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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: Poetry - Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market"

Christina Rossetti's poem Goblin Market is one of her best known. Although it is ostensibly about two sisters' misadventures with goblins, critics have interpreted the piece in a variety of ways, seeing it as an allegory about temptation and salvation, a commentary on Victorian gender roles and female agency, and a work about erotic desire and social redemption.

Just Listen Podcast: Poetry - Christina Rossetti

Christina Georgina Rossetti, born on December 5, 1830,  was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children's poems. We begin today with a selection of devotional poems, then turn our attentions toward other topics—love, jealousy, and the burgeoning world of Victorian society.

Just Listen Podcast: Winesburg, Ohio - Loneliness

A short story cycle is a collection of short stories in which the narratives are specifically composed and arranged with the goal of creating an enhanced or different experience when reading the group as a whole as opposed to its individual parts. Today’s story from the Sherwood Anderson short story cycle Winesburg, Ohio, is entitled “Loneliness,” and concerns the character Enoch Robinson.

Just Listen Podcast: Winesburg, Ohio - Hands

Winesburg, Ohio is a 1919 short story cycle by the American author Sherwood Anderson. The book consists of twenty-two stories, with the first story, "The Book of the Grotesque,” serving as an introduction. Our first story from this cycle is entitled “Hands.” In his Memoirs, Sherwood Anderson says that he wrote "Hands" at one sitting on a dark, snowy night in Chicago. It was, he says, his "first authentic tale," so good that he laughed, cried, and shouted out of his boarding house window.

Just Listen Podcast: The First Seven Years

Today’s author Bernard Malamud was an American novelist and short story writer. Along with Saul Bellow, Joseph Heller, and Phillip Roth, he was one of the best known American Jewish authors of the 20th century. His baseball novel The Natural was adapted into a 1984 film starring Robert Redford. Today’s story, “The First Seven Years,” depicts a Polish immigrant’s desire to see his daughter achieve a better life. His notion of that life, however, is not the same as hers.

Just Listen Podcast: from The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys is most famous for the diary he kept from 1660 until 1669, while still a relatively young man. Writing for himself alone, he used a little-known shorthand that was not deciphered until the nineteenth century, when the diary was published more than 200 years later. It provides a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts of great events, such as the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War, and the Great Fire of London.

Just Listen Podcast: The Interlopers

Hector Hugh Monroe, also known as Saki, is famous for his tongue-in-cheek commentaries on the upper classes and the quick, startling way in which many of his stories end. As you listen to today’s story, pay special attention to the information the narrator gives you about the two characters’ pasts. The narrator of “The Interlopers” makes us think that events are leading one way--up until the story’s very end. Prepare to be surprised.

Just Listen Podcast: The Lady in the Looking Glass: A Reflection

Virginia Woolf was born into intellectual and social aristocracy. She was not sent to school, in accordance with the custom of the times. She received a splendid education as an autodidact but remained resentful and offended on this account. Today’s work is one of a number of Virginia’s writings which features a looking glass, and numerous scholars have chosen this image as a focal point for understanding her work.

Just Listen Podcast: The Lagoon

"The Lagoon" is a short story by Joseph Conrad, a Polish-British writer regarded as one of the greatest novelists to write in the English language. The story is about a white man, referred to as "Tuan" (the equivalent of "Lord" or "Sir"), who is traveling through an Indonesian rainforest and is forced to stop for the night with a distant Malay friend named Arsat. Upon arriving, he finds Arsat distraught, for his lover is dying. Arsat tells the distant and rather silent white man a story of his past.