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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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Roxana Robinson Reads "In Media Vita"

Roxana Robinson Reads "In Media Vita"

"In Media Vita" is a direct homage to Cather's appreciation of the poetry of A.E. Housman (as with "Poppies On Ludlow Castle"—see April 17 reading by Jason Kyle Howard). Cather admired both Housman's technical skill and how his poetry was "unique in the truth of its sentiment...the way that man has kept all his Classical philology out of his verse, the way he has kept the meadow-level..." It is likely the distinct musicality in Housman's poetry that first sparked her interest. 

Upon her first travels to England and France, in 1902, Cather was determined to meet the poet. In a remarkable 1903 letter to Viola Roseboro she described their meeting: "Do I know a Shropshire Lad? Do I? Isn't the internal evidence of my own verses all against me? Why I've been Housman's bond slave, mentally, since his volume first appeared some six years ago." After "tracking the man the length and breadth of England," first in a tromp around Shropshire and then, finally, in an "awful" and dark suburban boarding-house near London, the reality of meeting her idol seemed more out of her images of a Dickens novel than of the poet's pastoral origins. She ended her letter: "If you ever want more information (about A.E. Housman) just give me an opportunity and I will play on and on like a music box."


Streams of the spring a-singing, 
Winds o' the May that blow,
Birds from the Southland winging,
Buds in the grasses below.
Clouds that speed hurrying over,
And the climbing rose by the wall,
Singing of bees in the clover,
And the dead, under all!

Lads and their sweethearts lying
In the cleft o' the windy hill;
Hearts that hushed of their sighing,
Lips that are tender and still.
Stars in the purple gloaming,
Flowers that suffuse and fall,
Twitter of bird-mates homing,
And the dead, under all!

Herdsman abroad with his collie,
Girls on their way to the fair,
Hot lads a-chasing their folly,
Parsons a-praying their prayer.
Children their kites a-flying,
Grandsires that nod by the wall,
Mothers soft lullabies sighing,
And the dead, under all!

Roxana Robinson Biography

Roxana Robinson is the author of Dawson’s Fall, Sparta, four earlier novels, three story collections, and the biography Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life. Four of these were New York Times Notable Books; two were Editors’ Choices. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Best American Short Stories, Salon, The New York Times, on NPR and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. Sparta won the James Webb Award from the USMCHF, the Maine MPWA Fiction Award, and was shortlisted for the Dublin Impac Award. Roxana Robinson serves on the board of the Authors Guild, of which she was President from 2014-2017. In 2019 she received the Barnes and Noble “Writers for Writers Award.” She currently teaches in the MFA Program at Hunter. She lives in New York.

You can find Roxana’s website HERE.