Thursday, April 29, 2021

Gwendolyn Brooks (#NationalPoetryMonth)


a song in the front yard

I've stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it's rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it's fine
How they don't have to go in at a quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George'll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate.)

But I say it's fine. Honest, I do.
And I'd like to be a bad woman, too,
And wear the brave stockings of night-black lace
And strut down the streets with paint on my face.

'a song in the front yard' is from Gwendolyn Brooks' first book of poems A Street in Bronzeville. Brooks was the Poet Laureate of Illinois from early in my childhood until her death in 2000 at 83. Bronzeville is a Black neighborhood on the near south side of Chicago. 

She's always been a favorite of mine.

Poem For A Thursday is a meme created by Jennifer at Holds Upon Happiness. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Robert Hass (#NationalPoetryMonth)



Amateurs, we gathered mushrooms
near shaggy eucalyptus groves
which smelled of camphor and the fog-soaked earth.
Chanterelles, puffballs, chicken-of-the-woods,
we cooked in wine or butter
beaten eggs or sour cream,
half expecting to be
killed by a mistake. "Intense perspiration,"
you said late at night,
quoting the terrifying field guide
while we lay tangled in our sheets and heavy limbs,
"is the first symptom of attack."

Friends called our aromatic fungi
"liebestoads" and only ate the ones
that we most certainly survived.
Death shook us more than once
those days and floating back
it felt like life. Earth-wet, slithery,
we drifted toward the names of things.
Spore prints littered our table
like nervous stars. Rotting caps
gave off a musky smell of loam.
'Fall' is from Robert Hass' first book of poetry Field Guide (1973). It won the Yale Younger Poets prize that year. One could cook from it for weeks, eating well the whole time. The younger Robert Hass from the back of the book:

He looks like he just came back from mushrooming. Or maybe it was something else that 'late at night' messed up his hair.

Poem for a Thursday is a meme started by Jennifer at Holds Upon Happiness. Brona has a poem by H.D. this week.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

March Wrapup

My reading month in March:

Koren Shadmi's Graphical Biographies

The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television

I saw this reviewed in the New York Review of Books--yes, yes, I'm running behind--and ordered it from the library. I was never particularly a fan of The Twilight Zone--too black and white for me at the age I would have watched the show in reruns--but I liked the graphical style of the clips in the review and the book looked interesting. It was. In fact, really quite good--it got me interested and I might try to see some Twilight Zone episodes. It recapitulates Serling's life story in a narrative frame you might find in a Twilight Zone plot.

Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D (text by David Kushner)

Looking up Shadmi in my library's catalog, I also came across this. I was a fan of Dungeons and Dragons and so I got this one, too. Though it's Gary Gygax in the title, don't worry: Dave Arneson gets equal time. It was enjoyable, and even though it spoke to me more, I do think it was a less successful work than The Twilight Zone volume. The text is written as if by a dungeon master, or even more, as if it were from that early computer game Colossal Cave/Adventure. (That game's author Will Crowther gets a couple of pages.) "You are in a maze of twisty passages all alike." "You are likely to be eaten by a grue."

The Mystery Department

Michael Innes' Hare Sitting Up

An Inspector Appleby story from 1959. Take identical twin brothers, one a schoolmaster, the other a biowarfare scientist, add a rural lord half(?)-crazed with bird-watching, throw in a blackmailer and a pretty girl with a Ph.D., and you've got a story. It's mostly Innes in his silly mode, which I actually prefer, though Innes does want to say one or two serious things about the morality of WMDs. Not his best by any means, but fun.

Julie Campbell's The Gatehouse Mystery

Trixie and Honey find a diamond in the old gate house on the Wheeler property. Are they going to turn it into the proper authorities? Of course not!

This book has the first appearance of Trixie's older brothers, Brian--and Mart, the snarky one with a propensity toward Brobdingnagian vocables. Always my favorite character. I'm sure I don't know why.

The next in the series is waiting at the library for me to pick it up.

Chester Himes' Blind Man With A Pistol

The last of the Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones mysteries Himes completed, from 1969. This is a very ambitious book, bursting the bounds of Himes' already capacious sense of what a mystery can be. All in 191 pages. Several plots; several time frames. Pretty great & at some risk of sending me down a Himes rabbit hole--I've ordered up the recent biography of Himes from the library. But if you're interested in Himes as a mystery writer, you should probably start with something earlier in the series.

