Oct 062017
 

Key West Poet Laureate Kirby Congdon (Photo by Richard Watherwax)

by Kirby Congdon…….

Mr. Marissen gets a couple of ideas off his chest before we get into his project. His Preface states, “This book is scholarly but not devotional.” Page 2 of the Introduction asserts, “I am an agnostic.” The subject of all the essays is the text of Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantatas, their history, translations, interpretations and grammatical definitions. The language is English but the reader’s knowledge of German, as well as access to recordings, can be helpful.

The librettos of the cantatas may discriminate against Judaism, as in Cantata 46, but Marissen’s research “is not to that he (Bach) therefore must have personally agreed with them.” Anti-Judaism is thoroughly researched through the centuries until page 157. Then we take on a different slant. The next chapter’s title is Blood, People and Crowds in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, followed by the chapter on Religious Expression in Secular Chamber Music.

On page 66 through 73, in The New Yorker magazine of January 2nd, 2017, Alex Ross provides a sensitive review of Bach & God, emphasizing the emotional affect of Bach’s genius, ending his remarks with this vivid summary: “He does not console; he commiserates.”

That kind of humanistic empathy can be uniquely thrilling without being dour to the layman like myself. Mr. Ross explains the engaging considerations of a composer who remains an historical monument for the civilized world.

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Kirby Congdon

Kirby Congdon found his calling in the time of the Beat Movement, his poems being published by the New York Times, The New York Herald Tribune and the Christian Science Monitor as well as countless small-press outlets. While influenced by the assertive stance of a new generation in literature, he preferred to set aside the spontaneous approach of his friends and use his work as an exploratory tool in establishing the new identity of his times as well as that of his own maturation. This search was incorporated in 300 works which were compiled in a bibliography by a Dean of the English Department at Long Island University in his retirement and made available in hard-back with an extensive addenda by the literary activists of Presa Press through their skills achieved from the University of Michigan and their own experience which commands a movement in itself of contemporary literary action.


Congdon’s work in poetry covers innumerable treatments of countless subjects in single poems, long treatments on a subject, and many collections of both serious thought and imagination through not only the poetry but through essays, plays and ruminations. Named the first poet laureate of Key West, he received a standing ovation for his reading honoring this position and was the featured poet in a festival celebrating Frank O’Hara in the New York region. He was also asked to read his work as well as give a talk on the country’s national poet laureate, Richard Wilbur, at a seminar honoring that man. Currently, Congdon is working on an autobiography and a collection of complete poems.


 October 6, 2017  Posted by at 12:16 am Issue #237, Kirby Congdon  Add comments