for his famous soliloquy "To be or not to be; that is the question". Unlike the introverted Hamlet, whose fatal flaw is hesitation, the heroes of the tragedies that followed, Othello and King Lear, are undone by hasty errors of judgement. The plots of Shakespeare's tragedies often hinge on such fatal errors or flaws, which overturn order and destroy the hero and those he loves. In Othello, the villain Iago stokes Othello's sexual jealousy to the point where he murders the innocent wife who loves him. In King Lear, the old king commits the tragic error of giving up his powers, initiating the events which lead to the torture and blinding of the Earl of Gloucester and the murder of Lear's youngest daughter Cordelia. According to the critic Frank Kermode, "the play offers neither its good characters nor its audience any relief from its cruelty". In Macbeth, the shortest and most compressed of Shakespeare's tragedies, uncontrollable ambition incites Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth, to murder the rightful king and usurp the throne, until their own guilt destroys them in turn. In this play, Shakespeare adds a supernatural element to the tragic structure. His last major tragedies, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus, contain some of Shakespeare's finest poetry and were considered his most successful tragedies by the poet and critic T. S. Eliot. In his final period, Shakespeare turned to romance or tragicomedy and completed three more major plays: Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest, as well as the collaboration, Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Less bleak than the tragedies, these four plays are graver in tone than the comedies of the 1590s, but they end with reconciliation and the forgiveness of potentially tragic errors. Some commentators have seen this change in mood as evidence of a more serene view of life on Shakespeare's part, but it may merely reflect the theatrical fashion of the day. Shakespeare collaborated on two further surviving plays, Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen, probably with John Fletcher. Performances It is not clear for which companies Shakespeare wrote his early plays. The title page of the 1594 edition of Titus Andronicus reveals that the play had been acted by three different troupes. After the plagues of 1592–3, Shakespeare's plays were performed by his own company at The Theatre and the Curtain in Shoreditch, north of the Thames. Londoners flocked there to see the first part of Henry IV, Leonard Digges recording, "Let but Falstaff come, Hal, Poins, the rest...and you scarce shall have a room". When the company found themselves in dispute with their landlord, they pulled The Theatre down and used the timbers to construct the Globe Theatre, the first playhouse built by actors for actors, on the south bank of the Thames at Southwark. The Globe opened in autumn 1599, with Julius Caesar one of the first plays staged. Most of Shakespeare's greatest post-1599 plays were written for the Globe, including Hamlet, Othello and King Lear. After the Lord Chamberlain's Men were renamed the King's Men in 1603, they entered a special relationship with the new King James. Although the performance records are patchy, the King's Men performed seven of Shakespeare's plays at court between 1 November 1604 and 31 October 1605, including two performances of The Merchant of Venice. After 1608, they performed at the indoor Blackfriars Theatre during the winter and the Globe during the summer. The indoor setting, combined with the Jacobean fashion for lavishly staged masques, allowed Shakespeare to introduce more elaborate stage devices. In Cymbeline, for example, Jupiter descends "in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle: he throws a thunderbolt. The ghosts fall on their knees." The actors in Shakespeare's company included the famous Richard Burbage, William Kempe, Henry Condell and John Heminges. Burbage played the leading role in the first performances of many of Shakespeare's plays, including Richard III, Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear. The popular comic actor Will Kempe played the servant Peter in Romeo and Juliet and Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, among other characters. He was replaced around the turn of the 16th century by Robert Armin, who played roles such as Touchstone in As You Like It and the fool in King Lear. In 1613, Sir Henry Wotton recorded that Henry VIII "was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and ceremony". On 29 June, however, a cannon set fire to the thatch of the Globe and burned the theatre to the ground, an event which pinpoints the date of a Shakespeare play with rare precision. Textual sources In 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two of Shakespeare's friends from the King's Men, published the First Folio, a collected edition of Shakespeare's plays. It contained 36 texts, including 18 printed for the first time. Many of the plays had already