Lately, it's as though I am simultaneously blessed and cursed with books: blessed because so many of them are wonderful books I want to read and are sent by friends who are thinking of me, but cursed because I don't have enough time to read them all.
While I was in New York recently, I saw a friend who works at Palgrave MacMillan and she gave me a memoir by an Italian young woman who survived Auschwitz along with the new book by Wesley Clark. Some other friends gave me the collection of poems, Field Russia, by Gennedy Agyi, the Chuvashian poet. Just saying Chuvashian is a novel experience rolling off the tongue. I haven't had a chance to do more than take a brief look at one or two pages, but it looks promisingly like Paul Celan in it's interior approach to language. My most prized freebie while in NY is the upcoming novel by Roberto Bolano, Nazi Literature in the Americas, supposedly true biographical entries about writers in the Americas who had some sort of contact with or admiration for Hitler and/or the Nazis. They are so funny and absurd. If you are not familiar with Roberto Bolano, who was one of the most important writers of South America in the new generation, check out the New Yorker which has one of his short stories online:
It should be enough to have received 7 books while in New York. However, in the two weeks since, it's been like Christmas. As soon as I returned from my vacation, I found on my work desk: Fernando Pessoa, The Collected Poems of Alberto Caeiro (translated by Chris Daniels). Reading the very first lines of this volume:
I've never kept flocks,
But it's like I've kept them.
My soul is like a shepherd,
It knows the wind and the sun
And it walks hand in hand with the Seasons,
Following and seeing.
All the peace of Nature without people
Comes and sits at my side.
But I get sad
As the sunset is in our imagination
When it gets cold down in the plain
And you feel night coming in
Like a butterfly through the window.
Reading those lines, I wondered why the Whitman influence has had a more interesting impact on Portuguese and Spanish speaking poets than English speaking poets. Over the past few years, I've grown increasingly disenchanted by the first person persona of the everyday that has taken over the American poetry scene. But that's a larger topic to be explored some other post.
One book of poems I haven't done more than crack open is Giscomb's Road which a friend from Chicago sent me. The reason is because it looks complex, something to think on for hours. I would like to get to it as it's accompanied by a note from my friend talking about Giscombe as being a different kind of poet than many poets currently dominating the scene.
Among the most unusual books I've received in my lifetime is a charming and eclectic paperback entitled: How to Build an Igloo. At first I thought it was a joke along the lines of a Chronicle gift item. Instead, it's a genuine Do It Yourself igloo instructions written by an engineer. Accompanied by line illustrations, the instructions include such invaluable tidbits as how to dress for igloo-building, creating light in your igloo by using a polished block of ice, joining two igloos together for a roomier igloo, and other structures that are not necessarily igloos but also built out of snow/ice.
There are so many new books I've received that I am going to have to do a post number 2 on the same topic later.