You know sometimes you're reading just one book...you're completely consumed by it, you can hardly put it down etc.? Then other times you're reading about ten different things - dipping in and out of them all, floating about in a somewhat dazed state? Well, at the moment I'm in the latter.
This is what I'm reading just now (in between family life, household tasks, dog walks, trips out, half planning another poetry event and so on):
John Burnside 'Selected Poems' (Cape Poetry 2006)
I bought Burnside's novel 'The Dumb House' (1997) in a library sale a little while back, read it and found it creepy but interesting enough to finish. I'm aware he's a poet too (I've seen his name on StAnza leaflets) but have never read a single poem by him before so I checked this Selected Poems out of the library last week. Can't say it's doing a lot for me so far but it's early days and I haven't given up just yet. He won a big poetry award in 2000 so I suppose he can live without the Rachel Fox thumbs up anyway but I'll keep reading and maybe get back to you. Anyone else a fan and want to add something?
Rachel Fox – various
I read my own stuff all the time (don't we all?). I'm constantly rereading, rethinking, reevaluating my own work. I even reread my own diary quite a lot...often with a sense of confusion and/or disbelief (did that really happen? How did I end up doing that?). You could say it's ego gone mad but I think it's a lot more to do with confusion.
Liz Gallagher 'The Wrong Miracle' (Salt 2009)
Liz is coming here (virtually speaking) as part of her blog tour at the beginning of December. I have been reading this, her first poetry collection, off and on for a while and I came to Liz's work via her online personality really (got the book via a swap with her). Online she is very appealing... funny, friendly, cool as Kerouac...and though her work is very different to a lot of the poetry that I like and read regularly I find myself coming back to it often and rereading and enjoying it. It does make me want to hear her read some aloud too. Got any audio/video yet, Liz?
Jack Kerouac 'On the Road' (Penguin Modern Classics first publ. 1957)
This is one of the 'classics' that I've somehow never read. I bought it in one of those giant Tescos when we were staying down in York (don't hate me...someone had given me a Tesco voucher as a present...and it was on offer...what did you want me to buy – bubble bath?). I'm about halfway through OTR now and whilst I'm sure it seemed very exciting back in 1957 I can't say it's exactly wowing me as yet (though my favourite line so far is on page 33 "I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was 'Wow!'"). Will it keep the 'classic' tag for much longer though, I wonder? That's another question for the time machine, I suppose.
Hugh McMillan 'Aphrodite's Anorak' (Peterloo Poets 1996)
I'm always reading something by McMillan, the old goat. All his poetry books are great and this one is no exception (there's a poem in it called 'Blethers' that is really, really beautiful). He sent me this as a thank-you for being president of the unofficial Hugh McMillan Appreciation Society.
Helena Nelson 'Starlight on Water' (Rialto 2003)
As we were talking about poet and publisher Nelson the other week I decided I wanted to read more of her poems so I bought this book via the evil Amazon empire (well, the Market Place bit and a very nice person in Suffolk, as it happens). I haven't read it all yet but I am really enjoying it as I go. It's big on beauty and yearning from what I've seen so far. It also speaks to the reader quite a lot (which I like). It's nice to feel involved...
Don Paterson 'Landing Light' (Faber and Faber 2003)The new Paterson poetry collection 'Rain' sounds right up my street (and in fact through my door and well into the house) but I refuse to let myself buy it until I have read this one a bit more (I bought this in Dundee Borders most likely, last year some time). It's quite a mix of poems that (a) a lazy arse like me can read without too much background and (b) some that I might need a reference book or two for. The overriding feel of the book for me is of a man writing like he is about a hundred years old. It's quite spooky and it puts me in mind of all the Tiresias sections in T.S.Eliot's Wasteland (it's like you can hear the winds of doom blowing, the sands of time slipping away). Apart from the fact that I am totally rubbish with any kind of classical and/or mythological references I am enjoying it too. And while we're on the subject why is it that I can hold silly, shallow information much better in my head than proper educational stuff that might one day impress someone (I mean hell, I was writing about Meat Loaf last week...)? Is it possible to be reprogrammed do you think - have all the crap replaced with Greek gods, chemical formulae, history and many, many ancient languages? (Er, no...far too late for that).
Graham Robb 'Rimbaud' (Picador 2000)
I picked this biography up in the town library the other week and it is a really great read so far (and young Rimbaud hasn't even left school yet!). I'm finding it much more exciting than the Kerouac 'classic' and overall poets can make excellent subjects for biographies I think. Any suggestions for the best (and worst) in this category? Any poet biographies you'd like to read and/or write?
Various 'The Nation's Favourite Comic Poems' (ed. Griff Rhys Jones BBC Books 1998)
I bought a collection of these Nation's Favourite books cheap as stocking filler type items for the Xmas present cupboard (remember – poetry is for life, not just for Xmas) and I was flicking through them to see who might like what. I stumbled across the poem below and enjoyed it very much so it can be this week's Monday poem. I don't think I'd never read anything by Gavin Ewart (1916-95) before (at least nothing comes to mind) but I loved this (and no knowledge of anything complicated is required for total and speedy understanding).
The Black Box
As well as these poor poems
I am writing some wonderful ones
They are all being filed separately,
nobody sees them.
When I die they will be buried
in a big black tin box.
In fifty years' time
they must be dug up,
for so my will provides.
This is to confound the critics
and teach everybody
a valuable lesson.
By Gavin Ewart
So what are you reading?
p.s. Forgot to mention...I still read to our Girl every night and we just finished 'The Little White Horse' by Elizabeth Goudge (orig. publ. 1946 and recently filmed as 'The Secret of Moonacre'). I never read it as a child and it's possibly the book we've read together that I've liked least (and not just for all the God content). Girl thought it was OK but then she pretty much likes all books (so far). Plus it has dogs.
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