One of the jobs required of me during this week in Sonoma, according to my stepfather, was to go through what he refers to as MY storage unit. I wasn’t required to get rid of it all, I was only required to look at it, to know what was there, and to decide if I still wanted it. Boxes and boxes. Stuffed animals and costumes, bolo ties and cat eye glasses, Swatches and Casios, a yellow Walkman, a pin striped suit, books, and letters. Letters, so many, many letters. Notes I wrote, notes that were written to me, pictures, and postcards, and so many words on paper that my brain was full up on ink by the end.
I managed to throw away 7 boxes of “stuff,” and also to rescue some things back to the living: My old hiking boots I bought in Prague in 1993, my elementary school jacket that still boasts the “Dunbar Demons” mascot, even though they are now the much tamer, less controversial, Dunbar Dolphins.
What struck me was how important some of the items still seemed. I expected to be put off by how much unnecessary crap I had saved, but mostly, I was thrilled to see it again. The way you return to something, a place, a person, a poem, and are reminded of both the life you lived then, and where it launched you. I thought about how as writers, we have this storage unit in our heads and hearts, a place where whole poems, or sometimes just single lines, stay waiting for the right time to return to us. When we need them, we go back into the dark old room of our first loves, take out the dust-covered angel wings and the pooh bear, and find the first words that lit the candle sticks of our inexplicable careers. Come comrades, into the battle again, we require your services.
At the risk of revealing all my secrets, I thought I'd open my own box of some of the very first lines I remember memorizing in high school and undergrad, memorizing without even being aware of it. The lines that somehow stuck with me through the many blurry stoney days of creek walking and confusion. Many of them come from poems that were taught to me ("One Art," was even on a TEST, and it's still my favorite poem), and of course I've since fallen in love with millions more words and word-crafters, but here's the box I can remember the most, the time capsule, the footlocker, the firsts. Of course, when you find the old shoulder-padded jackets and pictures in storage you have to hold them up, and try them on, oh and you must reminisce.
(Sitting in Mrs. Lale's class reading it for the first time. Sunny outside. Oh the rhyming! The ache at the end, the form! It was so painful, this poem. Losing and losing that will go on forever. It's still my favorite. I was fifteen.)
“I lost two cities once, lovely ones. And vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent,
I miss them. But it wasn’t a disaster.”
(Mrs. Cole's class. We were supposed to be doing something else, I found this poem in an anthology on the shelf, oh my god, it's about penises! Oh my god, you can write about SEX! I want to be a poet and also, I want to have sex!)
“Gleaming in the dark air, eager and so
trusting you could weep.”
(A video in a classroom, not sure which class. His voice, powerful, cutting, rich, and angry. The image of the lion, the rhythm, the seemingly awkward phrases turned into a new song.)
“From my five arms, and all my hands
from all my white sins forgiven, they feed.”
(College at the University of Washington, a print out, this is the first line of the poem, I got a physical shiver down my spine. This is true. This is true. This is true.)
“The brow of a horse in that moment when
The horse is drinking water so deeply from a trough
It seems to inhale the water, is holy.
I refuse to explain.”
(High school. This line in my head for a week, "the women come and go, talking..." over and over, the rhyme the image. "Let us go then, you and I." I couldn't escape it. I thought he was writing at the same time I was alive. It seemed so of the now, of the here. I remember I hated the title, it didn't seem to fit. I'm not sure why I thought that now.)
“In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.”
(College. Oh the BEAR. The devouring nature of this poem. The woods it eats up. I heard later a story of a bunch of poets with Kinnell at a bar. They made Kinnell recite this poem. When it was done, there was silence, then they all yelled, "AGAIN!" I feel that way about this poem.)
was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood, that poetry, by which I lived?”
(College. My first apartment on my own. I had a box set of CD's of the beat poets. I'd play it all the time. I'd make my friends listen to it. Over and over. This poem, the whole recording, stuck with me deeply. It still comes to me when I sit down to write. "America...")
“When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?”
(College. "So long away from their tools." This one was hard and cruel. Prison and pain. I would have liked to deny it, but it was fierce and new and mean and then there was a hope, too.)
“as they came in, they leave wondering what good they are now
as they look at their hands so long away from their tools,”
(College. The anaphoras. Simple. "He said" and then, "I remember." And even though the repetitions were simple, they added this amazing power, and this poem was feminism, and song. It's one of the few I can still recite.)
