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Three Maverick Poets: An Unflinching Exploration of the Lives and Works of Alumni Poets Robert Friend '34, Chester Kallman '41, and Harold Norse '38 

DESCRIPTION: Scholars Edward Field, Edward Mendelson, and Regina Weinrich will present the works of three distinguished gay Jewish poets who, in their work and lives, broke cultural, sexual, and poetic boundaries. The symposium, sponsored by a consortium of Brooklyn College departments and programs, will take place October 27, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Woody Tanger Auditorium of the Brooklyn College Library. A small archival exhibit of Robert Friend’s papers will be on display and a selection from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, with libretto co-written by. Auden and Kallman, will be performed by soprano Jasmine Joseph Perez, a graduate student at Brooklyn College’s Conservatory of Music. Harold Norse, Chester Kallman, and Robert Friend were part of the same Depression-era generation: they all studied at Brooklyn College and were dedicated poets. Though the three started out as disciples of the Modernist tradition, dominated by such masters as T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden, their lives and work took different directions. Long before Stonewall and gay rights, these pioneering poets chose not to hide their sexual orientation—an exceptional stand given the conservative mores of their day. Robert Friend was born in 1913 in Brooklyn to Russian immigrant parents and reared in Brownsville. He was the most politically engaged of the three and briefly joined the Communist Party in the ’30s. At Brooklyn College he was known for his politics, and when the school announced a contest for the alma mater, Friend wrote a scathing parody of the genre that, much to Friend’s chagrin, won the contest. After Brooklyn College Friend taught in Puerto Rico and Panama, then took his M.A. at Harvard. He settled in Israel in 1950, where he taught English and American Literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and became the leading English language poet in Israel as well as a prominent translator of Hebrew poetry. He died in 1998 in Jerusalem. His books include Shadow on the Sun (1941), Salt Gifts (1964), The Practice of Absence (1971), and the posthumous selected poems, Dancing With A Tiger, Poems 1941-1998 (2003). His translations include Selected Poems of Leah Goldberg (1976), Natan Alterman: Selected Poems (1978), Sunset Possibilities and Other Poems by Gabriel Preil (1985), Flowers of Perhaps: Selected Poems of Ra'hel (1994), and Found in Translation: A Hundred Years of Modern Hebrew Poetry (1999). Friend’s work will be discussed by his friend and editor, the poet Edward Field, who recently received The Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement in Lesbian & Gay Literature given by The Publishing Triangle. Field has edited two anthologies, A Geography of Poets (1979) and A New Geography of Poets (1992) (with Gerald Locklin and Charles Stetler), edited two books of Alfred Chester’s prose, and currently publishes The Alfred Chester Society Newsletter. His latest books are A Frieze for a Temple of Love, a children’s book, Magic Words, and a novel, The Villagers, written with Neil Derrick. Chester Kallman, born in 1921, was a product of Brooklyn’s middle class. His father was a dentist, was a sophisticated man who collected modern art. In 1939 Kallman, who was an editor of Nocturne, a Brooklyn College literary magazine, became the lover of the world-famous English poet W.H. Auden, who had come to the United States earlier that year. He graduated from Brooklyn College in 1941 and later studied at the University of Michigan where W.H. Auden was teaching. The two remained a couple until Auden’s death in 1973. Kallman and Auden shared an interest in opera and together wrote the libretto for Igor Stravinsky’s opera The Rake’s Progress and translated operas of Mozart. In the 1950s Kallman moved to Europe, living in Greece and Austria. He died in Athens in 1975. He published three books of poetry: Elegy (1951), Storm at Castle Franco (1956), and Absent and Present (1963), but it is the original libretti and translations, in collaboration with Auden, for which he is remembered. These are collected by Edward Mendelson as W.H. Auden and Charles Kallman: Libretti and Other Dramatic Writings. Noted scholar Edward Mendelson, professor of English at Columbia University, will discuss Kallman’s life and work. Before joining the faculty at Columbia Mendelson taught at Yale and Harvard. He earned his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University and his B.A. at the University of Rochester. He is the author of a number of books about Auden, including Early Auden (Viking Press, 1981). Harold Norse is rumored to have been born Herschel Nadleman in 1916, though, like much about this talented, charismatic figure, these facts are questionable. He graduated from Brooklyn College in 1938 and earned an M.A. from New York University in 1951. His first book of poems, The Undersea Mountain, was published by Allan Swallow in the early 1950s, Norse moved to Rome, and endured several penniless years, during which he translated the earthy Roman poet Belli. Moving to Paris he met Ginsberg, Corso, and Burroughs and became a Beat poet, though even as a Beat poet, his poetry is “written” rather than declaimed, and his solid technique betrays his origins as a Modern. In 1974, he moved to San Francisco and City Lights Press published his Hotel Nirvana: Selected Poems. With Carnivorous Saint: Gay Poems 1941-1976, Norse took up the banner of Gay Liberation. In 1989, his confessions, Memoirs of a Bastard Angel, were published. He currently lives in San Francisco, where he has become one of the Grand Old Men of Bay Area poetry. Regina Weinrich, the author of Kerouac’s Spontaneous Poetics (Thunders Mouth Press, 2002) and the editor of Kerouac’s Book of Haikus (Viking/Penquin, 2003), will explore the life and work of Harold Norse. Weinrich was coproducer and director of the award-winning documentary Paul Bowles: The Complete Outsider (1993). An essayist and critic, her work has appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Times, Talk Magazine, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, and Village Voice. She currently teaches at The School of Visual Arts in New York City.  
DATE: Thursday, October27, 2005
TIME: 6:30pm to 8:00pm 
LOCATION: Woody Tanger Auditorium 
PRICE: $Free 
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