Monday, December 05, 2005

Aside from D&D derring-do and a movie of considerable heartbreak (The Squid and the Whale), Emily and I spent the weekend doing as little as possible. Now mostly recovered from holiday travels I have to recover from the end of the semester and the pile of things to read and grade that keep slipping over the transom.

Here are some blurbs I've written for the Bookery newsletter about books I'd like to see in people's hands here in Ithaca and beyond:

The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan, edited by Alice Notley with Anselm Berrigan and Edmund Berrigan. University of California Press, $49.95.

"Dear Margie, hello. It is 5:15 a.m. / dear Berrigan. He died / Back to books." No lover of contemporary poetry will fail to be delighted by the work of this most exuberant, scintillant, and transcendental of poets, who over the course of his too-short but amazingly productive life kept up dual citizenship in both New York City and "the incredible static of time-space-language."

Anne Carson, Decreation: Poetry, Essay, Opera. Knopf, $24.95

The author of Men in the Off Hours and Autobiography of Red returns with a veritable smorgasbord of the genre-bending writing that has made her perhaps the most popular and acclaimed serious poet writing in English today. The sparkling light of her intelligence illuminates the work and personalities of Simone Weil, Gertrude Stein, Abelard and Heloise, Michaelangeolo Antonioni, and Monica Vitti, while an elegy for the poet's mother creates a voice for the voiceless: "Your glassy wind breaks on a shoutless shore and stirs around the rose."

Brandon Downing, Dark Brandon. Faux Press, $15

For those who need poetry in their movies and movies in their poetry, Dark Brandon is a great night out: imagine a half-abandoned drive-in theater on the plains of North Dakota that alternates David Lynch movies with silent films and you'll have an idea of what reading this book is like. Energetic, angry, conveying both the investment we make in the movies' dream life and the disorientation of leaving the matinee to find broad daylight, for Downing poetry is "Not a great statue untouched by the caustic millennia" but an urgent response to the life we dream and the dreams we try to live.

Sarah Gridley, Weather Eye Open. University of California Press, $16.95

Heir to Dickinson and Hardy, Sarah Gridley writes poems of uncanny beauty like spotlights that change the ordinary world into rich and extraordinary words: "Blue makes a vast endeavor / for a spider’s verbing rungs." Phrases coalesce unforgettable images of "Winter citrus in opulent rinds" while "The mirror drinks and spends / bright coins." This is a poetry of yearning that makes yearning itself a pleasure, that transforms the pain of nostalgia into something like illumination: "Choose where you are moved. Do you love the air / its forms too small to rescue? Could you bear the sound / of any empty field?"

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