Updike poem read on Serbian state TV

BiljanaJohn Updike Society board member Biljana Dojčinović was featured on RTS (Radio Television of Serbia) in a program of culture titled “Metropolis,” about Sylvia Plath.

In it, around the 28-minute mark, she reads (in her Serbian translation) the beginning and end of Updike’s poem, “Upon Looking into Sylvia Plath’s Letters Home.”

Here are the YouTube link and some screen grabs.


First look: John Updike: Selected Poems

UpdikepoemsWe received the uncorrected proof for John Updike: Selected Poems, edited by Christopher Carduff and with an introduction by Brad Leithauser, which will be published on October 16, 2015 by Alfred A. Knopf (320 pp., $30/SRP). Because it’s an uncorrected proof we can’t quote from it without comparing it to the finished book, but we can give you an idea of what’s here.

As an editor’s note summarizes, the poems span the years 1953-2008, from the time Updike was 21 until he was 76. Carduff confirmed the completion date for each poem by looking at manuscripts in the John Updike Papers at Harvard’s Houghton Library, and the poems are arranged chronologically by those dates. As a further organizing principle—or rather, as a principle of exclusion—Carduff followed Updike’s lead in assembling his Collected Poems 1953-1993 and excluded light verse, children’s verse, and poems written for private occasions.

Almost all the poems in Selected Poems are from Collected Poems 1953-1993, Americana, and Endpoint, Carduff told us in an email. “Memories of Anguilla, 1960” is from Picked-Up Pieces; “Not Cancelled Yet” is from Higher Gossip; “Commuter Hop,” “Above What God Sees,” and “Big Bard” were published in magazines but are previously uncollected; and “Coming into New York” is an undergraduate poem and appears here for the first time (but is scheduled to appear in a large-circulation national magazine before publication). Selected Poems will be published simultaneously in hardcover and eBook formats. A Knopf paperback edition will follow, “probably in April 2017,” Carduff said.

According to Carduff, the volume is part of an ongoing series edited by Deborah Garrison for Knopf. “All share the same trim size, same Baskerville typography, same interior design and series look; most have notes; each has a critical introduction, a short chronology of the author, an index of titles. Some of the other volumes are Wallace Stevens, Frank O’Hara, Vladimir Nabokov, also Amy Clampitt, Anthony Hecht, James Merrill. . . .”

Leithauser’s 11-page introduction is pithy and insightful, with the award-winning poet calling Updike’s verse “naked poetry,” and not just because of the often frank topics and titles. He notes that the poems come to the readers “naked” without any narrative mediation, that they come from Updike himself. Leithauser includes a liberal amount of lines from the poems and extends his commentary to those specific excerpts.

Included are two appendices—detailed notes on the poems, and a short chronology of Updike’s life—and a title index.

What poems make the cut? You can probably guess. “Midpoint” and “Endpoint” are here, along with “Shillington” (which first appeared in the borough publication Fifty Years of Progress, 1908-1958), “My Mother at Her Desk,” “Outliving One’s Father,” “Elegy for a Real Golfer,” “Jesus and Elvis,” “Upon Becoming a Senior Citizen,” “In the Cemetery High Above Shillington,” “Elderly Sex,” “To a Dead Flame,” “The Beautiful Bowel Movement,” “Squirrels Mating,” “Two Hoppers,” “Poisoned in Nassau,” “Golfers,” “Above What God Sees,” “Tossing and Turning,” “Seven Stanzas atEaster,” “Tao in the Yankee Stadium Bleachers,” “Ex-Basketball Player,” and “Why the Telephone Wires Dip and the Poles Are Cracked and Crooked.” There are 132 in all, and pared down from the Collected Poems they reinforce just how good of a poet Updike really was.

Here’s a link to the Amazon.com pre-order page.

Witches of Eastwick musical wins AIMS Awards

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 7.27.51 AMThe Limerick Musical Society scored big at the Association of Irish Musical Awards in Killarney this past Saturday with their production of The Witches of Eastwick, winning Best Overall Show, Best Male Actor (Dave Griffin, as Darryl Van Horne), Best Choreographer (Niamh Twomey), and Best Chorus.

According to the Limerick Post‘s article, “Multiple AIMS awards for Musical Society’s Witches,” the production was “fired by a constantly rotating set, pyrotechnics, gunshot and Witches that flew to singe the moon with passion—for a Horne. Marie Keary-Scanlon was musical director and John Daly led the band.”

Writer Rose Rushe notes, “These Association of Irish Musical Societies nominations are described as the ‘Oscars’ of musical theatre in Ireland.

“For the presentation, a banquet took place at the Gleneagle Hotel where members of each society in the country converged for the lavish weekend. It was attended by 1,300 of casts, crews, sponsors and well wishers. . . .

“The Witches of Eastwick is a 2000 musical based on the novel of the same name by John Updike. It was adapted by John Dempsey (lyrics and book), and Dana Rowe (music); directed by Eric Schaeffer, and produced by Westend impresario Cameron Mackintosh.”

Ipswich saves a part of its most celebrated tree

ElmMembers who attended the Second Biennial John Updike Conference and took the walking tour of Ipswich led by Michael Updike got to see the town’s most famous tree . . . before it had to be cut down.

