If you had been in Manhattan last night, you could have time traveled to one of New York City’s most elegant and most constraining eras in the company of one of this city’s greatest minds—that of Edith Wharton.  The occasion was the last evening of the Center for Fiction’s series called “Chapter and Verse,” a wonderful program that shone a spotlight on writers who excelled in both fiction and poetry.

Susan Kinsolving, herself a brilliant poet and teacher (and friend of Women’s Voices for Change) is the mind behind this series.  She presented fascinating biographies of each of the evenings’ subjects and through intensively researched narration took the audience on journeys to actually meet them.  She also found performers to animate the work of each author with their acting skills.  Last night Swoosie Kurtz read from House of Mirth and Wharton’s poems.  She embodied the formidable Ms. Wharton and breathed a life into her writing that held the audience silent and rapt.

Edith Wharton was born Edith Jones into a prominent and proper Manhattan family.  Such stature did the family enjoy that they were forever immortalized in the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses.”

There was no keeping up with Edith Jones Wharton who lived and loved as she wrote — with confidence and full understanding of the human need to find a freedom of expression beyond what society allowed.  She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (in 1921 for The Age of Innocence).

It is a pleasure to give our Poetry Friday stage to Edith Wharton this week.  Clearly she hoped for the immortality that art can provide.  She undoubtedly  deserved it.

Survival

WHEN you and I, like all things kind or cruel,
The garnered days and light evasive hours,
Are gone again to be a part of flowers
And tears and tides, in life’s divine renewal,

If some grey eve to certain eyes should wear
A deeper radiance than mere light can give,
Some silent page abruptly flush and live,
May it not be that you and I are there?

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