Thursday, September 08, 2005

I seem unable to return to blogging as usual. Partly I'm overwhelmed trying to juggle a new teaching schedule with my bookstore job and dissertation obligations, while contemplating the academic job market to boot. Mostly, though, I'm consumed by indignation about the Katrina situation every time I go online. Read this eyewitness report of conditions on the ground there. And this will have you calling for the heads of FEMA and the androids at Fox News.

Still my mind does return by fits and starts to poetry. I was happy to finally get the copy of Linh Dinh's All Around What Empties Out that I'd ordered weeks ago. Composed of three chapbooks from earlier in his career, the book features electric and angry poetry I can get news about our current predicament from. On a different plane I'm glancing through the new Anne Carson book, Decreation: Opera, Essays, Poetry. My first impression is of a classically gorgeous mess, given the hodgepodge implied by the subtitle. More aware of her sly sense of humor after having heard her read some of this material in Vancouver. Some moving elegies for her mother. A thoroughly footnoted proper academic essay about literary representations of sleep: "Every Exit Is an Entrance." Poems dedicated to the oeuvre of Michelangelo Antonioni and his favorite star, Monica Vitti. There's "Lots of Guns: An Oratorio for Five Voices," which I remember vividly from Vancouver. A "screenplay" about Abelard & Heloise. The title opera, which takes title and theme from Simone Weil. Lots more. I like Carson's wit, the adroitness of her curiosity, her oddness. I wonder what the phenomenon of her poetry is about, though. Something about the way she reclaims the classical tradition in lively ways? I'd like to think readers are drawn to her unembarassed love for the modernist/high art tradition whose relevance is generally denied in an age divided between postmodern ricochet and aesthetic Republicanism. Weil, Woolf, Italian neo-realism (as "modernist" as 20th century film gets), Beckett: these are her lodestars in the new book, with Homer and Sappho always ready to swoop in from the wings to recharge the proceedings with blood and wonder. It doesn't hurt that Knopf has made each of her books into remarkably beautiful objects: Decreation is no exception, a ghostly silver-nitrate image with a touch of gold up front, all ashimmering behind. That describes the poetry too, I suppose.

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