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  #1  
Unread 01-13-2021, 09:50 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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Default Biden and Poetry

I thought folks here would be interested in hearing Biden talk about Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays." You might like the whole video, but Biden comes on in the early minutes and then reappears around 19 minutes or so.
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Unread 01-13-2021, 10:40 AM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I haven't heard it yet, but just a few hours ago I read a student's essay about this poem. I don't think I've ever appreciated the poem so much. It's great.
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Unread 01-13-2021, 08:51 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Thanks, Roger, for reminding me about that poem, which I've read years ago but the video gave me lots more insight into it. I learned a lot. The only aspect they didn't bring up was the meter and rhythm of the poem. But the discussion about alliteration, form, repetition of words (especially the way "cold" was developed), theme, content, and emotion were really interesting.

Incidentally, the place I first encountered this poem was in a book entitled The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (Mark Strand and Evan Boland).

Last edited by Martin Elster; 01-13-2021 at 08:54 PM.
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Unread 01-13-2021, 09:12 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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I'm sure I've read and loved the poem dozens of times, but I never realized it was a sonnet until I watched this. I sort of thought of it as exquisitely crafted free verse. The sonic interplay of so many words and phrases is awesome. All those "k" sounds and "ank" sounds, etc. But what struck me about the video most of all was that Biden was the one reading and talking intelligently and thoughfully about the poem. His interest in poetry turns out not to be simply quoting stray lines to pretty up political speeches, but seems to be genuine. I know that this doesn't mean he'll be a good president necessarily, but I do take it as a good sign that he's an actual human being instead of the devil he's replacing.
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Unread 01-13-2021, 09:41 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Yes, it is a good sign. I never thought of the poem as a sonnet, partly because of where it is the book I mentioned. It's not under the chapter about "Sonnets" but under "Verse Forms, The Stanza."
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Unread 01-14-2021, 04:58 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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That was great Roger, thanks. The story that Hayden could never get to the end of the poem without becoming emotional, when he was attempting to record it, really struck me. It's one of those poems that really has that effect on a reader, I think, at least it does on me. Those last five words are the killer. I can't think of a more perfect and affecting phrase.
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Unread 01-14-2021, 08:04 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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.
Aw, snap! This is just what I needed. Thanks.
.
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Unread 01-14-2021, 09:52 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I completely agree with you about the close, Mark. When I first read this poem years ago, I stumbled on "offices." At the time it seemed odd and I just didn't get it. But now, for me, it's the very word that makes the poem amazing. You know, I guess you could substitute another word for "offices" and it would still be a very good/great poem. But that rather plain, ordinary word is what really lifts it for me. Especially considering his father's life and work and the poet's. It gives me the impression that though they ended up having very different lives (perhaps being very different people), that this was something that, later in life, the poet finally understood, something that he could truly share with his father.

Last edited by James Brancheau; 01-14-2021 at 09:58 PM.
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Unread 01-15-2021, 09:35 PM
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S.R. Little Stone S.R. Little Stone is offline
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I memorized "Those Winter Sundays" in college. Made me cry several times -- it evokes this deep, nonverbal feeling of woe. Coincidentally, I just rediscovered this poem last week, while listening to an anthology called Poetry On Record. I still had about 90% of it memorized, which I attribute mostly to Hayden's masterful use of mnemonic devices and a narrative that really resonated with me.

Interesting to hear that Biden's familiar with the poem.
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