Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pleasure Delayer

Have you ever had a book that you were so psyched to read that you forced yourself to do a dozen other things in order to permit yourself the pleasure of reading it?
Well, all of my to-do list is crossed off and Jericho Brown, here I come.

I saw Jericho read with Terrance Hayes exactly two weeks ago at Cleveland State University. Having been a Terrance Hayes fan for years, the reading has been marked on my calender since Michael Dumanis told me about it many, many months ago.

Starstruck and thinking 99% about hearing Hayes read, I had no idea that Jericho Brown was going to deliver one of the best readings I have ever attended. You know, that sort of reading that makes you want to go home, lock your doors, and write for a month straight? I could list a bunch of adjectives describing the entire reading, but I don't think I could ever manage to do it justice.

The only word that comes to mind is duende.

Please, Jericho's debut book, has burned a hole in my bag. I have used this fire to motivate me to finish reading other books on my self-inflicted reading list. And now, I have finished a few novels that somehow escaped me in my education (Slaughterhouse-five, White Noise) as well as several poetry books that have been collecting dust on my shelf (not because they are bad, but because I buy more books than I can read).

Off to Jericho Brown reading heaven I go. I will post some highlights of the book as soon as time permits. Until then, I hope you have a new book to read that rocks your poetry world.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Thoughts on the Writing Life

Sometimes I feel really alone about my need and love for poetry. I have friends who are writers. And I teach so much good stuff. But still, you know what I mean? If I didn't have access to the computer on a daily basis I would barely get my daily poetry fix. I know I constantly pull this "I'm an only child"ranting and looking back over my recent blogs, it wouldn't take a psychologist to analyze my aesthetic loneliness. Is this just post-MFA? I hate to think I have to be in a workshop to feel as if I am a writer.

Much of the reason I pursued an MFA was to be part of a support system of writers. I loved every single assignment and class. I'm not saying I didn't learn anything, but being around writers who were consistently producing work and talking about it...well it was just what I needed and need.

On the back cover of APR's Jan/Feb issue is an excerpt from a speech Stanley Kunitz gave in 1994. I have read it over and over and will post some of the excerpt.

Poetry, I have insisted, is ultimately mythology, the telling of the stories of the soul. This would seem to be an introverted, even solipsistic, enterprise, if it were not that these stories recount the soul's passage, through the valley of this life-that is to say, its adventure in time, in history.

If we want to know what it felt like to be alive at any given moment in the long odyssey of the race, it is to poetry we must turn. The moment is dear to us, precisely because it is so fugitive, and it is somewhat of a paradox that poets should spend a lifetime hunting for the magic that will make the moment stay. Art is that chalice into which we pour the wine of transcendence. What is imagination but a reflection of our yearning to belong to eternity as well as to time?

Poets are always ready to talk about the difficulty of their art. I want to say something about its rewards and joys. The poem comes in form of a blessing-"like rapture breaking on the mind," as I tried to phrase in my youth. Through the years I have found this gift of poetry to be life-sustaining, life-enhancing, and absolutely unpredictable. Does one live, therefore, for the sake of poetry? No, the reverse is true: poetry is for the sake of the life.