In Praise of Shortness

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Michael tagged me with a meme involving flipping to page 123 of the nearest book at hand. Apparently he got it from Ivy. It chagrins me to discover that none of the five books currently resting on my desk reach as far as a page 123. On further inspection, four of those five books happen to be by Pulitzer Prize winning poets. The fifth is by Joe.

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Help Me Find Poets

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When I was writing technical articles regularly, my blog was an invaluable tool. I could float ideas to a global audience and get great feedback that would help shape my thoughts before my writing went to press and international distribution. Given I have enjoyed dialog with a number of readers and writers whose poetic sensibilities seem similar to my own (Nick, Pearl, Michael, Collin, Carol and Jenni just to name a few), and given Pandora For Poetry doesn’t exist yet, I thought I might likewise solicit feedback on part of my reading list for my upcoming semester at Pacific. Here’s what I have so far:

  • B.H. Fairchild, Early Occult Memory Systems…
  • Robert Wrigley, In The Bank Of Beautiful Sins
  • Gregory Orr, Concerning the Book that is the Body…
  • Renate Wood, The Patience Of Ice
  • Li-Young Lee, The Winged Seed
  • Louise Glück, Ararat
  • Dorianne Laux, What We Carry
  • Joseph Millar, Fortune
  • Joan Aleshire, This Far

As well as a number of books (at least one each) from faculty members with whose work I am less familiar. I strongly suspect I will really like those books as well, but the ones above are an even stronger suspicion based on previous experience with the author.

So, given that list, what else would you recommend? Or do you think some other book by one of the above authors is stronger, or more in line with the rest? Or, if you’ve been following my blog for awhile and think you know what I like, what else might you recommend that has nothing to do with the above list, but still is something you think would inform my study of poetry? Or what do you like, that doesn’t have anything to do with what I might like, that you still think I just have to read?

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Cats Prefer Poets

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I’ve decided cats like poets, and not just because they’re warm and still while reading and writing. It seems poets like cats as well. I was sorry to hear of Michael’s loss today. Having grown up highly allergic to cats, I always thought I didn’t like them. Then Miranda came into our lives.

This morning, during meditation, she curled up on my lap. Afterwards, Val pointed out that she has been much more inclined to be close to me since I have been getting up early to write. I have been calmer, and more in touch with my poetic sensibilities (rather than my type-a technocrat sensibilities), and our cat can tell.

She’s a kind of barometer of consciousness on furry little legs. And, of course, she knows all the coziest spots in the house, suitable for reading, writing, or having a good wash with the tongue.

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Naomi Shihab Nye: 19 Varieties of Gazelle

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I must preface my thoughts on this book with these thoughts: I feel that in holding 19 Varieties of Gazelle in my hands, I am holding a piece of Naomi Shihab Nye’s heart. It is a heart that beats similarly to my own, pulsing with similar beliefs. For this reason, I feel strongly about this work — where it dazzled me, and where it did not. I must also admit that I am deeply skeptical of political poetry, a trait exacerbated by the contemporary barrage of bad political poems.

Robert Archambeau recently noted that far too few poets criticize each other authentically, that we in essence talk around one another because we inhabit a small community in which nobody wants to offend someone who might one day be reviewing your own work. I propose a very different reason — that poetry at its best is an inherently intimate form. Therefore neither do I want to tread on Naomi’s heart, nor do I want to gloss over the work with absent-minded approbation. Instead, I hope to impart some of the only real thing I own: my experience, and my reflection upon it.
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