After years when one of us had to be managing things at home–kids, work, whatever, Larry and I got used to separate vacations. But recently we traveled together to Sedona for a few days. I remembered how much fun it is to travel with Larry. Here are a few remarks.
When I was wondering what created the mountains that seemed to uniformly end in long broad plateaus, Larry said, “They ran into height restrictions in the building code.” Continue reading
I went to hear Anne Carson read. She is a classical scholar, poet, and essayist. I’m sure there’s a label for what she does–odd syntax, sometimes odd formats, a bit of scholarly snarkiness, and sometimes very beautiful language–you can read a review of her work here. Here’s a sample from a book titled Short Talks: Continue reading
Going through boxes again, I came on my first diary. It dates from when I was six, and I can still remember being inspired to start writing when my mother gave me a metal box of index cards. Here are a few entries (text on the right in case you can’t read it):
Everything here is blooming, spouting, burgeoning. The hens are laying, the bees are busy, and I watch the vegetables grow as much as an inch a day:
It’s hard to be indoors at all…
I’ve been enjoying a book of essays on poetry, Madness, Rack, and Honey, an excellent read for literary-minded. I’ve mentioned the author, Mary Ruefle, before. There are many thought-provoking ideas interlaced in her very conversational, deceptively rambling style. Here’s one I like, from “Someone Reading a Book is a Sign of Order in the World”:
“Once this thought crossed my mind: every time an author dies, out of respect a word should also pass out of being. A word the author loved and used repeatedly in writing–that word should be theirs and die with them. Continue reading
Lisa Alvarez, whose blog The Mark on the Wall often features interesting poems as well as literary events in Orange County, mentioned on Facebook that it was her son’s 11th birthday. Thinking about children’s parties reminded me of two poems by Sharon Olds, who recently won the Pulitzer Prize. These two are from her second book, The Dead and the Living:
Rite of Passage
As the guests arrive at my son’s party
they gather in the living room–
short men, men in first grade
with smooth jaws and chins. Continue reading
Try using cookie cutters. This plate of cucumber and papaya disappeared instantly.
In the past, poems often told a story. There are great narrative poems like the Odyssey or Beowulf, and many shorter examples up through the 1900s. But in the world of contemporary poetry, narrative is rare. Philip Levine’s work sometimes tells a story, I can think of a few poems of Ed Hirsch, and the famous poem “The Shirt,” by Robert Pinsky. You can probably think of others. But most of what we call poetry now is lyric verse, an image, an impression, a feeling, a puzzling through the complexities of daily life.
Perhaps this is why this extraordinary poem by Brigit Pegeen Kelley that appears just to tell a story is so powerful. I say “appears” because this may be real or may not, but in either case is enhanced by the language of the telling:
Last week in DC, I sat down in Kramerbooks and read a short story by Carol Anshaw in the the Best American Short Stories 2012. I liked it so much, I immediately bought her novel Carry the One. I wasn’t disappointed. This writing is rich with imagery, the characters are complex, contemporary, and believable, and the moral dilemmas thought-provoking and not easily solved. Here is the opening:
I was one of those insufferable children who adore school. As the youngest in my family by five years, in school I competed only with my peers. I have always been a quick study, and the rewards at school were easy and plentiful. By 9th grade, I was taking honors classes, Geometry, Biology, honors English. I loved the spatial predictability of geometry, the way it explained the world. I was lucky to have an English teacher who introduced me to poetry I would never have found on my own and a Biology teacher who introduced me to the scientific method of exploring the world. I loved it all. Socially, I struggled. I was unavoidably a teacher’s pet and my sartorial skills had not been honed by being dressed for years in my brothers’ hand-me-downs and my mother’s occasional lightning shopping expeditions. But I had a group of friends, and I even tried out for the cheerleading team.
At the same time, I was encouraged to compete in the annual science fair. Continue reading