appeared in quarto versions—flimsy books made from sheets of paper folded twice to make four leaves. No evidence suggests that Shakespeare approved these editions, which the First Folio describes as "stol'n and surreptitious copies". Alfred Pollard termed some of them "bad quartos" because of their adapted, paraphrased or garbled texts, which may in places have been reconstructed from memory. Where several versions of a play survive, each differs from the other. The differences may stem from copying or printing errors, from notes by actors or audience members, or from Shakespeare's own papers. In some cases, for example Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida and Othello, Shakespeare could have revised the texts between the quarto and folio editions. In the case of King Lear, however, while most modern additions do conflate them, the 1623 folio version is so different from the 1608 quarto, that the Oxford Shakespeare prints them both, arguing that they cannot be conflated without confusion. Poems In 1593 and 1594, when the theatres were closed because of plague, Shakespeare published two narrative poems on erotic themes, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. He dedicated them to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. In Venus and Adonis, an innocent Adonis rejects the sexual advances of Venus; while in The Rape of Lucrece, the virtuous wife Lucrece is raped by the lustful Tarquin. Influenced by Ovid's Metamorphoses, the poems show the guilt and moral confusion that result from uncontrolled lust. Both proved popular and were often reprinted during Shakespeare's lifetime. A third narrative poem, A Lover's Complaint, in which a young woman laments her seduction by a persuasive suitor, was printed in the first edition of the Sonnets in 1609. Most scholars now accept that Shakespeare wrote A Lover's Complaint. Critics consider that its fine qualities are marred by leaden effects. The Phoenix and the Turtle, printed in Robert Chester's 1601 Love's Martyr, mourns the deaths of the legendary phoenix and his lover, the faithful turtle dove. In 1599, two early drafts of sonnets 138 and 144 appeared in The Passionate Pilgrim, published under Shakespeare's name but without his permission. Sonnets Published in 1609, the Sonnets were the last of Shakespeare's non-dramatic works to be printed. Scholars are not certain when each of the 154 sonnets was composed, but evidence suggests that Shakespeare wrote sonnets throughout his career for a private readership. Even before the two unauthorised sonnets appeared in The Passionate Pilgrim in 1599, Francis Meres had referred in 1598 to Shakespeare's "sugred Sonnets among his private friends". Few analysts believe that the published collection follows Shakespeare's intended sequence. He seems to have planned two contrasting series: one about uncontrollable lust for a married woman of dark complexion (the "dark lady"), and one about conflicted love for a fair young man (the "fair youth"). It remains unclear if these figures represent real individuals, or if the authorial "I" who addresses them represents Shakespeare himself, though Wordsworth believed that with the sonnets "Shakespeare unlocked his heart". The 1609 edition was dedicated to a "Mr. W.H.", credited as "the only begetter" of the poems. It is not known whether this was written by Shakespeare himself or by the publisher, Thomas Thorpe, whose initials appear at the foot of the dedication page; nor is it known who Mr. W.H. was, despite numerous theories, or whether Shakespeare even authorised the publication. Critics praise the Sonnets as a profound meditation on the nature of love, sexual passion, procreation, death, and time. Style Shakespeare's first plays were written in the conventional style of the day. He wrote them in a stylised language that does not always spring naturally from the needs of the characters or the drama. The poetry depends on extended, sometimes elaborate metaphors and conceits, and the language is often rhetorical—written for actors to declaim rather than speak. The grand speeches in Titus Andronicus, in the view of some critics, often hold up the action, for example; and the verse in The Two Gentlemen of Verona has been described as stilted. Soon, however, Shakespeare began to adapt the traditional styles to his own purposes. The opening soliloquy of Richard III has its roots in the self-declaration of Vice in medieval drama. At the same time, Richard’s vivid self-awareness looks forward to the soliloquies of Shakespeare's mature plays. No single play marks a change from the traditional to the freer style. Shakespeare combined the two throughout his career, with Romeo and Juliet perhaps the best example of the mixing of the styles. By the time of Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, and A Midsummer Night's Dream in the mid-1590s, Shakespeare had begun to write a more natural poetry. He increasingly tuned his metaphors and images to the needs of the drama itself. hakespeare's standard