Conrad Aiken and “A Letter From Li Po”
On L2L: October 20, 2017 (click to listen to the episode)
About the Event
- “Snow”: The Conrad Aiken Festival
- An evening of poetry and prose readings, words to inspire curious minds, and an ice cream social, all centered on the writer’s brilliant short story “Silent Snow, Secret Snow”
- Hosted by Orlando Montoya
- 7 p.m., Saturday, October 28, 2017
- Unitarian-Universalist Church of Savannah
- 311 E Harris St, Savannah, GA 31401 (Troup Square, Habersham and Macon streets)
- For more information: http://www.uusavannah.org/
About Conrad Aiken
In 1889, writer Conrad Aiken was born in Savannah. During his lifetime, he became known as a poet, playwright, essayist, and novelist. Scholar Jay Martin, in a 1962 book titled Conrad Aiken: A Life of His Art, calls Aiken “one of the most prolific of modern American writers” (Martin 1962: 3).
Aiken’s first book was published in 1914, and he later served as a Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress — a position we now call the U.S. Poet Laureate — and earned honors such as the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, the Gold Medal in Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a National Medal for Literature, and a National Book Award. He also was the first Georgia-born author to win the Pulitzer Prize.
His early life was marked with tragedy, and some of his work was influenced by William James, Sigmund Freud, and the discipline of psychology that arose and grew around the same time as Aiken himself.
Martin writes that Aiken’s work, in part, “has been more deeply concerned … with the investigation, exploration, and definition of his own developing consciousness than any other of our major contemporary poets” and that Aiken “has sought … to achieve a precise understanding of his own growth, both as a person and as an artist” (Martin 1962: 9).
But he is also known as for “his obsessive interest in the musical analogy,” and he shifted between and explored both lyrical poetry and dramatic poetry — trying to combine the two forms in what he called the “symphony” (Martin 1962: 18).
Although he spent a large portion of his life in the northeast and overseas, Aiken later moved back to Savannah and the city of his childhood, until his death in 1973. He is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery. A marble bench sits beside his grave and welcomes visitors to contemplate — as he did — life and death and the nature of humanity and the world, all while looking out beyond the Wilmington River.
About Orlando Montoya
Orlando Montoya is a radio host, freelance writer, and audio producer based in Savannah. From 1998–2014, he was the local host for NPR’s Morning Edition in Southeast Georgia. During that time, he won 13 Georgia Associated Press Broadcast Association awards and two Society of Professional Journalists awards for investigative, serial, feature, sound, and other forms of journalism.
Since then, he has worked as a self-employed multimedia storyteller in radio, print, and online platforms — including SavannahPodcast.com, Connect Savannah, WHCJ 90.3 FM Savannah State University, and WRUU 107.5 Savannah Soundings.
He grew up around the tropical springs, citrus trees, and sparse scrub near Orlando, and he earned a Radio-Television degree from the University of Central Florida — where he launched his radio career at WUCF-FM “Jazz and More.”