- Wallace Stevens: Selected Poems. John N. Serio, editor. (Knopf / Borzoi 2009).
- The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Gyurme Dorje, translator; Graham Coleman, editor (with Thupten Jinpa). (Penguin 2007).
Dear Readers, if you have not clicked through already to read Ed’s comment to my Chicken Shawarma post, click here. You owe it to yourself to do so. In reading Ed’s comment you will be introduced to a fine poet, a great soul & a man old not only in years but in wisdom. I only know Ed by way of correspondence–we met when I was Poetry Editor of the Wallace Stevens Journal & Ed submitted envelopes stuffed & over-stuffed with his poetry & cover letters as poetic as the poems themselves. Here are a couple more Mycue resources–a video & selection of Ed’s poems. I continue to be astonished by the poet’s hard-edged realism expressed in the humane language of one perpetually love-struck by the world.
- I Am a Fact Not a Fiction: Selected Poetry by Edward Mycue.
- It’s not the bending over, it’s the straightening up.
- Buying a walking stick. (Probably won’t need the little compass embedded in the top, but it’s nice to be oriented. (See No. 3. below.)
- Percodan creates a kind of mild fogginess that is not unpleasant, but it’s a fog you want to get to the other side of before you forget how to spell your name.
- It’s good to be in the room with the widescreen TV, but I actually like audiobooks of classic genre novels better. Graham Greene, George Simenon, Wilkie Collins (the two great novels1, not the hack work.)
- Having a moderately good excuse to be behind schedule grading my students’ essays.
It’s a truism in the poetry world that the big New York publishers don’t support poetry. The exception is W.W. Norton. I was thinking about this recently when I noticed that three books of poems stacked together on the corner of my desk were all published by Norton. (It’s oddly lovely the way objects collocate into meaningful constellations.) The books on the desk are: Alice Fulton’s Barely Composed, Kimiko Hahn’s The Narrow Road to the Interior1, and my old grad school friend Marilyn Chin’s Hard Love Province. Another collocation: All women. I don’t tend to read books of poems straight through, so I have been leafing & loafing through these three books from Norton, with great pleasure & enthusiasm. Not only is Norton publishing poetry, it is publishing very good poetry indeed.
I only came to know Hahn’s work recently, while looking at everything I could find by contemporary writers having to do with Basho. The book is in the form of a journal, shifting from prose to poetry. Of the three books, Hahn’s presents me with the most problems, formal & emotional. It’s not easy for me to get a purchase on Hahn’s forms–she seems to bend Basho to the breaking point–nor on the emotional tenor of the work: the writer turns Basho’s subtle monochrome into high-chroma abstractions. Where Basho is personal, Hahn is confessional. (The great American “confessional” poets of the mid-twentieth century were very important to me as both reader & writer.) The voice speaking in Hahn’s Narrow Road is ruthlessly honest & difficult. But not likable. Sometimes hectoring, sometimes confessional, it is also, like Basho’s voice, caught between the extremes of home & travel–both poets ill at ease sitting still while understanding, too, that movement from place to place does not solve the problem of how to live.
Marilyn Chin’s poems are more accessible than Hahn’s, at least in terms of syntax & lexicon, both of which are more stripped down in Hard Love Province than in Chin’s earlier work. (We were both students of Donald Justice, whose insistence on precision & surface clarity influenced a generation of students with widely differing styles.) Chin, like Hahn & Fulton, happily mixes high & low diction, the intellectual & the confessional, the confrontational & a capacious & compassionate generosity. In reading through Hard Love Province (right next door to Hard Luck Province?), what I feel most acutely is a wild & sometimes violent series of mood swings–from tender to angry. The tenderness tends to be directed at particular persons, whereas the anger is more general, more “political.” Continue reading “Disrupted Diction(s)”
William James, From Varieties of Religious Experience:
“I accept the universe” is reported to have been a favorite utterance of our New England transcendentalist, Margaret Fuller; and when some one repeated this phrase to Thomas Carlyle, his sardonic comment is said to have been: “Gad! she’d better!”
Did Albert Camus find inspiration for his most famous character, Meursault, in the figure of that errant nincompoop Julien Sorel from Stendhal’s The Red and the Black? 1 I cannot be the first to notice this genealogical line of descent, but I can’t remember ever having seen it remarked upon. (Not that I am anything like a scholar of the French novel.) Camus wrote in 1955, “I summarized The Stranger a long time ago, with a remark I admit was highly paradoxical: ‘In our society any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.’ I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.” 2 Julien’s problem is that he sees the nature of the game but cannot keep himself from being caught up in it. In any case, both characters face execution by the guillotine with courage, both have been read as modern Christ figures (Sorel is the son of a carpenter!) Both commit their crimes with a pistol & in a state of what we would now I think call derealization.
- Looking around the web after writing this, I find that John Leonard, reviewing a biography of Camus in the NY Times in 1979, compared Camus to Sorel, but not to Camus’ character Meursault. ↩
- Carroll, David. Albert Camus the Algerian: Colonialism, Terrorism, Justice. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. ↩