A friend of mine is in a poetry class. She is writing some lovely poems, strong voice, interesting thinking. I wanted to know what her teacher was having her read. And immediately thought about the poems I thought she should read. Of course should is not a word that applies to poetry.
I quickly googled Howl because I feel it is a seminal American poem and (sort of) forced her to listen to my bad reading.
As I was reading I heard it the way I imagined she might hear it. She is from an entirely different generation than me and even further from Allen. Those first few lines...
This was a poem that lit me up as a bored teenager. But why? Did I yearn to be destroyed by madness? Did an angry fix sound like fun? I know I was yearning for an ancient heavenly connection but why did I think this would get me there?
I really loved those Beat Boys. I really thought they were onto something. My feelings for them have become complicated with age and revelations of my own. Even without the presence of my friend I've wondered about my inspirations. Why did I like The Emperor of Ice Cream? It's fairly crude. Why did I did I like This Is Just To Say? No body better be stealing my plums.
A few nights later I was reading a book that mentioned The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Google. And again I was reading about wandering...
I loved that poem although not as much as Howl. I thought it was seminal but worried that my friend might think I was in danger of drifting off into the night. HA.
Lines from poems and songs and writing in general have always framed my thinking. My journals have as many quotes as my own writing. Possibly. Not because I don't think I say thing well but so often someone captures my feeling so precisely. Perhaps Joni most often.
I did wander a few reckless streets. I was searching. I did think hours of drinking and smoking and snorting were filled with connection. The grinding jaws. The hacking coughs. The stumbling to the bathroom time and time again. So full of shadows and silliness. I don't regret any of it but neither would I recommend it.
I am reading Frantumagia, which is an ironic book to read. It's like peeking into the files of a writer who has made such an effort to not have her personality connected to her books. And she has very good reasons. She feels the writing should stand on it's own merit. Now I'm reading her letters in which she explains this over and over and I feel ... wrong. But it's making me smile. Because I love what she's saying. In her first letter she writes to her agent regarding a book of hers...
...if it does not have, in itself, thread enough to weave, well, it means that you and I were mistaken; if, on the other hand, it does, the tread will be woven where it can be, and we will only have to thank the readers for their patience in taking it by the end and pulling.
Sentences like that stop me in my tracks. I have to read them over and over. I go back to read them even after I finish the book. I search for them years later. Even the punctuation fascinates me. I'm not a student of punctuation. Clearly. I've changed writing because I fear making punctuation errors in long sentences. Sadly. I did warn my friend to not use ellipsis in the dubious but defendable way I do.
I have read The Neapolitan Quartet but none of Ferrante's earlier book, which of course now I want/need to read. Books lead to more books.
I do buy books because a specific writer wrote them. I just ordered the new Joan Didion from both Amazon and Powell's. Accidentally but obviously I was hyper to read her new writing, which I understand is actually full of old notebook writing. Another chance to sneak inside the thinking of a person I will never know but for whom I feel enormous affection because of their words. I always want to know them. Stripped as I am.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn between bitterness and hope turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse. I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else left to read there where you have landed, stripped as you are.