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Monday, June 25, 2012

Recent Reading Binge

Today my new trimester starts for my online studies, and before I delve into it and disappear from here, I want to tell you what I've been reading lately in my simultaneous reading binge.

One book I read these past few weeks was Brent Goodman's The Brother Swimming Beneath Me, which had two recurring themes: the death of the poet's brother as a young man, and the poet's coming out and living as a gay man. It was good timing for me to read this book, as I've been thinking about how to organize a manuscript myself, and seeing how Goodman did not gather all the poems about each of his major themes into separate sections, but rather alternated them throughout the first few sections of the book, confirmed my plan to structure my manscript that loosely and recursively.

Concurrently I also read Hayden Saunier's Tips for Domestic Travel. (Both this book and Goodman's are from Black Lawrence Press, and I got them in my half-price buying binge a month or so ago.) I had read a single poem of Saunier's some years ago, and put her book on my 'to-read' list based on it, and on websearching more of her work. Saunier lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a county adjacent to the one I grew up in, so that may account for some of the affinity I feel for her modern pastoral tone. Reading through her book, I kept expecting to find the poem that had originally turned me on to her work, and finally I came upon it--the last poem in the book!

My third simultaneous read was Bhanu Kapil's Incubation: A Space for Monsters. I'm not sure if I would call this poetry or avant garde prose; it occupies that space so prevalent these days between them. This text was in many places a very difficult read, much different from the two books above with their narrative structures (although this one was also narrative, but disjointed, and though I love that style, I was confused a good deal of the time). However, I enjoyed the book despite (or perhaps partially because of) my disorientation. As a major theme is the disorientation of the immigrant as other, so the tone and confusing organization was an effective device, as well as a hugely familiar to me given my life circumstances.

The last book of poetry I read along with the others was Craig Morgan Teicher's Brenda Is In The Room. This is another case of a me having read a single poem and on the strength of it (in this case the title poem) putting the poet's book on my to-read list. Teicher's straightforward logical tone couldn't differ any more from Kapil's dense and cryptic lines or from Saunier's higly lyrical style, but that's one of the pleasures of reading several books concurrently--noticing and reveling in the differences. I happen to love the pared-down quasi-rational tone employed by Teicher, the suggestion that lines are organized logically and then suddenly a surprising statement appears, and you wonder how you got there from the careful progression of previous lines. I try to use this kind of affect myself. So I loved most of this book, although Teicher ended with a long poem meant to invoke A. R. Ammons' long works (as stated within the poem repeatedly by the poet), but it didn't work for me at all. The rest though, was a pleasure.

To be thorough, while reading these books of poetry, I also read as fiction Primo Levi's If Not Now, When? and Lousie Erdrich's Shadow Tag, and for non-fiction Alice Walker's Anything We Love Can be Saved.


Karen J. Weyant said...

I love Brent Goodman's book! He has a new collection coming out at the end of the year!

Jessica Goodfellow said...

I didn't know Goodman had a new collection coming out. Thanks for the heads up, Karen.