Monday, July 07, 2003

The holiday haze has yet to lift. The barbecue was great—a perfect sunny evening and nothing caught fire except what was supposed to (okay, I did discover that I have a lot to learn about grilling bacon over coals). Our house is looking more houselike than ever now that the stereo system has been set up and the TV is in the desired inobtrusive-yet-easy-to-watch position. We can even wheel it into the bedroom and watch TV in bed now if we like—unimaginable luxury.

The topselling fiction book here at The Bookery continues to be Harry Potter; the topselling nonfiction book is Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. I wonder how easy it would be for the computer to put together a poetry bestseller list. I've only sold a couple of poetry books—one was Billy Collins' Poetry 180 anthology, one was Donald Revell's My Mojave. On Friday, when I was working the poetry register (I'm up front today with the cookbooks and biographies) I got a chance to browse through the latest Iowa Prize winner: Peter Jay Shippy's Thieves' Latin. Great title, reminding me of a desire I once had to write a book called Cant—maybe I will yet. I don't want to worsen my already deplorable reputation for talking about books I haven't actually read, but a glance through made me wonder if this was the sort of book quietudinous writers might point at to indicate all that's bankrupt in the "experimental" tradition, just as Mr. Collins is one of my favorite straw men in the other direction. It reminds me a bit in tone of Ben Doyle's Radio, Radio—arch, often funny, striking lines and phrases burying each other through a convoluted syntax. Actually, it reminds me of any number of books by pomo young men—individual poems dazzle, but a number of them in succession start to numb. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this—why should we always want to sit down and read a book cover to cover? I almost never do this. I think this is a book I would enjoy very much if it were something I just scooped up, read a poem or two from, and then put down again.

I won't say more because I haven't read the book and it really is a bad habit of mine to post what other people could easily mistake for a review up here. Even though I defend my or anyone else's right to write extemporaneously and from the hip on their blog, I think that when it comes to talking about other people's poetry books I want to be a little more careful. I don't want someone to read the weakest poem in Selah (which one is it? if I only knew!) and talk about the whole book disparagingly in a forum where dozens of strangers will hear about it, now do I? This doesn't mean I'm going to restrain myself from talking about the buzz or position of a particular book I haven't read, any more than I would or could ignore the good or bad buzz surrounding a film (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, for example, is a great comic book that from what I hear is almost sure to be a travesty on the big screen).

Having said all that I now resolve to read Thieves' Latin so that I can talk about it. Because I suspect I might be able to say something larger about the particular sliver of "experimental" poetry that it occupies once I've read the whole thing.

A little kid in the children's section keeps pushing the button on one of those books that plays music, driving me mad—I believe it's the opening bars of "Waltz of the Toreador." What if all books had buttons that played music? Schoenberg for Minima Moralia? Wagner for Jorie Graham? Shippy has a poem called "Buzzcocked" so we know what his button should play, anyway. Send in your suggestions for other music buttons today!

No comments:

Popular Posts