On Thursday, October 22, the Larchmont Historical Society (LHS) together with the University Club will host a presentation on Phyllis McGinley: the Poet Laureate of the Suburbs , by Dr. Joanna Gill, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century Literature at the University of Exeter, UK. The event will be at the Larchmont Yacht Club and include cocktails and dinner (see box for ticket information).
LHS-University Club Speaker Evening:
Thursday, October 22, 2009, 6:30 PM
Larchmont Yacht Club
LHS and UC members: $40.00 (cash bar)
Dr. Gill will discuss the life and work of Larchmont poet and essayist Phyllis McGinley, who in her mid-century heyday was one of the most celebrated figures in American letters. Ms. McGinley won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for her selected poems Times Three (60,000 copies sold in hardback). Her book Sixpence in her Shoe, published in 1964, was devoted to “the glory of housewifery” and it enjoyed six months on the New York Times bestseller list.
According to Dr. Gill, the talk will take guests from Ms. McGinley’s upbringing in rural Oregon and Utah to her life in Larchmont as wife and mother. (Ms. McGinley and her family lived at 12 Hazel Lane, a home featured on the 2007 LHS House Tour.) Dr. Gill will examine the emergence of Ms. McGinley’s poetic voice in the context of changing mid-century attitudes towards the suburbs and in relation to new trends in American poetry.
More importantly, according to Dr. Gill, this talk will consider the significance to McGinley’s development of a distinctive poetic style of her everyday experience as a suburban wife and mother. By examining particular poems in detail, Dr. Gill will trace the influence of Larchmont life on her writing. “By drawing on unpublished material from the McGinley archive at Syracuse University, I reveal the importance of the people, places and rituals of Larchmont to McGinley’s success – an importance which, sadly, became all-to-apparent to her when she briefly left the village for a new home in Connecticut,” said Dr. Gill.
Gossip, success, husbands, fathers, privacy, children, vanity, cocktail clatter, seasons, sexual equality – it all ends up on the backyard barbeque in Ms. McGinley’s upbeat, witty, yet sometimes unnerving, rendering of the suburban landscape.
About Dr. Joanna Gill: Dr. Jo Gill is the author of Anne Sexton’s Confessional Poetics (University Press of Florida 2007), of Women’s Poetry (Columbia University Press 2007), and of The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath (Cambridge University Press 2008). She is currently writing a book, from which this talk is drawn, entitled The Poetics of the American Suburbs.
LHS was chartered in 1981 as a non-profit organization to discover, preserve and disseminate information concerning the natural, social and civic history of Larchmont and to promote the preservation of historical sites and structures.