Friday, May 7, 2010

Summer Reading, etc.

In some ways it's odd to think it's only May 7th and I'm already settling into my summer schedule. I went out with a couple friends on Wednesday (celebrating Cinco de Mayo and the end of the semester - they had both finished that day), but other than that, I've been cleaning, reading, and working on thesis poems. I realized yesterday that I have a lot more poems I would consider putting in my thesis than I'd previously been aware of; that's a good thing, but it makes me really start thinking about what I want it to be "about".....that crazy question: "what is this poem about?"

I also finished reading An American Childhood today, and I liked it. Annie Dillard's writing is intelligent and lovely, and the story has such wonderfully observed details. Most of it didn't really grab me emotionally, but there was one part I wanted to quote:

"As a child I read hoping to learn everything, so I could be like my father. I hoped to combine my father's grasp of information and reasoning with my mother's will and vitality. But the books were leading me away. They would propel me right out of Pittsburgh altogether, so I could fashion a life among books somewhere else. So the Midwest nourishes us (Pittsburgh is the Midwest's eastern edge) and presents us with the spectacle of a land and a people completed and certain. And so we run to our bedrooms and read in a fever, and love the big hardwood trees outside the windows, and the terrible Midwestern summers, and the terrible Midwestern winters, and the forested river valleys with the blue Appalachian Mountains to the east of us and the broad great plains to the west. And so we leave it sorrowfully, having grown strong and restless by opposing with all our will and mind and muscle its simple, loving will for us: that we stay, that we stay and find a place among its familiar possibilities." (pg 214)

That really resonated with me and my experiences as a child who read a lot. I also liked her matter-of-fact statement that Pittsburgh is the far eastern edge of the Midwest; I think I'd have to agree.

I feel like there are really two midwests: one that was defined by the industry on the Great Lakes and includes OH, MI, IN, IL, WI, and MN and might stretch down to also include states like WV and KY which are not usually considered part of the Midwest, but which have more in common with it than with any other area (western PA and western NY also fit here, culturally and economically, but the states as a whole aren't midwestern); and a second, more westerly, Midwest with which I'm less familiar, one which includes KS, NE, MO, IA, and the Dakotas. Yeah, so that was a tangent. Sorry. We debated this in my nonfiction class this spring, and I am kind of obsessed with mapping and places in my poems, so it's not utterly unrelated.

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