Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Reading Part 3

Yesterday was a deliciously book-filled day. After work, I walked up to the library. I returned Autobiography of Red; I'd meant to re-read it carefully, but after re-reading a few sections, I decided not to. While I appreciate that it's a very smart, very unique book, and while the story did stick with me, the poetry of it, the language of it, didn't really connect with me. So I returned one book and picked up four more, including Czeslaw Milosz's Selected Poems which I absolutely love, then I took the bus up to Clintonville to spend my gift certificate at Areopagitica Book Store. Oh, I love that place! It's a used bookstore, in all the best ways: it smells of old books, it's usually empty, you can stumble across all kinds of hidden gems, and the proprietors lurk quietly and can tell you where anything in the store is. I got there right around 6:00, only to see on the sign that they are supposed to close at 6:00 on Mondays. The door was still open and the shelf of clearance books still on the sidewalk, so I walked in and asked if they closed at 6:00 and the man behind the desk said he'd decided to stay open that evening. So I wandered a bit, picked up Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet (which I've read before but need to own) and The Delicacy and Strength of Lace, letters between James Wright and Leslie Marmon Silko, and I ordered a copy of A Wild Perfection (the collection of James Wright's letter that I have from the library right now). I've always enjoyed James Wright's poetry, but reading the letters is just so interesting; I'm maybe a third of the way through the book and there are so many things I'd like to go back to read again and think about.

Then I had a nice coffee break with Sam, then went home, had a veggie chili dog and a spinach salad for dinner, then read and read some more. I am so in love with Milosz! If there is one critique I could make of my assigned reading in college, it is the almost complete lack of poetry in translation. I never read Neruda or Paz or Akhmatova in college; I've discovered all of them later, through friends or my own reading. I did read and fall in love with Rilke (thank you, John Wylam, for including one of the Elegies in the English 205 course packet), but his is the only translated poetry I remember reading in college. Anyway, Milosz is wonderful: poignant and smart and visual and just altogether lovely. So I read a bit of that, then I finished the novel I started last week: The Shadow Lines, by Amitav Ghosh. The second half was better than the first. The whole novel jumps around frequently in time, all through the childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood of the narrator; it can be confusing, especially early on until the reader gets a handle on the basics of what happened when and where. By the second section, one plot point has been resolved and the reader has a decent grasp on the overall arc of the story, so the second half reads easier than the first. I enjoyed the book, and it's a worthwhile read, but not super-outstanding.

I need to write. I want to write. I get ideas for poems, but I am embroiled in some strange sort of conflict with myself over actually sitting down to write them. I think on one hand, I want to save my writing for once I get to grad school, as though I'm afraid if I write a lot this summer, I won't have anything to say in the fall. On the other, I feel like I really should get into the habit of writing, but I'm dragging my feet against that obligation; I don't respond well to pressure or obligations, and telling me I "should" or "have to" do something is one of the best ways to keep me from doing it.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Emily, I came over here following your "On Writing" category links, and wanted to say that Milosz and Akhmatova are two of my most favorite poets, their work a bottomless well of insight and teaching not just about poetry, but about life. Rilke and Neruda too. It makes me happy (and reminds me of myself) to see these honest glimpses into your self-discovery as a writer and reader.