This week: Exploring Venice, engaging verse & more.
Why Poetry by Matthew Zapruder (HarperCollins): One of the great failures of the American school system is its inability to impart a basic appreciation of poetry to its students. Getting seventeen-year-olds to learn and love verse written in the seventeenth century is, of course, no small task, especially in this age of distracting technology. Schools, however, get in their own way by overly complicating poems, teaching them as a sort of riddle that can only be solved through cold knowledge of erudite allusions and literary devices rather than as imaginative opportunities for reflection and insight. In his book Why Poetry, the acclaimed poet Matthew Zapruder takes aim at this misguiding pedagogy, hoping instead to uphold the basic joy of words that the experience of reading poetry can offer. As Zapruder notes, basic joy is, of course, only the starting point, and ultimately, formal considerations matter greatly. Part memoir, part poetic analysis, and part cautious argument for poetry’s implicit social relevance, Why Poetry brings clarity to a subject typically riddled with obscurity, doing so with constant help from the sharp wisdom of poets from ages past.—AS
“Gabriele Evertz / Sanford Wurmfeld: Polychromy” at Minus Space (through August 12): The chromatic power of the Hunter Color School is on full display at “Gabriele Evertz / Sanford Wurmfeld: Polychromy,” on view at the Brooklyn waterfront gallery Minus Space through August 12. Wurmfeld and Evertz are two painters who have carried on the Bauhaus legacy as scholars of color at Hunter College. But beyond the theory, it is what these painting practitioners can do with their understanding of hue, value, and saturation that is truly dazzling—and, at Minus Space, now in intense conversation.—JP
Ian Bostridge, Lincoln Center: Zender’s Winterreise (August 12–13): Mostly Mozart this season has had something of a sub-festival going with “Mostly Schubert,” celebrating the work of Mozart’s sublimely melancholy countryman. Who knows why (there's no significant Schubert anniversary this year that I can think of), but who cares? Any opportunity to bask in the emotional depth of Schubert’s work is one worth taking. His late masterpiece Winterreise holds an exalted place in the history of art song, and few interpreters today have so rich an understanding of the piece as Ian Bostridge, whose superb exploration of the twenty-four song cycle, Schubert’s Winter Journey, was published by Knopf in 2014. This weekend, the English tenor will be joined by the International Contemporary Ensemble to perform Hans Zender’s 1993 orchestration of the cycle, in a staged adaptation directed by Netia Jones.—ECS
“Love in Venice” at the New York Public Library (through August 26): Venice is much lamented as overrun by tourists—a supposedly new phenomenon. Certainly the arrival of massive cruise ships hasn’t helped; while there earlier this summer, I noticed that whenever a closed umbrella appeared thrust skywards a horde of “cruisers” followed immediately. The problem has allegedly gotten so bad that local authorities have considered a daily cap on the number of visitors to La Serenissima. But was it ever thus? Venice has always drawn tourists, whether would-be crusaders on their way to the Holy Land, eighteenth-century milordi on their grand tours, or the Biennale-goers and “cruisers” of today. An exhibition on now at the NYPL’s main branch examines Venice’s draw through the lens of love. Collecting disparate items such as letters from Byron’s lovers, Tiepolo etchings, and books on the proper undergarments for Venetian courtesans, the wide-ranging show presents a new facet of the ever-captivating city. For more on Venice, read Mary Campbell Gallagher’s March 2017 review of If Venice Dies by Salvatore Settis.—BR
By the editors: “‘Mystical Symbolism: The Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris, 1892–1897’ Review: Discovering Modernism’s Neglected Spur” by James Panero, The Wall Street Journal.
From the archive: “What Jeff Koons has wrought” by Eric Gibson: On “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective” at the Whitney Museum of American Art. (September 2014)
From the current issue:“Three cheers for femininity” by Kyle Smith: OnHello, Dolly!at the Shubert Theatre,A Doll’s House, Part 2at the John Golden Theatre &War Paintat the Nederlander Theatre.
Broadcast: SAU in London: The Impact of Small Magazines.
Sign up to receive “Critic’s Notebook” in your inbox every week—it only takes a few seconds and it’s completely free!