Films For Forgotten Poet/Langston Hughes Contest – Poetry News Roundup February 28th

We begin the week with a look at the short films that have been made to honour a forgotten poet. We also have a short article about an oratory contest to honour Langston Hughes.

Works by “Forgotten” Poet from 19th Century to be Made into Film

The selected works of a 19th century poet who has been largely forgotten are to be immortalised as part of a series of short films.

The poet, James Reynolds Withers, died in 1892 in rural Cambridgeshire. He was destitute and had lived much of his life in obscurity.

The films, a series of five, will show his poetry brought to life by an actor, and will be shown in Fordham near Ely, the poet’s home village. The filmmaker responsible for these short clips of the poet says that Withers work is often compared to the poetry of John Clare, and he believes that a greater recognition should be given to it.

Withers, who was born in 1812 in Weston Colville, grew up in considerable poverty. It is only in recent years that his poetry has begun to receive recognition. A couple of years ago the poets great-great grandson who is now 95 donated hundreds of handwritten letters and verses as well as a short memoir all written by the poet to the Cambridge University Library.

Withers was a contemporary of poets like John Keats and Lord Byron and the bulk of his work was written at a time when Charles Dickens was just beginning his career in writing.

The Song of the Incendiary is the poem that first brought Withers to the attention of possible publishers, and much of his work is inspired by the natural world around him. It is five of these poems that look at the rural landscape of Cambridgeshire that have been used for the films, which were funded thanks to a small grant that was received from the Arts Council in England.

Any money that is raised as a result of the films will be used towards restoration work on the poet’s grave which is located in the Fordham churchyard.

Langston Hughes Honoured with Oratory Contest

The Have de Grace Coloured School Museum and Cultural Centre recently held their fifth annual Langston Hughes Youth Oratorical contest.

This is an annual event hat honours the connections between the late novelist and poet and the former school. It also honours the memory of those who founded the school. This year the students who took part were asked to deliver oratorical presentation based on the theme “I, too, am America” which was inspired by the title of one of Hughes’ works. Hughes who was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance was also a fraternity brother and friend of one of the former principals of the school and a regular visitor.

This year the competition not only recognised the connection with Hughes, but also the beginning of a year of special events to mark the 100th birthday of George T Stansbury M.D. Also known as Dr Charles Drew, he was the first student from the school to receive a degree in medicine and is known for his work during World War II developing large-scale blood banks.

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