Human on My Faithless Arm, Ep. 1: The Emperor of Ice Cream


Welcome to Human on My Faithless Arm, a series of recitations of great poems composed in English.

Each episode will feature my recitation from memory of one of the poems I recite each night to my infant daughter Auden (named for Wystan Hugh.) These poems are important to me, and to Auden’s mother, and we want them to be part of our daughter’s life from its earliest days and nights.

Poems are like scores for performances: they “play” the body that reads or recites them aloud.  I hope this series will help you to hear how this is so. I would also hope to interest you in the dynamic lives of poems as they are kept alive in and performed from memory, rather than being read from a page.

Memory and the body are faulty, and I’ve recited these poems so many times that variants have sometimes crept in, so you are likely to hear me make mistakes in these performances; but if we are lucky, I’ll also record in the coming weeks some moments of fresh accuracy or discovery, for when poems are alive in one’s body there is always some possibility that a movement or breath will alter something—even everything.

I hope you will enjoy Episode 1, my recitation of Wallace Stevens’s wonderful “The Emperor of Ice Cream.” You can listen to it above.

Want to follow along as I recite? You can find the text of Stevens’s poem here.

If you would like to read an account of some of the meanings of Stevens’s poem, you can check out Helen Vendler’s brief essay on “The Emperor of Ice Cream” here.

Please join me for Episode 2, when I’ll introduce and recite John Donne’s amazing “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.”

Daniel Bosch



Daniel Bosch is Lecturer in English at Emory University and Senior Editor of Berfrois.