poetic form was blank verse, composed in iambic pentameter. In practice, this meant that his verse was usually unrhymed and consisted of ten syllables to a line, spoken with a stress on every second syllable. The blank verse of his early plays is quite different from that of his later ones. It is often beautiful, but its sentences tend to start, pause, and finish at the end of lines, with the risk of monotony. Once Shakespeare mastered traditional blank verse, he began to interrupt and vary its flow. This technique releases the new power and flexibility of the poetry in plays such as Julius Caesar and Hamlet. Shakespeare uses it, for example, to convey the turmoil in Hamlet's mind: Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting That would not let me sleep. Methought I lay Worse than the mutines in the bilboes. Rashly— And prais'd be rashness for it—let us know Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well... Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2, 4–8 After Hamlet, Shakespeare varied his poetic style further, particularly in the more emotional passages of the late tragedies. The literary critic A. C. Bradley described this style as "more concentrated, rapid, varied, and, in construction, less regular, not seldom twisted or elliptical". In the last phase of his career, Shakespeare adopted many techniques to achieve these effects. These included run-on lines, irregular pauses and stops, and extreme variations in sentence structure and length. In Macbeth, for example, the language darts from one unrelated metaphor or simile to another: "was the hope drunk/ Wherein you dressed yourself?" (1.7.35–38); "...pity, like a naked new-born babe/ Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, hors'd/ Upon the sightless couriers of the air..." (1.7.21–25). The listener is challenged to complete the sense. The late romances, with their shifts in time and surprising turns of plot, inspired a last poetic style in which long and short sentences are set against one another, clauses are piled up, subject and object are reversed, and words are omitted, creating an effect of spontaneity. Shakespeare combined poetic genius with a practical sense of the theatre. Like all playwrights of the time, he dramatised stories from sources such as Plutarch and Holinshed. He reshaped each plot to create several centres of interest and to show as many sides of a narrative to the audience as possible. This strength of design ensures that a Shakespeare play can survive translation, cutting and wide interpretation without loss to its core drama. As Shakespeare’s mastery grew, he gave his characters clearer and more varied motivations and distinctive patterns of speech. He preserved aspects of his earlier style in the later plays, however. In Shakespeare's late romances, he deliberately returned to a more artificial style, which emphasised the illusion of theatre. Influence Shakespeare's work has made a lasting impression on later theatre and literature. In particular, he expanded the dramatic potential of characterisation, plot, language, and genre. Until Romeo and Juliet, for example, romance had not been viewed as a worthy topic for tragedy. Soliloquies had been used mainly to convey information about characters or events; but Shakespeare used them to explore characters' minds. His work heavily influenced later poetry. The Romantic poets attempted to revive Shakespearean verse drama, though with little success. Critic George Steiner described all English verse dramas from Coleridge to Tennyson as "feeble variations on Shakespearean themes." Shakespeare influenced novelists such as Thomas Hardy, William Faulkner, and Charles Dickens. The American novelist Herman Melville's soliloquies owe much to Shakespeare; his Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick is a classic tragic hero, inspired by King Lear. Scholars have identified 20,000 pieces of music linked to Shakespeare's works. These include two operas by Giuseppe Verdi, Otello and Falstaff, whose critical standing compares with that of the source plays. Shakespeare has also inspired many painters, including the Romantics and the Pre-Raphaelites. The Swiss Romantic artist Henry Fuseli, a friend of William Blake, even translated Macbeth into German. The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud drew on Shakespearean psychology, in particular that of Hamlet, for his theories of human nature. In Shakespeare's day, English grammar, spelling and pronunciation were less standardised than they are now, and his use of language helped shape modern English. Samuel Johnson quoted him more often than any other author in his A Dictionary of the English Language, the first serious work of its type. Expressions such as "with bated breath" (Merchant of Venice) and "a foregone conclusion" (Othello) have found their way into everyday English speech. Critical reputation Shakespeare was not revered in his lifetime, but he received his share of praise. In 1598, the cleric and author Francis Meres