Audrey Hepburn grocery shopping with her deer, photographed by Bob Willoughby, 1958.
I suppose the two poets who most help me here are Frank O’Hara and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Coleridge’s “conversation” poems, like “Frost at Midnight” and “The Nightingale” and “This Lime-Tree Bower, My Prison,” are intimate poems written on specific occasions. They are meditative and personal and candid. The reader gets a sense, above all, of the friendliness of the enterprise, even when Coleridge feels blue.
In his beautiful, tough little essay “Personism,” O’Hara talks about the poem as a thing held between two people rather than two pages. These poets give me permission to write to a beloved interlocutor—someone intelligent, discriminating, permissive, tender, and interested. Fortunately for me, Craig (to whom most of the poems of this collection are addressed) was all of these things. But Craig is certainly not the only person to whom (and for whom) I write. I just want to feel like I’m conversing with a witty, observant friend.
At Quebec’s Garden of Decaying Books ”culture is fading back into nature.”
Fun Fact: “Literature” was an Olympic event until 1948. In fact, several other events were also listed under the umbrella of “Sporting Art,” as Olympic historian John MacAloon points out to NPR. For example, W. B. Yeats’ brother, Jack Butler Yeats, won the “Mixed Painting” silver in 1924; some people even won “Medals for Making Medals!”
“A difficult novel, let’s say, “The Brothers Karamazov,” will take most readers a matter of weeks to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” (as “The Book of Common Prayer” has it). You can go faster if you just want to be told a story. You can also go faster if you already know a lot about nineteenth-century Russia. But curiosity might easily lead the ordinary reader to look into all kinds of subjects related to the novel—to search out a photograph or a painting of a Russian Orthodox monastery—or to learn something more about the aspects of Christianity (redemption, sin, expiation) that are addressed in the book. These things take time.
How many serious books can even a dedicated reader conquer in a year? No more than forty, I should think. Twice that, maybe, for a professional critic, academic, or journalist who is going at it hammer and tongs.”