Monday, March 22, 2010
Reading and Writing in the Margins/Bocage
If I continue to wait until I can write in a concentrated and sustained way, I may never write again. Life fractures and shatters my attention into a million jagged little pieces, and my reading life has been that way lately too. I confess, I read facebook and other people's blogs the way I used to read novels, compulsively and for plot. I detect a story in status updates, and the unsayable or the unspoken appears (or disappears) in between status updates.
Then there is the teaching life. There are days, and then there are days. When you are a high school English teacher, you must be a generalist; therefore, I find myself reading Shakespeare's sonnets, Macbeth, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and other odds and ends. And that's not to even mention Yoga Magazine and Yoga Journal, which I look to for stress relief (stress is a given).
So Shakespeare's sonnets led me to thinking about sonnets in general. I like to open class with a poem, and lately I've been reading Shakespeare's sonnets. I love the sonnet form; it is perfect the way a nautilus shell is perfect -- the sonnet contains worlds. I stumbled across a book by William Baer called Writing Metrical Poetry, then that led me to Bocage, a stunning collection of contemporary sonnets and translations by Baer. These sonnets are playful, dire, savage, heartless and humorous. "Blood Splatter" is clinical and compassionate, and tells the story of the death of a young girl. "Illiterate Love Note" contains past, present, future, and unconsummated love. Fourteen lines.
So I walk the dogs and read sonnets, prepare for class and read Frederick Douglass (pellucid prose, a genius mind); on the weekend I read Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips, when I really should be grading papers. I try not to leave the house without my cell phone and a book. Have you ever found yourself at the Department of Motor Vehicles without a good novel? That is an existential nightmare. In case of emergencies I carry a folded poem in my wallet, and I have a few good poems memorized. In a perfect world, books would be at the center of my life, along with notebooks, daydreaming, and art.