Visionary Voices Read Aloud - Milton, Book 5 - March 25, 2020

Recorded 25 March 2020


I’m looking forward to our session today. Thanks, @Geoffrey_Edwards!

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As we were saying goodbye today, the title of this Wordsworth poem came to mind…

Thanks for a great chance to hang out in paradise, y’all.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.


Thank you, Heather, for the Wordsworth. Our rehearsal was a lot of fun and as I get ready to go out into the desolate streets of Manhattan on a cold, gray day, I am enjoying the feeling of being in multiple worlds at once. So many odd words Milton uses, delicious to say out loud. Thanks to all of us and look forward to the next rehearsal.


I used to know this one by heart. Such an accomplished poet, he makes it look so easy, and his rhythms are so natural. Thanks for sharing!


And natural rhythms and is there anything else about rhythms?

Catching rhythms and reflecting upon cultures both high and low versions of culture. Erin might ask, " How do you make the cut?"

Is there a relationship between what these excellent performers are performing-

and what those of us rehearsing Milton’s epic are doing?

A rhythmic power seems to hold culture(s) together that the abiotic, algorithm of our digitized social world may be disrupting. Can we do both analogue and digital and know the difference that makes a difference?

I imagine this is what we might be up to as we try to move beyond our flat screens and use the mind/voice to touch the other on the other side-

through the looking glass…

And I wonder about Stravinsky and lineage and the rehearsal we had yesterday as Adam and Eve and the Angels and Satan and the actors try to create a shared reality?

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This poem is perfectly relevant to me right now and resonates with the pleroma I am homing in on, as we all might be. I read it as a lament for the lost magic-mythic pleroma which has been forsaken by the emergent deficient mental-rational, along with an incipient critique of the latter by a latent integral consciousness.

I would ask, where are our hearts now and how do we recover them? I believe we may find them in the vibrant voices of these poems!

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I am trying to remember the last rehearsal for the Milton Book Five but am not recalling much. There was a sense of a movement as the four participants worked with voice, shared rhythms, and an emerging feel for a comparative poetics. I imagine that when the video is made public I can review the rehearsal and take a meta-perspective on the possible evolution of our fragile and easily disrupted knowledge community. I hope that the recording process is not caught in black hole. I worry about that. How poor are we that have not patience.Without immediate feedback I lose my sense of a shared reality and my motivation is lessened. How long oh Lord must we wait? Beauty… beauty… beauty… is vanishing away.

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Good morning John. Pardon any delay. As mentioned, working from home and the world-flux has us in a tizzy. Thanks for bringing this up. All I can offer is a temp. recording link at this time. As always, your supposed “impatience” is greatly appreciated…I see it as a gentle reminder.

Edit: link unavailable; use Vimeo link in first post

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Thanks, Doug, and deep bows for your ongoing attention to the tech which I have yet learned how to master. I look forward to reviewing this rehearsal and find the patterns that connect.

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The link didn’t work. I’ll try again later. Thanks.

James Merrill, poet and patron of the arts, brings Elizabeth Bishop’s poem to life. A great creative friendship, Merrill was a great sponsor of her work and many others. I do think we get a sense from him of what it might be like to create within a non-rivalrous, sponsorship society. Merrill says he found the voice of his generation. You can hear that as he reads with such devotion his contemporaries. I do hope there is a temporary link to our Milton Meetup today. Thanks again to Geoffrey and Marco for our disciplined flow.


I enjoyed the reading, John.

Never saw James Merrill read before, and not at all familiar with his poetry. I am going to look at his work. I liked how he read “One Art,” by Elizabeth Bishop. It’s a poem whose attitude can seem trivial, ironic, almost flippant — but he conveys a serious side to it with exquisite (and naturally flowing, muscle-memoried) subtlety. It’s there and not there. The poet is dancing around it, teasing, not getting too close. A meta-poem about writing itself, about facing actual disaster, told aslant and sly; he reads it like a participant in the dance.

It is a good incarnation to be a patron of the arts! I like the big, black bow-tie. The glass of white. And he says, of the contemporary poets who are being honored, that he carries their example and their language with him more and more as he gets older and they get more masterly. A blessing indeed.


I so agree, Marco, his timing is effortless, nonchalant, and also oddly over the top. That is a bit of what makes his generation, the generation that defeated Hitler, the silent generation, so strange, as we narcissistic boomers let everything hang out. Merrill, as most young men of his generation, served in the army. It is hard to imagine him in a military uniform! I think Merrill and Bishop were both gay and they were both born before Hiroshima, and that may have something to do with the understatement and the formality that they both embodied, which I find has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” old world charm. He did become a lyrical voice for his generation and worked with the gay persona, a mask, that reveals and conceals, at the same time. He has had a big influence on me. His magnum opus is about the paranormal events triggered by playing with a Ouija board, The Changing Light of Sandover is an astonishing, very weird, ,high wire act. What I love about him is that he loved community. You can feel that as he reads, that he knows how to engage the crowd.