singled him out from a group of English writers as "the most excellent" in both comedy and tragedy. And the authors of the Parnassus plays at St John's College, Cambridge, numbered him with Chaucer, Gower and Spenser. In the First Folio, Ben Jonson called Shakespeare the "Soul of the age, the applause, delight, the wonder of our stage", though he had remarked elsewhere that "Shakespeare wanted art". Between the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the end of the 17th century, classical ideas were in vogue. As a result, critics of the time mostly rated Shakespeare below John Fletcher and Ben Jonson. Thomas Rymer, for example, condemned Shakespeare for mixing the comic with the tragic. Nevertheless, poet and critic John Dryden rated Shakespeare highly, saying of Jonson, "I admire him, but I love Shakespeare". For several decades, Rymer's view held sway; but during the 18th century, critics began to respond to Shakespeare on his own terms and acclaim what they termed his natural genius. A series of scholarly editions of his work, notably those of Samuel Johnson in 1765 and Edmond Malone in 1790, added to his growing reputation. By 1800, he was firmly enshrined as the national poet. In the 18th and 19th centuries, his reputation also spread abroad. Among those who championed him were the writers Voltaire, Goethe, Stendhal and Victor Hugo. During the Romantic era, Shakespeare was praised by the poet and literary philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge; and the critic August Wilhelm Schlegel translated his plays in the spirit of German Romanticism. In the 19th century, critical admiration for Shakespeare's genius often bordered on adulation. "That King Shakespeare," the essayist Thomas Carlyle wrote in 1840, "does not he shine, in crowned sovereignty, over us all, as the noblest, gentlest, yet strongest of rallying signs; indestructible". The Victorians produced his plays as lavish spectacles on a grand scale. The playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw mocked the cult of Shakespeare worship as "bardolatry". He claimed that the new naturalism of Ibsen's plays had made Shakespeare obsolete. The modernist revolution in the arts during the early 20th century, far from discarding Shakespeare, eagerly enlisted his work in the service of the avant-garde. The Expressionists in Germany and the Futurists in Moscow mounted productions of his plays. Marxist playwright and director Bertolt Brecht devised an epic theatre under the influence of Shakespeare. The poet and critic T. S. Eliot argued against Shaw that Shakespeare's "primitiveness" in fact made him truly modern. Eliot, along with G. Wilson Knight and the school of New Criticism, led a movement towards a closer reading of Shakespeare's imagery. In the 1950s, a wave of new critical approaches replaced modernism and paved the way for "post-modern" studies of Shakespeare. By the eighties, Shakespeare studies were open to movements such as structuralism, feminism, New Historicism, African American studies, and queer studies. Speculation about Shakespeare Authorship Around 150 years after Shakespeare's death, doubts began to be expressed about the authorship of the works attributed to him. Proposed alternative candidates include Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Several "group theories" have also been proposed. Only a small minority of academics believe there is reason to question the traditional attribution, but interest in the subject, particularly the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship, continues into the 21st century. Religion Some scholars claim that members of Shakespeare's family were Catholics, at a time when Catholic practice was against the law. Shakespeare's mother, Mary Arden, certainly came from a pious Catholic family. The strongest evidence might be a Catholic statement of faith signed by John Shakespeare, found in 1757 in the rafters of his former house in Henley Street. The document is now lost, however, and scholars differ as to its authenticity. In 1591 the authorities reported that John Shakespeare had missed church "for fear of process for debt", a common Catholic excuse. In 1606 the name of William's daughter Susanna appears on a list of those who failed to attend Easter communion in Stratford. Scholars find evidence both for and against Shakespeare's Catholicism in his plays, but the truth may be impossible to prove either way. Sexuality Few details of Shakespeare's sexuality are known. At 18, he married the 26-year-old Anne Hathaway, who was pregnant. Susanna, the first of their three children, was born six months later on 26 May 1583. Over the centuries some readers have posited that Shakespeare's sonnets are autobiographical, and point to them as evidence of his love for a young man. Others read the same passages as the expression of intense friendship rather than sexual love. The 26 so-called "Dark Lady" sonnets, addressed to a married woman, are taken as evidence of heterosexual liaisons. Portraiture