Poems and Other Necessities
Musee des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden. Here at last.
Well, here's the thing. I am as yet totally uncertain as to how to use the homepage builder, and everything I know about HTML can be expressed very nicely with the word "nothing."
So here's the plan:
In this section, blurbs about various writers, to your left, click the link. Simple? Oui.
Right, well, as far as I am concerned, the English language is the most unadulteratedly beautiful thing in existance. My love for any- and everything in the world is only a corrolary of my love for the English language. If you're artistic you'll know what I mean. If not, you probably just think I'm a melodramatic idiot and you might as well hie you back to the main page because there's no point in your being here.
All these people changed my life.
T. S. ELIOT, by writing the Four Quartets. We read the Four Quartets in my senior year English class and it was the first time I ever realized that philosophy could be an instrument of beauty. Eventually, I will have all four up for your reading pleasure. For now, content yourself with the second Quartet, "East Coker." Go ye and be inspired.
I first read LOUISE GLÜCK when I was seventeen, taking a semester away at the Mountain School in Vermont. We were supposed to read *The Wild Iris* (which won the Pulitzer prize in I think 1993) in one sitting. I didn't. I was tired, or maybe I had a paper due. I don't remember. But I remember sitting in Jim Leonard's English class and opening the book to a poem called "Snowdrops" and there was this one line, from the point of view of an opening snowdrop: "afraid, yes, but among you again/crying yes risk joy/in the raw wind of the new world." She is very brilliant. These poems are from *The Wild Iris* and the book before that one, *Ararat*.
ANNE SEXTON is amazing. These poems are up on my bedroom wall.
Ditto for this one, by GAVIN EWART.
And this one, "Sad Steps" by the very brilliant PHILLIP LARKIN.
DYLAN THOMAS' *Under Milk Wood* is my favorite of his works. Clarity via connotation. Brilliant. This is just the first section. The whole play is 100 pages long. I don't have *that* much free time.
Last semester I took a class on ATHENIAN TRAGEDY and fell madly in love with it, have dropped everything and become a Classics major. So I am learning ancient Greek. And I'm horrid at languages. If this stuff is good enough to make me do the unthinkable and take Greek, which isn't even in the Roman alphabet, then it's pretty fucking awesome. The best, as far as I am concerned, are the Iphigenia at Aulis, Iphigenia at Tauris, Antigone, and Eumenides. The Internet Classics Archive is a happening place, although sometimes the connections are a bit slow.
I am at best an agnostic, but the KING JAMES VERSION of the Bible is stunning. None of this New Revised Standard crap for me, thanks. Especially that bit about Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem to be "registered". Registered my hind end. There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed, and this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And all went to be taxed, everyone unto his own city, and Joseph also went up from Galilee, into Judea, and unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was that while they were there the days were accomplished that she should be delivered, and she took the babe and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn. How's that for a crusty old atheist? But honestly--the days were accomplished? That's amazing. A day as something to be accomplished.
And of course, *The Crying of Lot 49* by THOMAS PYNCHON. Another of my absolute positive favorite books ever.
DONALD JUSTICE: "Variations on a text by Vallejo" is amazing. I remember I went to a poetry reading once with my friend Piper. It was at the New York Public Library--the main branch, on 42nd street--and it was poets reading the work of other poets, and one woman read this poem and the entire room receded until it was only the words and her voice and everything, the walls and furniture and lights and even us were imbued with this language. Which is the point of art, really.
ROBERTO CALASSO, *The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony*. This counts as a scholarly work, in a way, but it is terribly beautiful. It's about Classical mythology. The New York Times Book Review called it "Extraordinary...learned but also daring...brilliant, dazzling to read, a labyrinth lit by a fire." A labyrinth lit by a fire. Yes, that describes it very nicely.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. I hate *Hamlet*. I really do. It drives me up the fucking wall. But *Macbeth* is amazing. I remember the first time I saw it performed, in high school. Kristen Kenney was Macbeth, and I remember sitting in the auditorium and she became Macbeth. She was reciting the "she should have died hereafter" soliloquy and the words were so beautiful I couldn't breathe. I was never sure if it meant that she was brilliant or Shakespeare was, but I like to opt for a mutual sharing of brilliance. Redistribute that wealth, baby...
The above right photograph was taken by Nathan Beach at Dachau. It is © Nathan Banfield Beach and appears here by his very kind permission. Below is a link to his homepage, where you can see more of his photographs and even some watercolors.