Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Just spent a long two weeks or so re-reading Dubliners, of all things. How does that take me two weeks? The book is so tiny it fits in your back pocket with room to spare for a copy of Lunch Poems, but still, I just couldn't finish the thing off.

It all started when I picked it up and read "The Dead" and I suddenly remembered how great that story is. I think I like any story that includes people shaking rain off of umbrellas as they climb creaking wooden stairs, but this reading really got me for reasons beyond overheated and smokey coziness of the rooms it takes place in. That end, I think it's pretty beautiful and sad and I don't think anyone should disagree with me on that.

But so I took my experience with "The Dead" as reason enough to re-read the whole collection, and . . . man, it just didn't happen for me. The stories almost feel dated now, much more so than people who modeled themselves on this book, like, say, Hemingway's short stories, which only get better with time and I'm not just saying that because I'm a dude, because I am anything but a dude's dude. I'm saying it because Hemingway, young Hemingway, short story and parts of Farewell to Arms Hemingway, is about as good as we get. So I was surprised at this time through Dubliners. It wasn't anything like what happens when I re-read "The Three Day Blow" or "The End of Something" or this one where about him and Hadley skiing somewhere in Europe.

And I doodled that picture of Joyce at school one day last week while I was trying to lesson plan.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Really charming article in the New York Times yesterday about a father and daughter who read out loud together, every night, from some young age until she went away to college. Every night! She would be out with friends on a weekend and she'd be like "oh, we have to stop by my house before midnight so I can read with my dad." Totally worth a look if you have a son, daughter, or parent.

I will admit that this story made me cry. Or no, tear up a little. This happens more frequently ever since I became a parent. Before, I only used to tear up when dogs died--both fictional and non--and during that scene in The Sound of Music when the dad comes in singing "Edelweiss" and all the kids are like "dang, dad's singing."

Monday, April 05, 2010

Tony Hoagland is pretty funny and that is enough for me to like a lot of his poems but he is also smart and has a great ability to write about poetry in a way that makes me think "yes, I agree." I had that reaction when I read this thing he wrote about Dean Young I wish I could find on the internet and I'm having it all the time now when I dip into his essay collection Real Sofistikashun that I would not have found had Joseph not pointed out to me that there were books below my eye level when we were at Hyde Bros. the other day.

There are a few varieties of the "yes, I agree" response that you can have when you read. One of the good ones is where someone has said something that you have consciously thought in the past but had thought you were the only one. And reading this person makes you feel understood and less lonely for a few minutes, even if you didn't know that you were lonely.

Another good kind is where someone says something that you didn't even know you had felt it until you read him saying it. His or her words cause a secret panel to melt inside of you and it reveals some unrecognized feeling that had been there all along. This happens a lot, if you read a lot, and it is one of the best things that can happen to you. A long time ago this happened to me a bunch when I read Richard Ford's Independence Day. Something about Frank Bascombe and how he was always "seeing around" his feelings. Relating to him should depress me but it doesn't.

An example of the former variety happened as I read one of Hoagland's essays a few days ago. He's describing surrealist poetry:
In the Surrealist aesthetic, imagery has virtue to the extent that it exhibits freedom, and art is "reliable" to the extent that it trusts in the revelation of process. The poem is an action, not an object, and its architecture is a series of moment to moment jolts and explosions.
I have thought, like, exactly that same thing for a long time. It works for things other than just surrealist poetry, too, I guess. That idea of the poem being an action, an enactment, is what gets me, and let's me read differently. The surrealist poem is less an object with a rhetorical purpose than a document of a life lived in a certain way. You could argue much contemporary poetry is that way, but I might argue that this modern tendency owes itself to Breton and the surrealists.

Anyway, writing about this makes me think about one of my favorite poems from the last Beloit Poetry Journal. I hope it's one Dawn voted for. I am going to steal it, I guess. If it's not okay, she will let me know.

Old Men

Your carnation-white flesh
Lives off scrawny birds
And thereby catches fire

You old men, sing slower
In the shifting wind
And let the sun crumble
Between your fingers

The blue-feathered sleep
Has the teeth of death
And the voice of lime
This is already a long post, so I will let "Old men" speak, or not, for itself. But it's beautiful whether or not.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Coming back to Eliot after reading the new John McPhee book for a couple of days has me lost again. Thank you, Internet, for this great map. I can't make any sense out of it, either, but it's reassuring somehow.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

In the interest of taking credit for every single one of my kids' accomplishments, I can't help but note the influence of Tu Fu, whom we have been reading in Kenneth Rexroth's 100 Poems from the Chinese, on her recent writing. Here is Tu Fu:


Roads not yet glistening, rain slight,

Broken clouds darken after thinning away.
Where they drift, purple cliffs blacken.
And beyond -- white birds blaze in flight.

Sounds of cold-river rain grown familiar,
Autumn sun casts moist shadows. Below
Our brushwood gate, out to dry at the village
Mill: hulled rice, half-wet and fragrant

And here is one of June's, from the "poem book" she has been typing into the computer lately. It's nice:

The breeze and the wind brushed through my
hear as I fly a red kite.
The fall air is cold but I’m worm
in side.

I think June's compares well, considering that Tu Fu had a 1000+ year head start.