This was an interesting month for reading. I explored some new writers, and gave ones I hadn’t been in love with a second chance.
Millicent Borges Accardi — Woman on a Shaky Bridge: I first met Accardi at the Canto Mundo readings this past July. I was blown away by her work, and immediately had to buy this chapbook. Favorite lines (from the poem “Inventing the Present”):
Back into ripe growth
and then magically fused
with another. That happens.
The lull, coming home to a warm
body, the checking in. The awful
noise that ends where one
begins and is later part of two,
the noise you hate but cannot vocalize.
Rae Armantrout — Versed: Armantrout is often associated with the Language poets, and from an aesthetic perspective, that particular school is not my favorite. That being said, I like to make a point of taking chances and exploring new writers. Ultimately, I didn’t really engage with this collection. Which is not to say that Armantrout is not a fine poetry — I appreciate her craft, even though her work doesn’t quite resonate with me.
Joan Didion — The Year of Magical Thinking: I read Didion’s Blue Nights earlier this year, and came away feeling lukewarm. But more than one person encouraged me to give The Year of Magical Thinking a chance, so I went ahead and got a copy from the library. And then I read the entire book in about a day. I was completely hooked by this memoir, and Didion’s chronicles of her grief. I will recommend this book again and again.
Nikki Giovanni — Acolytes: I hadn’t read Giovanni since college, so when I came across this at the library, I had to check it out. I’ve been interested in taking a more political/activist stance in my poems lately, so this was good for both pleasure and for artistic development. What I appreciate most is Giovanni’s sense of voice. She can write from her perspective now, from the mindset of a young girl, and from a whole host of other voices, both men and women, young and old.
Erica Jong — Love Comes First: I set out to read more of Jong’s work after first reading her poetry at a workshop in July. I’d read some of her early pieces, and had been captivated. This book is stylistically different from what I’d initially encountered, and it felt less immediately accessible to me than the early poems. Jong is a master of her craft, and this is a fine collection, but like with the Armantrout, I didn’t find myself completely engaged.
Erica Jong — Ordinary Miracles: After Love Comes First, I tried Ordinary Miracles. This book was much more along the lines of what I’d anticipated reading, and I was sucked in, finishing the collection in about a day. I definitely plan to continue exploring Jong’s work more in the coming months.
The Kenyon Review, 34.1 (Winter 2012): There was a lot to love about this issue, and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it (one of the reasons I made it a goal to read a literary journal a month is because I’m so behind on them). Anna Kovatcheva’s “September” is awe-inspiring, the kind of story that made me think, I wish I’d written that. Roger Rosenblatt’s “Kayak Morning,” a memoir-essay about grief, was especially poignant given that I’d just finished The Year of Magical Thinking a day before. Erin Stalcup’s “In the Heart of the Heart of the Empire” was also particularly engaging.
Victoria Sullivan and James Hatch, eds. — Plays By and About Women: I happened upon this book while browsing in the library, and decided to check it out in hopes that it would give me some inspiration for the one-act play I’ve put off finishing for far too long. There was some amazing writing in this anthology, though I noticed only a token presence of non-Anglo/American and non-white authors. At least part of this can probably be explained by the collection’s age; it was published in 1974. The other thing that struck me was that, despite the fact that this collection is over 30 years old and there has been a lot of progress made, there are a lot of things that remain the same.
Ben Yagoda — Memoir: A History: This was such a fun book to read. It had all the intellectual rigor of something I would have read in graduate school, but in a style that keeps it engaging for a general audience. I loved learning more about the genre and how it evolved over time. This book was probably also at least part of the catalyst for my inspiration to write my own memoir piece in August.
In September, I know I’ll definitely be reading A Game of Thrones. Given the length, it might actually be all that I’m reading. And given how hooked I am, the series might just become my designated reading for the rest of the year…