During my recent absence from the wonderful world of Reason the Rhyme, I have been busy devouring culture, swallowing whole without chewing. I’m talking about the kind of devouring that can only occur on a stomach emptier of calories than Philip Larkin’s poems are of political correctness. The kind of devouring that you indulge in after forgetting to eat for a day, beads of sweat forming at your brow and a dizzy cloud filling your brain. (Un)lucky friends can attest to the CDs, books, movies, poems, and blogs I have been recommending, and anyone who wants in on the action, just let me know.
This consumption appeals tremendously to my short attention span; this blog’s infrequency, posts appearing at intervals of weeks and months, attests to this. News of people with life-long hobbies boggles my mind. How does the convention-attending Trekkie, the Shakespeare devotee clad in renaissance garb, or the bootleg-hoarding Deadhead avoid drowning in a mired bog of repetition? Variety then serves as the salt and pepper of my existence, the dash of cumin in my stew, and the dusting of nutmeg on my latte. Our accessibility to culture encourages this trend further, reminding us how much there is left to explore. Amazon’s hard copy book catalog, for example, offers readers a diversity of choice they would otherwise be without, unless they happen to have lending rights to a national or large university library.
This plurality of choice might explain my situation: since there are so many books available, I feel I must hurry through each one and forgo any rereading to move onto the next. Netflix operates on a similar model, but further rewards instantaneous consumption; the faster you watch and return each DVD, the faster you can move on to the next one. I offer Google Reader as a final example of this trend. Over the past year, I have started to read and explore the blogosphere. Though still a relative novice in the field, I now cast my net much further and wider than twelve months prior. This increase was magnificently bolstered by the discovery, thanks to Doug (hope you’re reading), of Google Reader. Upon signing on, I added my blogs and feeds, totaling about twenty, to my list. I was simply increasing my digestion rate of my current blog diet, adding extra enzymes to the mix, if you will. But then one fateful day, I clicked on the “Browse for Stuff” button, and started adding pre-packaged blog bundles left and right. Enjoy reading the NY Times book blog, Paper Cuts? Then how about trying the blog from the London Review of Books? The result? A forty-strong army of blog feeds in a constant race to outdo my culture enzymes. Sold on the inconvenient truth that quitting my job is not a solution, I still have the white flag firmly held in the air.
In the staff room I was recently expounding on the joys of Google Reader to a colleague. He told me how unsatisfying he found such practices, how he’d much rather linger over a book or return years later for a second reading, how, in his opinion, so much of what was being created today was total crap. While I disagreed with him, I did wonder what I was missing. A conversation with another colleague filled the gap. He opined that the recording industry had killed music, that without CDs and mp3s, we would all be forced to seek out live music, to watch musicians play, and they too would feed off our support, which would in turn enhance their performance. While this might not carry over neatly to literature, I have been prone to various levels of fan frenzy over one writer or another. I’ve had phases of idolizing Patrick Neate and Donna Tartt, and the idea of meeting writers and talking to them has always appealed to me. True, they are often not presenting their art to me, but knowing who is behind it, who is holding the pen or tapping the keyboard makes the reading of the work more personal.
I found such a chance when meeting the young poet Rachel Springer, a friend of a friend. Rachel started writing poetry in college, and now in her twenties has completed an MFA. Her poems have been published in or accepted by a number of journals, including (I believe) Versal. Through talking with her, I was reassured of how normal the act of writing poetry can be, or at least how the angst and passion I had always imagined can be concealed behind a cool exterior. She sent me her poems a short while after meeting her and has kindly allowed me to reproduce one here. Please leave your comments below.
The state I want to miss you in - Rachel Springer
So did you find yourself,
she asked when I got back,
since why else would I rope
myself across the country like that?
I missed your body: not
an explanation she’d accept.)
Oh I guess
I hoped the wheat in North
Dakota’d whisper to me, free of charge?
I thought I’d learn some city laws?
I barely knew the man who owned the car.
the limit, what we’d pay to see, at fifteen bucks,
& when, in Baraboo, the circus cost too much,
we spied on trunks & lumps from the perimeter.
the centre of every state I learned to ask
& not to care. In Madison I thought of you, but after
malls & lakes & mosquitoes, after tables
replaced canopies as overs
to sleep under, I didn’t miss a thing.
I stroke the strangeness of that summer
where elephants & camels stumble deep
in Wisconsin. A man takes my hand & pictures
of the other side of the river
in his tent, we touch & I flinch,
the heat helps. I tell myself, I chose this.