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Human Voices Wake Us

Human Voices Wake Us

By Human Voices Wake Us

The poem says, "Human voices wake us, and we drown." But I’ve made this podcast with the belief that human voices are what we need. And so, whether from a year or three thousand years ago, whether poetry or prose, whether fiction or diary or biography, here are the best things we have ever thought, written, or said.

You can join the podcast on Patreon, or sign up for our newsletter, here: wordandsilence.com/join/
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Advice from Joan Didion, Stanley Kunitz, Billy Collins & Alice Munro

Human Voices Wake UsFeb 25, 2022

00:00
57:47
Pythagoras: The Life & Times (new episode)

Pythagoras: The Life & Times (new episode)

Tonight, I'm thrilled to read a poem that I began working on three years ago on the life, teachings, and mysticism of the Greek philosopher, Pythagoras (c. 570- c.495 BCE). I am also thrilled that the poem is being simultaneously published at The Basilisk Tree. Many thanks to its editor, Bryan Helton, for coordinating all of this with me.

For anyone who wants to look closer at the earliest Classical accounts of Pythagoras, his life, and his teachings, check out: The History of Greek Philosophy Volume 1: The Earlier Presocractics and the Pythagoreans, by W. K. C. Guthrie, and The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, ed. Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie.

Don’t forget to support Human Voices Wake Us on Substack, where you can also get our newsletter and other extras. You can also support the podcast by ordering any of my books: Notes from the Grid, To the House of the Sun, The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, and Bone Antler Stone.

Any comments, or suggestions for readings I should make in later episodes, can be emailed to humanvoiceswakeus1@gmail.com

May 28, 202335:11
The Great Myths #23: Odin (new episode)

The Great Myths #23: Odin (new episode)

What can the Poetic and Prose Eddas, the Icelandic sagas, and skaldic poetry tell us about the most important god in the Norse pantheon, Odin? Tonight, I devote an entire episode to Odin’s many masks: as poet and shaman, as god of death and war, and as the perfect embodiment of the world as the Norse knew it, filled with brutality and betrayal. The episode is divided into three sections:

(about 5:37) On Odin and poetry; a reading of the most famous stanzas from the Havamal, and the story of Odin’s theft of the Mead of Poetry (about 58:07) On Odin and warfare, death (about 1:22:06) What archeology, and classical and medieval historians, can tell us about Odin

The nonfiction books I rely on for most of this episode are E. O. G. Turville-Petre’s Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia, Rudolf Simek’s ⁠Dictionary of Northern Mythology⁠, and John Lindow’s ⁠Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals & Beliefs⁠.

The translations I read from are: ⁠⁠Andy Orchard’s translation of the Poetic Edda, ⁠Anthony Faulkes⁠’s and ⁠Jesse Byock⁠’s translations of the Prose Edda, and Lee M. Hollander’s translation of the Heimskringla.

Don’t forget to join Human Voices Wake Us on Patreon, or sign up for our newsletter here. You can also support the podcast by ordering any of my books: Notes from the Grid, To the House of the Sun, The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, and Bone Antler Stone.

Any comments, or suggestions for readings I should make in later episodes, can be emailed to humanvoiceswakeus1@gmail.com.

May 15, 202301:41:12
Is There Anybody Out There? (new episode)
May 04, 202355:54
Advice from the Beatles (new episode)

Advice from the Beatles (new episode)

What can the stories of the early lives of famous people teach us about our own upbringing, all the details nobody would know if they aren’t told to someone? Tonight, I read from the scattered remarks of John, Paul, George, and Ringo that are found at the beginning of the huge hardcover book The Beatles Anthology, and which cover their childhoods and the years before The Beatles became famous. As you listen, ask yourself how your own childhood might be summarized and collected from anecdotes like these.

Don’t forget to join Human Voices Wake Us on Patreon, or sign up for our newsletter here. You can also support the podcast by ordering any of my books: Notes from the Grid, To the House of the Sun, The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, and Bone Antler Stone.

Any comments, or suggestions for readings I should make in later episodes, can be emailed to humanvoiceswakeus1@gmail.com.

Apr 26, 202359:41
On Seamus Heaney (new episode)

On Seamus Heaney (new episode)

In 2020, the Irish historian and biographer R. F. Foster published a wonderful and brief book, On Seamus Heaney. It is a great introduction to Heaney, and tonight I read my favorite passages from it. The book spans his entire career, and his lifelong preoccupations with history, violence, family, and mythology.

Don’t forget to join Human Voices Wake Us on Patreon, or sign up for our newsletter here. You can also support the podcast by ordering any of my books: Notes from the Grid, To the House of the Sun, The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, and Bone Antler Stone.

Any comments, or suggestions for readings I should make in later episodes, can be emailed to humanvoiceswakeus1@gmail.com.

Apr 19, 202353:27
Whitman Affirms the World
Apr 11, 202312:04
Advice from William Wordsworth (new episode)

Advice from William Wordsworth (new episode)

Why should we continue to read the poetry of William Wordsworth? Tonight’s episode is devoted to Jonathan Bate’s biography, Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World, where he more than answers the question. For me, anyone who cares about poetry devoted to nature, introspection, and autobiography, can still learn the most from Wordsworth. And his concerns—the necessity of emotion and plain language in poetry, the belief that we have no greater story to tell than our own, and his love for the natural world—are as contemporary as anything on the news.

Don’t forget to join Human Voices Wake Us on Patreon, or sign up for our newsletter here. You can also support the podcast by ordering any of my books: Notes from the Grid, To the House of the Sun, The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, and Bone Antler Stone.

