What I’m (Not) Reading

I’ve been out of it. “It” being this. This here blog. I’ve been out of it because I’ve been deep in all sort of other its, bogged down with non-blog jobs.

I feel lucky that my day-job involves writing, and poetry, specifically. I feel lucky that I get to invite poets that I love to come to Seattle. That I get to meet them and talk with them. That I get to get flustered by the rigors of simultaneously operating heavy machinery while also trying to maintain witty banter with a poetic hero so that I park my car so askew with the parking space that they (poetic hero) have to recommend that I re-park it. Which I do while they watch. I feel lucky that I get to do this, and then introduce them, and then talk with them onstage and hope that I don’t make a fool out of myself.

But it does mean I have set a rather rigorous reading schedule for myself, which just began with Mart??n Espada’s visit to Seattle. And which coincided with other busyness at work, and a trip to Chicago, and a trip to Hawaii. All of which I am also lucky for. But it did mean a lot of poetry-reading on the airplane, which airplanes are good for, and a lot of poetry-reading pool-side, which pool-sides are not good for. It meant that the bottom edge of Alabanza got fat-lipped with water from where it rested on my swimsuited belly. But I wondered, as I read (or didn’t read), what other poets read on vacation. I have to admit, I hungered for a little chick lit, or at least a fat biography of a scandalous poet. Years ago I bought Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay on vacation and that was the kind of book I wanted to sink into on this most recent trip.

I’ve been trying to inspire myself by becoming more active on Goodreads and though it purports to be a log of what others are reading, it’s turns out to also be a log of what I’m not reading. So last night, for your benefit, I made a list of the books suffering like cows in the quicksand by the side of my bed. There were three books with broken spines spooning each other in a literary m??nage ? trois: The Best American Essays (2008); The Smiles of Rome: A Literary Companion for Readers and Travelers (horrible title, useful book); and Dog Years, by Mark Doty. The last is a memoir and I thought perhaps I could remember what I read the next day. I couldn’t. I can’t. (Aside: I think it’s a problem that we’re taught to put ourselves to sleep by reading.)

Among other books roam the following:

Jack Gilbert, The Dance Most of All
Susanna Clarke, Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Richard Kenney, The One-Strand River
Eleanor Clark, Rome and a Villa
Heraclitus, Fragments
Ted Hughes, Tales from Ovid
Charles Bock, Beautiful Children
Albert Goldbarth, To Be Read in 500 Years
Stephen Pinker, The Stuff of Thought

Pretty aspirational stuff.

There are also six months of New Yorkers, all turned to the cartoon page. Is my life a caption-less joke? The floor would suggest so. Please submit your caption here.

But sitting on the floor among dust bunnies and rusty readings actually inspired me to read some of the Heraclitus. This one struck me:


Now that we can travel anywhere,
we need no longer take the poets
and myth-makers for sure witnesses
about disputed facts.

Even in Heraclitus’ time they were dealing with the problems of the quickening world. But I disagreed then (or would have if I had been there) and still do: let us take the poets for sure witnesses, and take them with us. Even to Hawaii. Even to the pool. Let us mark more books to-read than is humanely possible.

So today I bought two more books. Partially to support Seattle’s wonderful yet struggling Elliott Bay Book Company (on a day when news of another wonderful book company, Bailey Coy, announced that it would give up the ghost at the end of the month), partially to bolster a foggy (boggy/bloggy?) notion that I’ll be around long enough to read it all.

Caption: Girl buys Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist and Michael Dickman’s The End of the West while deluding herself that she will find time to read them.

What do you, dear reader, read on vacation? What do you read when you should be reading something on your Goodreads list? What do you read in bed? What do you fall asleep in the middle of? What do you mark to-read but not remember?theanthologist