Over the winter I read A.R. Ammons’ The Snow Poems. A couple poems each morning, with tea. I liked them a lot: friendly diaristic ramblings (writing just to write, it would seem) full of midlife anxiety, daily weather reports, and his signature goofball wordplay: “miltown can do more than / Milton can.” And enough profound moments to fill a commonplace book: “The perfect journey is / no need to go.”
At the same time, I read (am still reading) Hilda Morley’s Cloudless at First. After hearing her name for decades, I finally checked her out. Humane, painterly (her colors are amazing), rich in experience and conscience and tradition. I particularly love her tribute to D.H. Lawrence, “Nottingham Landscape,” and her memoir-esque poem about H.D., “A Voice Suspended.” At the end of her long poem about Lorca, “A Thread of Scarlet,” I burst into tears.
This led me to Lorca—another of my blind spots. I read “Suites,” translated by Jerome Rothenberg, and was utterly charmed by these short, magical poems: “in their gold caverns / the sirens / try out a song / that the water can sleep to.” Or: “I want to die where / it’s yesterday!” Or: “Singing / I will see the one star / that doesn’t exist.” Isn’t that the dream of every poet?
In the spring I reread (for the third or fourth time) James Schuyler’s The Crystal Lithium. And, for the first time, William Carlos Williams’ “Poems 1949-1953” (from volume two of his Collected Poems). You can’t do better than either of them.
Now it’s summer, and I’m actually going through a big book purge—deciding which to sell, which to give to students. In the midst of this divestiture, I’ve started reading, with a kind of glee, Lee Israel’s biography of Dorothy Kilgallen. Girl reporter, glamorous game show panelist (What’s My Line?), affair with gay singer Johnnie Ray, possibly murdered in connection with JFK conspiracy—what a life!
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