"'There ain't going to be any facts,' Grave Digger informed Anderson."


Cathy at 746Books has organized a year long read of Brian Moore's books in honor of what would have been his hundredth birthday. 

Brian Moore's The Color of Blood

Political tensions in an unnamed East European country just before the fall of the Iron Curtain. I thought it was very good. More here.

Brian Moore's Fergus

That I enjoyed The Color of Blood so much led me on to read Fergus. Not as good, I said, though still good.

This month's Brian Moore is the great, but grim, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. Will I reread it? Maybe, but I haven't yet.

The Poetry Section

George Bradley's Of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

This collection came out with Knopf in 1991. A living American poet (b. 1953). The first volume of his I've read--though a couple of these poems appeared in The New Republic in the 80s, so it's possible I read those before. I thought it was very good. Expect something to appear in a poem post in the future. Bradley's poem 'The Lives of the Chinese Poets' begins 'About suffering they were reticent,...' O my Auden

Georgi Gospodinov

Natural Novel, And Other Stories, The Physics of Sorrow

Contemporary Bulgarian novelist, poet, story writer. That's most of what of his is available in English. I think he's pretty good. More thoughts here, mostly on The Physics of Sorrow.

Hilary Mantel's Cromwell

Wolf Hall

I reread this for Brona's readalong, but I'm *still* organizing my thoughts on this one. Not very organized thoughts, eh? I should have finished rereading Bring Up The Bodies to be on schedule, but I haven't...

Shakespeare's Henry VIII

That sent me off to this. Not necessarily one of the better plays, but there are some great speeches--Buckingham's (Act II, Sc 1) on his sentence of death:

The law I bear no malice for my death
'T has done upon the premises but justice
But those that sought it I could wish more Christians

or Wolsey's farewell to greatness.

Andre Alexis

Contemporary Canadian writer. He's four books into a series of five he's termed a quincunx. I read the first, Pastoral (2014). I thought it was very good. A newly minted priest takes up a parish in a small town near Sarnia, Ontario. The second one in the series--Fifteen Dogs--is the celebrated one; it won the Giller, one of Canada's two major novel prizes, as well as various other prizes. I might have more to say when I finish the sequence, at least as it stands now. I have the others on hand.


Rex Warner (no relation?--though that first name could so easily slip into...) translated three Euripidean plays with strong female characters in the 40s & 50s: Medea, Hippolytus, Helen. I was interested in the Helen, but then I carried on. Medea, Phaedra, & Helen are all women who do bad or tricksy things and suffer at the hands of men. These are quite often read now as feminist or proto-feminist; would an Athenian of the time have thought so? Mmm. Certainly as Aristophanes presents it (Women at the Thesmophoria) Euripides wasn't popular with the ladies...but then, that's Aristophanes.

No longer the standard translations, but I thought they were quite good. I especially liked Warner's handling of the choruses. He's an interesting novelist (The Aerodrome) and poet, but best known now, I'm guessing, as the translator of Thucydides.

The books that were still around the house (at least when I took the picture):

I wrote most of this post a while ago. It was long past time to either delete it or publish it. Yet another month of much, but muddled, reading--I sometimes get embarrassed by the desultoriness of my reading. Oh, well. Any of these strike thoughts in you?

Sunday, April 18, 2021

#CCSpin: And the Winner is...


Which means R. L. Stevenson's Travels With A Donkey for me. That was probably the most fun thing that I put on my list. Woo-hoo! And it will do convenient double duty with Karen's Back To The Classics challenge.

Did you get something good?

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Robert Frost (#NationalPoetryMonth, #1936Club)

Neither Out Far Nor In Deep

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be--
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

-Robert Frost 

Robert Frost's book A Further Range came out in 1936. 'Neither Out Far Nor In Deep' is from that book. 

In a rather click-bait-y essay 'The Other Frost', Randall Jarrell calls it one of Frost's ten or twelve best poems; he doesn't include the ones you might guess. Is it better than 'The Road Not Taken' or 'Stopping By Woods'? Hmm, I don't know, but I do like it.

Jarrell goes on to say, in a different essay, 'To The Laodiceans':

'It would be hard to find anything more unpleasant to say about people than that last stanza; but Frost doesn't say it unpleasantly--he says it with flat ease, takes everything with something harder than contempt, more passive than acceptance. And isn't there something heroic about the whole business, too--something touching about our absurdity?'

