Saturday, October 28, 2006

Reading BIdart's earlier poems collected in IN THE WESTERN NIGHT. In these poems, BIdart is as intense as he is now, but far less obscure. The first two books nakedly wrestle with Bidart's relationships to his parents. There are also extremely disturbing poems about insanity, the best of which is "The War of Vaslav Nijinsky," a dramatic monologue spoken by the early 20th century dancer and choreographer, as well as by his wife. Over 30 or so pages, it narrates his building awareness of his own insanity as it relates to his art, a subject that seems dear to BIdart. There is also the stunning "Confessional," an attempt at reconciling his anger at his deceased mother.

I find Bidart's intensity almost contagious. When I sit down to write after reading him, I feel crazed, almost out of control. Frightened of him and myself.

I love the newer books, especially "Stardust," but often find myself lost in the longer poems, which are usually tied to other texts. But, still, that palpable intensity remains. There is no poet like Bidart. The influence of Lowell is obvious, but no one has taken these things to quite the lengths Bidart has, even, perhaps Lowell (though Lowell's gruesomely confessional sonnets are probably more crazed, and destructive, than anything Bidart has done, or is likely to do).

Monday, October 23, 2006

Very saddened by the news, which I read on Josh Corey's blog, that Deborah Tall, poet, memoirist, and longtime editor of Seneca Review, has passed away. I never knew her, but came to admire her greatly through some correspondence we had about Seneca Review, and through her new lyric essay/memoir, A FAMILY OF STRANGERS, which I read over the summer. It's an astonishing book, a very powerful account of a search for origins after the Holocaust scattered her family. She seems to me to have been a very positive and generous force in the American literary community. I'm sad indeed to hear she's gone.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A busy weekend with dinners and a wedding and drinnks, then a lazy sunday today. Got a bad case of that feeling I always get on sundays where everything feels fake and distant. hate that feeling. It makes me wish for monday.

The Paul Hoover book is pretty good. Not much surprising in it, but a lovely set of aphorisms at the end. He's kindof a light surrealist or something.

Is everyone sending out their mannies? It's that time again. Write your checks, cross your fingers, and be good for goodness sake. Ugh.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I want to add another book to my weekend reading list. CURVES TO THE APPLE by Rosemarie Waldrop. I've read the first two of the three books collected here. I was never sure of how to relate to Waldrop's work, but I cracked this book about a week ago and something shifted in me. I was ready for it. It's astonishing, some of the best writing I've read in a long time, some of the most moving. I've found myself completely in the thrall of this book since I started reading it. I'm not feeling particularly articulate now, so I'm just going to type in one of my favorite pieces from the book. But suffice it to say that Waldrop has a way of rendering a discussion about the relationship between language and experience using very dense and tricky language that makes an utterly convincing argument about how we live in the world as thinking beings.

Here's part 20 from the second section of Waldrop's LAWN OF EXCLUDED MIDDLE, the 2nd book collected in this volume:

What's left over if I subtract the fact that my leg goes up from the fact thait I raise it? A link to free will or never trying as only our body knows to disobey an even trade to the sound of a fiddle. Something tells me not to ask this question and accept the movement. The speed of desire like a hot wind sweeping the grass or flash of water under the bridge. For doing itself seems not to have any volume: an extensionless point, the point of a needle out ot draw blood regardless.
First things first: my profile of Paul Muldoon is the cover story of the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (click here). This accounts for all of this summer's posts about Muldoon. I was working on this article, and trying to be secretive about it.

I've been laxed about my blogging, for which I feel bad, especially given that I put my blog in my P & W bio.

On the reading list for this weekend:
A book by Tom Bissell