There is no written description of Shakespeare's physical appearance and no evidence that he ever commissioned a portrait, so the Droeshout engraving, which Ben Jonson approved of as a good likeness, and his Stratford monument provide the best evidence of his appearance. From the 18th century, the desire for authentic Shakespeare portraits fuelled claims that various surviving pictures depicted Shakespeare. That demand also led to the production of several fake portraits, as well as misattributions, repaintings and relabelling of portraits of other people. List of works Classification of the plays Shakespeare's works include the 36 plays printed in the First Folio of 1623, listed below according to their folio classification as comedies, histories and tragedies. Two plays not included in the First Folio, The Two Noble Kinsmen and Pericles, Prince of Tyre, are now accepted as part of the canon, with scholars agreed that Shakespeare made a major contribution to their composition. No Shakespearean poems were included in the First Folio. In the late 19th century, Edward Dowden classified four of the late comedies as romances, and though many scholars prefer to call them tragicomedies, his term is often used. These plays and the associated Two Noble Kinsmen are marked with an asterisk (*) below. In 1896, Frederick S. Boas coined the term "problem plays" to describe four plays: All's Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida and Hamlet. "Dramas as singular in theme and temper cannot be strictly called comedies or tragedies", he wrote. "We may therefore borrow a convenient phrase from the theatre of today and class them together as Shakespeare's problem plays." The term, much debated and sometimes applied to other plays, remains in use, though Hamlet is definitively classed as a tragedy. The other problem plays are marked below with a double dagger. Plays thought to be only partly written by Shakespeare are marked with a dagger below. Other works occasionally attributed to him are listed as apocrypha. References Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare
Edward James (Ted) Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd, in the West Riding district of Yorkshire, on August 17, 1930. His childhood was quiet and dominately rural. When he was seven years old his family moved to the small town of Mexborough in South Yorkshire, and the landscape of the moors of that area informed his poetry throughout his life. After high school, Hughes entered the Royal Air Force and served for two years as a ground wireless mechanic. He then moved to Cambridge to attend Pembroke College on an academic scholarship. While in college he published a few poems, majored in Anthropolgy and Archaeology, and studied mythologies extensively. Hughes graduated from Cambridge in 1954. A few years later, in 1956, he co-founded the literary magazine St. Botolph’s Review with a handful of other editors. At the launch party for the magazine, he met Sylvia Plath. A few short months later, on June 16, 1956, they were married. Plath encouraged Hughes to submit his first manuscript, The Hawk in the Rain, to The Poetry Center's First Publication book contest. The judges, Marianne Moore, W. H. Auden, and Stephen Spender, awarded the manuscript first prize, and it was published in England and America in 1957, to much critical praise. Hughes lived in Massachusetts with Plath and taught at University of Massachusetts Amherst. They returned to England in 1959, and their first child, Freida was born the following year. Their second child, Nicholas, was born two years later. In 1962, Hughes left Plath for Assia Gutmann Wevill. Less than a year later, Plath committed suicide. Hughes did not write again for years, as he focused all of his energy on editing and promoting Plath’s poems. He was also roundly lambasted by the public, who saw him as responsible for his wife’s suicide. Controversy surrounded his editorial choices regarding Plath’s poems and journals. In 1965, Wevill gave birth to their only child, Shura. Four years later, like Plath, she also commited suicide, killing Shura as well. The following year, in 1970, Hughes married Carol Orchard, with whom he remained married until his death. Hughes’s lengthy career included over a dozen books of poetry, translations, non-fiction and children’s books, such as the famous The Iron Man (1968). His books of poems include: Wolfwatching (1990), Flowers and Insects (1986), Selected Poems 1957-1981 (1982), Moortown (1980), Cave Birds (1979), Crow (1971), and Lupercal (1960). His final collection, The Birthday Letters (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998), published the year of his death, documented his relationship with Plath. Hughes's work is marked by a mythical framework, using the lyric and dramatic monologue to illustrate intense subject matter. Animals appear frequently throughout his work as deity, metaphor, persona, and icon. Perhaps the most famous of his subjects is "Crow," an amalgam of god, bird and man, whose existence seems pivotal to the knowledge of good and evil. Hughes won many of Europe’s highest literary honors, and was appointed Poet Laureate of England in 1984, a post he held until his death. He passed away in October 28, 1998 in Devonshire, England, from cancer. Poetry The Hawk in the Rain (1957) Pike (1959) Lupercal (1960) Crow (1971) Cave Birds (1979) Moortown (1980) Selected Poems 1957-1981 (1982) Flowers and Insects (1986) Wolfwatching (1990) The Birthday Letters (1998) References Poets.org - poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/113
