Thursday, August 25, 2005


Feeling terribly scattered this morning--all this week, really. A mix of my usual start-of-the-school-year energy and optimism and my also-usual, by now at least, anxiety over all the projects left unfinished over the summer. Some unstarted, even. "The summer is over, the harvest is done, and we are not saved": that sort of thing. Easier to gather books than to read them, easier to read them than to write about them, easier to do anything--but anything--than write!

(Write what? Well, let's see: an essay on Norman Finkelstein--the poet, not the radical historian--; another on novels about poets; another on A. S. Byatt's Possession; a couple of short takes and book reviews. When I was younger, I could bang out such things in a few weeks' time. Nowadays, it takes that long to get the wheels in motion.)

A couple of the tasks ahead of me--the ones most relevant to this blog--have to do with my "Reading Poetry" and "Teaching Poetry" classes for the fall. In the former, I need to choose the poems to teach: this year I've ordered up the big new Norton Anthology of Poetry, but I haven't really the slightest idea what to do with it. A chronological survey? A course by topic, by theme? This will be the 20th time I've taught the course, so I need to do something new to keep myself engaged, but what? As for the "Teaching Poetry" class, it will be based more or less on the seminar I taught this summer, so that shouldn't be too hard to set up--but I fret, nevertheless.

OK: off to do something more or less useful, like wrap up the permissions for this long-a-comin' Ronald Johnson collection. As a thank you gift for all of you who've read along this far, here's a favorite, Ron-Johnson-like poem by James Merrill, whose auto-elegiac tone has nothing to do with why I'm posting it, I hope!

b o d y

Look closely at the letters. Can you see,
entering (stage right), then floating full,
then heading off - so soon -
how like a little kohl-rimmed moon
o plots her course from b to d

--as y, unanswered, knocks at the stage door?
Looked at too long, words fail,

phase out. Ask, now that body shines

no longer, by what light you learn these lines

and what the b and d stood for.

More soon,

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