Monday, July 14, 2008

Sleeping and Waking

I'm reading two books right now. One is Sleeping on the Wing: An Anthology of Modern Poetry with Essays on Reading and Writing by Kenneth Koch and Kate Farrell. The other book is Until I Find You, by John Irving.

A couple of days ago, Kristy Bowen mentioned on her blog about how she reads poetry to study it, but fiction is something she reads for pleasure, and she gobbles it up on the subway, on buses, during every free moment. There are times when I do this too. Like now. Sleeping on the Wing is really an educational text, and the novel is not, so my reading choices appear pretty clear cut. In the morning, I read a chapter of Sleeping on the Wing, and then I write, but it's a sort of gluttonous pleasure that I don't get from the novel reading. And on the flipside, I learn as I read from the novel too and have thoughts like - aha - that's the third time Irving has hinted at the boy's future - a device -or - that is one of the greatest sentence structures - I wonder if I'll ever write one like that? So far, the first 150 pages of the novel are compelling. I want to know what happens to the boy. There's been a lot of tattooing, prostitutes, church organs and interesting characters throughout the European travels he's taken with his mother. I keep turning the pages. A good sign.

This morning I read several poems by Arthur Rimbaud. He wrote all of his poetry between the ages of 15 and 20, and only lived into his forties. He stopped writing poetry, but wrote letters later in his life. I was amazed at his ability to create dreamlike scenes from the sort of moments that are so simple they seem to defy words - lush and beautiful imagery. Kenneth Koch follows the chapter with a short essay on translation, that ends with his admission to learning French just so he could read Rimbaud and Appollinaire. I'm enjoying this book so much, it made me cry to think I can't thank Kenneth Koch for the Rimbaud translations, and the inspiring essay. Too late to thank him, other than by continuing to read and write.

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