Podcast: The Consolation of Poetry


Virtual Memories – season 4 episode 3 – The Consolation of Poetry

“Poetry chose me at an early age. I think it was connected to the fact that poetry is emotional, pretty, and short.”

Rachel Hadas, author of Strange Relation: A Memoir of Marriage, Dementia and Poetry (Paul Dry Books), lost her husband to early onset dementia. We talk about how poetry — hers and others’ — gave her solace during this years-long process. We also talk about poetry is a way for the poet to both release and identify emotions, why it was easier to publish collections of poetry in the 1980s and 1990s, the benefits of poetry memorization, and why the Furies looked the other way when Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia.

“Writing helps us to live through something and then it helps us remember it, if we want to.”

BONUS: You get to hear me record an intro after 35 hours with no sleep, and find out about the huge, life-changing thing I did last week!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

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About our Guest

Rachel Hadas studied classics at Harvard, poetry at Johns Hopkins, and comparative literature at Princeton. Between college and graduate school she spent four years in Greece, an experience that surfaces variously in much of her work. Since 1981 she has taught in the English Department of the Newark (NJ) campus of Rutgers University, and has also taught courses in literature and writing at Columbia and Princeton, as well as serving on the poetry faculty of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the West Chester Poetry Conference. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, an Ingram Merrill Foundation grant in poetry, and an award in literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Rachel Hadas is the author of many books of poetry, prose, and translations. Most recently, she her memoir about her husband’s illness, Strange Relation, was published by Paul Dry Books (2011) and a new book of her poems, The Golden Road, was published by Northwestern University Press (2012).

Credits: This episode’s music is Strange Conversation by Ted Hawkins. The conversation was recorded at the home of Ms. Hadas on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in a hotel room in London on the same gear. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Rachel Hadas by me.

What It Is: 8/23/10

What I’m reading: After Bernard Knox’s death last week, I decided to read his introduction to Fagles’ translations of Homer. I found myself bored by them for some reason (probably because of their focus on philology), so I decided to break out my old Richmond Lattimore translation of the Iliad. I don’t think I ever read the intro before (written by Lattimore), choosing instead to dive right into the poem itself. It was illuminating, esp. his segment on how the meter of the poem informs some of the descriptions, as well as his piece on how many of the similes bring everyday life into a poem about war. I decided to dive back into the Iliad, with hopes of sticking through the Odyssey, too, and then rolling into Troilus & Cressida and some of the other Shakespeare plays I haven’t read. The problem is, it’s tough for me to stick with this stuff when I’m not being pushed nowadays. It almost makes me want to start some sorta online book club. I doubt I could put together a Homeric Reading Society of Ringwood, NJ, awesome though that concept would be. I could do what I did with that Montaigne collection, and try to write about it each week, but the Essays are (mostly) self-contained and speak about personal experience in a way that the Iliad and the Odyssey don’t. I think any attempt at writing book-by-book comments on Homer would be a waste of my time, insofar as it would have to involve real scholarship I simply don’t have the time to perform; I’d much rather have a conversation about it. Still, I’m going to reimmerse myself in the wrath of Achilles. I’ll try to let you know what comes of it. Maybe I’ll finally develop some ideas on how we’re supposed to understand the role of the gods in the play (Lattimore’s intro has some helpful comments on that, too.)

What I’m listening to: Greetings from Asbury Park, Spirit of Radio, Wake Up The Nation, and the most awesome single of the year:

What I’m watching: An Education and Whip It,. Comments to come on Tuesday. I hesitate to call them reviews. We also watched that Rush documentary again, because it was on, and because it’s wonderful to see the camaraderie within the band. And you really need to watch Louie.

What I’m drinking: G’Vine Nouaison & Q-Tonic.

What Rufus & Otis are up to: Not too much. I didn’t take them on my hikes this weekend, and we decided the Sunday grey-hike was too rainy to deal with.

Where I’m going: NYC this afternoon for a pharma-interview, but no other travels planned.

What I’m happy about: A raver-looking chick behind the register at Ramsey Outdoor told me, “Wow, you have really beautiful eyes,” when I was buying a hat to keep the sun off during hikes.

What I’m sad about: She could’ve been my daughter, if I’d started off young.

What I’m worried about: The doggies’ seeming bout of allergies, which is leading them to nibble on their forelegs and sides at weird hours. I thought they might have fleas, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Amy’s for giving them benadryl, but I’m hoping this’ll pass..

What I’m pondering: Whether I could launch that Homeric Reading Society here in town. “Ringwood Atheneum”?