On this episode, we perform close readings of four poems, each of which was selected by one of the show's contributors: Emily Dickinson's "The Brain is Wider Than the Sky"; Charles Baudelaire's "The Albatross"; Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art"; and Lord Byron's "Darkness." Below are links to the poems and the starting point in the audio file for each segment.
Regarding the poems by Dickinson and Baudelaire, both reflect a concern with finding a sense of purpose in a secularized world. We interpret Dickinson as raising the question of whether human consciousness alone can somehow provide meaning, or if some concept of a higher power is warranted. As for Baudelaire, we read his poem as reflecting his view that meaning had fallen away from the world as a result of modernity, so that the job of the poet was its recovery.
As for Bishop and Byron, both of their poems deal in different ways with what attitude we should take with regard to the ultimate limitations of life. Bishop seems to mock philosophies like stoicism with her ironic depiction of an "art of losing" (practice by losing your house keys! then try losing your wife!), but we wonder whether her ultimate aim is a sort of reconstituted stoicism. As for Byron, his poem is a speculative fiction exploring the chaos that would result if the sun went dark -- a scenario he uses to illustrate the dependency of human virtue on the environment.
This episode also marks a new chapter in Phi Fic as we are joined by three new readers, Fabrice, Nina, and Rob (along with the returning contributor, Daniel). If you have any comments or suggestions, we'd love to hear them. Email us at email@example.com, or follow us on Twitter at @PhiFicpodcast.
Emily Dickinson, "The Brain is Wider Than the Sky" - 2:35
Charles Baudelaire, "The Albatross" - 13:05
Elizabeth Bishop, "One Art" - 29:45
Lord Byron, "Darkness" - 40:38
Thanks to Christopher Nolen for the music.