Alfred University News

Times Literary Supplement publishes letter by Ben Howard, emeritus professor of English

A letter from Benjamin Howard, emeritus professor of English, appears in the current (December 9) issue of the Times Literary Supplement (London).

Responding to a review of James L. Orwin’s Astonishing the Brickwork, in which the author examines the influence of the British poet Philip Larkin on contemporary classical music, Howard’s letter calls attention to Larkin’s influence on classical musicians as well.

As a case in point, Howard cites Larkin’s influence on the American concert pianist Simone Dinnerstein, who titled her 2012 recording of Bach's partitas and Schubert's impromptus Something Almost Being Said. Quoting one of Larkin's best-known poems ("The Trees”), Dinnerstein observes in her album notes that "Bach and Schubert's melodic lines . . . sound as though they might at any moment burst suddenly into speech. They sound like something almost being said."

The Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa once described the TLS as "the most serious, authoritative, witty, diverse and stimulating cultural publication in all the five languages I speak.” A letter by Howard had previously appeared in the Oct. 21 issue of the TLS, written in response to a review of Gary Snyder’s Collected Poems.

Before his retirement in 2006, Howard taught literature, writing, classical guitar, and Buddhist meditation at Alfred University. A member of both the English and Performing Arts faculties, he also performed in the Performing Arts Division’s annual faculty recitals.