I’m coming around to the terrifying fact that there are people out there reading this thing. So I’m trying hard to post as much as I can, because I really do want to blog unto others as I would have them blog unto me. I use the “reasoning” that I’m too cool or whatever to post stuff like what I ate today or read today or what I think about North Korea, but the fact is I do read and listen to music and get things out of conversations and think about other places other than La Mirada or Hawaii. And I’m not really cool at all. If you think so, the drugs I’ve been putting in your lemonades are working.
Now the problem is I have no time. That’s a famous American dictum which I only give in order to spare you of the perhaps even more notorious American Excuses Which Will Definitely Prove My Point And Possibly Make You Feel Like A Nosy Weasel. But to compensate, I will post this one thing I used to do, which takes virtually no time (meaning about forty six minutes), called stuff I’m reading now by people who can actually write. Sorry if you are put off by the self depreciating title. Know that I am aware of what false humility is and how it is snatching our people up.
This time, I will include a brief explanation of why I’m reading them. Mostly because they are basically all poetry books that normally like to remain kind of nebulous, and I like to cause trouble.
This is a great series which is self explanatory so I will waste no time with further explanation of what the series is, because I have faith that you are all smart people. What is likely less obvious is how big of a deal it is that Yusef Komunyakaa is the guest editor, because he’s a fascinating individual (well, I don’t know that for sure. But his story and poetry are certainly fascinating) and his whole premise of putting together this volume was to prove to the world that American poets still have a clear message to say and not just obscurantist, existential modernist, esoterroric “maps to nowhere.” Refreshing to say the least. I’ve also recently got the 2003 version. They go up to this year, but I’m only buying things in used bookstores right now.
The thing about having a novel that everyone calls that author’s magnum opus (“Catcher In The Rye”), is that people end up only reading that one book, and then they think they have the author figured out. I do this and realized it to be stupid for several reasons. I will list two of them. 1. I don’t even have myself figured out. How can I possibly hope to define someone else’s literary voice, let alone personhood by one book alone. 2. If anyone can write, they tend to spread out good stories and very different characters and aspects of themselves in different bodies of work. If someone puts everything in them worth reading into one story, I’d count it as a miracle. A sad miracle. People tell me that about Allen Ginsberg and Howl. But his other work, arguably, is not anything less than very good. It’s just not going to be as cohesively legendary as Howl. But just because you discovered In-N-Out doesn’t mean you can’t go to Burger King every once in a while. Hmm, except that it does… bad example. The point is, here, you’ll find a J.D. Salinger that you don’t know, to the point where you realize, you never knew J.D. Salinger, and his prose is every bit as masterful here, in wonderful diversity.
Jorge Luis Borges has powers of literature that aren’t commonly held within normal standards of measurement. The large words he uses are miniscule compared to the ideas they convey. Every story so far that I’ve read in this collection has used the word “labyrinths” in it at least once, and pertaining quite significantly to each individual work, so it’s all related, and thematically, they deal with enormous and mind-bending modernist themes that make Inception look like a nursery rhyme. I have an online dictionary beside me as I read, but it’s always worth it. “The Garden of Forking Paths” is a good place to start.
Charles Simic walks a thin line between clear narrative function and amorphous meaning, but his finely tuned aesthetic certainly leaves images in my mind like perhaps no other poet does. He creates worlds and situations and rules and timescapes in his head and only reveals a small sliver, keyhold crack, whispered line to the reader, each poem a different dream he’s ruminated over. This is especially evident in his prose poetry, and while the ones in this collection are very standard format (whatever that means), it’s all mostly based on his experiences of his home in Yugoslavia, and provide an interesting look into this man’s madly inventive eye on the world.
Soon Joel and I will be reading and discussing a book by Madeleine L’Engle about art and the church, and perhaps I’ll post about that, if anything comes out of our yacking. Go forth and keep America literate and interesting. Or if not, at least well rested.