Poetry Podcast introduced for The New Yorker by Elizabeth Denison. Click “In Italy” for the podcast.
On this month’s episode of the Poetry Podcast, Major Jackson reads “In Italy,” by Derek Walcott, in which the speaker describes an Italian seacoast town. In his conversation with Paul Muldoon, the magazine’s poetry editor, Jackson says that he admires the emotional pitch and the “the spirit of attention” in the poem, which contains lush imagery but doesn’t feel like “the equivalent of a landscape painting.”
Because we are never where we are, but somewhere else,
even in Italy. This is the bearable truth
of old age; but count your benedictions—those fields
of sunflowers, the torn light on the hills, the haze
of the unheard Adriatic—while the day still hopes
for possibility, cloud shadows racing the slopes.
Jackson also reads his own poem “How to Listen,” which describes a moment of attentiveness to an old man combing his hair on the street in front of a tavern: “For once, I am going to ignore the profanity and / the dancing and the jukebox so I can hear his head crackle / beneath the sky’s stretch of faint stars.”
For the original report go to http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/poetry-podcast-major-jackson-reads-derek-walcott