DISCOVERING POETS.

I attended the Mount Holyoke Wikipedia edit-a-thon this afternoon in case my expertise as a Wikipedia editor might be needed; in the event, it wasn’t, so I spent the time chatting with occasional LH commenter Сара (aka Sarah) about the good old days at Sterling and exploring the shelves of the library’s poetry room, where the meeting was held. I found all sorts of gorgeous books, including the four-volume Collected Poems of Larry Eigner with his typewritten pages lovingly reproduced, but what excited me most was discovering poets I had heard of but didn’t really know, like Gjertrud Schnackenberg (I was brought up short by the first line, “You burned the structure of your intellect,” of a poem she wrote when she was still an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke; Google Video tells me, by the way, that the G- of Gjertrud is silent [and it's pronounced YAIR-trood]), and poets completely unknown to me whom I now want to investigate further, like André Frénaud—so little known in the English-speaking world he doesn’t have an English Wikipedia article—whose “Incertitude des rus et rivières” (the name is wonderful all by itself: ru, from Latin rivus, is ‘stream, rivulet’), from his Nul ne s’égare, précédé de Hæres, begins:

Le Vau ou la Vau, une autre, ou le même,
qui se fond dans l’Oze, et l’Oze on dirait,
—ou si c’était l’Oise, ou c’est l’Ozerain—

—how could I resist a poem that plays with confusion of gender and toponyms?
Also, I thought I’d found the greatest name ever when I saw a book by the Belarusan poet Valzhyna Mort, but Wikipedia tells me she was born Valhyna Martynava, so presumably she chose her Addams Family–like moniker herself.

Comments

  1. Oh my. Schnackenberg is amazing. For me a difficult read, but I think you’re hardier emotionally than I am. I’m partial to one of her earliest books, The Lamplit Answer.

  2. Thanks, I’ll check it out.

  3. Gjertrud Schnackenberg almost sounds like a parody. If she were a singer I’m sure she would have changed it to something more euphonic, but poets are allowed to have singular names.
    She won the International Griffin Poetry Prize in 2011 for Heavenly Questions, and as I suspected this is from the Chinese poem 天问 (Heavenly Questions) from the ancient Chu Ci.

  4. Schnackenberg’s Luncheonette, Hoboken, NJ: “a great little place.”

  5. Schnackenberg is a wonderful poet, too little known.

  6. J.W. Brewer says:

    I will admit not having been familiar with Ms. Schnackenberg’s poetry (or that she is the widow of the mostly-interesting philosopher Robert Nozick). But who among us hasn’t “burned the structure of [our] intellect” while “still an undergraduate”? Isn’t that what college is for? (She graduated from Holyoke in ’75 which makes her somewhat younger than hat and a dozen years older than me, but still . . .)

  7. marie-lucie says:

    Gjertrud with silent G
    Her Wikipedia page lists her among “Americans of Norwegian descent”. In Norwegian the sequence gj is pronounced y, as in gjetost, a typical Norwegian cheese, literally gjet-ost ‘goat-cheese’, pronounced “yeat-oos”. Of course, she may pronounce her name differently from what her grandparents or other ancestors did.

  8. Yes, I know that about Norwegian (being half Norwegian myself), but it struck me as odd and noteworthy that an American would preserve such an un-English pronunciation. “Gj with silent G” is not normal in English.

  9. marie-lucie says:

    LH, even if you are half Norwegian, most of your readers are not. It is not obvious to me how she says her name. “Gj with silent G” seems to imply that the first consonant is “J”, which most English speakers would pronounce as in “John”. Is this how people say “Gertrude” as in “Gertrude Stein” (another name I only know from reading it)? The only person I actually met who was called Gertrude was Dutch and used the “hard g” when speaking English.

  10. You’re absolutely right, and my description was utterly confusing—apologies to all! What I meant was that she pronounces her name /jertrud/ (YAIR-trood). (And Gertrude does indeed have hard g.)

  11. marie-lucie says:

    Takk!

  12. my description was utterly confusing—apologies to all
    Don’t worry Hat, I understood it first take!

  13. Elizabeth Kendall says:

    I love this site!
    And its amazing linguistic cacophony & easy assumption that poetry is the heart of all.

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