Summer in Chicago. (Photography by Justin Kern, AB'04, PhD'10, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0); Warren in New York (Photography by Shawn Brackbill)

The dark art of poetry

Rosanna Warren shares her recommendations for a cruel summer.

The spring 2013 issue of Dialogo featured a Q&A with poet Rosanna Warren, Hanna Holborn Gray Distinguished Service Professor in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought. The conversation included an intriguing discussion on poetry that would “unsettle” anthropologists and philosophers.

In the vein of recommending poetry for specific occasions, I e-mailed Warren for recommendations of poetry for summertime in the city—for occasions such as a barbecue or sitting by the lake. (It should be noted that what I know about poetry could probably fit onto a Post-It note.) I cheerily promised that the exercise would be “fun.”

Fun, however, is not a word that Warren would use when describing poetry. “Poetry for me is not ‘fun,’” she replied. “It's a dark art.”

Instead of good-time, sunshiney beach poetry, Warren did have recommendations for poems for specific situations—ones that reflect her view of the art:

Poem for the end of summer:
Emily Dickinson, #1068
“Further in Summer than the Birds....” 

Another poem for the end of summer:
Friedrich Hölderlin: To the Fates
“Grant me a single summer, lords of all”
Ideally in Christopher Middleton's translation, but there are many others.

Poem about boredom:
From my beloved and scary John Berryman: Dream Song #14
“Life, friends, is boring, We must not say so...”

Poem for drunken adultery:
Also Berryman, Sonnet #37
“Sigh as it ends...I keep an eye on your/ Amour with Scotch...”

A poem about terror, also Berryman:
Also Berryman, Dream Song #29
“There sat down once, a thing on Henry's heart...”


Updated 09.11.2013