Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rumi to Zukofsky to Chaucer to Sexton.

Dr. Johnson asked, "What qualities do you note as you move from Rumi to Zukofsky to Chaucer to, whomever: Anne Sexton"?  Well, I finished The Essential Rumi a week ago.  Reading Rumi I enter a head space where I see him as having accessed higher levels of perception than I have.  In the back of my head while reading him I think about the possibility of gaining access to this initiated tradition.

I finished Zukofsky's A Test of Poetry last weekend.  Reading him I enter my poet/student of poetry mode.  I feel guilty about my lack of knowledge of languages, and I map I my future reading along a Zukofskian (almost Poundian) program.  Whereas with Rumi I feel like an outsider looking in to the Sufi tradition, with Zukofsky I feel like an outsider looking in to the Western poetic tradition.  With Rumi I don't see a way in without personal contact with part of that initiated tradition.  WIth Zukofsky I see a way in with study of languages and other poets (Ovid, Catullus, Virgil, Shakespeare, Stevens, etc.).

I read two pages of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde this morning.  I found it slow going with my limited knowledge of Middle English.  I enjoyed it mildly, but when I walked outside and looked at the sky and the birds I noticed a definite change and enlargement of consciousness.  Driving to work I found myself thinking about Dennis Moran, my Chaucer professor at Arizona State back in the 1980's.  He used to stop in the bookstore where I worked after graduation, and he would help me with my Middle English pronunciation.

I notice I've commented more on the qualities I notice in my mind than the qualities I notice in the poetry.

My Chaucer book has two columns of text to the page, so it takes me a while to finish two more pages.  I feel little desire to read any more Chaucer at present.  Reading Zukofsky I feel gung ho to focus on reading him and texts he recommends for weeks, months, years.

I read a bit of Anne Sexton a few days ago.  Some people see a decline in her late poems.  I tend to read them thinking of her coming suicide and looking for changes in her mental health.  I find myself a little scared to finish her Collected Poems.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Feed the Loas

I named my poetry bookshelf the Empress twenty-odd years ago.  Ishmael Reed frequently uses the line, "Feed the loas."  He considers 22 his favorite number (February 22 marks his birthday), and he sometimes suggests the existence of 22 loas.  I tended to associate this with the 22 trumps in a tarot deck.  P. G. Wodehouse's later Blandings Castle stories feature a prize winning pig named the Empress.  It seemed to me that reading poetry out loud from a bookcase named the Empress seemed a way of feeding that particular loa.

A few years ago it seemed to me I had bookmarks in too many poetry books, so I decided to pull some bookmarks out and to finish a few other books of poetry.  I decided I wanted to get down to the number of poetry books which corresponded with the year, e.g. bookmarks in ten books of poetry in 2010, eleven in 2011, etc.  I had succeeded in this for a few years, but last fall I found a few more books I had started and not finished by Ed Dorn, John Wieners, and Desmond Egan, I started reading a couple of Zukofsky books, and my wife got me a book of poems by Rumi for Christmas.  I ended 2013 in the middle of nineteen books of poetry.

Well, I finished "A" last week, and I hope to finish The Essential Rumi tonight.  Next month I hope to finish Zukofsky's A Test of Poetry and the Desmond Egan.  That will get me down to fifteen, much closer to my goal.  (Man, this might seem silly to some.)

Poets I find myself reading in the Empress right now:  Ray Bradbury, Chaucer, two translations of Dante, Emily Dickinson, Ed Dorn, Desmond Egan, Robert Frost, a collection of Irish poetry, Patrick Kavanagh, Frank O'Hara, an anthology edited by Ishmael Reed, Rumi, Anne Sexton, Spenser, John Wieners, William Carlos Williams, and A Test of Poetry by Louis Zukofsky.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Baroque vs. Beethoven vs. Megadeath

I've declared Fridays "String Quartet Fridays" in my music theory class.  Each Friday we listen to some of the Op. 18 quartets by Beethoven and follow along with the score.  This got me to start rereading Joseph Kerman's wonderful The Beethoven Quartets and listen to lots of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.  Well, preparing to write this blog today I listened to "A" - 24 which Celia Zukofsky set to Handel.  After 73 minutes of that I find myself in a Baroque mood, so I grabbed some Handel CD's to take in the car.

My music history class focuses on thrash metal this week.  I find it interesting to switch from Metallica, etc., to Beethoven to Handel.  "Out of all this beauty, something must come." - Ezra Pound

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Favorite Day of the Week

On Wednesdays the Finnegans Wake Club at my high school meets.  On Wednesdays I post to this blog, so I read a little Zukofsky.  On Wednesdays I reach the end of my Weight Watchers week, so I allow myself a Finn Feast, using up my unused bonus points and activity points.  On Wednesdays my wife teaches a class.  I drive her to class, and during the class I get some reading done.  Tonight I hope to study a little Latin and music theory, start rereading Joseph Kerman's The Beethoven Quartets (one of my very favorite books) and perhaps finish rereading Shelly Brivic's Joyce's Waking Women.

Just now I read a little of Zukofsky's A Test of Poetry.  When I first read this wonderful book back in the 80's I noticed the deep similarity between Zukofsky's taste and Pound's.  I noticed this again today with the passages from Donne's "The Ecstasy", Shakespeare, and Yeats.  At first I didn't really feel in the mood to read this book, but I felt my body relaxing as I read the poetry out loud, and I felt my breath deepen.  Thank you Louis Zukofsky.