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Just Listen Podcast

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Paul Smethers, a former high school English teacher, is an Associate with the Popular Materials team. He hosts a monthly poetry appreciation group, the Word Art Poetry Discussion Group and teaches a 6-week poetry writing course in the spring, Wolf Tickets and Pickled Peppers.

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Just Listen Podcast: Elegy in a Country Churchyard

"Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"  is a poem by Thomas Gray, completed in 1750 and first published in 1751. The poem's origins are unknown, but it was partly inspired by Gray's thoughts following the death of the poet Richard West in 1742. The poem embodies a meditation on death, and remembrance after death. It argues that the remembrance can be good and bad, and the narrator finds comfort in pondering the lives of the obscure rustics buried in the churchyard.

Just Listen: The Invalid's Story

“The Invalid’s Story” is a raucous story by Mark Twain about a case of mistaken identities. It is a testament to how olfactory images can truly color a piece of literature. The story details the unfortunate misadventures of two men on a train and their attempts to fight a terrible smell which they mistake for a rotting corpse. In the end, all of their attempts are fruitless.

Just Listen Podcast: Tennyson Poetry

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson was a British poet. He was the Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular British poets. Today we examine three of Tennyson’s poems, “Ulysses,” “The Lady of Shalott, and “Tears, Idle Tears.”

Just Listen: Michael

"Michael" is a pastoral poem, written by William Wordsworth in 1800 and first published in the 1800 edition of Lyrical Ballads. The poem is one of Wordsworth's best known poems and the subject of much critical literature. It tells the story of an aging shepherd, Michael, his wife, and his only child Luke.

Just Listen: Scary Stories

This Halloween, get in the spirit by listening to some good old-fashioned ghost stories! Here's a selection from Just Listen podcast.

Just Listen: The Duchess and the Jeweller

In March 1941, Virginia Woolf wrote a letter to her husband Leonard. It would be the last letter to her beloved. On the 28th of that month, she filled the pockets of her overcoat with stones and walked into the River Ouse, which ran near her home. Her body was not discovered until the following month. Here is Virginia Woolf’s last letter to her husband Leonard. It is a love letter, written in the pain of mental illness and the heavy shadows of despair.

Just Listen: The Canterville Ghost

Paul reads "The Canterville Ghost," a story is about an American family who moves to a castle haunted by the ghost of a dead nobleman who killed his wife and was starved to death by his wife's brothers. It was the first of Wilde's stories to be published, appearing in two parts in The Court and Society Review in February and March of l887.

Just Listen: From A Journal of the Plague Year

The harsh reality of plague asserts itself not only in Edgar Allen Poe’s story “The Masque of the Red Death,” but also in Daniel Defoe’s first-person account of the plague ravaging London in the year l665. 

Just Listen: The Most Dangerous Game

Widely anthologized, and the author's best-known work, "The Most Dangerous Game,” also published as "The Hounds of Zaroff”, is a short story by Richard Connell, first published in Collier's on January 19, 1924. 

Just Listen: A Wagner Matinee

“A Wagner Matinée” combines two familiar Willa Cather themes—the hardship and desolation of pioneer life and the sustaining power of music on the human spirit.