Wednesday, June 15, 2005

At St. Peter's Gate

This came earlier today, and is to good to languish overnight. Comments to follow tomorrow.

Dear Eric,

Need I say how much I've been enjoying your bloggery? As I've mentioned to Scroggins, it's been like Gatorade for my aching electronic limbs. Ah, now that's refreshing!

Though it's nearly a witty aside, your comment, "Sadly, between gradeschool fantasy fiction and collegiate modern poetry classes falls The Shadow of realism, killing such romance," set me to thinking. I think this progression - or obstruction - is inaccurate, at least from my experience. In fact, if it weren't for gradeschool fantasy fiction, I don't think I would ever have become involved with poetry. Furthermore, I think fantasy - & of course sci-fi - provide a cipher for the difficulty you, Mark, Mike, Norman & everybody has been talking about.

Whoops! That was actually the point I was trying to make--that IF the Shadow falls, poetry withers, and alas, in terms of books assigned in grade school, fall it does, more often than not. A problem to address elsewhere. Now, back to you in studio:
Let me plot it backwards, rather than forwards: nearly all the most engaged readers of fantasy & science fiction I know are invested readers in poetry - as poets, teachers, reviewers, fans. Many of us are hard-pressed to choose between a favorite fantasy trilogy or American long poem. (Not to mention that two of the most inventive [& pleasurable!] such long poems - The Changing Light at Sandover & ARK - are, in essence, science fantasy.) I don't think these are coincidental. I think reading deeply in sci-fi & fantasy prepares one for reading seriously in poetry. (You could just as easily have quoted from the Mighty T. as from Susan Cooper in your note; & Philip Pullman inaugurates [that's the right word for it] The Amber Spyglass with verses from Ashbery & Rilke, c'mon!)
For me, deep, steady, constant reading in fantasy & sci-fi connected me as a teenager to progressive rock (& Metal, natch.) Jon Anderson's lyrics in Tales from Topographic Oceans, not to mention the mystical/quizzical lyrics for "Close to the Edge," make Ashbery seem perfectly legible, not to mention the lucidity of, say, Kerouac's blues or Ginsberg's LSD poems, or you name it. I've made no secret of the fact that I started writing poetry because I wanted to write lyrics for prog. rock operas; my first favorite poets were Pete Townshend, Ian Anderson, Neil Peart, & the collective Krewes of Metallica & Iron Maiden. (I read Dune in order to understand the song on Maiden's Piece of Mind devoted to the book. Metallica got me reading Lovecraft. But Rush got me reading Shakespeare & Coleridge - but never Ayn Rand!)

Which is all to say, when as a freshman at the University of Chicago, I walked into 57th St. Books & purchased a copy of The Waste Land & Other Poems, in the rack-size HBJ paperback, with the dyspeptic portrait of TSE geening out at me, all because John Tipton, who lived in my dorm, mentioned that he had been reading it, I was already prepared for its discombobulations. I'm not saying I "got" it right away (or have yet), but I'm saying that its transparent difficulty was in no way dissuading to me toward reading it. (I had bought a copy of Finnegans Wake, and leafed dutifully through it, because it was mentioned in a Triumph album, after all.)

OK, my geek pedigree is all too clear, but I think difficulty has many shades to it - some of them pedagogical, which can appear unwantedly negative - but some of them personal & intuitive, & not altogether unpleasant, oftentimes sought after.

My intensive Science Fiction & Religion class begins on Monday - so, I might just be revving myself up here.

In any case - loving the Blog...

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