Now, a part of that tree lives on at the Ipswich Library as a table.

“The table was crafted from the town’s storied American Elm tree which stood on the corner of County and East streets until it succumbed to Dutch Elm disease and was felled in 2012,” Amanda Ostuni writes in “Ipswich Library turns a beloved tree into a unique piece of furniture.”

“The tree was more than 250 years old and was referenced in the writings of John Updike. When it was felled, the Ipswich Shade Tree and Beautification Committee decided to distribute the wood among local artisans, woodworkers, furniture makers and builders to use to craft special items.”

The Friends of Ipswich Library commissioned craftsman Fred Rossi of Manchester to create a table out of the wood.

“‘It’s a round 36-inch diameter table that sits in front of the fireplace [in the Rogers reading room] and they wanted to preserve the history of the tree,’ said Rossi. ‘So I came up with a design that would be round, invoking a section of the tree, but made it in 16 sections that radiated out.'”

See also:  “True to the tree: Library to unveil Ipswich Elm Table.”

Published Couples essay from 1996 now online

220px-CouplesUpdike scholars and fans can now access a critical essay on Couples that was published in The International Fiction Review 23 (1996):

“Fire, Rain, Rooster:  John Updike’s Christian Allegory in Couples,” by Sukhbir Singh, University of Chicago, begins,

“Most critics deal with John Updike’s Couples (1969) as a book about ‘sex,’ and ‘adultery.’ They invariably argue that in Couples, Updike advocates promiscuity as an antidote to the prevalent climate of nihilism, and he thereby repudiates a cardinal dictum of Christianity: ‘Though Shalt Not Commit Adultery.’ These commentators pay scant attention to Updike’s view of the supernatural and miss his allegorical motif in the novel. Contrary to their assertions, I will argue that Couples is a novel of spiritual awakening, taking into account the symbolic significance of the burning church in the text, and that in his novels Updike upholds the Christian belief in the presence of God and the piety of love, sex, and marriage.”

John Updike: In Memory Flickr group started


Michelle Kinsey Bruns has started a Flickr group page devoted to “John Updike: In Memory” for the purpose of discussion and photo-sharing.

She writes, “I noticed that many John Updike fans are posting photos of their Updike book collections today—the day after the great author’s death. There are some wonderful tributes out there on Flickr (I find the photos of overseas editions of Updike’s books especially fascinating!), but there was no group in which to collect them all. So I created one. Please contribute your Updike-related photos here, for the enjoyment of all of us who loved his work.”

Her first post is titled “In Reading, Pa., Memories and Monuments…”


Shipe elected to JUS board

Shipe130x150The general membership elected Matthew Shipe to fill the open seat vacated when Jack De Bellis stepped down. Shipe begins a three-year term, starting immediately.

Shipe recently won the Emerging Writers Prize given by The John Updike Review, and he has been a member of the society since 2010. A lecturer and coordinator of Advanced Writing at Washington University in St. Louis, he wrote his dissertation on John Updike’s collected short fiction, and his work has appeared in The John Updike Review, Philip Roth Studies, Critical Insights: Raymond Carver (Salem Press, 2013), Roth and Celebrity (Lexington Books, 2013), and Perspectives on Barry Hannah (University Press of Mississippi, 2007).

Updike inspired fine press publisher

10801923_575518042584588_3734138739554104525_nJohn Updike Society members may know Andrew Moorhouse from the last two conferences he attended, at which he modestly suggested he was not an academic but “only” an Updike fan, a reader, and a lover of books.

But it turns out that his love of books has made him one of the most respected fine press publishers in the United Kingdom. And John Updike inspired him.

“The American author John Updike said: ‘A book is beautiful in its relation to the human eye, to the human hand, to the human brain and to the human spirit,’ and it is this quote which encouraged me to get involved in Fine Press publishing,” Moorhouse wrote in an article that appeared yesterday in The Irish Times: “Michael Longley’s Sea Asters: publishing as a work of art.”

In the article, Moorhouse talks about how he started Fine Press Poetry in 2013 and how his first three books—two featuring British poet Simon Armitage and this third release, Michael Longley’s Sea Asters, illustrated by the author’s artist daughter—came to be. The article also contains several poems by Longley, who was recently announced as winner of the Griffin International Poetry Prize.

Moorhouse’s forthcoming publication is Andrew Motion’s Ted Hughes Award-winning Coming Home poems. Fine Press Poetry, which specializes in creating letterpress editions of poems accompanied by illustrations by wood engravers and artists, is based in Rochdale, England.

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New Stephen King novel alludes to Updike et alia

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 7.04.25 AMStephen King, the master of horror who debuted with Carrie (1974), has turned to the newspaper headlines and a trio of literary masters for the subject of his new book. Finders Keepers is about a psychopath’s obsession with writer John Rothstein (a mash-up of John Updike, Philip Roth, and J.D. Salinger), whose “fame comes from his Runner books, a trilogy that tips its hat to Updike’s Rabbit novels,” says Guardian writer James Smythe.

“Finders Keepers by Stephen King—writers, beware your fans”