The Poem For A Thursday meme was invented by Jennifer at Holds Upon Happiness; she, too, has a shore poem this week, by Emily Dickinson. Brona has a 1936 poem, Parrots by Rex Ingamells.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

John P. Marquand's Thank You, Mr. Moto (#1936Club)

 "...but it doesn't matter, does it?"

Tom Nelson is an American living in Beijing; he's a lawyer, and had been on partner track, when, after a dispute, he chucked it all and moved to China. We're told he's gone native; he's become fluent in Chinese, knowledgeable about Chinese art, but with the presumed passiveness of the locals as well.

The novel starts at a party. His friend, decayed aristocrat Prince Tung is there; so is Major Jameson Best, cashiered for unknown reasons from the British army. He meets Eleanor Joyce, an American woman in China for reasons she doesn't disclose, and also Mr. Moto.

That's Nelson's tagline above. Nothing matters to him, until, well, it does. 😉

Major Best asks him to visit him at home when he leaves the party and Nelson agrees. When they meet later, Best tells Nelson he may want a formal introduction to Prince Tung, but is very mysterious about his reasons. Nelson leaves and sees Eleanor Joyce arriving. Later that night Best is murdered. Was Nelson the last person to see Best alive? Was Eleanor Joyce?

It's a pretty rollicking story, with elements of both mystery and spy thriller. At the time the novel is set, Japan is already the dominant power in north China, having taken over Manchuria a couple of years earlier. Mr. Moto is connected to the Japanese occupying forces (not quite yet occupying Beijing) in some sort of unspecified intelligence role. At the time the novel starts what Chinese forces are stationed in Beijing have been called away for reasons no one is quite sure of. But everyone is sure there's a plot afoot. And so there is.

After Earl Derr Biggers, the author of the Charlie Chan mysteries, died in 1933, the Saturday Evening Post was looking for a new series with a sympathetic Asian detective to replace it. Marquand, already established with them, took up their offer, traveled to China on their dime to soak up some local color, and produced Mr. Moto.

This is the second in the series, and the formula is established. An American going to the dogs in Asia--the passive Tom Nelson in this one, the drunk pilot Casey Lee in the first--meets a beautiful woman on a somewhat suspect mission and also Mr. Moto, who is neither enemy exactly nor friend.

Mr. Moto is a stereotype, however well-intentioned, but not quite as much as the Charlie Chan he replaced. He's loyal to his country, competent, polite, honorable, but also realistic, and not given to holding a grudge when he's lost the play. Perfectly capable of killing enemies, though only the ones that deserve it. Various characters defend Japanese imperialism because, well,... everyone else does it--the Brits, the Russians, the Americans--and, of course, that's true. I'm not quite certain how seriously Marquand intends us to take that as a defence, but pretty seriously, I fear. 

That does make it a good 1936 book in its way, representing attitudes of the period. Marquand is also pretty up on the political situation. One of the elements in the plot must be an attempted replay of the provocation of the Mukden Incident of 1931. A formula that would improve cruising ranges and eliminate the need for coaling stations is the MacGuffin of the first novel.

I read a couple of the stories from later in the series years ago, and I don't remember them that fondly, but the first two, at least, are pretty good yarns. 

Thank You, Mr. Moto, is also one of the movies in the series with Peter Lorre (!) as Mr. Moto. That's a rather Peter-Lorre-ish Moto above on the cover of the edition I read. The movie's available on YouTube, so we watched it last night. It's cheesy, but fun, and doesn't have much to do with the novel, except some of the characters having the same names:

This week is the 1936 club. Thanks to Kaggsy and Simon for hosting!

I finished this yesterday while waiting around after I got my coronavirus jab. Yay!

Link back to organizing post.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Classics Club Spin #26


It's time for the latest Classics Club spin, Numero 26! You probably know the rules. I'm running low on books from my original list, (and skipping a couple for a spin) but I have started assembling a second list so I'll pick a few of those and then there will be some doubling up. 

