Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Rather Daunting Pile of Books

I’m rather daunted with the massive pile of books I have across my desk and little table and window sill. It’s going to take a long time to make my way through this pile, which also includes several books I got this summer, before the BIG BUY began. And I have more on the way. MORE ON THE WAY. Oh my.

Well, I’ve finished the Padgett, and enjoyed it so much I ordered two more books from him, along with some Marjorie Welish and a book on the “second Generation New York School” that Kevin Killian recommended on I’ve found I like most everything Killian recommends.

I’ve gotten a little way into Bernadette Mayer’s Poetry State Forest. I’m quite envious of her ability, along with Padgett’s, of such an easeful voice. They make me want to relax. Maybe they even make me relax. Or help. Anyway, I’m feeling relaxed, even in the face of this daunting pile of books (and of course my usual work—why can’t people just give me a pass on all this work, so I can get to my reading?).

I’m also reading the current, MFA issue, of Poets & Writers. The only thing that’s really struck me so far is the little essay from Dean Young, from a forthcoming book of essays on poetry. That’s some interesting news of which I wasn’t aware.

Here’s another poem from Ron Padgett’s How to Be Perfect:

Elegy for No One

Time passes slowly when you’re lost in paradise,
then gradually slows down to a disappearance

but only for a moment, as if inside a footstep
that pauses on the stair to wait for its shadow

to catch up, for it had not yet vanished as
the other had, and you have the idea you

wanted to have had when
the candlelight took away the distance,

leaving only the residue of dimness and fading
falling to one side and off. Time goes past or you

go past time, the outcome is the same if you think
of it that way, but if you don’t think at all

the footstep will have existed on the stair
without you, as it always has, and perfectly so.


At 10/25/2009 4:28 PM, Blogger Christopher Phelps said...

I've never left a comment here, so first of all, hello John. (:)

I also enjoyed Dean Young's essay. I like how he wove history, lyricism, and advocacy (for a less theory-baggaged and more inclusive poetry) together. Some fearless sentiments from a poet I typically read as sardonic, ironic and postmodernly skeptical:

"Our poems are what the gods couldn't make without going through us. We were answering back, not making codes, not manipulating literary devices but offering thanks and accusation, mimicries of fundamental mysteries, the simplicity of urges that are always with us..."

"The highest accomplishment of human consciousness is the imagination, and the highest accomplishments of the imagination are empathy and the ability to love..."

I was refreshed. Thanks to Dean. I'll be looking forward to reading The Art of Recklessness, when it comes out next year.

I stole a quote he mentioned from Wallace Stevens, too, and added it to my Facebook list.

In other news, I'm enjoying the Padgett poems, particularly this one. Thank you for introducing me to his work.

And finally, that really is a daunting pile of books. I get tense just looking at it (them). All mine, after rising a few stories in height on my desk, get whisked to my shelves. Just a few feet away, close enough to draw my eyes over, for my daily hunt and browse through my own modest collection.

Best Wishes,

Christopher Phelps


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