A law has been proposed to make Moby Dick the official book of Massachusetts.. I have not read the official book (to be) of Massachusetts. When I was in high school I did not read anything required (I instead read Henry Miller and Phillip K Dick). I have since gone back to revisit a few things, but not Moby Dick. And for a good reason. A friend of mine once said do not read Moby Dick until you're ready. Pick it up each year and if something registers, stick with it. If not, save it for the next year. This is good advice for many books.
I was enjoying these poems from Jon Leon, who has an attractive looking chapbook just out from Kitchen Press, when I came across the line "I cried listening to Cat Power." This reminded me of Pshares discussion from the other day about using popular culture to date your work. I am not against this. I just don't care too much for Cat Power.
A cool assessment by Megan O'Rourke of the new poet laureate, Kay Ryan.
" Like oysters, she has said, her poems take shape around "an aggravation"
I am making myself into a regular at the public library. Why did I not go there before? Ive been wasting my money! I spent all afternoon yesterday scouring through lost Eastern European poets.
One of the treasures I found was this - The Horse Has Six Legs: An Anthology of Serbian Poetry. It was edited by Charles Simic. Most of the poets inside share his sensibilities. One of the poets collected that stuck out right away was Vasko Popa. He is said to be the most widely translated Yugoslavian poet. There is a selected collection of his work available, but little else currently in print. Luckily there seem to be an abundance of his work online. Below are a few of my favorites taken from the 1969 translations by Anne Pennington.
Someone hides from someone else
Hides under his tongue
The other looks for him under the earth
He hides on his forehead
The other looks for him in the sky
He hides inside his forgetfulness
The other looks for him in the grass
Looks for him looks
There's no place he doesn't look
And looking he loses himself
Give me back my rags
My rags of pure dreaming
Of silk smiling of striped foreboding
Of my cloth of lace
My rags of spotted hope
Of burned desire of chequered glances
Of skin from my face
Give me back my rags
Give me them when I ask you nicely
The other brilliant find was Croatian poet, Slavko Mihalic. I spent last night looking for his work online, for his work to purchase. A collection of his selected poems called, Atlantis, also edited by Simic, seems to be his only English translation. It is a meager 36 pages, though it is said he is the author of over 700 published poems. This poem below which I am copying from the book is good enough a reason as any to learn Croatian for a translation endeavor.
Our Ancient Family Sign
Traveling thus with hip-flask of fierce wine,
I kissed big fat mamas in delicious daydreams
My soul sang in a cage gone rusty.
With a cardboard sword I cut the villains down.
Who wouldn't plead to have that life all over again.
Penniless, it seemed, I had bought everything.
And above the door our ancient family sign:
Black gallows and a greasy rope.