As I approached the Forrest Green trailhead, I passed a group of musicians coming in. It's not every day you see a double-bass (uncased) being hauled toward the marshes. Some minutes later (after taking a brief water and write-things-down break), I rode west on the loop and heard them playing on/around a bench a couple hundred feet off the main trail. There was a white umbrella open -- the kind used to manipulate light during photo shoots. A woman and her dog stopped to listen to them.
The subject line's from Linda Pastan's "Misreading Housman", which begins, "On this first day of spring, snow / covers the fruit trees..." Last night's bathtub reading was the May 2001 issue of Poetry. The poem that grabbed me the most this time was Albert Goldbarth's "Maypurés" (which includes Brahe, parrots, dead stars, and travel journals in asking "What does one say / to a friend whose sorrow is somebody gone / beyond the level of breath, beyond / the bonds inside the atom?"). The pages I dogeared back in 2001 include page 100, which has this "fugitive piece" from Christian Wiman (this is before he became editor in chief):
As tired as I am of hearing mediocre poets praised and rewarded, I am more weary of hearing poets, especially good ones, lament their own neglect. The real work of poetry has almost always occurred outside of whatever inner circle of ordained poets and critics happens to hold sway at the moment. Poets should just shut up and work. Including this one. Or poets should think about giving it all up and going into the world in some different way. Including this one.
On related notes, this week's reading has also included Jessica Burstein's essay on academic envy and (via Mary) Terri Windling's collection of quotes on forgiveness and inadequacy.
ETA [6:18 pm]: Tweeters in Green Hills, Madison, and East Nashville are reporting snowflakes. @NashSevereWx has this to say:
A few of you are seeing snow. You aren't hallucinating. It's VERY cold aloft & above freezing at the surface. No cause for snow party/panic.— NashSevereWx (@NashSevereWx) 20 mars 2013
It can get so cold aloft that the precip starts to fall as snow and doesn't have time to melt to rain before it hits the ground. #Science!— NashSevereWx (@NashSevereWx) 20 mars 2013
Back in 1995, the poem that grabbed me the most was Linda Pastan's Nocturnal (I scrawled a note on the cover -- "broadside?" -- which means that I was thinking of creating a calligraphic copy of it, and I was also smitten with Robert B. Shaw's essay on Katherine Bucknell's edition of Auden's juvenilia -- especially this statement: "Here is one major lesson this book offers apprentice poets: read widely and imitate fearlessly."
It is the first issue in which Christian Wiman's poetry appears. The back inside cover is dedicated to Jane Kenyon, who had recently passed away: "Yes, long shadows go out / from the bales; and yes, the soul / must part from the body..." Claudia Emerson was publishing as "Claudia Emerson Andrews" then.
And this time around, the poem that resonates with me the most is Ted Kooser's "New Moon": I want to be better at carrying sorrow.
In other news, I rode around ten miles today on my bike. I got lost twice, walked up parts of two hills (not strong enough yet), walked down one (it was steep, and a schoolbus had just zipped by uncomfortably close to me, so I decided that hopping off and calming the heck down with my feet on the ground was the better part of valor), smiled at various doggies (including a standard poodle and some pug puppies), and listened to the bullfrogs in the marshy patches. They are loud. Thirteen days until spring...
... while reading this bit over at Mary's:
Last night I lay down with the second volume of Susan Sontag's notebooks, As consciousness is harnessed to flesh and, I confess, I was surprised that it really was a notebook, phrases and words jotted down, with the editor valiantly attempting to point out which parts were written in the margins and who was meant by her initialing scheme. I found it nearly impossible to read.
In an odd way, it made me glad to have this journal and my paper one. There were certainly some wonderful phrases and ideas in Sontag's notes and I hope she developed those in her for-public works. I'm glad to have both, to play here and on paper in separate ways, with different stakes, and be able to transition from one to the other.
Over the weekend, I also read Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling. The opening paragraph is a winner:
As humans, we've invented a lot of things. Most of these inventions are stupid and pointless (the Pet Rock; Count Chocula cereal; abstinence as a form of birth control). A lot of them are fun (video games; board games; head games). Some of them are convenient and make our lives easier (cheese graters; beer widgets; toilet brushes). And, every so often, a Truly Great Invention comes along that changes our culture and the very way we live on this planet (irrigation; the printing press; beer).