“I would have liked to try those wings myself.
It would have been better than this.”
There are so many more, but that's my original lock-box of lingerers. My storage unit of lines that's there for good. I'm so very happy I've saved them.
Imagination takes precedence over intellect for Bob Dylan. David Dalton tries to trace the career of that remarkable imagination in his book Who Is That Man?: In Search of the Real Bob Dylan (Hyperion) which is being published today. Dalton, a founding editor of Rolling Stone, originally titled his work Bob's Brain. I suppose he did this because he wanted to attempt the impossible: a provide a written MRI of the creator of what some people claim to be the best songs ever written.
Bob Dylan's identity is, to understate the point laughably, elusive, starting with his Jewishness. Karl Shapiro, in his work In Defense of Ignorance, wrote: "The European Jew was always a visitor...But in America everybody is a visitor. In the United States the Jewish writer is free to create his own consciousness." But the Jewish writer has a more complex identity than other American writers. In Ravelstein, Saul Bellow noted that "As a Jew you are also an American, but somehow you are not." That was Dylan's status. He was an outsider as a Jew in America, but doubly so in Hibbing, Minnesota. As a rural Jew, he was, in Dalton's phrase, "an outsider in a community of outsiders."
This status led him to be free to invent a self while simultaneously feeling outside of any genuine self. In one sense he had no identity at all. In 1976 Allen Ginsberg said about Dylan: "I don't know him because I don't think there is any him. I don't think he's got a self."
Dylan rebelled against his birth self in every possible way. He changed his name. He changed where he lived. He believed he had been born into the wrong family. He looked for a direction to his real self and could not find it. Robert Zimmerman had a profound sense of disquiet. And so, when he got to New York, he invented stories to everyone who would listen. He was an orphan, a circus performer, a Native American. He was anybody but a small town son of a Jewish appliance dealer.
But accompanying this all--inclusive self-rejection was an intense belief in himself, a sense that Fate had cleared a path in life for him that would lead to his being the most important singer in America. For me, this juxtaposition provides an approach to Dylan's identity: to look at the rapport and the rancor between his private and public selves. To do this, I think it's useful to consider Dylan as an actor. Lies are the truth for an actor. The world has facts, but for Dylan those facts didn't explain inner turmoil, the ever-moving, ever-changing, often closely-related feelings of desire and loathing, the ways that words and sounds just came to him, often when prompted by a song that moved him. He loved those songs, and then stole them, and then made them his own, inevitably vastly improving them.
Actors are frequently alienated from themselves. (The best book I know about this is Simon Callow's Being An Actor). They often can't find a real self. That was Ginsberg's point about Dylan. To overcome these dreadful feelings, actors have to think the thoughts of others, in their cases the imaginative characters created by dramatists and screenwriters. Dylan absorbed the imaginative characters of American popular music. He was the hobo and the troubadour, the endless traveler and the misunderstood artist. As with actors, he was far more comfortable on stage than off. But unlike actors he didn't have a Shakespeare who had written for him. He tried. He had Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie and the whole of American popular music. But eventually he discovered he needed to sing songs that didn't yet exist. Eventually he became his own dramatist and screenwriter and created the songs and then acted them out on stage. He was the writer, the actor, and the director. And, some say, he became his own Shakespeare.
Drink in hand, Bob Holman of the Bowery Poetry Club read each poem in front of the NYC bar or restaurant alchemist who invented the cocktail. Poet and performer, Holman read with his own magic: softly, slowly for “Somewhere I Never Traveled” by E. E. Cummings or booming for “Crossing the Bar” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
The benefit for the Academy of American Poets was hosted by Peter Hoffman at his East Village restaurant with tasty treats from his kitchen. This year’s cocktail recipes and some of the poems will join the inaugural ones at www.poets.org/cocktails.
Tom Macy from Clover Club in Carroll Gardens paired his berried and bubbly drink Clever Girl with the Emily Dickinson poem that begins "NATURE rarer uses yellow." Like many a Dickinson poem that lulls by surface sublime from the natural world, Macy floated a yellow pansy in the drink. All the better to heighten the punch.
“Just like me,” said Jessica Knevals ordering a Clever Girl, wearing yellow heels as bright as the flowers.
“I’d be lying if I said you were the first person to say that,” Macy replied.
