William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Tag Archive for ‘Library Notes’

Dostoevsky and Van Gogh

Having fortunately lived long enough to finish reading all three volumes of Vincent’s letters, I have moved on to Dostoevsky’s Diary of a Writer, in Boris Brasol’s English translation, published in two volumes by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1949. After years of being away from Dostoevsky’s great novels and stories, coming upon him in the somewhat more casual, conversational mode of his periodical writings is much like having coffee with […]

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Valley Days

From the tips of its branches to the deepest, outermost extent of its roots, the cedar that planted itself within a few feet of our front window is as wild as a tree growing in an inaccessible canyon. This is something the sky knows and is always eager to tell. Nor is this truth questioned by squirrels, birds, insects, and worms, all of which are wild and wise in their […]

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My First Summer in the Sierra

The myriad components of this universe may be seen as varying expressions of one grand intelligence, an intelligence itself perhaps still evolving and ripening. No part is greater or lesser than another, or better or worse. Each is indispensable as long as it is needed, and plays its part in the great drama, whether star, waterfall, or blade of grass, elephant, bird, man, or mold. This includes the universe itself, […]

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The Poet Tree

To my mind, John Muir is a poet of the wilderness in the most divine literary sense — his praise and gratitude for the natural world is a song as sublime, inspirational, and wise as any sung by Homer or Whitman; in his hands, a journal entry seems the work of angels, here to recall man from the nightmare of his blind, narrow self. Muir is explorer, artist, scientist, dreamer, […]

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May Day

I’m still reading Vincent’s letters, and will be for quite some time. I continue with Thoreau’s journal, a fourteen-volume project. I’m about fifty pages into William Wetmore Story and His Friends, from Letters, Diaries, and Recollections, by Henry James, published in two volumes in 1904. I’ve begun the Library of America edition of John Muir’s nature writings. And I’ve just finished at Home with Disquiet, a wonderful new collection of […]

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A Mighty Wind Is

Yesterday evening, I learned something: to finish reading The Letters of Henry Adams is to want to read his books all over again; and it is to want to read the lives and letters of his friends. April 7, 2020   A Mighty Wind Is A mighty wind is thrashing the firs. Yesterday, the crows were busy gathering wood for their nests. When the wind dies down, they will resume. […]

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What Happened to Emily?

It would be foolish to suppose I know more about Emily Dickinson than anyone else who has taken the time to read her nearly eighteen hundred poems. In fact it’s likely I know much less. But I’ve loved her music, and will go on loving it. Cryptic as many of her poems seem to me, she was an artist in her subtle use of near rhyme and transformative rendering of […]

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Warm, the Flesh, Sweet, the Veil

Noted thus far, very lightly in pencil, near the top of the blank page opposite the Index of First Lines, the poems numbered 435, 712, and 730, beginning, respectively, Much Madness is divinest Sense — I could not stop for Death — Defrauded I a Butterfly — all three of which are old favorites of mine — and yet when I encountered them in my slow but steady progress through […]

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Troonk and Hamph

Among other things, in his journal entry for May 25, 1852, Thoreau mentions hearing the first troonk of a bullfrog — a lovely word, although I have for years spelled the sound hamph — this based on my recurring basso profondo imitation of bullfrogs heard while drifting with my father in his twelve-foot aluminum boat down California’s Kings River, in that lazy stretch below the town of Reedley where it […]

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Letters, Journals, and Poems

This afternoon I finished reading the third volume of Thoreau’s journal — the third of fourteen, as published in 1906 by Houghton Mifflin and Company. And I am set to begin The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, after reading the introduction for the fourth or fifth time early this morning. As with Whitman, I continue my habit of reading aloud — except in the case of The Letters of Henry […]

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