Currently Reading:

Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

The Loved One

The Loved One
Evelyn Waugh

The Loved One
After slogging through a book of mostly hard-to-read poetry, I decided to give my brain a break and read a nice, skinny novel. Something that wouldn’t make me think too hard. Something that I could read in just a few sittings. Something that would make fun of the English, Hollywood, and pet cemeteries. I’ve had The Loved One on my shelf for a while, and it seemed like just the right thing.
RIP Tuffy
Now, I have been accused from time to time of doting overly on my cat. (As an interesting side note, in the linked photo, he has his paw draped over the very book about which I currently write.) And I suppose that, if he were to expire, I would probably rather dig a hole for him than allow neighborhood dogs to feast on his corpse. Strangely enough, I can’t say the same for myself. I would much rather be devoured by badgers than pumped full of preservatives and stored in a box for the next several decades. Why is it that I would want my cat to have a more “dignified” retirement than me? I don’t know. I suppose I have what are affectionately known as “issues”.
Anyway, reading about the demise and embalming of Englishmen and Hollywood pets was pretty much just what I needed about now. A good read, a few good laughs, and no mental strain in this one. Now, on to more difficult things again…

Holiday Cheer

Another Christmas has come and gone, and I’m still recovering from the people, the travel, and the flu. The season kicked off with a visit from my favorite person in the world, which was terrific, but could have been more terrific had I not contracted some sort of super-cold the day before. My lovely houseguest was kind enough to hang around and spend time with me in between watching me cough up sheepdog-sized masses of my innards. In return, I made sure that she drove home sick. Oh well.
Anyway, we celebrated the plague together with a pot of venison stew and a few good friends. (It has already been noted that she is infinitely more photogenic than me while sick. Or any other time, for that matter.) Post-stew, we had a terrific spoons-and-jawharp jam the likes of which my kitchen has never seen. I can only assume that I sent everybody else home with the plague, as well. Merry Christmas, friends.

The Contemporary American Poets: American Poetry Since 1940

The Contemporary American Poets:
American Poetry Since 1940
Mark Strand (ed.)

The Contemporary American Poets
It’s been quite a while since I’ve either written or read any poetry. It’s another of those things that a graduate degree doesn’t really encourage. I’ve had The Contemporary American Poets sitting on my shelf for a while, so I decided to crack it open and give it a read.
Magnetic Poetry
The first big surprise was how long it took to read the thing. I just can’t really read most poems one time through, and get anything much out of them. I also can’t read a lot of poems at one sitting, and keep the images distinct in my mind. Trying to sit down and read ten or twenty poems by five different authors at one time became an interesting exercise in surrealist free association. My brain was skating wheelbarrows across frozen ponds in the springtime and pondering the tragedy of war. In short, I’ve forgotten how to read poetry. I found myself lapsing into the old academic sloppiness of skimming text. While that may work fine for sociology texts, it just doesn’t make any sense for poems.
I’ll contend that at least part of this is because The Contemporary American Poets selected just aren’t that good (or at least aren’t my style). I can largely maintain that theory because there was the occasional poem or poet that really grabbed me. The fact that I paid attention to the Ginsberg stuff is really no surprise. I also really got a kick out of Gregory Corso’s poem Marriage. If nothing else, the book served as good mental discipline, and a chance to read the stuff against which the “Beat” poets were reacting. Reading the biographical notes in the back, I can’t help but notice that nearly every single author had a post as a literature professor at some university or other. And their stuff reads as overly-academic puffery.
The trap in editing a volume entitled “The Contemporary American Poets” is that the book came out in 1969, and there’s nothing much contemporary about it by now. I do wonder what a “currently contemporary” poetry volume would look like, and whether I would like it more or less.