Saturday, February 28, 2009

Three Authors and a Poem

Carson McCullers took the title for her novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, from a poem by William Sharp - "The Lonely Hunter." William Sharp was a Scottish poet (1855-1905), journalist, and editor who also wrote under the pseudonym Fiona MacLeod. Fiona often published works in the style of the " Celtic Twilight School" popularized by William Butler Yeats. The writing was mystical, imaginative, mythical. Sharp's double identity was kept secret from the public. His sister Mary and his mother were called on to provide correspondence from Fiona MacLeod in an authentic woman's handwriting. Fiona MacLeod was enjoying a successful career and Sharp could not let her go until his death. When Fiona's true identity was revealed, it caused a scandal.

"The Lonely Hunter" was one of many poems written by Fiona MacLeod aka William Sharp.

Green branches, green branches, I see you beckon; I follow!
Sweet is the place you guard, there in the rowan-tree hollow.
There he lies in the darkness, under the frail white flowers,
Heedless at last, in the silence, of these sweet midsummer hours.

But sweeter, it may be, the moss whereon he is sleeping now,
And sweeter the fragrant flowers that may crown his moon-white brow:
And sweeter the shady place deep in an Eden hollow
Wherein he dreams I am with him — and, dreaming, whispers, “Follow!”

Green wind from the green-gold branches, what is the song you bring?
What are all songs for me, now, who no more care to sing?
Deep in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still,
But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.

Green is that hill and lonely, set far in a shadowy place;
White is the hunter’s quarry, a lost-loved human face:
O hunting heart, shall you find it, with arrow of failing breath,
Led o’er a green hill lonely by the shadowy hound of Death?

Green branches, green branches, you sing of a sorrow olden,
But now it is midsummer weather, earth-young, sun-ripe, golden:
Here I stand and I wait, here in the rowan-tree hollow,
But never a green leaf whispers, “Follow, oh, Follow, Follow!”

O never a green leaf whispers, where the green-gold branches swing:
O never a song I hear now, where one was wont to sing.
Here in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still,
But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Meet the 2009 Big Read - D.C.
Honorary Chair, George Pelecanos

Local author and native Washingtonian George Pelecanos is honorary chair for the 2009 Big Read - D.C. Pelecanos is the author of 15 novels set in and around the District as well as editor for two short story anthologies under the title D.C. Noir. Most recently, he was a producer, writer, and story editor for the acclaimed HBO dramatic series, "The Wire."

Pelecanos has been a friend of the Big Read - D.C. since he participated in our community partners's meeting to select the 2008 Big Read - D.C. book, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

As a crime novelist, Pelecanos has a special kinship with Washington, DC area where he grew up, went to school, church, and worked. The road to the first novel was paved with a variety of jobs including linecook, dishwaster, woman's shoe salesman, and bartender. The first novel, A Firing Offense, brought a small advance but not enough to pay the rent. It did lead to a second novel, a new publisher and a larger advance to live on, plus a film option from Miramax. Options of books don't guarantee films, but they can bring writers some attractive income from Hollywood. His novel Right as Rain is currently in development with director Curtis Hanson (LA Confidential, Wonder Boys) and Warner Brothers.

Carson McCullers was no stranger to Hollywood either. She adapted her third novel, Member of the Wedding (1946) into a stage play. It went to Broadway and then was optioned for a Hollywood film production starring Julie Harris and Ethel Waters. McCullers' other novels --The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter--were all optioned and adapted for film.

For the 2009 Big Read - D.C., George Pelecanos will be joining us for the official kickoff Saturday, April 25, the Larry Neal Writers Competition Awards on May 8, and a reading at Politics & Prose of his new novel, The Way Home due for release in May. (Stay tuned to this blog for the complete and most up-to-date calendar for the 2009 Big Read - D.C.)

This year's Big Read - D.C. aims to inspire new readers and writers. Each year, the Big Read - D.C. introduces new work by community partners like SpeakeasyDC and DC WritersCorps, as well as D.C. high school student poets and essayists.

For more information about George Pelecanos, visit his website at
Read about our February community partners meeting on the national NEA Big Read blog