The first-ever Poetry Center reading was given by William Carlos Williams in October of 1939. That fall, the following notice ran in the Y Bulletin, announcing the inaugural season:
The Poetry Center of the YMHA hopes to serve as a nucleus for disseminating attitudes and values about poetry which will make the art increasingly accessible both to the special student and to the layman... The Center will sponsor a series of readings of their own poetry by eight distinguished poets. These include: William Carlos Williams, Genevieve Taggard, Merrill Moore, W.H. Auden, Langston Hughes. Readings will begin at 9pm. Admission is 50 cents.
Though Dr. Williams read at the Poetry Center many times over the years, there is only one audio recording of him here—an appearance in January of 1954. Today’s featured recording is an excerpt of that evening.
In an introduction to his collection Wedge (1944), he wrote:
When a man makes a poem—makes it, mind you—he takes words as he finds them interrelated about him and composes them—without distortion which would mar their exact significances—into an intense expression of his perceptions and ardors that they may constitute a revelation in the speech that he uses. It isn’t what he says that counts as a work of art, it’s what he makes, with such intensity of perception that it lives with an intrinsic movement of its own to verify its authenticity.
In this selection, Williams reads “A Sort of a Song,” “The Maneuver,” “Seafarer,” “The Three Graces,” “Paterson, Episode 17,” “The Descent” and “Fish.”
In an ongoing effort to share with our readers some of the great literary moments which the Poetry Center has presented across the decades, this blog has begun to feature regular postings of archival recordings. For access to other recordings, please click here. For more information about upcoming Poetry Center events, please click here.
Unterberg Poetry Center webcasts and access to our archive are made possible in part by the generous support of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation.
You can also download the MP3. [15 MB]
[Right-click and select "Save Target As:" or equivalent to download.]
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