Bar banter fueled by alcohol is likely more interesting to the bar patrons than the bartender. But pack in poetry lovers on a sunny spring Saturday afternoon and a drink based on Dorothy Parker Gin from the New York Distilling Company prompts replies to Holman in full Parker poems.
The longest Parker recitation was from Christopher Michel, also the only living poet on the menu at this year’s slam. His Poem in which I am an asshole as a poorly behaved poet guest inspired a rye drink with the longest lines of the afternoon, A drink which can make you an asshole, mixed by Tom Richter of the Beagle. “Because it will sneak up on you,” Richter said. Holman and Michel read the poem together while the Beagle owner covered his eyes.
”They truly are mixologists,” Holman praised those to mix, shake and pour the libations. "And they make more money than poets.”
Catherine Woodard has played coed, pickup basketball in New York City for three decades. Her poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Southern Poetry Review, RHINO and other journals. In 2011, Woodard was a featured poet at UnshodQuills.com, co-published Still Against War/Poems for Marie Ponsot and was a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She will be a 2012 fellow at the Hambidge Center in Georgia and is a board member of the Poetry Society of America. Woodard is a former president of Artists Space, one of the nation’s oldest spaces for emerging visual artists. Woodard has a MFA in poetry from the New School University and MS in journalism from Columbia University.
for John Ashbery
I am in your kitchen photographing the noon
light on your Ivory soap bottle and the lone spoon
in the dish strainer. You’ve lined up various kinds
of honey in front of a boom box, and we can hear
you breathing heavy with the physical therapist
upstairs. We are here to document your life while
you are living, though everyone refers to you in the past,
as if you were a ghost banished to the second
floor to do calisthenics forevermore. I note the die
in your little leaf vase, and persuade the archivist
to open the sheet music. You never play it anymore.
When a person goes, the archived mind goes
kaput. The best place to eat ravioli in Hudson?
The neighbor who broke the piano? The sculptor
who cast the dead-eyed gittern player in the foyer?
I am a voyeur peeling back your flimsy white curtains
to see how you spy on the world, notice a chandelier bead
hidden behind the damsel’s bust. A safety pin holds
together the rug. My mismatched socks look bad
against your Persian prints, so I photograph them
and all the mirrors I am in as if to say “I was here!”
sharing some fibers with greatness.
But I see myself in none of it, John,
the Parisian silk, the shock art hung crooked
over the chaise, the nutcracker with little fake nuts.
And I am sorry for the mismatched socks, really I am,
but your rug looked so lovely against my feet.
We are here to preserve your things
because we can’t preserve you.
-- Stephanie Paterik
“You ask of my Companions. Hills – sir – and the Sundown, and a Dog large as myself." Emily Dickinson
You can’t spell poet without the word pet. This is the terrible first line I’ve been trying to avoid all morning, apparently to no avail. Somehow, amidst all the big ideas that I keep hoping to talk about here in my wee week at the BAP blog, the very small idea of pets keeps biting my ankles and begging to be taken out. (Perhaps this is because my dog is doing that very same thing at the moment.)
Let me begin by saying that up until last month, I never knew Emily Dickinson had a dog and for some reason that seemingly innocuous bit of information changed me. We have this idea of her, Ms. Dickinson, sitting alone in a small room rearranging words and stowing them away in the pocket of her stark white dress, while the much less common image is of a woman walking far out into the wild meadows of Amherst with her large dog, Carlo, bounding happily next to her. What changed me when I learned this? My first thought was, “Oh, she wasn’t alone at all!” It gave me a palpable thrill.
As writers, we often spend many seemingly selfish hours in one place living inside the mind trying to shut out outside stimulation. This can sometimes wreak havoc on our social lives, our relationships, even, at times, our humanity. However, as a much-needed antidote to that required solitude, many of us have turned to one of the universe’s most generous offerings…animals. They work, and this is no small feat, to return us to the real world again and again, showing us our own animal-selves, softening our cruel self-judgments, bringing us outside of our own egos, and unraveling the day into something more tangible and take-able.
I think of my dear friend Jennifer L. Knox, whose lovely first bird, Ichi the Killer, flew the coup of the living this weekend, and how instrumental he was to her life as a writer, how much joy such a small-winged thing offered her in the hours she worked hard to finish her new novel. It’s difficult to show just how much gratitude we have to the animals in our lives, our muses, and necessary distractions. I tell you, my dog makes me get up and go outside and walk among the living, even when I desperately don’t want to. As Emily Dickinson’s dog must have. “Interact with the living!” they say. "Play with me! Play with life!" And we, being their servants, do as we are told, and so we suffer less, and live a little more.
