Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Best Way to Read a Poetry Anthology

From a letter from my friend Allen Sutterfield, from two summers ago (our copious correspondance, Vol. Umpteen):

....Do you know and or have in your library an anthology called: THE CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN POETS, American Poetry Since 1940, a Mentor paperback published in 1969 (!!), edited by Mark Strand? It's a very good collection. I recommend it, if you do not have it. I have also finally discovered the best way to read a poetry anthology: put it in the john and read a few poems at a time, preferably by one author, or a couple if only a single poem is included, ALOUD of course. The particular circumstance enables an unusual degree of concentration on 'the matter at hand,' so to speak....! I shit you not.

Anyway, if you don't have this anthology, I may send you a few photocopies of some of the poems in it. Often I have said in the last 15 years "Who's writing today?" There maybe no dominating presence like an Eliot or Pound but there are a hell of a lot of good poets writing--and this book itself is 35 years old! All those people in it are now in their 70's and 80's if still around. I think one fun activity for us in the coming year in our Poetry focus will be to root out and find which of these and of the many others since them who are writing today are worth following up--and then go find their actual books if possible.

We never followed up on that idea. If my friend were more tapped into Poetry Blog World or the internet, he wouldn't feel quite at such a loss. But we've gotta love him for this "johnny on the spot" suggestion... one I'm sure Leopold Bloom would have taken to.


James said...

Ever since I really began to think about what happens while one is reading on the john, or rather, what that person is doing while reading, I havne't had much inclination to pick up magazines or books just laying around the bathroom. The possibilities of what else might have happened while one was reading about Brad and Jen in US Weekly is more than I want to think about.

And, as for those people who get wicker baskets to hold them, it may work for some, but you ain't fooling me, no sir.

Brian Campbell said...

If it's the US Weekly you're talking about, it's all shit going down, so it wouldn't make much difference, I would think.