“Three weeks before she died on July 25, 2012, Marcia (Marty) Brown Stern ’54 sent me a registered letter, which began, ‘What is enclosed may astonish you.’ Indeed it did. The envelope included a draft of ‘marcia,’ an unpublished poem that Sylvia Plath ’55 wrote about their sophomore year together at Smith College in 1951.”
If you’re a professor or mentor, it’s the time of year you should expect to be hit up for recommendation letters. You can find inspiration in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s recommendation letter for Walt Whitman, when the latter was seeking government employment despite his controversial poetry. “He is known to me as a man of strong original genius, combining, with marked eccentricities, great powers & valuable traits of character: a self-relying large-hearted man, much beloved by his friends.” Even if the government didn’t like Whitman’s work, we do; read our own Michael Bourne’s essay on the power of Whitman’s poetry.
Book to movie news: Soon to hit theaters is a big-screen take on Allen Ginsburg’s Howl, focusing on the obscenity trial Ginsberg faced after the publication of the poem and starring James Franco as Ginsberg (alongside Jon Hamm and Jeff Daniels). (The trailer). The film includes an animation of the poem itself by illustrator Eric Drooker. Art from the animation has been collected in a new book under the title Howl: A Graphic Novel.
“I had dreams about tornadoes. I dreamed of houses collapsing, people searching through rubble for dead bodies. Most of these dreams involved watching a large tornado in a field as it moved directly toward me. Like the scene early in the film The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy looks out the window and sees the tornado approaching, that sense of doom is always present in my dreams.” At the Paris Review Daily, Brandon Hobson reflects on a lifelong fear of bad weather.
Electric Literature—first established as a cross-platform digital publisher, but best known for its popular “Recommended Reading” tumblog—has just relaunched itself as a literary advocate built around a strong website and social channels. C0-founder Andy Hunter tells the Washington Post, “Posting a cool photo on social media gets a much greater response than text alone, even in our audience of book lovers. While at first that might seem at odds with literary content, we’ve always felt that changes in the way we communicate create opportunities to reach more people.”