Sunday, November 1, 2015

Things to read -- 2 -- as opposed to wasting your time

Jane Kenyon says somewhere to make sure you're reading good things and this sounds a bit obvious? 

Yes but there's a lot of involuntary reading we have to do to navigate the day: instructions of all kinds, bills to pay, offers to accept or refuse, assignments to take or evade etc.  

So I'm trying to keep things around that can help clear all that away.  

That reading includes the news which is necessary but contains all kinds of noise and a lot of weird assumptions we can begin to take for granted or at least I know I can if I don't read things that remove all that. I guess by "all that" I mean the way the tone conveys knowledge and understanding.  As if we all knew what was going on and understood it thoroughly.  Which maybe you do but I know I don't. 

Anyway, this appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine a little while back and of course I'll remove it if the forces of law and order come against me but in the meantime:

Written by Himself [by Gregory Pardlo]

I was born in minutes in a roadside kitchen a skillet
whispering my name. I was born to rainwater and lye;
I was born across the river where I
was borrowed with clothespins, a harrow tooth,
broadsides sewn in my shoes. I returned, though
it please you, through no fault of my own,
pockets filled with coffee grounds and eggshells.
I was born still and superstitious; I bore an unexpected burden.
I gave birth, I gave blessing, I gave rise to suspicion.
I was born abandoned outdoors in the heat-shaped air,
air drifting like spirits and old windows.
I was born a fraction and a cipher and a ledger entry;
I was an index of first lines when I was born.
I was born waist-deep stubborn in the water crying
                            ain’t I a woman and a brother I was born
to this hall of mirrors, this horror story I was
born with a prologue of references, pursued
by mosquitoes and thieves, I was born passing
off the problem of the twentieth century: I was born.
I read minds before I could read fishes and loaves;
I walked a piece of the way alone before I was born.

The accompanying material says Gregory Pardlo won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his second collection, ‘‘Digest,” which was published last year by Four Way Books.


sits alone in the middle of the mown field
waiting for something, perhaps a mouse,
perhaps for darkness. We all
wait for the rain. Clouds came and went;
in the morning, it drizzled, but then the wind rose
and raged until noon, drying
even that scant moisture. The village people
grumble that their cattle have hardly anything to eat.
Time moves sideways, looking at this
empty land, above which
warm south winds sweep and buzzards
shriek. No longer summer. Nor autumn yet.

This comes from Jaan Kaplinsky, a contemporary Estonian poet.  The book is The Wandering Border, from Copper Canyon.  The author did the translations with help from Sam Hamill and Riina Taan.  It would have been fun to sit in on those discussions, I think.  

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