Dear Reader, it’s Friday. The world we live in and life in general have me feeling quiet and half-hearted, but here I am.
[Editing to say that this image ===========> which I can’t get WordPress to let me label today is called “The Spider” by Nikolas Gysis, via wikimedia.]
I’ve been reading My Poets by Maureen McLane, a really lovely, super smart volume of what I’d call meditative criticism. In a variety of styles and from a variety of vantage points, McLane writes about the poets “who, in possessing her, made her” (quote is from jacket text). She does this, many times, through close reading of poems, but—unlike a lot of literary criticism—her close readings take into account the way these poems and poets have moved through her life as scholar, poet, and human being. It has become a VIB for me (Very Important Book). I recommend it wholeheartedly.
I’ve also been reading Fanny Howe:
Come, tinkers, among droves of acorn trees
Be only one third needful, O
Name things whereby we hope
Before the story scatters. A cardinal
Is red for fever where you passed
(from Introduction to the World ; sorry for linking to the Death Star, but could not find it anywhere else)
I’ve been remembering Buson’s poem (short enough to memorize, therefore no need to read), one of my all-time favorites, on this second day of autumn:
(Robert Hass, trans.)
I’ve been writing, early mornings, earlier than ever, actually, since high school starts at 7:10 (!) and I now have a high-schooler (!). The world’s on fire, and there are some amazing world’s-on-fire poems circulating out there, and I would like to write some amazing world’s-on-fire poems. But I’ve been writing poems of the interior: mindscapes, emotional landscapes, questions of how to live. Sometimes I wish there existed a switch I could flip—turn off poems of the interior, turn on poems of public life. Alas, no switch. Still, yesterday I was comforted reading this interview with MacArthur Fellow, Maggie Nelson. In it she says,
“At the end of the day, maybe I’m old-fashioned in thinking that you just don’t get to choose what you’ve got in you to give. You’ve just got to do what each book demands.”
Or what each poem demands.
She also says:
“(T)he work eventually tells you what needs to be in it for it to work, and it has to have what it has to have.”
We know this already, right? But it’s nice to have a reminder. And from a MacArthur Genius at that.
Here’s a poem, a masterful conceit, a world’s-on-fire poem, a necessary poem, a heart-breaking poem, by Nikki Giovanni:
Happy weekend & thanks for reading.