Check out this site here with all these lovely writers and their furry foils. As Billy Collin's tells his students (I'm paraphrasing), "Put a dog in your poems, it'll be a bright break from your own self absorbtion."
And so, in honor of Ichi the Killer, ("'Hope' is the thing with feathers - that perches in the soul") and to all our pets past and present, this post is only to show a small kernel of gratitude for how our animals, who may not always make us better writers, at least try to make us better animals alive in the world.
Think of tonight's episode,the best of the 5th season so far, as the Four Twenty Edition of Mad Men with a bummed out Peggy playing hooky smoking a joint with some horny stranger in a dark movie theater watching "Born Free" (I think that's what it was). . . Roger Sterling goes on an acid trip with his wife, Jane, who, it turns out, speaks Yiddish when she is high (Roger thinks it's German). No sooner has Roger announced that LSD ("your product, Mr Leary") is "boring" than he opens a vodka bottle and hears mighty Russian chorale music. You can hear it every time the bottle is uncapped -- and as long as the bottle remains uncapped. The cigarette in Roger's mouth shrinks. In the mirror he sees himself with half his hair gray, the other half black, as in a magazine ad and Don Draper appears over his shoulder and tells him everything will turn out okay now go back to your wife and he does and she says things like "How can a few numbers contain all of time?" In the cab Bert Cooper's face appears on the five-dollar bill. And her epiphany is that he doesn't like her. And his epiphany is that it's going to be easier to get out of this marriage than he thought. "It'll be expensive," she tells him, but he doesn't care, he's free, it's gonna be a great day. . .And Ginsberg, who needs no drugs to establish his extraterrestrial bona fides, finds a witty way to tell Peggy he was born in a concentration camp. And Peggy is smoking more and drinking more Canadian Club and she resembles no one more than Don when she tells off the guy from Heinz who rejects her "Home is where the Heinz is" campaign, though it's, well, awesome ("the fire is primal. . .and it's the beans that brought them together on the cold night at the end of the summer") and she gets taken off the account and that is why she is bummed out enough to go to the movies and get high and fall asleep in Don's office and later she gets a weird brusque phone call from Don, "Did you get any calls? Has anyone called you?" which makes no sense until we go over the same stretch of time from the point of view of Mr Draper himself, who is driving to a HoJo Motor Lodge with Megan (in beautiful orange-striped sweater that goes perfectly with the decor) where they have a blowout fight which ends when he loses his temper and bolts. "Don't you dare pull away. I'm talking to you," she says helplessly as he pulls out and drives off without her. Cooling off, he goes back and looks everywhere for her including the ladies' room. (She took the bus back, furious.) No pot, no acid, but a sleepless Don smoking cigarettes in a period sedan and having odd flashbacks to composite car trips is enough of a high to end on. A brilliant episode. 1966! -- DL
Random thoughts . . . Tom Clark maintains his blog with rare dedication. Check out today's, devoted to a Joe Brainard prose piece and the drawings of Hans Holbein. . . We were talking about religion-substitutes recently. I nominated "art" and "politics." My friends volunteered "pornography" and "drugs." They won. . . I've been reading Auden writing in the Byronic manner:
I hate pompositas and all authority;
Its air of injured rightness also sends
Me shuddering from the cultured smug minority.
'Perpetual revolution,' left-wing friends
Tell me, 'in counter-revolution ends.
Your fate will be to linger on outcast
A selfish pink old Liberal to the last.'
Twenty-two has long been one of my favorite numbers because of that Twilight Zone episode, "Room for One More, Honey," where the morgue was down in the basement: room 22. And today's NaPoWriMo finds do my beloved #22 justice.
Today's prompt on the NaPoWriMo site blew my mind. In honor of Earth Day, the prompt is to write a poem about a plant. OK, fine, sure, I like plants. But then Maureen dropped the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary bomb. Do you all know about this? Seriously, it blew my face off.
Onto the poems.