Any comments, or suggestions for readings I should make in later episodes, can be emailed to humanvoiceswakeus1@gmail.com.

Mar 29, 202301:00:04
Da Vinci & His Bodies (new episode)

Da Vinci & His Bodies (new episode)

Around the year 1509, Leonardo da Vinci began his great anatomical work, dissecting upwards of thirty human bodies and making drawings of what he saw. Tonight’s episode is a poem about that experience – all that was isolating, exhilarating, gruesome, beautiful. How did Leonardo go past art, and past science, in search of something stranger, human, divine?

The poem is also being published simultaneously in the first issue of The Basilisk Tree. Many thanks to its editor, Bryan Helton (who is also a great poet himself), for taking the poem. Make sure to take a look at the other poems, and perhaps submit some of your own.

Don’t forget to join Human Voices Wake Us on Patreon, or sign up for our newsletter here. You can also support the podcast by ordering any of my books: Notes from the Grid, To the House of the Sun, The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, and Bone Antler Stone.

Any comments, or suggestions for readings I should make in later episodes, can be emailed to humanvoiceswakeus1@gmail.com.

Mar 19, 202329:31
Anthology: Poems for Spring (new episode)
Mar 12, 202338:06
Anthology: Poems on How to Live

Anthology: Poems on How to Live

Tonight I read a handful of poems on the theme of How to live, what to do? How to get by in the world as a devotee of culture, solitude, ritual, beauty, tradition and individuality?

There is of course no one answer, and anyway, poetry should stay as far away from direct “advice,” or proscription of any kind. Still, when I sit back and think about the kind of poems that help me through the day – and the months, and the years – these are some of them. Let me know the poems you rely on in this way: send me a message at humanvoiceswakeus1@gmail.com.

As I also mention, after this episode I’ll be taking a break from Human Voices Wake Us for at least a month. The best way to support the podcast is to preorder my book Notes from the Grid (coming out February 23), or check out any of my other books: To the House of the Sun, The Lonely Young & the Lonely Old, Bone Antler Stone

The poems I read are:

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), How to Live What to Do Galway Kinnell (1927-2014), Tillamook Journal Edith Nesbit (1858-1924), Things That Matter Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), #2 from Lightenings Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), Joy Louise Glück (1943-), Summer Night W. B. Yeats (1865-1939), A Prayer on Going into My House Emily Brontë (1818-1848), “Often rebuked, yet always back returning” Henry Vaughan (1621-1695), Man

Don’t forget to join Human Voices Wake Us on Patreon, or sign up for our newsletter here


Jan 26, 202359:51
Anthology: Love Poems from the Last Four Centuries

Anthology: Love Poems from the Last Four Centuries

Tonight I ask the question: what is love, and what is love poetry? Are poems about family and friendship love poems, just as much as those about romantic feeling, and longing, and heartbreak?

And even more: what is romantic love? What, for instance, did T. S. Eliot mean when he said, “Love is most nearly itself/When here and now cease to matter,” or when Emily Dickinson wrote of “Wild nights”?

The poems I read are:

Ted Hughes (1930-1998),
Bride and Groom Lie Hidden for Three Days Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), Bouquet of Belle Scavoir Katherine, Lady Dyer (c.1585-1654), Epitaph on Sir William Dyer Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-1861), #43& #44in Sonnets from the Portuguese Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), #7from In Memoriam Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), Dover Beach Ruth Pitter (1897-1992), But for Lust Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001), One Flesh Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), #3 in Clearances Louise Glück (1943-), Brown Circle Eavan Boland (1944-2020), The Necessity for Irony Walt Whitman (1819-1892), To a Stranger Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), Wild Nights

Don’t forget to join Human Voices Wake Us on Patreon, or sign up for our newsletter here.

Any comments, or suggestions for readings I should make in later episodes, can be emailed to humanvoiceswakeus1@gmail.com.

Jan 18, 202359:35
Advice from Charles Dickens & Alice Munro

Advice from Charles Dickens & Alice Munro

Tonight we hear from two great writers of fiction, Charles Dickens and Alice Munro.

Through a handful of readings from Claire Tomalin’s Charles Dickens: A Life, we see how Dickens (1812-1870) was able to juggle, for almost a year, the writing of two novels simultaneously, both for serial publication. Thanks to a letter written by Fyodor Dostoevsky, who visited Dickens in London in 1862, we also hear Dickens speaking privately in a way that he rarely did publicly, admitting that his villains were better reflections of himself than his more lovable and generous characters. We also answer the question: what do David Copperfield and Jane Eyre have in common?

From the introduction to her Selected Stories, Alice Munro (born in 1931, and winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize) describes how, as a homemaker, she came to writing short stories very nearly by necessity. She also discusses how she set her first attempts at fiction in faraway, historical, or Brontë-inspired surroundings, and only later came to see the artistic potential of her own backyard, in the Lake Huron region of Canada.

Don’t forget to join Human Voices Wake Us on Patreon, or sign up for our newsletter here.

Any comments, or suggestions for readings I should make in later episodes, can be emailed to humanvoiceswakeus1@gmail.com.

Jan 10, 202345:05
First Person: Voices from 1900-1914

First Person: Voices from 1900-1914

An episode from 1/2/23: Tonight, I read a handful of voices from those living in Europe and the United States between 1900 and 1914. Rephrased only slightly, nearly all of their concerns (over technology, gender, nationalism, war, eugenics) feel like they could appear in the news or on the street today. Then and now, what is actually going on alongside all the dread? What can we learn from these voices that sound so much like our own, and what will people look