Ronald Stuart Thomas (29 March 1913 – 25 September 2000), published as R. S. Thomas, was a Welsh poet and Anglican priest who was noted for his nationalism, spirituality and deep dislike of the anglicisation of Wales. In 1955, John Betjeman, in his introduction to the first collection of Thomas’s poetry to be produced by a major publisher, Song at the Year's Turning, predicted that Thomas would be remembered long after Betjeman himself was forgotten. M. Wynn Thomas said: "He was the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn of Wales because he was such a troubler of the Welsh conscience. He was one of the major English language and European poets of the 20th century." R. S. Thomas was born in Cardiff, the only child of Thomas Hubert and Margaret (née Davis). The family moved to Holyhead in 1918 because of his father's work in the merchant navy. He was awarded a bursary in 1932 to study at Bangor University, where he read Classics. In 1936, having completed his theological training at St. Michael's College, Llandaff, he was ordained as a priest in the Church in Wales. From 1936 to 1940 he was the curate of Chirk, Denbighshire, where he met his future wife, Mildred (Elsi) Eldridge, an English artist. He subsequently became curate at Tallarn Green, Flintshire. Thomas and Mildred were married in 1940 and remained together until her death in 1991. Their son, Gwydion, was born 29 August 1945. The Thomas family lived on a tiny income and lacked the comforts of modern life, largely by the Thomas's choice. One of the few household amenities the family ever owned, a vacuum cleaner, was rejected because Thomas decided it was too noisy. For twelve years, from 1942 to 1954, Thomas was rector at Manafon, near Welshpool in rural Montgomeryshire. It was during his time at Manafon that he first began to study Welsh and that he published his first three volumes of poetry, The Stones of the Field, An Acre of Land and The Minister. Thomas' poetry achieved a breakthrough with the publication of his fourth book Song at the Year's Turning, in effect a collected edition of his first three volumes, which was critically very well received and opened with Betjeman's famous introduction. His position was also helped by winning the Royal Society of Literature's Heinemann Award. Thomas learnt the Welsh language at age 30, too late in life, he said, to be able to write poetry in it. The 1960s saw him working in a predominantly Welsh speaking community and he later wrote two prose works in Welsh, Neb (English: Nobody), an ironic and revealing autobiography written in the third person, and Blwyddyn yn Llŷn (English: A Year in Llŷn). In 1964 he won the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. From 1967 to 1978 he was vicar at St Hywyn's Church (built 1137) in Aberdaron at the western tip of the Llŷn Peninsula. Thomas retired from church ministry in 1978 and he and his wife relocated to Y Rhiw, in "a tiny, unheated cottage in one of the most beautiful parts of Wales, where, however, the temperature sometimes dipped below freezing", according to Theodore Dalrymple. Free from the constraints of the church he was able to become more political and active in the campaigns that were important to him. He became a fierce advocate of Welsh nationalism, although he never supported Plaid Cymru because he believed they did not go far enough in their opposition to England. In 1996 Thomas was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature (the winner that year was Seamus Heaney). Thomas died on 25 September 2000, aged 87, at his home at Pentrefelin near Criccieth. He had been ill with heart trouble and had been treated at Gwynnedd hospital until two weeks before he died. After his death an event celebrating his life and poetry was held in Westminster Abbey with readings from Heaney, Andrew Motion, Gillian Clarke and John Burnside. Thomas's ashes are buried close to the door of St. John's Church, Porthmadog, Gwynedd. Beliefs Thomas believed in what he called "the true Wales of my imagination", a Welsh-speaking, aboriginal community that was in tune with the natural world. He viewed western (specifically English) materialism and greed, represented in the poetry by his mythical "Machine", as the destroyers of community. He could tolerate neither the English who bought up Wales and, in his view, stripped it of its wild and essential nature, nor the Welsh whom he saw as all too eager to kowtow to English money and