Posts Tagged ‘Roland Greene’

Two heavyweight champions in the book world

Monday, December 30th, 2013

How I got the books home.

Tuesday, November 19, was a dreary day – the first rain of the season. I hurried around the Stanford campus collecting my mail from various locations just as the weather was thinking about getting serious. Then, at the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, I found a USPS postcard for an undelivered parcel. The card, too, had staggered about campus, from one address to another, before finding me. The last day for collection, before the package would be returned to the sender, was that very day. I was annoyed to see that it was an unsolicited book from a warehouse, and the parcel was being held for ransom at at a post office at the uttermost reaches of Menlo Park. As raindrops began falling on my head, I headed back to the car, and threaded my way through the awful rush-hour traffic, snarled by the miserable weather in the fast-falling dark, wending my way past the car accidents and the flashing police lights.

glossaryIt was worth the trip.  The heavy package that awaited me was a book by a friend – Edward Hirsch‘s A Poet’s Glossary, 707 pages of it.  I rented a fork-lift to get it home in the traffic, where I’ll put it on a well-supported shelf next to Roland Greene‘s Princeton Encylopedia of Poetry & Poetics, weighing in at an unbeatable 1,639 pages.  How are they different?  Roland’s encyclopedia, the fourth edition by Princeton University Press, is authoritative and scholarly – “as essential for any working poet as a good dictionary,” according to Writer’s Digest.  Ed’s volume is clearly personal and somewhat whimsical.  “I believe its purpose is to deepen the reader’s initiation into the mysteries of poetic practice. It is a repertoire of poetic secrets, a vocabulary, which proposes a greater pleasure in the text, deeper levels of enchantment,” he said of the project, which was ten years in the making.

greeneAccording to the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt release, “With terms ranging from abecedarian to zeugma, Hirsch brings us along on a journey across the world, introducing us to Bedouin women’s ghinnawa (highly stylized verses conveying some hidden emotion – while leaving the excuse that “it was just a song”) and picong, the style of gentle banter that originated as a sung verbal duel in the West Indies, reminding us along the way of terms that have stayed with us since elementary school (remember acrostic poems?).”

Roland’s book doesn’t have ghinnawa, but it does have glossolalia, “the gift of tongues.” Both have ghazal, of course. Ed has maqāma, an Arabic term for picaresque stories in rhymed prose.  But he doesn’t have Marathi Poetry, a poetic commentary on the Bhagavad Gitā in Marathi rather than the usual Sanskrit, a radical move that started a trend. Roland’s book nailed that one.

Moreover, at a Company of Authors last spring, Roland made an unmatchable offer: if anyone purchased his tome, he offered to help the buyer carry it to the parking lot.  I say, buy them both!  I’ll loan you the fork-lift to get them home.  Many end-of-the-year columns are rating the best books of the year – but who is weighing the heaviest?  (Hirsch won’t be able to enter till next year, with an official 2014 publication date – but Roland’s labor of love is in the running.)

It’s coming! It’s coming! 10th annual “A Company of Authors” next weekend!

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Heavyweight champ

We’ve written about Stanford’s “A Company of Authors” before – here and here and here.  It’s your chance to meet Stanford’s top authors, all published in the last year – plus a chance to buy their books.  But the April 20th event next week is special for another reason:  it’s the tenth anniversary (doesn’t that merit pearls or copper or something?), and also yours truly, Humble Moi, will be one of the moderators, on the session featuring “The Power of Poetry.”


Unbeatable topic

The Book Haven has featured a number of these writers before – Marilyn Yalom, Irv Yalom, Bert Patenaude, Herant Katchadourian, Joshua Landy, John Perry, Ian Morris, among others.

I certainly wouldn’t presume to say which will be the best book of the afternoon, but I’m pretty sure which will be the heaviest.  I just got the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics –  Roland Greene is editor-in-chief – and it’s a whopping 1,639 pages.

Peter Stansky, as always, is the master of ceremonies.  We can’t do much better than give you the elegant playbill below, and urge you to come to the Stanford Humanities Center next Saturday at 1 p.m.



Richard III, Roland Greene, and the lineaments of kingship

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

KQED host

The world will be talking about Richard III for awhile – and so was Michael Krasny yesterday on his radio program “Forum.”  You can hear the whole thing on San Francisco’s KQED here.

