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Home >> Events >> Michael Joseph Lecture
how to do things with poems
Apr 11 2017 - 3:00pm to 4:30pm

Join us in Room LL430/431 for a lecture by Michael Joseph, "How to Do Things with Poems." 

About the event:

“Things to do with Poems” will consider what Xenephon of Athens’s definition of beauty as “the luminous manifestation of a perfect character of being” has to contribute to our understanding of children’s poetry. Our consideration will take the form of a close analysis of two children’s poems by Robert Graves, an English poet, novelist, critic and classicist. In his anthology, The Less Familiar Nursery Rhymes: Graves wrote, “the best of the older nursery rhymes are nearer to poetry than the greater part of the Oxford Book of English Verse.” The poems we will consider, “The Magical Picture,” written at 26, and “Hide and Seek,” written at 73, demonstrate a remarkably consistent fidelity to the belief that children’s poems are poems, first and foremost.

This event is co-sponsored by the SDSU Library and the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature (NCSCL).

More about the event:

Our analysis will be highly unconventional; focusing on how and why a poem for children might attempt to refute John Newberry’s definition of the purpose of children’s literature (to instruct and delight), our analysis of “The Magical Picture” will show how a children’s poem might serve to disprove the existence of knowledge. Concentrating on the negative spaces in “Hide and Seek,” our second analysis will show how the “dark matter” of a poem can be as “luminous” as the text. Taking the two analyses together, we will conclude with some speculations about Graves’s notion of children’s poetry as a supra-rational process of forming realities into a transpersonal source of enlightenment accessible equally to children and adults, and we will show, in contrast to somewhat hackneyed notions of the children’s poet as a distanced grownup playacting to curry favor with his naïve audience, a poet must be fully engaged with the aesthetic and ontological realities of his or her work. The presentation will be augmented by a judicious use of power-point illustrations and jokes.

Learn more about Michael Joseph:

Michael Joseph is a poet, author, critic, and rare books librarian. He received an MA in English literature from the University of Hartford, and an MA in library service from Columbia University. He is the author of 13 artists' books and chapbooks of poetry or fiction. Two artists' books featuring his poems, done in collaboration with the artist, Sarah K. Stengle, are currently in VISPO, a traveling exhibition supported by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.  In May, Joseph will read from his work and speak in the town of Burgau, Germany, on fairy tales and the ritual of reading. His most recent publication of prose fiction, done in collaboration with the illustrator, Henry Charles, is The True History of Puss in Boots on Mars (2017), published by the Cats in the Basement Press. Cats in the Basement Press has published three of his books, all based on seventeenth century fairy tales; a fourth, Inherent Ogres, with a foreword by Joseph T. Thomas, is in press. He is also the author of The Teaching Guide to the Norton Anthology of Children's Literature. Scholarly essays and reviews of his have appeared in numerous books and journals, including Book2.0, The Lion and the Unicorn, Children's Literature, and The Children's Literature Association Quarterly. He is currently working on a  monograph about the children's writing of Robert Graves. He is the founder and moderator of child_lit, the world's oldest and largest elist for the discussion of the criticism and theory of children's literature, and the New Jersey Book Arts Symposium, the first annual conference to focus primarily on artists' books. As well as rare book librarian, he has taught numerous courses at Rutgers University on various subjects  in children's literature.

Learn more about Michael Joseph and his publications on his Rutgers University profile.

About the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature (NCSCL):

  • Nearly 40 years old, SDSU's Children's Literature Program is one of the oldest programs of its kind in the country.
  • With as many as 1200 enrollments annually in its undergraduate and graduate (M.A.) classes, SDSU has one of the largest programs in Children's Literature in North America.
  • Children's Literature has been identified as a special area of disciplinary strength at SDSU and employs many experts in that field. Among its faculty are: five full-time specialists, several adjunct faculty who teach in this discipline, and four emeriti who remain active in the program.
  • Among its faculty are leading scholars in Children's literature, authors of numerous and distinguished books and essays in the field, and prize-winning researchers with national and international reputations.
  • SDSU has come to be known as one of the leading places in the U.S. to do study in Children's Literature. Home to the National Center for the Study of Children's Literature, SDSU annually attracts visiting foreign researchers and has hosted numerous conferences and lectures.

Get updates from the NCSCL on Facebook and Twitter @NCSChildLit.

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Michael Joseph
Joseph and Thomas at the NCSCL