Thursday, November 04, 2004


Things I'm reading right now:

A.R. Ammons, A Coast of Trees. Winner of the 1981 National Book Critics Circle Award, with big metaphysical poems like Swells and Easter Morning. Lyrical poetry of his later years.

G.C. Waldrep, Goldbeater's Skin
Actually I'm re-reading this one. Fiercely intelligent, interior, hierophantic. Opens doors to linguistic risk. Provokes a desire to read the dictionary from cover to cover and find obscure words to use purely for their evocative, aesthetic properties. Love it. Poet's poet.

Billy Collins, Sleeping Alone Around the Room
One couldn't imagine a poet more different in style and approach Waldrep. Accessible, charming, brilliant. A romp. If humour columnists Josh Freed (Montreal Gazette) or Gary Lautens (Toronto Star) wrote poetry, this is how they would write. Actually, I find a lien to Italo Calvino. In particular, Mr. Palomar.

John Ciardi: How A Poem Means (© 1987,second edition, co-authored with Miller Williams).
A delightful read, if you haven't read it. I had the good fortune to pick this up at a second-hand bookstore. Written as a text book/anthology for undergraduates, it seems designed for poets who want to/have to resharpen their critical/editorial pencils outside of an MFA program (My pencil dulled by lack of use… well, that metaphor breaks like a pencil under scrutiny…switching horses in midstream, as Dylan (Bob) put it!) . How A Poem Means is informed by a passion for literature and sympathy for poet as creator, the writer being not just an academic but an excellent translator & pretty fair poet himself. Ciardi selects poems - as a semelier would fine wines -- from all over the canon - traditional ballads, poems from the renaissance, modern, to discuss their tastes & textures from point of view of symbolism, language, rhythm, meter, etc. I love the discussion of rhyme in English (as compared to Italian), language vs. diction, hard and soft diction, (which I'm reading right now). A great way to revisit old favs, like Ode to a Grecian Urn or Rime of the Ancient Mariner and discover newer poets (Nemerov, XJ Kennedy for example). Can't say enough in praise of this wonderful book….

2004 Best American Poetry: So far have only read a few selections of this anthology guest edited by Lyn Hejinian… includes Ron Silliman, Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein of the "langpo" movement (a group I'm extremely curious about), a bunch of younger poets, older poets. A much more "kicked back" collection than the 1994 edition edited by AR Ammons, also on my shelves… although that one includes, curiously enough, Hejinian.

George Elliott Clarke: Whylah Falls, a series of dramatic monologues that is itself a drama, by this acclaimed black writer from Nova Scotia. My reading of this one was interrupted by summer teaching & other things; it needs to be read like a play script, so I'll have to start over. Was very impressed by the sensual, colloquial yet learned beauty of this man's language. Somehow though, the work's preoccupations are tangential to my own - a kind of romanticized, sepia image of an earlier time - so I didn't resume. But definitely will…

Lots of good stuff on my shelves waiting to be delved into, including
Best American Essays, 2002
American Linden by Matthew Zapruder
Jorge Louis Borges, Selected Poems (bilingual edition) edited by Alexander Coleman and translated by a dozen or so poet/translators
Don McKay, Camber. selected poems by a marvellous Canadian poet who I hardly know as yet. Speaks of poetry - or those first inspirations -- as "the tiny sea in the ear/ and the moth wing in the mind, which wait."
Susan Gillis, Volta
A.R. Ammon's Garbage.
Hat on a Pond, by Dara Wier
Mary Oliver, New & Selected Poems Volume One
Side/Lines, A New Canadian Poetics, edited by rob mclennan
Anne Simpson, Loop, this year's Canadian Giller Prize winner

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