For sidewalk, Walt Whitman liked to use the word trottoir. Offhand, I can think of no other nineteenth century American writer who did so — this, of course, based on my faulty memory and limited reading. Word choice aside, one thing I’m noticing this time through his Specimen Days, is that buildings and trains are every bit as alive to him as oaks and sparrows — indeed, in his poetic […]
Tag Archive for ‘Library Notes’
At long last I can say I have read Leaves of Grass — every word, in the poet’s final edition. I can also say that I have read each poem aloud, phrase by phrase, line by line, slowly, patiently, thoughtfully, carefully listening all the while. I had read Walt Whitman before. I had read his 1855 first edition, and many of his poems at random. And about fifteen years ago, […]
From a multiplicity of views, comes a unified result — we children broke God’s window, and let his demons out. About four-thirty this morning, I finished a reading project of many months’ duration: the three-volume Library of America edition of the works of Henry Adams — a beautifully written, thought-provoking collection of history, fiction, and autobiography by a nineteenth century master with a twentieth century vision and beyond. November […]
After I finish reading the Library of America edition of Walt Whitman’s complete poems and prose, and when the wind dies down, I think I will turn to Emily Dickinson — 1960, Boston: Little, Brown. October 30, 2019 Unnumbered Poem If each act isn’t sacred, and each moment divine, tell me, then — who are you, and what do you do with your time?
If the mind’s a muscle that remembers its pain, Then work it, work it, and work it again. And if pleasure be its prowess and rightful domain, Raise the chalice, and treasure the palace it’s in. October 24, 2019. Late Afternoon. Upon finishing Herman Melville: Complete Poems. Library of America, 2019.
At the rate I’m going, steady though it may be, it will take me several years to finish reading all fourteen volumes of Thoreau’s journal. I hope I have those years. But if I don’t, I’m happy to have had those leading up to them. And when I say hope, I mean I’m willing to live them if they’re given me, and that I understand very well they might not […]
All too often, those of us who call ourselves writers speak of the books we read as if their very mention were an indication of our learning, depth, and worth. I speak about them because I love them, knowing full well that even after they are read, I will be at a loss to explain the profound or mean effect they have had on me, my understanding, and my thinking. […]
As much as by touching, reading, and simply having them near, I think any poet would gain by the calm, deliberate practice of describing the scent of old books. To describe, in essence, what can’t be described, and yet must — this is his domain and his charge; to illuminate what is haunting, yet painfully familiar — this is why she was born; and then, when she dies, to haunt […]
Book by book I go, dusting, cleaning, reading, examining, inhaling, arranging. A library is a strange, quiet joy. It is good fortune, and in these times, when ignorance is vaunted, heralded, and prized, it is a reminder that wisdom and sanity are still alive in the world. And then when the rain stops, I put on even older clothes and go out and prune the fig tree, which, over the […]
At the moment there’s scarcely room here to sit, leave alone exercise free movement of my elbows. And while this is only a slight exaggeration, I’d best make no sudden moves, or I might topple the tall stacks of books everywhere around me, as the room is in a state of turmoil brought on by my decision to add two more tall bookcases, despite the fact that there’s no obvious […]