He was joined by Stanford’s Roland Greene, a professor of English and comparative literature and Rosemary Joyce, an anthropologist from UC-Berkeley.

Joyce pointed out the sheer improbability of it all:  the tiny plot of land being explored had a small probability of being the vanished Greyfriars priory – the fact that the researchers found the Franciscan monastery, which had been destroyed by Henry VIII, alone would have been a significant achievement.  When the University of Leicester set out its goals, “the least likely was being able to recover and identify the remains of Richard III,” she said.  “With ground-penetrating radar, they were able to find the images that suggested where the walls were.”  Then the grand slam: the scientists found the remains of Richard III “on the first day, the first hour.”

The English prof

A few snippets from the conversation with Roland:

MK:  What can we learn now that we have his skeleton intact?

RG: I think it’s a commemoration and an affective event more than a historical event.  In the sense, commemorative, because it takes us back to that moment in 1485 that’s really the end of Middle Ages in England beginning of Renaissance.  Affective because feel for that mortal body that’s under a parking lot.

MK:  Mortal, but regal, too.  There’s a difference between those two bodies, isn’t there?

RG:  As you know, in the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance there was a doctrine of  the king’s two bodies – which conceptualizes the difference between physical body, which gets sick and gets old, and the regal body, the body politic, that is the body in which the kingship resides. Any time you see the mortal body of a king, whether dead or alive – and you could say the same about the present day Queen of England – one is always struck by the mortal aspect and the frailty of a physical body.  At some time, people always want to look for the  lineaments of kingship in such a body.  …

The anthropologist

MK:  There’s still a lot of facts we don’t know …  there were a lot of things he did – innocent until proven guilty, bail as we know it today, helping the poor, easing book publishing – he made some real contributions.”

RG:   He was a very complex figure for that time. The difficulty of sorting out his historical veracity from the legend is that it’s clouded by Thomas More and Shakespeare, who wrote very powerful propaganda that gets between us and the historical reality. He only reigned for a couple of years.

Bare ruinèd choirs … post-dissolution Glastonbury Abbey

What will we learn?  According to Joyce, the bones have “already begun to tell us things we didn’t know. He  ate so much marine fish that radiocarbon was affected.  His diet was high in meat and fish.  Also, the kind of scoliosis we now know he had would have started when he was about ten, and was progressive.”

That finding alone has somewhat demystified the Richard III legend already, said Roland.  “There’s something very prosaic in what amounts to scoliosis in real life.  It reminds you of the imaginative distance spun by More and Shakespeare.”  In an earlier era where disfiguring disease could be seen as a curse, however, “his physical suffering may have made people look askance at him in his lifetime.”

The Book Haven is moving!

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Roland Greene, our hero

The Book Haven is moving to a different server this week, and will have a new home with Arcade.  Frankly, we’re very pleased about our new digs.  Arcade is kind of a Huffington Post for academics and others, under the benevolent guidance of Stanford’s Roland Greene, the site’s director, and an editorial and consulting board that includes some of the nation’s most eminent scholars.

You’ll be able to reach us via the same URL, and it will be the same Book Haven – it’s just that we’ll be neighbors with an elite crew instead of sitting out here all by our lonesome.

As I wrote last year:

Pretty much by word-of-mouth alone, and some nifty technological know-how, it’s now attracting more than 5,000 visitors a day.

Arcade provides a venue for scholarly articles, an intellectual network, a public conversation, a digital salon and a sounding board for ideas before they wind up between hard covers. “In my field, it’s really a boon,” said Greene, professor of English and of comparative literature. “There’s nothing like it on the web.”

The site hosts two digital-only journals – Occasion and Republics of Letters. It includes podcasts and videocasts on “The Arcade Channel” and discusses works in progress on “ArcadeWorks.”

“The Art of Translation,” in conjunction with San Francisco’s Center for the Art of Translation, also nests on the site, along with about 35 bloggers (discussions are pending to add about 20 more).

Arcade describes itself, in a brochure, as “curated but participatory” and “technologically rich in the service of ideas.”

Fine company indeed.  So, thanks, Roland!  And thank you, Arcade! And be patient, gentle readers (in the last day alone, from Uganda, Palestine, Slovakia, Guyana, Latvia, Sri Lanka, Belarus, and Kuwait, among other more or less exotic locales), there may be a few bumps during the transition from the Stanford News Service, but all shall be well.