Let's go straight to the list of books:

From my first Classics Club list:

1.) Samuel Butler/The Way of All Flesh

2.) Willa Cather/A Lost Lady

3.) Willa Cather/One of Ours

4.) W. Somerset Maugham/The Razor's Edge

5.) Sir Walter Scott/Count Robert of Paris

6.) R. L. Stevenson/The Black Arrow

7.) Honoré de Balzac/Cousin Bette

8.) Johann von Goethe/Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship

9.) Henryk Sienkewicz/Quo Vadis

10.) George Bernard Shaw/Major Barbara

From that new Classics Club list:

11.) R. L. Stevenson/Travels With A Donkey

12.) Barbara Tuchman/A Distant Mirror

13.) John Ruskin/Unto This Last

14.) Thomas de Quincey/Lake Poets

15.) Dee Brown/Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

And some stacking the deck:

16.) Willa Cather/One of Ours

17.) W. Somerset Maugham/The Razor's Edge

18.) R. L. Stevenson/The Black Arrow

19.) Johann von Goethe/Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship

20.) Henryk Sienkewicz/Quo Vadis

I think that chapter-a-day readalong of Quo Vadis (which I didn't originally commit to) may be going on now so that would timely, but other than that I don't have any strong preferences.

Have you read any of these? Which look good to you?

And happy spinning to all!

Monday, April 12, 2021

Stevie Smith's Novel on Yellow Paper (#1936Club)

 "...and how is it do-day, how is it to-day in this year of 1936, how is it to-day?"

Well, that's the question we're here to ask this week, isn't it?

Pompey Casmilus is the private secretary to Sir Phoebus in the publishing business. She's the narrator of the novel. She's well-educated--the book drops into German, French, Italian, Latin, Greek along the way--and she has literary aspirations of her own: she writes poetry. We're given samples. "That a poem I wrote, the way I wrote that other one I was saying and never got published. That's two off my hands."

We see things in her life; her boyfriends, two main ones, Karl the German that was, and Freddy the London suburbanite that is; her other friends; her relationship with her father, who abandoned the family; her mother, who died while was Pompey was still young; the aunt (the lion Aunt of Hull) who raised her. The WWI veteran who convalesces in her town, with whom she becomes friends; she's twelve at the start of that war. She goes to Germany before Hitler, but just, and is shocked out of her own, much milder, anti-Semitism. 

Pompey is interested in the intellectual currents of those years. Not only is there the situation in Germany, but the advent of sex education, Freudianism. I was particularly amused by her critique of classical scholarship--she dislikes Gilbert Murray's translation of Medea, because she finds it too emotional, insufficiently pure in its tragedy, not 'classical' enough. She prefers Racine's Phedre to Euripides' Hippolytus. At the time there was a growing awareness that the ancient Greeks weren't the icy Spock-ians they were long thought to be; Pompey is in favor of the old order. E. R. Dodds' Greeks and the Irrational (1951) would have just sent her round the bend. 

Correspondingly it's not a plot-driven novel. It's interested in the state of the 'modern' woman, and the back cover asks, '...but must she marry?' And it's true that's a question, but it's not the question; there is no conflict with an epiphany to wrap it all up.

Instead, I say it's a novel of voice. So, let's have some quotes!

"I'm typing this book on yellow paper. It is very yellow paper, and is this very yellow paper because often sometimes I am typing it in my room at my office, and the paper I use for Sir Phoebus's letters is blue paper with his name across the corner 'Sir Phoebus Ullwater, Bt.' and those letters of Sir Phoebus's go out all over the world. And that is why I type yellow, typing for my own pleasure, and not sending it by clerical error to the stockbrokers for a couple of thou. in Tekka Taiping, and not sending it to the Chief of Police with a formal complaint, and not sending it to Great Aunt Agatha asking her to, and asking her to..."

Yes, it really does say often sometimes, and it ends on the ellipsis in the original. 

"But first, Reader, I will give you a word of warning. This is a foot-off-the-ground novel that came by the left hand. And the thoughts come and go and sometimes they do not quite come and I do not pursue them to embarrass them with formality to pursue them into a harsh captivity. And if you are a foot-off-the-ground person I make no bones to say that is how you will write and only how you will write. And if you are a foot-on-the-ground person, this book will be for you a desert of weariness and exasperation. So put it down. Leave it alone."

That comes on page 38 in my New Directions reprint. So the warning is pretty early--but not at the very beginning...

"Astarte, Gave a Party, In Cromarty, Everyone was Rather Hearty."

A poem Pompey makes up spontaneously for Sir Phoebus.

"Harriet is also having troubles with her young man that sweet boy that is so very serious, and very teaching. Harriet is much more intelligent I think because she is not always being so serious. But this boy friend who is called Stephen, he is very serious indeed, and has never grown up out of being an undergraduate."

