Friday, April 13, 2012

Rest in Peaceful Slumber Ms. Adrienne Rich.

When I was in my twenties I spent a good amount of time with my nose in a book, trying to figure out who I was and whom I might become. I would especially ferret out books about strong women--in search of meaning and purpose in their lives--in hopes of coming across instructions on how to live a more fully realized life. One woman's words made a great deal of difference to me during that process: Thank you, thank you Ms. Adrienne Rich.

I have (always) loved the titles of her volumes of poetry: from The Dream of a Common Language to A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far to An Atlas of a Difficult World. Can't you just imagine, from those, that she set about to help other women and men (!) circumnavigate the waters of the soul?

I remember when I first spied the poem Transcendental Etude--probably my favorite (from Dream ...)--I felt that I was in the exact same head space, and that made it possible for me to get more in touch with the huge forces at work in my life. "Perhaps there come times when we must take ourselves more seriously or die": those were my marching orders ... to continue to put one foot in front of the other ... daring myself to be authentically large.

The Book Store has several volumes of Ms. Rich's work available online to order. I think that I am going to take another look at her last and latest collection, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, when it comes out in paper. And if you wish you can reserve your copy now. And this is a peek into the poem that bears the title:

"Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon's eyelid

Later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping

I think
no poetry will serve ..."

Adrienne Rich also dealt with politics and poetry, not so much my strong suit, and yet I have admired her for that too. May you rest in peaceful slumber Ms. Rich.

the bad poet
aka book seller at UBS

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Someone called us liminal people...We dance the line between humans and gods."

Here's a recommendation to get your summer reading off to a blazing start: The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett. It's a first novel, and it has all the kinetic, hurtling passion of a thousand fresh ideas and a few new takes on classic sci-fi tropes.

On the surface, it's a book about superheroes living amongst us. There's the main character, Taggart, who can transmute his own body and the bodies of others in literally any way he can imagine; give someone asthma, give himself a new face, dissolve cancer before any symptoms appear.
Another character has such a deep emotional bond with animals that she can ask rats to sacrifice themselves for her, and compel dogs to chase a man down and tear him apart. There's a woman with hypnotic pheromones, and a man who can blow up anything with his mind.
These are the liminal people: a subculture of lonely and alienated humans, some of whom are driven mad by their powers while others manage to live relatively normal lives, suppressing any desire to explore their abilities.
If all this sounds suspiciously like an X-Men ripoff, think again. Jama-Everett creates an entirely new atmosphere of mystery and exotic noir, made creepier as every chapter passes and seemingly unanswerable questions arise. There is something almost Lovecraftian about the hints and half-explanations that the characters discover as the story progresses. The origins of their fantastic abilities have one foot planted in evolution, but the other is mired unsteadily in the unknowable murk of old gods and half-forgotten mythology. It's a brutal and unforgiving world to enter, and it ends too quickly at under 200 pages, but it's left wide open for a sequel, for which I will be impatiently waiting.


Monday, April 02, 2012

Hand That Pen Over to Me, Poetaster!

I've been writing poetry again. As a first sentence that has an ominous flavor, doesn't it? A little du Maurier-esque. And maybe it's for good reason.
I wrote lots of poetry in college, mostly for assignments; sestinas, villanelles, sonnets, abecedarians, DOUBLE abecedarians, and the occasional non-required formless thing, inevitably scribbled after midnight. I stopped reading poetry on such a regular basis about five years ago, and when I stopped consuming it, the urge to produce it ceased also. Maybe I'm having a bit of a bohemian renaissance, but something triggered the poem-hunger in my brain and now I'm revisiting my old favorites, buying new collections, and pausing to read the poems in The New Yorker (!).
Since April is poetry month, I thought I would share a new favorite by a classic: Sylvia Plath.
Read this one aloud to yourself, I promise you'll get chills.


I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root;
It is what you fear.
I do not fear it: I have been there.

Is it the sea you hear in me,
Its dissatisfactions?
Or the voice of nothing, that was your madness?

Love is a shadow.
How you lie and cry after it.
Listen: these are its hooves: it has gone off, like a horse.

All night I shall gallop thus, impetuously,
Till your head is a stone, your pillow a little turf,
Echoing, echoing.

Or shall I bring you the sound of poisons?
This is rain now, the big hush.
And this is the fruit of it: tin white, like arsenic.

I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets.
Scorched to the root
My red filaments burn and stand, a hand of wires.

Now I break up in pieces that fly about like clubs.
A wind of such violence
Will tolerate no bystanding: I must shriek.

The moon, also, is merciless: she would drag me
Cruelly, being barren.
Her radiance scathes me. Or perhaps I have caught her.

I let her go. I let her go
Diminshed and flat, as after radical surgery.
How your bad dreams possess and endow me.

I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly it flaps out
Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.

I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.

Clouds pass and disperse.
Are those the faces of love, those pale irretrevables?
Is it for such I agitate my heart?

I am incapable of more knowledge.
What is this, this face
So murderous in its strangle of branches?--

Its snaky acids kiss.
It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults
That kill, that kill, that kill.

Whoa, Sylvia!
What poets are you reading now? How will you celebrate poetry month?

tell all your friends!