ELISA NEW: Hi, I’m Elisa New. I’m standing here in historic
heart of Harvard University. And my course is Poetry in America. This course, Poetry in America, is an
opportunity for students everywhere to talk about poetry. At the center of this course is
conversation, conversation between students, conversation between students
and teachers, conversation between students and experts, and
conversations between and among people who maybe don’t read poetry very often,
or maybe have always been afraid of poetry. STUDENT 1: The endpoint just fading,
fading, fading, fading. And then we have the word “thing,” which
is a kind of fading of itself, because the word “thing”
is indistinct. It doesn’t give us an image. It’s as though the language
itself is fading. And there’s the lovely
weight of words. Stress actually plays out the concept,
because fading things. Stress and unstressed. ELISA NEW: Right, the stress,
and then we fade away. STUDENT 2: I was a little bothered,
though, by her description of this toddler, who she clearly loves
so much, as a fading thing. You would think that this that this
would be a young child, full of life, maybe sickly, but certainly not
a thing, one would hope. STUDENT 3: You’d think what are fading
things in the Puritan world? You shouldn’t get attached to,
what, a fancy dress material? Wealth, right? You wouldn’t think your grandkid. STUDENT 2: Right, exactly. STUDENT 4: But that’s also a
part of the anger, right? It is to call her grandchild a fading
thing now that she has been afflicted with grief. PROFESSOR: See how she’s actually
done it is to stab stitch through the paper. There are some single sheets
as well as folded sheets. And you can see the sewing holes. So that’s another part of the evidence
that scholars have used to try to reassemble what the fascicles were. The size of the sewing holes, how much
stress there would have been on it, in a certain position. ELISA NEW: The course is set in a
historic place, and it’s set in a place that coincidentally is where the
history of American poetry began. Just a few blocks from here the very
first English poems written in North America were printed. STUDENT 2: (SINGING) To waters
calmly, gently leads. Restore my soul doth He. ALL: (SINGING) To waters
calmly, gently leads. Restore my soul doth He. STUDENT 2: (SINGING) He doth in
paths of righteousness for His name’s sake lead me. ALL: (SINGING) To doth in
paths of righteousness– ELISA NEW: That’s beautifully
terrifying. ALL: (SINGING) –for His
name’s sake lead me. STUDENT 5: I always think of the
portraits you see of people in military garb, at royal ceremonies,
where their dress is not quite, but nearly as impressive as the royalty that
they’re standing next to, that they have this sort of air about them
of elevation above a normal level of life, or distance from it. STUDENT 6: Another interpretation, if
it is a son, in fact, then the fact that he’s using words like, “my comrade”
suggests that he’s sort of giving away this relationship that he
holds dear to him to the state or to the bigger, greater cause. STUDENT 7: Or is it more of a
mechanical thing, a standard procedure, in that its his comrade, its
his fellow soldier, and this is just business as usual? STUDENT 8: It definitely stands in
pretty stark contrast to the lyre being the instrument that
represented poetry. And now we have the bugle
and the drum. Kind of more subduing instruments
instead of accompanying. STUDENT 9: This huge event has
happened that has just been life-changing, and not in a positive
way on the soldiers. But they’ve kind of revealed the truth
that war is more than just the physical injuries, the
losing of friends. It’s this, like you said,
psychic wound. STUDENT 8: In this course we offer you
the opportunity in a very hands-on way to experience what it is to think
through a poem, which is very, very active process.