Anyway, you get the idea. Funny, thoughtful, but perhaps just a bit exasperating? If you've read it, what did you think?

There are several of Stevie Smith's own illustrations in this; the cover art is drawn by her. They're always fun.

I do think I like her poetry better.

It's the 1936 Club hosted by Simon and Kaggsy this week. Thanks to them for hosting!

Pompey Casmilus typing her novel (on yellow paper)

Link to my organizing post.

Saturday, April 10, 2021



Simon's amusing graphic

Monday is start of Kaggsy and Simon's biannual year reading project; this year it's 1936 we'll be time-traveling to. Immediately after they announced the upcoming year, I created a gigantic list of books I had read, could read, might conceivably read. I've pared down, but still have more candidates than I actually will read:

That's (from top to bottom):

Graham Greene's Journey Without Maps

John P. Marquand's Thank You, Mr. Moto

Noel Coward's Tonight at 8:30 (in a collection with other plays)

Stevie Smith's Novel on Yellow Paper

James T. Farrell's A World I Never Made

Karel Čapek's War With The Newts

The bottom two would be rereads. In fact it would be the fourth (fifth?) time I've read War With The Newts, but that would be OK, it's worth it. I read Čapek's R.U.R. for the 1920 club a year ago, and I've been thinking about rereading War With The Newts since then. I'm unlikely to read them all, but I might! I'm better than halfway through the Stevie Smith currently. There are a few other things that might slip in in their place.

James T. Farrell is likely the obscure one, which makes that particularly tempting. He should be better known. He's a Irish Catholic Chicago novelist (though he later moved to New York in a fit of pique with Chicago.) He died in 1979. A World I Never Made is the first of his Danny O'Neill series, though Farrell is more famous, as much as he is, for his Studs Lonigan novels, which got the Library of America treatment a few years back. They're very good and he really oughtn't be so little-known.

I've read one 1936 novel since I started blogging: Graham Greene's A Gun For Sale. It's reviewed here.

But I definitely will *not* be reading John Maynard Keynes' General Theory, despite having read some Keynes and Keynes-related things recently and the temptation to do so...

Have you read any of these? Which look good to you? Do you have plans for the 1936 club?

What I actually did read (most likely different from above):

1.) Stevie Smith's Novel on Yellow Paper

2.) John P. Marquand's Thank You, Mr. Moto

Thursday, April 8, 2021

George Starbuck (#NationalPoetryMonth)


Last Straw


-George Starbuck

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: the condensed version.

I'm showing it in Courier, a monospace font, to emphasize the lines. Starbuck wrote a series of poems like this, called SLABS, Standard Length And Breadth Sonnets. He wrote a number of other shaped poems ("Sonnet In The Shape of A Potted Christmas Tree") and light verse. And maybe some serious poems, too...

Annoyingly the editors did not actually include this in my selected Starbuck shown above; I have no idea where I first came across it; it's written in an old commonplace book of mine. In googling to check the text, I found it difficult to come by on-line. (Googling "Starbuck Last Straw" turns up worthwhile initiatives about plastic. I had to include a line to get anywhere. And the last few lines I couldn't find at all.) But it seems it appeared in his final collection, Visible Ink, 2002, after his death in 1996.

Bonus Poem: this *is* from The Works and is one of my favorite double dactyls:

High Renaissance

"Nomine Domini,
None of these prelates can
Manage your name.

Change it. Appeal to their
Sign it 'El Greco.' I'll
Slap on a frame."

It's National Poetry Month in the Canada and the U.S.!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Sexta Aprilis: Day Fatality, or Some Observations of Days Lucky and Unlucky

From John Aubrey's Miscellanies Upon Various Subjects

"Upon the sixth of April, Alexander the Great was born. Upon the same day he conquered Darius, won a great victory at sea, and died the same day.

Neither was this day less fortunate to his father Philip; for on the same day he took Potidea; Parmenio, his general, gave a great overthrow to the Illyrians; and his horse was victor at the Olympic games. Therefore, his prophets foretold to him, 'Filium cujus natalis,' &c. That a son whose birthday was accompanied with three victories, should prove invincible.

At the hour of prime, April 6, 1327, Petrarch first saw his mistress Laura in the church of Saint Clara in Avignon. In the same city, same month, same hour, 1348, she died."

