This week: Brian Brodeur, St Bartholomew the Great, the art of decorated paper, Lohengrin at the Met & more.
Some Problems with Autobiography, by Brian Brodeur (Criterion Books): The poet and pedagogue Brian Brodeur takes a wistful turn in “Primer,” a father’s reflection on the passage of childhood. His daughter’s evaporating elementary-school years evoke in him “that antique ache,” “to want the morning back in afternoon/ and wish for evening as the late light goes.” But in Some Problems with Autobiography, in which the poem appears last, that nostalgia exceeds the particular: as a reader, you’ll be nearly as sorry to have come to the end. The latest winner of the New Criterion Poetry Prize, this collection ranges far and wide—carpentry and meteorology, Pascal and Pessoa, devout Muslims and serial murderers, all united by Brodeur’s formal control and luminous clarity. Moment to moment, line to line, these poems stand up to rereading. It’s a pity one can’t read them again for the first time. —RE
900 Years of St Bartholomew the Great: The History, Art and Architecture of London’s Oldest Parish Church, edited by Charlotte Gautier (Ad Ilissum): In 1839 the architect George Godwin noted that the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great was “a most interesting relic of olden time, which, although situated in the midst of the city of London, and open to the inspection of all its inhabitants, is comparatively little known and less sought for, even by those who are curious in such matters.” The church still hides in plain sight today, shaded by Smithfield Market. I expect many London perambulators have a similar story to mine, one of accidental discovery on the way to somewhere else. A new volume, edited by Charlotte Gautier of the University of London, will introduce readers to “London’s oldest parish church” with essays on the church’s history, stretching from the time of Henry I to today. —BR
“Pattern and Flow: A Golden Age of American Decorated Paper, 1960s to 2000s” at the Grolier Club, New York (through April 8): Don’t judge a book by its cover, but do judge a book by its decorated endpaper. The latest public exhibition at New York’s Grolier Club looks to a “Golden Age of American Decorated Papers”—surprisingly, the 1960s through today. Drawing on the Paper Legacy Collection at the Thomas J. Watson Library of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Met librarian Mindell Dubansky has assembled the Grolier’s first show on the art of decorated paper with the work of more than fifty artists. Beginning with the marbling revival of the 1960s, the exhibition follows the rise of the International Marblers’ Gatherings of the 1980s to the widening commercial availability of decorated paper, including Faith Harrison’s ubiquitous 1987 design for the Kleenex “classic foil” tissue box. A scholarly catalogue, handsomely decorated, accompanies the show. —JP
Lohengrin, by Richard Wagner, performed by the Metropolitan Opera (through April 1): A new Lohengrin is always big news at the Met. Last night, the company’s most-staged Wagner opera got a fresh production at Lincoln Center, with François Girard replacing Robert Wilson’s controversial minimalist turn of 1998. Now a dazzling cosmic backdrop of moons, stars, and supernovae watch over a Dark Age set overgrown with twisted tree roots, evoking the mythic German forests of yore and the tension between Pagan beliefs and Christianity that is so central to Lohengrin’s plot. The tenor Piotr Beczała brings a welcome bel-canto touch to the title role—Lohengrin, champion of the Grail—while the soprano Tamara Wilson shines as Lohengrin’s bride, Elsa. Christine Goerke, sometimes uneven in her dramatic material, seems suited to the quasi-mezzo role of the villainous witch Ortrud. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts this production through April 1. —IS
“Robert Erickson & James Panero in conversation.” Robert Erickson & James Panero discuss Plutarch, plays, pastrami & more. The second of our podcasts on the Hilton Kramer Fellowship.
From the Archives:
“Blood & smashed glass,” by Anthony Daniels (May 2007). On recent dystopian novels.
“Carmen in Odessa,” by Toby Guise. On a recent performance of Carmen at the Odessa National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet.