I was casting around for something to post today, and I remembered the old saw, "Write what you know." So I looked around my office, which, like most of yours, is full of books. And it occurred to me that bookshelves can be sort of like neighborhoods - unusual groupings of individuals who may or may not want to chat over the back fence.
Poets in particular can be a little cantankerous - hey, you kids! Get your ball out of my yard! - and I think it's kind of fun to imagine the conversations between authors who are forced by the alphabet and the limits of my book collection to reside next to each other.
So, what do we have on my poetry shelves? John Ashbery and W.S. Auden live side-by-side. While their poems are very different, as old friends they probably would have a lot to talk about. Elizabeth Bishop is next to John Berryman. Two more temperamentally different people could not be found. Bishop - buttoned up, deeply internal, a bit prissy; Berryman - loud, expansive, given to large pronouncements. But they were both extremely well-educated and passionate about poetry, and they at least might share a drink or two (or five) while discussing their very diverse poetics.
Ray Carver and Byron are next-door neighbors. Perhaps Carver could teach Byron how to fish, if he didn't punch him in the nose for being such a jerk. e.e. cummings and Dante are next to each other. Can't imagine what they'd talk about, although Dante might invite cummings over for spaghetti. T.S. Eliot lives in between Cornelius Eady and Lynn Emmanuel. Hmmm. Reuben Jackson shares space with Randall Jarrell, Ted Hughes with Jane Hirshfield. John Keats and Jane Kenyon. Robert Lowell and Thomas Lynch.
Edna St. Vincent Millay lives next to John Milton. Now, there's a conversation I'd like to eavesdrop on, although much would be lost since Milton would not be able to see Millay's gorgeous red hair and Bohemian wardrobe. Liam Rector has Sylvia Plath on one side and Adrienne Rich on the other, but he'd be up to the challenge. Walt Whitman, Richard Wibur, and James Wright hang out together. That's a party right there.
So - who lives in your poetic neighborhood? Maybe that explains the empty beer cans next to your desk in the morning...