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Georgi Gospodinov's The Physics of Sorrow

 "We needed quite some time to pull ourselves together after the battles, to climb down off our horses, and reenter the dull Bulgarian world."

The Physics of Sorrow (2011, 2015 in the English translation by Angela Rodel) is Georgi Gospodinov's second novel. In it, the main character, whose name is Georgi Gospodinov, has the ability to enter the thoughts, the consciousness, the soul of other figures, human, but also not just human, a snail, a fruit fly, a cloud.

A metaphor for what a writer does?

The final paragraph of the Prologue reads, "We am." (Though in an interview I read, Gospodinov says it's more like 'I are' in Bulgarian, but that he preferred 'We am' in English.)

But most of the figures, whose consciousness our narrator inhabits, are members of the Gospodinov family: the father, a veterinarian, is born in the closing days of World War II; his grandfather, also Georgi Gospodinov, just before the beginning of the first world war. The book wanders pretty freely, but at its core, it's family history as novel.

There are other Georgi Gospodinovs in the novel, not just the ones in the family; in the book (maybe in real life, too?--but I don't know) the name turns out to be the John Smith of Bulgaria. 

This capacity to suddenly be inside someone else's thoughts first manifests itself when he's a child, and it alarms narrator Georgi, as well it might, when suddenly you see the events of World War I as if through your three-year-old grandfather's eyes. As a young man he goes to a doctor where he's given the comic diagnosis of 'pathological empathy or obsessive empathetic-somatic syndrome.' The doctor tells narrator Georgi it's OK, it's usually something people grow out of, and narrator Georgi does, at least partly. Though this entails a sense of loss, too. 

The Minotaur (that's a stylized minotaur on the cover, though I did wonder at first if it was an ungeheueren Ungeziefer) serves as a leitmotif. In the communist era, narrator Georgi is a latchkey kid in a basement; which makes him the Minotaur; but others are as well. A sympathetic minotaur, who's internalized that sense of monsterhood.
"We bang around like Minotaurs in these basements."
"We're talking about the abandonment and forcible confinement of a child, branded by his origins, for which he is not to blame."

The novel is also interested in the nature and purpose of stories:

"I can't offer a linear story, because no labyrinth and no story is ever linear."

"...stories always end in one of two ways--with a child or with a death."

"Researchers believe that the conscious cultivation of empathy, including through the reading of novels (see S. Keen), will make communication far easier and will save us from future world cataclysms." 

The novel is essayistic and episodic in the way of W. G. Sebald or Olga Tokarczuk's Flights. If you like that sort of thing. I do, and I did in this case--quite a lot, in fact. I was on a bit of Gospodinov bender the last month. This was the third of his I read--pretty much all of him in English--and I thought this the best. The others were his first novel Natural Novel and a collection of stories And Other Stories. (But kind of schematic titles, don't you think?) He's also a poet, which should probably be published under the title, Some Poetry, but I don't know that any has made it into English. My visit to Bulgaria for the European Reading Challenge at Rose City Reader:

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Seamus Heaney (#BrianMooreAt100)

Brian and Jean Moore's home in Malibu

Remembering Malibu

for Brian Moore

The Pacific at your door was wilder and colder
than my notion of the Pacific

and that was perfect, for I would have rotted
beside the luke-warm ocean I imagined.

Yet no way was its cold ascetic
as our monk-fished, snowed-into Atlantic;

no beehive hut for you
on the abstract sands of Malibu --

it was early Mondrian and his dunes
misting towards the ideal forms

though the wind and sea neighed loud
as wind and sea noise amplified.

I was there in the flesh
where I'd imagined I might be

and underwent the bluster of the day:
but why would it not come home to me?

Atlantic storms have flensed the cells
on the Great Skellig, the steps cut in the rock

I never climbed
between the graveyard and the boatslip

are welted solid to my instep.
But to rear and kick and cast that shoe --

beside that other western sea
far from the Skelligs, and far, far

from the suck of puddled, wintry ground
our footsteps filled with blowing sand.

Via Wikipedia I came across this lovely reminiscence (by Scott Bradfield for the LA Times) of Brian and Jean Moore and their house in Malibu. The house was sadly destroyed in the Woolsey fire. And via that I realized there was a Seamus Heaney poem for Brian Moore set at the house. It's from Station Island (1985)

which was likely the first collection of Heaney's poems I read.