Books I got* in May
First of all, this lovely and astonishing chapbook by Marni Ludwig, picked by Susan Howe for the 2011 Poetry Society of America chapbook fellowship:
One of the best things about being in an MFA program is that you get to know actual poets who are actually amazing who actually go on to publish things in beautiful ways. I was in workshop with Marni last year and completely in awe of her. You can read the title poem at Jerry Magazine and purchase a copy of the chapbook here.
Also look out for her first book, Pinwheel, picked by Jean Valentine for the 2012 New Issues Poetry Prize.
Other poetry I picked up in April:
This is the 1974 New Directions edition of Helen in Egypt, which was first publised by Grove Press in 1962. I am in the midst of reading it and it is spectacular. It begins: » Read the rest of this entry «
RELIGION. I have taken to reading the Bible again, and by that I mean Pessoa‘s The Book of Disquiet. It is a monumental work and, in Richard Zenith‘s curation, rather a mammoth one too. So I read it on and off, though I ideally I tell myself I should read a passage every day as one does, if devout, a Bible. But maybe I am more devout in spirit than in practice, and therefore a true Catholic towards this book.
Pessoa: So why do I keep writing?
Pessoa: Because I still haven’t learned to practise completely the renunciation that I preach.
(A Factless Autobiography 231)
DIVERS. For three years I have written monthly posts about the books and movies I read and watched in that time. I’ve become more and more lax about the writing of these, being both late and unhelpfully brief about them. The point was to force myself to think carefully about what gives me pleasure and what doesn’t. Laziness is bad for thinking.
Now that I’ve become less invested in writing a blog that is read and more interested in having a place that keeps track of my interests and complaints and confusion, I’ve decided to switch to this format for my blog writing: a (hopefully) fortnightly gathering of my thoughts and readings. This first divers post of 2012 will have to summarise two months instead of just two weeks, so bear with me.
MUSIC. I don’t ‘follow’ music. » Read the rest of this entry «
- Samuel Beckett: Molloy (1951, tr. from the French by Patrick Bowles in collaboration with the author)
- Arun Kolatkar: Jejuri (1976)
- Carl Phillips: From the Devotions (1998)
- Rosmarie Waldrop: The Reproduction of Profiles (1987)
All of these are highly recommended . . . although — fighting words — I did wonder if Jejuri was quite as good as I remember it to be.
Rosmarie Waldrop is my new goddess. I can’t wait to read her translations of Edmond Jabès.
Oh I’ve tried everything. In the end it was magic that had the honour of my ruins, and still today, when I walk there, I find its vestiges. But mostly they are a place with neither plan nor bounds and of which I understand nothing, not even of what it is made, still less into what. And the thing in ruins. I don’t know what it is, what it was, nor whether it is not less a question of ruins than the indestructible chaos of timeless things, if that is the right expression. It is in any case a place devoid of mystery, deserted by magic, because devoid of mystery. And if I do not go there gladly, I go perhaps more gladly there than anywhere else, astonished and at peace, I nearly said as in a dream, but no, no. But it is not the kind of place where you go, but where you find yourself, sometimes, not knowing how, and which you cannot leave at will, and where you find yourself without any pleasure, but with more perhaps than in those places you can escape from, by making an effort, places full of mystery, full of the familiar mysteries. I listen and the voice is of a world collapsing endlessly, a frozen world, under a faint untroubled sky, enough to see by, yes, and frozen too. And I hear it murmur that all wilts and yields, as if loaded down, but here there are no loads, and the ground too, unfit for loads, and the light too, down towards an end it seems can never come. For what possible end to these wastes where true light never was, nor any upright thing, nor any true foundation, but only these leaning things, forever lapsing and crumbling away, beneath a sky without memory of morning or hope of night. These things, what things, come from where, made of what? And it says that here nothing stirs, has never stirred, will never stir, except myself, who do not stir either, when I am there, but see and am seen. Yes, a world at an end, in spite of appearances, its end brought it forth, ending it began, is it clear enough? And I too am at an end, when I am there, my eyes close, my sufferings cease and I end, I wither as the living can not. And if I went on listening to that far whisper, silent long since and which I still hear, I would learn still more, about this. But I will listen no longer, for the time being, to that far whisper, for I do not like it, I fear it. But it is not a sound like the other sounds, that you listen to, when you choose, and can sometimes silence, by going away or stopping your ears, no, but it is a sound which begins to rustle in your head, without your knowing how, or why. It’s with your head you hear it, not your ears, you can’t stop it, but it stops itself, when it chooses. It makes no difference therefore whether I listen to it or not, I shall hear it always, no thunder can deliver me, until it stops.
Samuel Beckett (1951, translated from the French by Patrick Bowles in collaboration with the author)
Herman Melville: Moby-Dick; or The Whale (1851)
- Dan Beachy-Quick: Spell (2004)
- Lucie Brock-Broido: The Master Letters (1995)
- Lucie Brock-Broido: Trouble in Mind (2004)
- Louise Glück: Meadowlands (1997)
- Richard Greenfield: A Carnage in the Lovetrees (2003)
- Anne Sexton: Transformations (1971)
- Susan Stewart: The Forest (1995)
- Emily Wilson: Micrographia (2009)
If it looks like I crammed two months of reading into one post, then I’m flattered. I know there are people who read this much on a regular basis. I am not one of those people. Almost every poetry book on this list (except one of the Brock-Broidos) was a class requirement. I didn’t have to read Moby-Dick, but I was in charge of generating discussion about Dan Beacky-Quick’s The Spell in class, which is a book that engages Moby-Dick, so I felt that I had to read it. It was the best thing I read all month. I think Herman Melville might be my favourite American writer of fiction. No, he definitely is.
Beachy-Quick was all right. If you read The Spell right after Moby-Dick like I did, a lot of the magic carries over and the poems become a sort of exegesis. There are bits I like and bits I don’t like. There’s a lot of technical stuff to admire and comment on, but I don’t think I’ll read the book again.
The rest in alphabetical order: » Read the rest of this entry «
- Italo Calvino: Mr Palomar (1983, tr. from the Italian by William Weaver)
- Anne Carson: Plainwater: Essays and Poetry (1995)
- Ted Hughes: The Hawk in the Rain (1957)
- Laura Jensen: Memory (1982)
- Forrest Gander: A Faithful Existence: Reading, Memory, and Transcendence (2005)
I have to say it: Italo Calvino is starting to grate on me. But — this can’t be all that shocking, can it? People have felt this way before, yes? » Read the rest of this entry «