Susan Howe, Poetry Reading &
Performance with Musician David Grubbs
Thursday, April 5th, 4:00pm
Beinecke Library, 121 Wall Street
Yale Collection of American Literature Reading Series
Poet Susan Howe, winner of the 2011 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, and musician David Grubbs will perform a collaborative piece based on Howe’s award-winning volume That This. This is the third collaborative work Howe and Grubbs have created together; they performed their second collaboration, “Souls of the Labadie Tract,” at Beinecke Library in 2009 (see a description of the event here: http://beineckepoetry.library.yale.edu/2009/01/21/performance-souls-of-the-labadie-tract/).
Poet Susan Howe is the author of numerous books of poems including: That This (winner of the 2011 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry awarded by the Yale University Library) , Souls of the Labadie Tract, The Midnight, Pierce-Arrow, and Singularities.
Musician David Grubbs has made many solo records, played in a number of groups (Squirrel Bait, Bastro, Gastr del Sol, Red Krayola, Wingdale Community Singers), and frequently collaborates with writers and artists. He is an Associate Professor in the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College, CUNY. He teaches in Brooklyn College’s MFA program in Performance and Interactive Media Arts (PIMA) and Brooklyn College’s MFA program in Creative Writing, and is a member of the faculty of the Brooklyn College Center for Computer Music (BC-CCM).
Image: Susan Howe and David Grubbs performing in Cork, Ireland; photograph by Keith Tuma.
Generalists, rejoice! Students and researchers whose interests scatter all over history and to every corner of the map will now have greater access to the papers of a literary woman with similarly diverse tastes. Twentieth-century American writer, editor, and translator Ruth Stephan’s son, John J. Stephan, has made a generous donation to Beinecke that will highlight his mother’s archive, the Ruth Stephan Papers and The Tiger’s Eye Records, by providing broad funding for new acquisitions, exhibitions, and student projects, as well as fellowships for graduate students and international scholars.
The Ruth Stephan Papers (http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.stephan) consist of 148 boxes of various papers, photographs, and audiovisual material. A visitor to Beinecke who pages 5 boxes at random from the collection could find correspondence with Thornton Wilder, annotated drafts of Stephan’s poetry, research files on Queen Christina of Sweden, translations of Quechua songs, and materials from the filming of a documentary on Zen Buddhism. Stephan was born Charlotte Ruth Walgreen, and her papers also include a small amount of material documenting the history of the drugstore chain that her father started.
The Walgreen family had little use for contemporary art, and Stephan found her artistic wings clipped by their expectation that she should devote herself wholly to a role as mother and wife. She divorced her first husband Justin Dart in 1939 and asserted her independence through poetic output, publishing her first verses in venues such as Harper’s, Poetry, and Forum. She would find out, upon her father’s death, that she had been disinherited.
In the meantime, Stephan married the painter John Stephan, who encouraged her writing and with whom she founded the little magazine The Tiger’s Eye in 1947. The Stephans founded the publication to promote challenging new art. “The selection of material will be based on these questions,” they wrote in the first issue: “Is it alive? Is it valid as art? How brave is its originality? How does it enter the imagination?” In its two-year run, the groundbreaking magazine served as an important site for aesthetic discussion and featured the work of literary and artistic heavyweights like T.S. Eliot and Picasso, as well as of previously unknown creators. Records of production and distribution of The Tiger’s Eye can be found in Stephan’s papers and in the Tiger’s Eye Records (http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.tigerseye).
With the closing of The Tiger’s Eye, Stephan traveled extensively in Europe, Japan, and southeast Asia. In addition to further volumes of poetry, her work includes two novels based on the life of Queen Christina of Sweden, The Flight (1956) and My Crown, My Love (1960); a volume of translated Quechua stories and songs, The Singing Mountaineers (1957); an audio compilation, The Spoken Anthology of American Literature (1963); and a documentary film, Zen in Ryoko-in (1971). Her philanthropic work included establishing a poetry center at the University of Arizona in 1960 (http://poetry.arizona.edu/). –Charlotte Parker, Y2013.