Friday, April 24, 2009
A green flower on the ledge in front of my kitchen sink. The hummingbird below hangs in the window above the ledge. In this way I have managed lately to think toward what is green, what hums. I have managed to ignore the skiff of snow that we awoke to one morning, the sleet on another afternoon.
Did you know that there are websites devoted to hummingbird poetry?
A Route of Evanescence
by Emily Dickinson
A Route of Evanescence
With a revolving Wheel -
A Resonance of Emerald -
A Rush of Cochineal -
And every Blossom on the Bush
Adjusts its tumbled Head -
The mail from Tunis, probably,
An easy Morning's Ride --
I'm too easily distracted this morning, following a google labyrinth, after searching "Emily Dickinson" and "hummingbird." Sometimes the mind is a green flower, at other times, it follows the route of evanescence.
Came across this book in my flittings, though - which I've put on my summer reading list: A Summer of Hummingbirds by Christopher Benfey.
What I meant to write about today had more to do with library books, than with hummingbirds. The difficulty with library books is that I can't dogear them, or write in them. Particularly difficult is refraining from underlining things in them. And then there's the fact that the two books I've been reading this week appeared as holds at exactly the same time and I know other people are in queue for them. So the experience of reading them has a short of rushed quality about it.
The two books? The first is Reborn: Journals & Notebooks 1947-1963 by Susan Sontag. She hadn't meant for these to be published, so strange feelings accompany my hurried reading. Do the entries feel more real? less staged? more raw? We're told by her son in the introduction that she might have burned these given the chance. Reading this book is reading without permission, is reading with quick glances over the shoulder, is reading without getting caught, is reading a work saved from the flames. Mid-way through the journals: "Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle for one's private, secret thoughts - like a confidante who is deaf, dumb, and illiterate. In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could do to any person; I create myself." How incredibly intimate this is. I stopped cold here. I couldn't read on. Days pass. I did read on. I'm operating, you see, under the restrictions of a due date.
I've only half-read The Comfort of Things by Daniel Miller, a professor of Anthropology at University College London. I want to slow down my reading of this book. overdue charges may be incurred. A rather lengthy quotation from the prologue: "This book is the story of thirty people, almost all from a single street in South London. They are selected from one hundred individuals and households studied over seventeen months by myself and Fiona Parrott a PhD student in my discipline of Anthropology. It is also a book about how people express themselves through their possessions, and what these tell us about their lives. It explores the role of objects in our relationships, both to each other and to ourselves. We live today in a world of ever more stuff - what sometimes seems a deluge of goods and shopping. We tend to assume that this has two results: that we are more superficial, and that we are more materialistic, our relationships to things coming at the expense of our relationships to people. We make assumptions, we speak in cliches, but we have rarely tried to put these assumptions to the test. By the time you finish this book you will discover that, in many ways, the opposite is true; that possessions often remain profound and usually the closer our relationships are with objects, the closer our relationships are with people."
Suffice to say, that after reading the portraits in this book, one will never walk down one's own street quite the same way again. The approach taken is one that is utterly compelling and utterly humane. The portraits say as much, really, about the author as the subjects. As is his stated goal, Miller does indeed richly convey "something of the warmth of this humanity" found on a single street in South London.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I've been thinking that those books we're reading, re-reading, wanting to read, say as much about us as anything else. One of the books on my to-read (to buy) list, is Karen Solie's Pigeon. (I was reminded of this when I came across the above purse...). Others:
Want to read: The Marram Grass: Poetry & Otherness by Anne Simpson, Fountain Pens: History and Design by Giorgio Dragoni
Reading: The Winter Vault, by Anne Michaels
Re-Reading: White Ink, by Helene Cixous, Woman to Woman(interviews), by Marguerite Duras and Xaviere Gauthier, Script & Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, by Kitty Burns Florey
It's interesting to me how the books we're reading or want to read, sometimes prompt the re-reading of books on our shelves. What was it that has made me want to pick up the Duras interviews again? I know part of what attracts me to them is their rough and real quality. I am attracted to the square brackets. A telephone rings, a dog barks incessantly, the tape runs out, there are malfunctions, accidental erasures, a long silence is recorded, wine is sipped. There are digressions and sentences that trail off. Gauthier talks about the decision to leave them "exactly as they were said." In the afterword, there is a discussion of how Duras' comments on 'voice film' is intriguingly parallel to what goes on in the interviews. She says, "So they spoke in all directions...like birds, these voices are birds, it's like a sound of wings. They speak in all directions. I also had to...choose, from all that they were saying." This reading of several books at once, this listening to voices, from all directions, those moments that exist in square brackets, too. These voices that one absorbs, flutters and flaps and hops steadily toward. Yes, they are birds. I do hear the sound of wings....
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Sunday, April 5, 2009
A little while alone in your room
will prove more valuable than anything else
that could ever be given you.
It's been spring break this past week. Which means more interruptions than usual. Still, I managed a fair amount of writing, reading, thinking. Jotted down a lot of ideas in various notebooks. Sat in the red velvet chair, where I do my best jotting. I dipped into books by Lilburn, Cixous, Rumi. Maybe it's the onset of spring, the melting snow, but I feel like I'm bursting with ideas. (Won't jinx it by saying much more). Maybe it has something to do with reading the right combination of books at the right time....
...praise and wait for something to take you in.
Fecundity is the creative person's natural state. The more pertinent question is that of what inhibits it. Why does one get periods of broken productivity? What causes these interruptions? Productivity, it has to be said, has no reason to be broken except through adverse, exterior circumstances.