Comprehensive Reading

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

AG: Edmund Spenseris a colossus, and he’s so big that I think we’ll go around him Except, maybe, one or two, one or two little short things – the Epithalamion – a big Leviathan poem here, marriage poem. What I would suggest is that you go home and read it. It’s got a great stanza form, it’s got a great rhythmic form. So what we might do (here) is read just the first and last stanzas, just to get the stanzaic form get a taste..  Page 162 – I’m sorry..

Well, he’s very brilliant in, you know what I mean, an enormity in every direction – “The Faerie Queene is really worth reading (you know, I have never read it all through – because that was one of my life-time ambitions – to sit down and read through The Faerie Queen – in the last couple of years I read through all of Milton and all of Blake and I think my next big project is sit down and read all through Spenser)

One of the things I would like to do, incidentally, in terms of what I’d like to do for teaching, that I missed in my education, was reading all through Chaucer (because I never did study Chaucerian English, because I never wanted to read it, so I got stumbled – and all through Spenser (which I haven’t done).  Then, the big epic pieces – Paradise Lost, I finally read a couple of years, aloud, all through, beginning to end (which Gregory Corso did in the “Fifties – he and his girlfriend read the whole thing aloud – it’s easy – one… what is it?..twelve books or something?, one book a night, fifteen or twenty minutes, he read Paradise Lost aloud). I wanted to read all through Blake, and then about three years ago, I sat down and spent two weeks, throughout the day, doing nothing, in Baltimore, was in Baltimore, got an apartment, with a friend, and the two of us sat there and just read Blake was about twelve, thirteen days. In the middle of that I wrote a long poem called “The Contest of Bards”thinking of  Blake’s meter. I’d never read all through..the next thing that would be to do..  that I would like to do would be to read all through Wordsworth (all of The Excursion”) and all through Byron (that I’ve never done) and all through Shelley (that I’ve never) and all through Keats – there’s a great way of dealing with a poet, or dealing with poetry – you take one poet and read everything that he wrote so you get the total immersion in one great, brilliant mind-nut. I did that with Yeats when I was younger (read everything that Yeats wrote)  And everything Williams and everything Pound wrote – and everything Eliot wrote. Some poets, I try to read every poem.. I guess the one poet I did in college was Yeats, beginning to end, everything I could get my hands on – Yeats, Rimbaud, people like that. But Spenser was always too big a mountain to climb, or I never had the time, so I just read in and out of Spenser. I guess that’s pretty nearly almost-everybody’s experience one way or the other (like Bunting mentions he can’t stand reading masques M-A-S-Q-U-E – the masque form, found it tedious)

[Audio for the above can be heard  here, beginning at approximately thirty-three-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-seven minutes in]

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