The Essay

The Essay

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Overview
himalaya
300 Episodes
Leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond, themed across a week - insight, opinion and intellectual surprise.
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Episodes
300 Episodes
Going
13min

Among the 20th-century's most significant English-language poets, Philip Larkin (1922-1985) is often regarded as one of literature’s great pessimists, a writer who described postwar Britain and the mores of modernity with a gloomy cynicism bordering on the fanatical. Dismissive of notions of god and religion, drawn to failures of human communication, he is a figure reluctantly moored to the meaninglessness of the quotidian. And yet, from such positions of despair, his poetry often reaches for the divine: he is also a soul in search of something beyond the seen, whose best poems reach for the numinous, celebrating moments of mystery and encounters with “unfenced existence”. In a week of essays marking his centenary year, five contemporary poets each take a short poem by Larkin as the starting point for an exploration into their own attitudes to faith, belief and the spiritual. In this concluding episode, Helen Mort visits her father in hospital in an essay on mortality, meaning and mystery, inspired by Larkin's verse 'Going'. Writer and reader: Helen Mort Producer: Phil Smith A Far Shoreline production for BBC Radio 3

Among the 20th-century's most significant English-language poets, Philip Larkin (1922-1985) is often regarded as one of literature’s great pessimists, a writer who described postwar Britain and the mores of modernity with a gloomy cynicism bordering on the fanatical. Dismissive of notions of god and religion, drawn to failures of human communication, he is a figure reluctantly moored to the meaninglessness of the quotidian. And yet, from such positions of despair, his poetry often reaches for the divine: he is also a soul in search of something beyond the seen, whose best poems reach for the numinous, celebrating moments of mystery and encounters with “unfenced existence”. In a week of essays to mark his centenary year, five UK poets each take a short poem by Larkin as the starting point for an exploration into their own attitudes to faith, belief and the spiritual. In this fourth episode, Vidyan Ravinthiran discusses the religious role played by the NHS in an essay on collective faith and private ritual, inspired by a close reading of Larkin’s poem 'Ambulances'. Writer and reader: Vidyan Ravinthiran Producer: Phil Smith A Far Shoreline production for BBC Radio 3

Water
13min

Among the 20th-century's most significant English-language poets, Philip Larkin (1922-1985) is often regarded as one of literature’s great pessimists, a writer who described postwar Britain and the mores of modernity with a gloomy cynicism bordering on the fanatical. Dismissive of notions of god and religion, drawn to failures of human communication, he is a figure reluctantly moored to the meaninglessness of the quotidian. And yet, from such positions of despair, his poetry often reaches for the divine: he is also a soul in search of something beyond the seen, whose best poems reach for the numinous, celebrating moments of mystery and encounters with “unfenced existence”. In a week of essays marking his centenary year, five contemporary poets each take a short poem by Larkin as the starting point for an exploration into their own attitudes to faith, belief and the spiritual. In this third episode, Jean Sprackland returns to the brewery town of Burton upon Trent, home to Saint Modwen, in a meditation on water as a miraculous and mundane presence in her life. Writer and reader: Jean Sprackland Producer: Phil Smith A Far Shoreline production for BBC Radio 3

Among the 20th century's most significant English-language poets, Philip Larkin (1922-1985) is often regarded as one of literature’s great pessimists, a writer who described postwar Britain and the mores of modernity with a gloomy cynicism bordering on the fanatical. Dismissive of notions of god and religion, drawn to failures of human communication, he is a figure reluctantly moored to the meaninglessness of the quotidian. And yet, from such positions of despair, his poetry often reaches for the divine: he is also a soul in search of something beyond the seen, whose best poems reach for the numinous, celebrating moments of mystery and encounters with “unfenced existence”. In a week of essays marking his centenary year, five contemporary poets each take a short poem by Larkin as the starting point for an exploration into their own attitudes to faith, belief and the spiritual. In this second episode, the Northern Irish poet Sinéad Morrissey offers a lyrical essay on the lost Communist faith of her Belfast childhood, responding to Philip Larkin’s poem Absences. Writer and reader: Sinéad Morrissey Producer: Phil Smith A Far Shoreline production for BBC Radio 3

Amongst the 20th century's most significant English-language poets, Philip Larkin (1922-1985) is often regarded as one of literature’s great pessimists, a writer who described postwar Britain and the mores of modernity with a gloomy cynicism bordering on the fanatical. Dismissive of notions of god and religion, drawn to failures of human communication, he is a figure reluctantly moored to the meaninglessness of the quotidian. And yet, from such positions of despair, his poetry often reaches for the divine: he is also a soul in search of something beyond the seen, whose best poems reach for the numinous, celebrating moments of mystery and encounters with “unfenced existence”. In a week of essays marking his centenary year, five contemporary poets each take a short poem by Larkin as the starting point for an exploration of their own attitudes to faith, belief and the spiritual. To begin the series, the London-born poet Raymond Antrobus responds to Larkin’s 'The Mower' with an essay on kindness, care and moments of epiphany. Weaving together accounts of his grandfather’s church sermons with reflections on the poetic craft, Antrobus considers how the certainty of his own atheism has shifted as he entered his thirties. Writer and reader: Raymond Antrobus Producer: Phil Smith A Far Shoreline production for BBC Radio 3

Five writers go on five reflective, restorative and often playful journeys in search of the final resting places of their literary heroes. Today, Diana Souhami steps into the tomb of Radclyffe Hall in London’s Highgate Cemetery, where The Well of Loneliness author resides with her lover, her lover’s husband and their dog Tulip – an aptly unconventional set-up in death as in life. Producer: Ciaran Bermingham

Five writers go on five reflective, restorative and often playful journeys in search of the final resting places of their literary heroes. Today Paul Muldoon recalls numerous pilgrimages to the rugged West Coast of Ireland, where the remains of WB Yeats may or may not be buried, as per his poetical final request. Producer: Ciaran Bermingham

Five writers go on five reflective, restorative and often playful journeys in search of the final resting places of their literary heroes. Today Lauren Elkin finds Oscar Wilde in Pere Lachaise, Paris - where the outsider in life overshadows in death the greats of French literature who jostle for space in the famous cemetery. Producer: Ciaran Bermingham

From full stops to emojis, a Tudor letter to texting - how has the use of punctuation marks developed over the centuries? Florence Hazrat thinks about the way brackets help us understand the pandemic. The first parentheses appear in a 1399 manuscript by the Italian lawyer Coluccio Salutati, but - as her essay outlines - it took over 500 years for the sign born at the same time as the bracket, the exclamation mark (which printers rather aptly call “bang”) to find its true environment: the internet. Florence Hazrat is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, University of Sheffield. She is a 2021 New Generation Thinker on the scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to select ten academics each year to turn their research into radio. Producer: Robyn Read

Xangô (the god of thunder) and Paso Ñañigo’, composed by the Cuban Moises Simons, were two of the numbers performed by Elsie Houston in the clubs of Paris in the 1920s. Also able to sing soprano in Portuguese, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian, Elsie's performances in Afro-Brazilian dialects chimed with the fashion for all things African. Adjoa Osei's essay traces Elsie's connections with Surrealist artists and writers, (there are photos of her taken by Man Ray), and looks at how she used her mixed race heritage to navigate her way through society and speak out for African-inspired arts. Adjoa Osei is a researcher based at Trinity College, Cambridge. She was selected as a 2021 New Generation Thinker on the scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to turn research into radio. You can hear her discussing the career of another singer Rita Montaner in this episode of Free Thinking https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0010q8b and taking...

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