Thoreau Leads Poetry Series July 11
The class convenes in the Audubon Bar every Wednesday until August 29, from 10:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., and is free and open to Islanders and visitors of all ages, with no special experience in poetry required. The hotel provides handouts covering all material to be discussed.
Best know for his book length essays of place and natural economy, most famously “Walden” (1854), Thoreau was also a poet much influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson, his mentor and neighbor in Concord, Massachusetts. Mr. Lenfestey will discuss both Thoreau’s prose from “Walden” and other works, along with poems, to give the sweep of Thoreau’s style and thinking.
Poet Robert Bly has said of Thoreau, “He wrote some marvelous poems that deserve to be known. They are not many. Some of his greatest poetry lies secretively glowing in his prose.”
Thoreau died in 1862 at the age of 44, having published a few books, some important lectures, and a handful of poems of nature. His final journal, never published, contained detailed observations from his visit to Mackinac Island from June 30 to July 4, 1861.
Although he sold few books, Thoreau’s influence, especially through “Walden” and his essay on “Civil Disobedience,” has been timeless and global, as profound an effect as any American thinker and writer, said Mr. Lenfestey.
Poetry at The Grand
July 11: Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). Mr. Lenfestey recommends as a supporting text, The Winged Life: the Poetic Voice of Henry David Thoreau, edited and with commentaries by Robert Bly, published in 1986 by Sierra Club Books.
July 18: Ranier Maria Rilke (1875-1926). Mr. Rilke is the incomparable modern romantic poet who wrote, in German and French, life-challenging, lifechanging ideas from which some readers never come back. He is famous also for his “Letters to a Young Poet” in which he wrote, “The point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.”
July 25: Linda Pastan (1932- ). An early recipient of The Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Prize for Lifetime Achievement, and twice a National Book Award finalist, Ms. Pastan is a gently brilliant truth-teller of and to the educated classes. “Our lives have minds of their own,” she writes.
August 1: Tomas Tranströmer (1931- ). This quiet Swedish poet won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. Robert Bly, his great American friend, translator, and champion, was invited by the poet and his wife, Monica, to the Nobel celebration last December. Instead, they stayed in Minneapolis, where Mr. Lenfestey hosted a Nobel cele- bration featuring poems in the original Swedish, plus Robert Bly reading his superb translations, plus selections of music Mr. Tranströmer loves. Mr. Lenfestey will do what he can to recreate that event, without Swedish, without music.
August 8: William Carlos Williams (1883-1963), guest curated by Dr. James Kublin. Dr. Kublin grew up in Marquette and attended Georgetown University, where he studied with poet Roland Flint, later Poet Laureate of Maryland, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Anthony Hecht. As a medical student, he founded a literary magazine for his fellow students. Dr. Kublin, of Seattle, oversees research on HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria around the world. On Mackinac Island, he will discuss what Mr. Lenfestey describes as the most famous doctor-poet in American literature.
August 15: Ted Kooser (1939- ). A Midwestern craftsman of small poetic masterpieces, Mr. Kooser builds his poems from simple materials into something simply beautiful, like Shaker furniture, said Mr. Lenfestey. He served as U.S. Poet Laureate 2006-2008, and his volume, Delights and Shadows, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007.
August 22: Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840-1894), guest curated by Dr. Stephen Rachman. Islanders know Ms. Woolson as the inspiration for Anne’s Tablet on the East Bluff, which, in turn, inspired the annual Anne’s Tablet Poetry Gathering every August. To a lesser degree, she is known from her 1880 novel, Anne, mostly set on Mackinac, less from her short stories and travel writing, less still her poetry. Dr. Rachman, a popular professor of English at Michigan State University, and an expert on nineteenth century American Literature, will discuss Ms. Woolson as a writer.
August 29: Participants read, recite, and discuss their favorite poems and poets. At this final session, participants are urged to bring a favorite poem to read or recite. All poems and readers are welcome.