Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2nd Verse, Different Than the 1st

As I come to the conclusion of the second cycle of my reading poets in an ABC manner, some readers may be curious as to whether I plan to begin a third cycle.  Frankly, it's none of your business & I would thank you not to pry into my personal affairs.  The relationship between blogger & reader is not without boundaries, you know.

Nice guy that I am, however, let me just say that I consider this reading experiment a mostly positive experience.  By narrowing the choices of what poet to read to a single letter of the alphabet, I spend less time deliberating, especially when I come to the inherently less poetic initials.  (If your last name begins with an I, for instance, research shows you probably should choose a line of work outside of poetry.)  This time-savings contributed to making this a 100 book year

Winnowing my selection process in this manner has also led me to read poets I woudn't necessarily have chosen at that particular point in my life--or, in some cases, ever.  For example, I probably wouldn't have read John Updike's Verse if I had more variety of U-poets on my shelf.  This experience alone has caused me to question my alphabetic course.

Whatever I decide, I doubt that I'll always post comments on everything I read, so just because I don't blog my opinion of Apollinaire's Alcools doesn't mean I'm not reading it (I'm not--I'm reading The Poet Assassinated) but rather, need I remind you, what I read is not your business.  Who are you--the NSA?  Recognize & respect the boundaries--please!

Truth is, instead of this rambling spiel, I'd planned to write a detailed essay comparing & contrasting William Stafford's Even in Quiet Places & The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, but it entailed far too much effort to say they aren't very much alike.  Besides, the Stafford title isn't one I'd recommend.  You'll like Stories That Could Be True, Stafford's collected early works, better.  Also, in lieu of the one I didn't write here, read Stafford's essays about poetics, Writing the Autralian Crawl, a book I enjoyed as a young poet, though even if you're a skin-sagging human fossil, you'll probably still like it. 

Whereas Stafford's poetry, unadorned with traditional poetic artifices, is deceptively simple, bombastic Thomas loves, as sullen leaves undie with sawn & splay sounds, his dogdayed adjectives all the numberless days of his cold, kind death, which makes his poems deceptively difficult.  (That, in case you're curious, is my non-existent essay in a nutshell, in which I could, as Hamlet says, "be bounded & count myself king of infinite space if not for these bad dreams," e.g., being stuck inside a nutshell.)  Thomas wrote a number of memorable poems--I have his reading "Fern Hill" on my iPod--as well as a good many forgettable ones, examples of which I've forgotten.

John Unland, legend has it, gave up a successful practice as a proctologist to become a poet.  Why is that funny?  Bottom line, too many of these poems--collected, edited & published posthumously--while showing flashes, seem unfinished.  That's my analysis, though in hindsight, perhaps I should say "half-assed,"  assuming it's okay to crack asinine proctology jokes.  But--& this is a big but--there are moments that The Sea Beneath the House makes me think:  How terribly sad to be an unknown poet, which, in the end, I'm already painfully aware of.

Mona Van Duyn--for the sake of my project, I hope Van Duyn is her last name--won the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for Near Changes.  Other than the title poem & maybe a couple others, I found myself mostly uninterested--except for her technique, in which she exhibits her skills as a craftsman.  Er, craftswoman?  Crafts-individual?  In particular, I tire quickly, if not angrily, of name-dropping poems written to, for, about other acclaimed poets of one's acquaintance, especially when the point is--I don't know--to tell everyone that Anthony Hecht lays a mean spread--as if those not invited care.

That's not to say there's nothing good to say about acclaimed poets.   Asphodel, That Greeny Flower & Other Love Poems may be my favorite book by William Carlos Williams.  If you're not familiar with this bibelot, then get it, read it, love it.  You can thank me later.  Williams shows the full range of his considerable poetic skills, as well as exercising a well-tuned, yet subtle funny bone.  I also recently enjoyed William Butler Yeats' Easter 1916 & Other Poems.  Thing is, I have several books by Yeats, half of which intimidate with their scholarly covers, but this Dover Edition is topnotch.  One buck for really great poetry!

Paul Zimmer's Big Blue Train is simply his best book.  If my calculations are correct, he refers to himself as the third person "Zimmer" only once thoughout 70 pages, which results not only in my unsolicited thanks, but some good poems like the angry, not quite elegaic "A Rant Against Losses," a title which doesn't disappoint with its awesome "piss on you, death, and fuck you" ending.  Put that on a sympathy card, Hallmark!

No comments: