8/30/11: leaving summer

It’s the shrinking of the light that makes me smell autumn coming, but also the wet, cool days we’re having out here, and the nights falling into the low 50s. I’m reading as fast as I can, believing somehow that as the days shorten, so will my reading time. So I’m back into the odd habit of reading several books at the same time, confusing but in a good way. Mostly reading poetry these days.

I’ll repeat myself in telling you that I have no training for “literary criticism” (they don’t teach it in nursing programs) and I would have difficulty “reviewing” any book that I don’t fall in love with. Not that I love easily, just that I have no need to warn anyone away from any book one might pick up. All reading is good, as far as I can tell, even if all writing isn’t.

I’ve re-read Thomas Merton’s Selected Poems, which I first read about 20 years ago, this time in tandem with reading an early work, The Sign of Jonas, in which are commentaries and  journal entries during his early life as a monk. His struggles as a writer are so intense, he was extremely prolific, yet felt that being an “author” made it so hard for him to “be” a monk and live a life of poverty and obedience. Praise for his “superiors” who ordered him to continue.

I find myself engaging in dialogue with Merton, wanting to have a conversation with him to enlighten my own struggles in locating and holding tight to my own spiritual path. What I like is how much accord I feel with his writings,  without feeling obliged to understand his relationship with God, if I just accept it, everything he says resonates.

I admit to slight editing here:

I offer my pride to be slain on this particular altar. He has leavened
the whole earth with apostles scraped off pots in the kitchens of the Greeks.

The first essential is missing. I put on a winter shirt before Night Office although it is not yet desperately cold. Once in a while, we speak, but it is worth it. When we are called upon to die, we shall die miserably.

I’ve read through twice now, Kelli Russell Agodon’s Letters from the Emily Dickenson Room. It has a startling internal consistency that makes me feel like I’m picking up an ongoing conversation with each poem. She conquers anxiety with brilliant anagrams, and grapples with life’s daily dilemmas with a blend of humor and pathos that delights.

Let us not put our faith in astronomers,
they are still discovering moons for Jupiter.
Four years ago, eleven more.

Where were they hiding?

Let us not put our faith in anyone
until they begin naming moons after poets.

I’m half-way through Core Samples from the World, by Forrest Gander. At the half-way mark, I just wish to say that feel drawn completely into its realm as I read. This Forrest Gander is quite extraordinary in knowledge, in depth of experience, and in wisdom. And his language is both gorgeous and chilling.

It’s not an insult to refuse to drain the glass, she tells me
And a fly crawls from the bowl of salsa picante.

Would you choose to bury the organs with the child?
And he retreats to his room and closes the door.

Here, birds in the zócalo whiz and tweet like children’s toys
And there, a charred corpse hanging from the bridge.

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