A one-time only event not to be missed: Don Share touches down from Chicago to join poet/artist Scott Zieher in a free-wheeling conversation about "the relationship between word and image, the crafted and the found, seeing and saying." The discussion is moderated by Arezoo Moseni. Don Share is Senior Editor of Poetry magazine. His books include Squandermania (Salt Publishing), Union (Zoo Press), Seneca in English (Penguin Classics), and most recently a new book of poems, Wishbone (Black Sparrow). Scott Zieher’s GENTRY (Emergency Press, February 2012) is his third book length poem since 2005. He is co-owner of the contemporary art gallery ZieherSmith, established in 2003, with his wife Andrea, representing an international group of emerging artists in all media.
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street
New York, NY 10018-2788
More information here.
This week we welcome Ada Limón as our guest blogger. Ada grew up in Glen Ellen and Sonoma, California. A graduate of New York University’s MFA Creative Writing Program, she has received fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and won the Chicago Literary Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines including, The New Yorker, Harvard Review, and Poetry Daily. She is the author of three books of poetry, Lucky Wreck (Autumn House Press, 2006), This Big Fake World (Pearl Editions, 2007), and Sharks in the Rivers (Milkweed Editions, 2010). She is currently at work on a novel, a book of essays, and a new collection of poems. Find out more about Ada here. Follow Ada on Twitter @adalimon
Having just arrived in my hometown of Sonoma for an all-too brief week where I will work and pretend to work, (and where I'll be blogging from all week!) I’ve been thinking a lot about poetry and place. Just yesterday, I drove up the mountain where my friends have gifted me with a small apartment/writing studio on their property, and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of, well, of Californian-ness (it feels a little like buzzy fantastical orange poppy dust and sweet cream butter). I was born in the Sonoma Valley, lived in Seattle for 5 years, and then in New York for 12. Now, I currently live in the psychedlic greens of Lexington, KY, and my hometown of Sonoma, CA. And nowhere else on earth has ever felt more like home, than Sonoma.
It’s hard to say how much our homes and hometowns, and places we make our homes, matter in our work as artists, but perhaps, even the most tenuous of nomad clinging to his unicycle and a copy of Kerouac’s On the Road has a sense of belonging to some place. The place where we first learned our language as poets, the idioms, the accents, the names of our trees, our mispronunciations, our street names, our dead pets and our first cars, the place where we were denied or encouraged, left dry or watered well.
In the small town of Galesburg, IL, there’s an amazing group of people who are exploring poets and place, and they are doing it by recording the most powerful tool that poets have in their awesome pockets, their voices. The Knox Writers’ House has recorded and interviewed everyone from James Tate, (“He was not menacing anyone, he was just very thirsty”) to Kwame Dawes (I promised myself simple things”). This morning I listed to Phil Levine read “The Theory of Prosody,” while I made coffee and looked out at the sun coming up over the Mayacamas. Voices travel so easily, so agile and strong, a bird without a home.
If you have a moment, on this the 22nd day of National Poetry Month, might I suggest you begin by simply listening to the poets introduce themselves and where they are living on the ABOUT page. It’s wonderful. “My name is James Galvin and I live mostly in Iowa City,” how lovely is it to hear that voice when you are anywhere in a kitchen trying to make poems out of ticket stubs and empty cups? It makes me want to introduce myself as James Galvin someday. The young upstarts behind the Knox Writers' House are excited and hungry and willing to sleep on the floor. They travel all over, on no budget at all, and have a great microphone they've nicknamed, "Baby." It's a project I deeply admire. Here's their blog, too. It celebrates the voice, and the poet, and the places where we come from, and the places we end up. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter, or just go and listen, support them by showing up to the site so they can see some good audience numbers and be encouraged to keep it up. What's better than free poems in your ears read by great poets? Not much. It's like a marvelous hometown for poets! Let's live there.
Angela Veronica Wong’s “Dear Johnny, In Your Last Letter” was selected by the estimable Bib Hicok, as the best of the manuscripts he reviewed for this Poetry Society of America chapbooks competition. As Hicok puts it in his introduction, “This is the book I couldn’t say no to.
“These are,” Hicok continues, “the poems I thought of unbidden while vacuuming or petting a dog or walking through Montreal.”
It is not difficult to grasp Bob’s point or to share his enthusiasm.
Ms. Wong’s manuscript is very cleverly organized around an epistolary conceit. She quotes an account of the so-called “dear John” letter that GIs dreaded receiving during World War II. The “dear John” letter, written by the soldier’s wife or girlfriend, announced that she had found and become involved with someone else and that therefore a divorce or just a goodbye was in order.
