—Peter Cole, from Actual Angels
I was tempted into reading poet Peter Cole’s book, The Invention of Influence, by a review in Jacket2. From the get-go, the signs augured that I’d be in well over my head. Cole is, among other things, “a translator of Hebrew and Arabic poetries, modern and medieval” [Jacket 2], about which I know nothing. But I was intrigued by the idea that his work with translation so powerfully informed his poetry—that Cole was, in this sense among others, a Pasternakian sponge:
[Cole] practices writing as a form of translation, as a “being between” fixed places, with the poet as a transponder, not an orator, a conduit, not a usurper.” [Jacket 2]
I don’t have “proper” receptors for understanding this book of poems, but I’m attracted by its ideas and methods and impelled to attempt to “make it mine.” Here are three examples of my admittedly peculiar process. Continue reading
It is this madness to explain. . . .
—John Ashbery, The Skaters (I)
The thermometer reads 5 degrees; goldfinches hang from the feeder, juncos peck at seeds on the ground. I wonder at their ability to stay warm in this weather. I know there’s a scientific explanation, but I don’t need one: it’s enough to witness it. Continue reading
Today I wrote, “The spring is late this year.
In the early mornings there is hoarfrost on the water meadows.
And on the highway the frozen ruts are papered over with ice.”
The day was gloves.
How far from the usual statement
About time, ice—the weather itself had gone.
—John Ashbery (from The Skaters, IV)
In his Berlin story, Something About the Railway, Robert Walser wrote, “Nowadays, anywhere there is nature, trains are also found.” How true it is: almost all along its route, the best views of the Hudson between New York City and Poughkeepsie are from the train, not by foot. But there’s one place near to us where anyone on foot can have the ne plus ultra of views, weather permitting, of course. Continue reading
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
—Wallace Stevens (from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird)
Stevens was a master of autumn. (Spring, he didn’t like so much, it seems.) Last year, in my Autumn Thoughts post, I quoted from Stevens’s An Ordinary Evening in New Haven. This year, ModPo is again in session, and the “leaves in whirlings” passage from An Ordinary Evening came to mind as I thought about Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, the Stevens poem discussed in the course. Continue reading