Monday, July 13, 2009

Reading, or What I Do to Avoid It as Much as Possible

Knowing how much life was going to change this summer, I had every intention of doing as much prep work for my fall semester classes and for next year's Comps. This has been a largely fruitless endeavor. I've yet to start the longest novel I have to read for my Southern Lit course, but that's coming after getting through Absalom! Absalom! I think it shot my attention span, though, because I can't sit down and do the reading I need to get done or what to get done. Maybe I just needed a summer break more than I realized, but I also don't want to feel like I'm cheating myself, my degrees, and the seriousness with which I'm supposed to meet my art.

After the 100+ chapbooks for the spring's chapbook manuscript workshop (poems from that forthcoming, hopefully, maybe?), I'm more frustrated with poetry collections than should be possible. There are a lot of terrible ones being published, and it certainly made me "on-ree" about reading more than a few pages from a book unless it was truly remarkable. Either that, or I can't find what I need to be reading right now.

I haven't gotten out of this reading funk yet, but thanks to Keith, I bought Herbert Morris's What Was Lost from the terrible used bookstore Knoxvillians claim to be the best around. (Sorry, but Denton spoiled me. I miss you, Recycled Books.) It took much longer than it should have (re: poor attention span; thanks Faulkner), but after reading these expansive, relentless, finely tuned poems I'm starting to get excited about poetry books again.

I had to have encountered Morris's work somewhere, sometime, but getting involved in eight-, ten-, thirteen-page poems was taxing and educational and, ultimately, rewarding to see someone find home in the long poem, especially since I dabble in the "form." (Do I need the quotation marks? I don't know. I suppose I can/should make the argument it is its own entity.) His book is the combination of so many ideas about poetry that I hold close. The more elevated, later Levis-esque style. The voice and tone in the monologues. The ability to hold a sentence grammatical for an entire page. So many strategies to steal, if only I could sit still and write something.

*

"It is now I must write this, Mr. Hopper,
now I need to begin, before it fades,
dissipates, vanishes, drifts off to smoke
(a fitting image, as becomes apparent),
before whatever sense one shall have made
lies too scattered, too late, at least, to make
what Mrs. Carmody suggests I put down
even if nly for that sense of self
unique to each of us, no more, just that,
on behalf of what clarity, what light,
it may lend to one's own—her word—"perspective,"
though, of course, it shall not enlarge your own,
you whom these words shall leave just as you were,
unchanged, unmoved, perhaps not moved enough,
at a time you were unaware a student,
changed by your painting, moved more than he knew,
would write to you from ignorance, from need,
from that unholy ground where the two meet."

- Herbert Morris, "Approaching a City," What Was Lost

2 comments:

B. Marzoni said...

uh yeah. next time i see you, when we aren't gushing over your boy, we are talking about this book. this book.

Keith said...

Awesome. You should do what I did and grab his three others from Half or Amazon on the cheap. I hope someone will do a Collected sometime, as it shouldn't be monstrous, but I'm not holding my breath.

I agree. It's tough to get through some of those longer ones, especially in the last book, but they're certainly rewarding when you do.