What Ms. Wong does in her poems is turn the conceit upside down and address her poems to a “Johnny” who may or may not exist but with whom the poet has a real or theoretical relationship of immense complexity and depth that can give rise to outbursts of lyrical intensity or raw emotion spiked with the humor that comes as a byproduct of candor.
The first in “dear Johnny” series characteristically begins, “I would have sent you this text: new bikini wax and not wearing underwear. But I don’t have your number.”
The letters, some in prose, some in verse, do what love letters should do: conduct a courtship, woo a lover, express longing, review the past, anticipate what is to come. The poems are full of arresting disclosures. For example, “Today I went to the Cloisters and was turned on by the headless torso of Jesus.” Or, “I self-medicate / by purchasing vacation / deals online.” Or, “I can’t stop wanting / our children to grow / into beautiful birds, but / we women are inventive / and full of hope -- / drafting love letters / while hiding morphine / in curled hair.”
Veronica’s poems are as singular as an ”untwinned earring,” as intimate as “sand / in my belly button,” and as sexy as the list poem in which the lover’s body is identified as a hand grenade, an anchor, a ship, a polite explosion, [an] immigrant, a thousand-dollar bill, the international date line, foreign soil, and western medicine.” Johnny is one lucky dude.
Bob Hickok, in his introduction, notes that the book with the assertion that “an empty bed is a terrible weapon.” These, he adds, are “words [he himself] never would have written, and words [he’ll] never forget.” I feel the same way and would add that not since Joe Wenderoth’s celebrated Letters to Wendy’s have I encountered a collection of epistolary poems as savvy and lively and jubilant as those in Dear Johnny.
To find out more about the awards and recipients, visit the PSA website.
Ahoy, Scribblers. If you written 18 poems so far, give yourself a pat on the back. What the heck, give yourself a nice, slow French kiss. You’re hotter that Georgia asphalt, and you've earned it.
Today’s prompt: a lullaby, which reminds me of this song. I have four birds, and they love to listen to this at night. How can I tell they love it? Because I love watching them listen to it.
Translation: "The Balsam Flowers"
The Flower of Balsam, one dyes on one’s fingernails.
The words of one’s parents, one must dye in one’s heart.
Ships sailing the night seas take their bearing by the pole star.
The parents who gave me birth take their bearings by me.
One has to study and to master the name of constellations.
But the lessons taught by one’s parents are no mastered by study alone.
Even gems and treasures will rust unless polished.
Polishing my spirit night and days, I traverse this transient world.
When the sun rises, I shall go off to study.
Please plait my hair, my dear mother.
The Flower of Balsam, one dyes on one’s fingernails.
The words of one’s parents, one must dye in one’s heart.
Now onto the poems!
Read this interview with Beth Harrison, acting director of the Academy of American Poets, on "poem in your pocket day" (April 26), movies and poetry, and much else, from the current issue of Guernica.
An excerpt I loved:
Guernica: I noticed that one of the Academy’s suggestions for National Poetry Month is to watch a poetry movie. I must admit, all I could think of was Howl until I looked at your list. Do you have a recommendation?
Beth Harrison: Stacey Harwood compiled a terrific list of movies that include poetry, as well as a great essay on the subject, and anyone who wants their cinema with a side (or sometimes main course) of poetry can do no better than to start here.
For many years I had neglected this novel in spite of its sterling reputation simply because I misconstrued the title and thought the book had something to do with radical politics in the 1960s. In fact the title designates the suburban street on which our protagonists live. I have not seen the movie version, with Leonardo DiCaprio, though now that I have devoured the book I am most curious to do so.
Imagine that Pete Campbell and Betty Draper of Mad Men are married and you begin to have an idea of what Frank and April Wheeler are like. (OK, not Pete Campbell, but the fellow who went to Princeton and fancied himself a progressive, with a black girlfriend as proof.) They have two kids—a girl, six, and a boy, four—in a New York suburb that resembles Stamford, Connecticut. Most of the action takes place in the six-month period between spring and fall 1955, though flashbacks amplify the tale as needed. Frank works for Knox Business Machines, an outfit rather like IBM, and Yates has a very sharp idea of the technological changes to come in the computer era that was still, in 1961, the stuff of visionaries and science fiction writers. Frank likes to think that he will retain the bohemian values he had when he lived alone in Greenwich Village. This is but one of his illusions.
Read Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, a great American novel. If you click here, you'll get the full scoop. -- DL
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.