influence. This may help explain why Thomas was an ardent supporter of CND and described himself as a pacifist but also why he supported the Meibion Glyndŵr fire-bombings of English-owned holiday cottages in rural Wales. On this subject he said in 1998, "what is one death against the death of the whole Welsh nation?" He was also active in wildlife preservation and worked with the RSPB and Welsh volunteer organisations for the preservation of the Red Kite. He resigned his RSPB membership over their plans to introduce non-native kites to Wales. Thomas's son, Gwydion, a resident of Thailand, recalls his father's sermons, in which he would "drone on" to absurd lengths about the evil of refrigerators, washing machines, televisions and other modern devices. Thomas preached that they were all part of the temptation of scrambling after gadgets rather than attending to more spiritual needs. "It was the Machine, you see", Gwydion Thomas explained to a biographer. "This to a congregation that didn’t have any of these things and were longing for them." Although he may have taken some ideas to extreme lengths, Theodore Dalrymple wrote, Thomas "was raising a deep and unanswered question: What is life for? Is it simply to consume more and more, and divert ourselves with ever more elaborate entertainments and gadgetry? What will this do to our souls?" Although he was a cleric, he was not always charitable and was known for being awkward and taciturn. Some critics have interpreted photographs of him as indicating he was "formidable, bad-tempered, and apparently humorless." Works Almost all of Thomas's work concerns the Welsh landscape and the Welsh people, themes with both political and spiritual subtext. His views on the position of the Welsh people, as a conquered people are never far below the surface. As a cleric, his religious views are also present in his works. His earlier works focus on the personal stories of his parishioners, the farm labourers and working men and their wives, challenging the cosy view of the traditional pastoral poem with harsh and vivid descriptions of rural lives. The beauty of the landscape, although ever-present, is never suggested as a compensation for the low pay or monotonous conditions of farm work. This direct view of "country life" comes as a challenge to many English writers writing on similar subjects and challenging the more pastoral works of such as contemporary poets as Dylan Thomas. Thomas's later works were of a more metaphysical nature, more experimental in their style and focusing more overtly on his spirituality. Laboratories of the Spirit (1975) gives, in its title, a hint at this development and also reveals Thomas's increasing experiments with scientific metaphor. He described this shift as an investigation into the "adult geometry of the mind".} Fearing that poetry was becoming a dying art, inaccessible to those who most needed it, "he attempted to make spiritually minded poems relevant within, and relevant to, a science-minded, post-industrial world", to represent that world both in form and in content even as he rejected its machinations. Despite his nationalism Thomas could be hard on his fellow countrymen. Often his works read as more of a criticism of Welshness than a celebration. He himself said there is a "lack of love for human beings" in his poetry. Other critics have not been so harsh. Al Alvarez said: "He was wonderful, very pure, very bitter but the bitterness was beautifully and very sparely rendered. He was completely authoritative, a very, very fine poet, completely off on his own, out of the loop but a real individual. It's not about being a major or minor poet. It's about getting a work absolutely right by your own standards and he did that wonderfully well." Thomas's final works commonly sold 20,000 copies in Britain alone. Books * The Stones of the Field (1946) * An Acre of Land (1952) * The Minister (1953) * Song at the Year's Turning (1955) * Poetry for Supper (1958) * Tares, [Corn-weed] (1961) * The Bread of Truth (1963) * Words and the Poet (1964, lecture) * Pietà (1966) * Not That He Brought Flowers (1968) * H'm (1972) * What is a Welshman? (1974) * Laboratories of the Spirit (1975) * Abercuawg (1976, lecture) * The Way of It (1977) * Frequencies (1978) * Between Here and Now (1981) * Ingrowing Thoughts (1985) * Neb (1985) in Welsh, autobiography, written in the third person * Experimenting with an Amen (1986) * Welsh Airs (1987) * The Echoes Return Slow (1988) * Counterpoint (1990) * Blwyddyn yn Llŷn (1990) in Welsh * Pe Medrwn Yr Iaith : ac ysgrifau eraill ed. Tony Brown & Bedwyr L. Jones, essays in Welsh (1990) * Mass for Hard Times (1992) * No Truce with the Furies (1995) * Autobiographies (1997, collection of prose writings) * Residues (2002, posthumously) References Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._S._Thomas
“Without poets, without artists, men would soon weary of nature's monotony.” —Guillaume Apollinaire
“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” —William Wordsworth