Poet Robert Hayden (1913-1980) surprised Jacke with his description of freedom in his sonnet “Frederick Douglass”; in this episode, Jacke considers the nature of freedom and attempts to determine exactly what Hayden meant. PLUS Professor Scott G. Bruce stops by to talk about his work editing The Penguin Book of the Undead: Fifteen Hundred Years of Spiritual Encounters.
In this episode, Professor Scott G. Bruce shares one of his favorite passages about the underworld from The Penguin Book of Hell, which he edited. Then Jacke talks to author Matthew Sturgis about his new biography, Oscar Wilde: A Life. Enjoy!
Following Jacke’s discussion with Stephen Mitchell about the first Christmas, Jacke takes a look at a special letter by Rainer Maria Rilke (which Stephen Mitchell translated). In this letter, written in Rome on December 23, 1903, the famed poet explores the difference between childlike wonder and grownup concerns, working his way toward a poetic vision of God. It is, quite simply, one of the most astounding letters in literature.
Stephen Mitchell has translated or adapted some of the world’s most beautiful and spiritually rich texts, including The Gospel According to Jesus, The Book of Job, Gilgamesh, Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf, The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, and The Way of Forgiveness. In his latest book, The First Christmas: A Story of New Beginnings, he brings the Nativity story to life as never before. In this special episode, Jacke talks to Stephen about his translations, his search for spiritual truths, and his work imagining the story of the first Christmas from multiple points of view.
Jacke talks to Mike Palindrome about his work on the “Tolstoy Together” project sponsored by Yiyun Li and A Public Space, along with some other thoughts about reading great books on Twitter. THEN Jacke responds to the incredible Peter Jackson film Get Back, with some thoughts about the stories we tell about the Beatles and how narratives shape our understanding who we are and how we fit in the world. He also runs through the reasons usually given for the Beatles breakup, assesses them for their narrative power, and offers up a new idea that just might be the most powerful of all.
The English novelist Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) was regarded by many as the most brilliant satirical novelist of his time. A self-proclaimed curmudgeon, for whom the Conservative Party was not conservative enough, Waugh converted to Catholicism in his twenties and never looked back. He resisted change in all areas of life, expressing the opinion that he wished he had been born two or three centuries earlier. At his best, he was darkly funny, using his misanthropy like a bright light to illuminate cracks and flaws in society’s foundations, and using his pointed wit to skewer anyone and everyone he encountered, including himself. At his worst, he was a crazy quilt of what George Orwell called “untenable opinions,” with all the racism and anti-semitism one might expect from a self-satisfied man of his era. In this episode, Jacke is joined by author Phil Klay to discuss Waugh’s religion, military background, and his novel A Handful of Dust in particular. The two also discuss Klay’s award-winning fiction, his writing process, what it means to be a Catholic writer in Waugh’s time and our own, and the new podcast American Veteran: Unforgettable Stories, which Klay hosts.
PHIL KLAY is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. His short story collection Redeployment won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction and was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2014 by The New York Times. His debut novel, Missionaries, was released in October 2020 with Penguin Press.
Your humble podcaster-squirrel is back! Jacke considers the legacy of Charles M. Schulz, creator of Charlie Brown and Peanuts, and reflects on the difference between being “best known for” and “known for” an artistic endeavor. THEN Jacke continues the discussion of Bob Dylan and literature (is his music literature? is it not? does “poetic song verse” bridge this gap?) with Dylan’s own words on the centrality of literature to his music, as delivered in his speech accepting the Nobel Prize.
What happened in the Sixties? How did singers of popular music transform from mere entertainers to the poetic bards of their generation? Were these songs literature? If so, what does that mean? And if not, what exactly are they? In this episode, Jacke talks to the authors of a new book, Poetic Song Verse: Blues-Based Popular Music and Poetry about a new way of acknowledging, analyzing, and discussing the literary qualities of works by singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, and those who came before and after.
MIKE MATTISON is a singer, songwriter, and founding member of Scrapomatic and the Tedeschi Trucks Band with whom he has won two Grammy Awards.
ERNEST SUAREZ is the David M. O’Connell Professor English at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He has published widely on southern literature, poetry, and music.
Born into a remarkable family full of talented artists, the Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats (1865-1938) nevertheless stood out. Deeply immersed in mysticism and the occult – along with Irish politics, the development of the theater, and devotion to advancing the spirit of Ireland’s native heritage – Yeats bridged the divide from the traditional verse forms of the nineteenth century to the concision and vivid imagery of modernism. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923 and continued to write until his death at the age of 73. In this episode, Jacke takes a (partial) look at one of the great figures of twentieth century literature.
Jacke talks to journalist Tom Roston about his new biography of Kurt Vonnegut, The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse Five. PLUS Jacke reads excerpts from one of Vonnegut’s most famous speeches, the address he gave to Agnes Scott College in 1999. Enjoy!