Saturday, November 05, 2005

Loopless, Socratic, Scattered. Not Bad.

I learn from Josh Corey's blog that Collected Poems are now out, or will be soon, from Kenneth Koch and Ted Berrigan. There was a time, ten years ago, when I'd have been on the review-copy list for each of these. I'd have known they were coming, I'd have written about them for the Boston Phoenix or other newspaper (heck, I'd have hustled for a slot in the Times) and I'd have felt simply grand. Instead, I'm out of the loop--"Loopless," as the SNL version of George H.W. Bush used to say.

And I feel about that, what? A little sad, but not terribly so. Hard for me to work myself up about whether poetry is or is not reviewed in newspapers, since I neither read them now, regularly, nor engage in those antenae-rubbing rituals of reference ("Did you see X's piece in the Sunday Times?") that mostly serve to verify one's place in the cultural anthill. I wouldn't mind writing about either of them. In fact, I did a piece on Berrigan and Alice Notley for Parnassus some years ago that I still think does both justice. But it's hard for writing or publishing to give me the immediate rewards that teaching does these days, or even the explicatory thrill of working things through, new things, that I've had in my Romance Fiction and Teaching Poetry classes recently. (We did a collective close reading of Robert Duncan's "Often I am Permitted to Return to a Meadow" two weeks ago--the first time I've ever gone through that poem inch by inch, alone or in company--that practically moved me to tears. I was, of course, wired on Sudafed at the time, but still! I hope someone took notes.)

When I'm feeling grand I tell myself that I've reached a new, Socratic stage in my career: that is, I teach viva voce, in manner of ancient philosophers, rather than through print. In less self-congratulatory moods, I say that I'm just getting lazy and disorganized, putting my writing aside because it's hard and takes time. Both are probably true. Get me through the rest of this three-course quarter, and we'll see what's what, eh?

Currently reading: Something Like Love, Beverly Jenkins
On the earbuds: Nada. Too distracting. I have kids to keep an ear out for today.


Mark Scroggins said...

Lazy? Socratic? Hey, I know this feeling -- it's midlife crisis! Forget about poetry -- go buy yourself a sportscar, greybeard!

You're right that all too many of the things one writes are "antennae-rubbing" nods; but I think you've done well in steering mostly clear of that: yr Parnassus catalogue (which would make the core of a pretty damned good book...I'd rather read it than Bill Logan's) is a series of serious, playing-up-to-no-in-crowd commentaries. If you've slowed down, it's cuz it's harder to write better and deeper.

And who can write during the 3-course term, anyway? (He said, in fear & trembling at the prospect of spring semester...)

E. M. Selinger said...

A sportscar? I'd settle for a new pillow. A good night's sleep will do wonders. Or maybe a bottle of something inspiring. An Islay malt, for the weather we're having, I think.

So what book would those Parnassus pieces be the core of, anyway? I should know, but I'm too damned tired (or sober) to figure it out. Grrrr...