Hope you holiweeked nicely, fattened up for the frost. I never really took down my garden from this summer, I’ll wait for a warm day and try to turn it all over. It's looking a like a tomato’s idea of a haunted house. I was getting gorgeous tomatoes as late as October but then what Keats said happened, Autumn set budding more and still more, later flowers for the bees, until they thought warm days would never cease, for summer as o’erbrimmed their clammy cells. So there are a lot of green tomatoes out there in various forms of shock (they dreamed warm days would never cease).
Anyway, I’ve been doing a lot, I’ll tell you more about it later.
Right now I want to tell you a quick story and then introduce a great new poet, Lisa Marie Basile.
Sometimes for no reason to do with when they were written, two books come out at once. Happened to me in 2003, with Doubt: A History, and The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in France. One was with Harper and one with Columbia Univ Press, so pretty different audiences, and it was very tricky to try to get word out about them at the same time.
Now it is happening again, Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It has come out at the same time, late October, as my new poetry book, Who Said, 7 years in the making. Of course prose is going to get more attention, but it’s been hard not seeing reviews or responses to Who Said.
I wake up this morning and Garrison Keillor has put up one of the poems from Who Said, and reads it, on his Writer’s Almanac podcast/website. Of course I’m super happy about this.
But it made me want to say that this poem and maybe two others in the book deal with suicide. (One or two say goodbye in somewhat cryptic ways; one that imagines Socrates not killing himself, then stepping back from the public stage -- becoming locally known for his figs.)
It just happened that GK picked this one, just at the moment Stay, the argument against suicide, was getting some attention.
Last time I posted I showed a bit of what Who Said is about. [Click this link or on the side of this website “Jennifer Michael Hecht: The Lion and the Honeycomb” to see this, and all my posts.]
I guess I also want to say that the poem GK chose is the very first thing I wrote on the subject.
I wrote the book because I wrote a blog post (here on BAP) after two poet friends (they were friends too) took their own lives, less than two years apart, and that blog post went a little viral and was published in the Boston Globe. I got a lot of emails about it which made me feel I had to pursue thinking this through, so I wrote a book proposal. But I wrote the poem after only one of them had killed herself.
I first published it here, on this site. Its ideas really are at the heart of what I say in the blog post (even for all its historical take on suicide), and also at the heart of what I say in the book (even for all its research and further thought).
True, It doesn't mention the second big idea against suicide: that you owe it to your future self to stay alive. (I have good stats that most people [one large study showed 94 percent 25 years later] who are thwarted in very serious suicide attempts [like they jumped from a killing height and somehow survived], are glad they survived and don't do it again. and other suggestions that you shouldn't let one of your moods murder all the others]. Still, it shakes me up to read the poem now.
Hearing Garrison Keillor read it is, for me, a stunner.
So that's my story.
Now I present to you the wonderful Lisa Marie Basile. She’s got a new book soon, her first poetry book, apocryphal – out in 2014 with Noctuary Press. Here’s a poem from that book.
today my father came to pray
black denim & brown suede
a little tattoo of something holy
only he isn’t holy
he was raised at church & in fields of flora
in the back seat of the family Ambassador sedan
his eyes the color of that caballero tan
pinching his sister those pretty curls
setting fire to stacks of Playboy magazines.
when he prayed he did so in Italian. & i know this
because i’ve dressed as the Madonna before:
a little pushup bra,
with some bubble gum & beach spray.
when you hear a man’s apologies
you are embarrassed by his honesty,
makes you feel petty, small
I love the deft depiction of a situation and an inner life, both strange and secret and yet exceedingly well observed.
Look her up, she's had some interesting press lately.
Oh and if you're interested from my last post, it all worked out, I was on Hardball on Friday, with Ron Reagan.
Here comes 2014 friends! Don't kill yourself and I will return to encourage you again.