Please join us for a poetry reading by Christian Bök on Thursday, November 1, 4 pm. This reading is co-sponsored by the Beinecke Library’s Modern Books and Manuscripts Collection and the Beinecke Library-Whitney Humanities Center Working Group in Contemporary Poetry. The event is free and open to the public. The Beinecke Library is located at 121 Wall Street, New Haven.
Canadian experimental poet Christian Bök is the author of books including Crystallography, a pataphysical encyclopedia, Eunoia, a lipogram that uses only one vowel in each of its five chapters, and Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science. Crystallography was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award for Best Poetic Debut and Eunoia, the best-selling Canadian poetry book of all time, was awarded the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2002. His conceptual artwork has appeared at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York City as part of the exhibit Poetry Plastique. He is a professor at the University of Calgary.
For more information about and examples of Christian Bök’s work please visit:
The Farwell Knapp Papers, containing correspondence with the poet H. Phelps Putnam, are now available for use at the Beinecke Library. Putnam’s poetry gained prominence in the twenties and thirties but has since largely gone unnoticed. In his foreword to The Collected Poems of H. Phelps Putnam (1971) Edmund Wilson writes “It has seemed to me strange that the name of Phelps Putnam should have vanished so quickly from memory” (v). Over the course of his brief career Phelps Putnam published two books: Trinc (1927) and The Five Seasons (1931).
Born in Massachusetts in 1894, Putnam attended Philips Exeter Academy before enrolling at Yale University. A member of the secret society Skull and Bones, Putnam is also categorized as part of the Renaissance generation at Yale, which includes alumni such as Stephen Vincent Benét, Henry R. Luce, Archibald MacLeish, Cole Porter, and Thornton Wilder.
Following graduation Putnam traveled to Europe and worked a series of odd jobs including a brief period as an assistant editor for The Atlantic Monthly Press and writing advertising copy for an insurance company. Putnam’s first book of poems, Trinc, Rabelaisian for drink, was published in 1927. Following Trinc Putnam set to work on an epic, to be titled The Earthly Comedy, which would, he planned, recount modern life and feature characters such as Bill Williams and his alter ego Bigelow Hasbrouck. The publication of The Five Seasons (1931) features these characters and marks the beginning of Putnam’s work towards producing The Earthly Comedy. Putnam never produced The Earthly Comedy before his death in 1948, perhaps thwarted by his ill health (asthma and alcoholism) and the paralyzing ambition of his plans. As F.O. Matthiessen acknowledges in his essay “To the Memory of Phelps Putnam” “he sketched a poem too vast ever to be able to shoulder the weight of writing it” (The Collected Poems of H. Phelps Putnam 200). Putnam wrote little in his later years, which largely consists of poetry published in various magazines and lyrics for a musical collaboration with Harl McDonald entitled Songs of Conquest: Cycle for Chorus of Mixed Voices (1937).
Putnam’s love life appears to have superseded his poetic reputation. Twice married (to Ruth Peters and Una Fayerweather) Putnam had numerous affairs, including trysts with Katharine Hepburn and painter Russell Cheney. In her autobiography Me Hepburn writes of Putnam:
I took one look at him and I was stricken with whatever it is that strickens one at once and for no reason when one looks at a member of the opposite sex. He absolutely fascinated me. I flew up onto a pink cloud [ . . . ]. (88)
The Farwell Knapp Papers contain Putnam’s correspondence with Farwell and Helen Bayne Knapp as well as Farwell’s journals with observations and comments about Putnam and their circle of friends. Knapp, who was a tax lawyer, met Putnam while both were at Yale and members of Skull and Bones. Putnam in fact introduced Knapp to Helen Bayne, who Putnam had met in Colorado through her uncle Russell Cheney. Helen Bayne provided comfort for the depressive Putnam, especially in 1929, as Putnam struggled to overcome his relationship with Katharine Hepburn. At this time Helen joined Putnam in New York and the two had a brief affair. Of this period Putnam wrote to Helen:
For pain shared and taken as you shared and took mine is pain forgotten. But I know that the way you treated it and me made it something less horrible and killing. You said ‘You shall go on and write your poetry.’ And I think it likely that I shall’ (March 27th, 1929, Folder 111, Farwell Knapp Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library).
The Farwell Knapp Papers provide useful insight into Putnam’s personal life and career. Knapp’s journals are also interesting in that he wrote extensively about his health and sexuality. (HD)
Related materials in the Beinecke Collections can be found by searching the Finding Aid Database; recently acquired materials may be found in the Uncataloged Acquisitions Database. H. Phelps Putnam’s published work can be located by searching Orbis, the library catalog.
Images: From L to R: Russell Cheney, Farwell Knapp, Phelps Putnam Journal December 1924 – June 1925, Box 12, Folder 165; Phelps Putnam, 1917, Journal October 1922 – Summer 1923, Box 11, Folder 160; Farwell Knapp and Helen Bayne Knapp, Journal October 1926 – October 1927, Box 13, Folder 168; Russell Cheney Journal 1922, Box 11, Folder 158; Farwell Knapps’ List of Books Read, 1923 Journal December 1923 – December 1924, Box 12, Folder 162. All images from the Farwell Knapp Papers, YCAL MSS 256.
A conference to be held at Yale University, October 20 & 21, 2007
Detailed information is available online at: Poetics and Politics in Yehuda Amichai’s World
Conference Speakers: Paula Hyman, Robert Alter, Boaz Arpaly, Menakhem Perry, Chana Kronfeld, Michael Gluzman, Vered Shemtov, Ziva Ben Porat William Cutter, Barbara Harshav, Geoffrey Hartman, Barbara Mann, Leon Wieseltier
Conference Sponsors: Yale University Library; The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library; Program in Judaic Studies; Department of Comparative Literature; Whitney Humanities Center; Lucius N. Littauer Foundation; Edward J. & Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund
UPDATE: Listen to a netcast of the reading here: Charles Bernstein Reading at Beinecke Library
Please join us for a poetry reading by Charles Bernstein on Tuesday, October 16, 4 pm. This event is free and open to the public. The Beinecke Library is located at 121 Wall Street, New Haven.
Charles Bernstein is the author of some 20 collections of poetry including Girly Man, With Strings, Republics of Reality: 1975-1995, Dark City , Rough Trades, The Nude Formalism, and Stigma. He is the author of volumes of prose and criticism including My Way: Speeches and Poems, A Poetics, and Content’s Dream: Essays 1975-1984. Charles Bernstein was the co-founder the influential journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E and the co-editor of the anthology The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book. He has written librettos for several operas and has worked with composers such as Ben Yarmolinsky, Brian Ferneyhough, and Dean Drummond. He has been awarded fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.
For more information about and examples of Charles Bernstein’s work please visit: