poetry

Westering: Seamus Heaney’s Berkeley Year

The poem was originally titled Easy Rider. Westering, as it is now known, is probably the first poem Nobel Laureate in Literature Seamus Heaney wrote in Berkeley, after arriving here from Belfast in 1970 for a stint as a visiting professor in English. The poem’s original title evokes the 1969 film of the same namestarring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson. In it, the trio motorcycle east from L.A. through the nineteen-sixties America of new styles, hair lengths, music, political activity, and sexual behavior.

Five Questions for Joyce Carol Oates

There may be one thing that you and Donald Trump agree on: Both of you seem to love Twitter. Since October 5, 2012, you have tweeted nearly 58,000 times and have a staggering 180,000 followers. Why do you find Twitter such a compelling medium for self-expression?

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

Crazy Love: Cal Performances Brings Arabia’s Iconic Love Story to the West

The epic poem Layla and Majnun is arguably the most famous love story in the Middle East, and yet many Westerners have never heard of it. It is the tale of two teenagers who fall deeply in love but are tragically kept apart, even until death. After Layla’s father rejects Qays’s request for her hand in marriage, Qays wanders the desert expressing his undying love through poetry.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

The Bot Versus the Bard: Researchers Teach a Computer to Write Poetry

What’s in the brain that ink may character
Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit

King of hell no quarrel have I left thee
No lovely maid who gleaned in fields or skies

One pair of lines above is the work of Shakespeare. The other was written by a computer. Can you tell which is which?

The Road Not Taken: A Berkeley Bard from the 60s Became Rare Breed—the Trucker Poet

There are cowboy poets, of course—so many that cowpoke poesy conferences, or “gatherings,” are held regularly in most of the western states. But while there are plenty of country and western song lyrics about truckers (“I got ten forward gears and a Sweet Georgia overdrive;  I’m taking little white pills and my eyes are open wide”), trucker poets are a scarcer breed.

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