Books bought this month: “The Shadow of Sirius,” W.S. Merwin.
Books read this month: “Local Knowledge,” B.H. Fairchild; “On Stage,” Ray Bradbury; “The Wizard of Venus,” Edgar Rice Burroughs; “The Cat’s Pajamas,” Ray Bradbury; “The Shadow of Sirius,” W.S. Merwin.
The news this month: 1) I bought only one book, and read it, and 2) in my quest to read 50 books this year, I succeeded, reading books 46 to 50 this month. Yay me. And with two months to go, yet.
Onward to this month’s books. The Fairchild (bought in September) and the Merwin are poetry. Now, poetry has never been this English major’s bag. I like a few of the things we’re all supposed to like, but for me, poetry is like jazz, classical music, modern art — substitute your own mystery art form if you like — that I don’t much understand and have no critical apparatus to evaluate properly.
That said, I bought Fairchild’s book at a reading I attended because he’s a Claremont resident and highly regarded (a National Book Award finalist, for one thing) and I felt I should know what he’s about. I liked his reading and I liked the book, enough that I’ll buy more of his work.
Merwin’s book was also purchased at a reading. He’s one of poetry’s heavyweights and his latest collection, the one I bought, won a Pulitzer this year. Well, what the heck, it was a slender paperback and he was there to sign it, so why not?
I was reading it sort of by autopilot — poems require more concentration and a different type of reading than prose, and I have trouble adjusting to the pace — when the poems started to connect. First came one about Merwin’s childhood memory of his mother’s hands as she played the piano: “the veins on the backs of her hands are the color/of the clear morning sky beginning to haze over.” The next one combined his parents’ first memories with their last moments before death, to great effect.
I can’t say I loved or even understood all the poems, but I liked a number of them, and if a non-poetry reader can say that, it must be an awfully fine book.