Monday, November 8, 2010

Holy Coincidii, Bat Poets!

Day 273 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and first let me send you to The Bat-Poet, by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, a favorite book of mine and a lovely holiday gift, if you are getting in that kind of mood, used or new from HarperCollins. I have two used copies, one hardcover, one paperback, both slightly damp-stained, but clean on the inside, poems and illustrations intact. It's pretty much a perfect book for poet adults to read to their kids, as it's a how-to-be-a-poet book with talking animals that helps you like and understand poets better. And not like critics and academics quite so much, though the mockingbird is still much admired by our innocent bat.

But, lest you think I am reliving my childhood, or living in the past, let me reassure you. I am!

Way too many poignant coincidii lately. For instance, we often listen to the Jimmy Durante station on Pandora at work. He sang this today, "September Song," a gorgeous song with schmaltzy background singers and orchestra, rescued from utter sentimentality by his honesty, his big nose, and his gritty cigarette.

Anyhoo, yesterday I mentioned the John Knoepfle interview in Fifth Wednesday, and early this morning I read it, along with his poems. At the end of the interview, Knoepfle talks about how being 87 is affecting his writing and publishing of poetry. He realizes that if a new book is accepted, called Stay With Us, it will still be 2 years till it is published. He's not worried about this, just aware. At the end of the interview, he says:

You know the lines from scripture: "Stay with us because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." How can I tell you this?  Not an occasion for fear or being heartsick.  I know whom the two men on the road were inviting to supper.  In a graceful interlude, I might be able to be there at Emmaus.

Well, the scripturally aware will have caught the central allusion in my poem from yesterday's blog entry, "On the Road."  In my pencilled draft, it was actually called "On the Road to Emmaus" and "to Emmaus" also appeared in a line in the poem. But I realized that it wasn't needed, and might lead people astray. When I inhabit that speaker, I make him simply a traveler on the road. Not Jesus. Any man, any woman (yes, "just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on a bus"--hear it in Jim Carrey's voice from Bruce Almighty for ideal effect) to be welcomed and invited to the table.  And not a ghost, not a vision, nothing supernatural, and not a "resurrected corpse" as Robin Meyers would say.

But Emmaus was of course the inspiration, so to find it in the interview made me say, "Holy Truffle, Mr. Knoepfle!"

And at the Fifth Wednesday event, I asked Barry Silesky how he was doing with his health and his grief. He said he was doing a lot of reading as he heads toward the end, and that, of course, a lot of it is about religion, and it was pretty much leading him toward atheism. Meaning, I think, no particular personal literal god, as there is lots of correspondence between the myths and narratives and basic values of multiple religions, and no linear, geographical afterlife.  (He can correct me if I'm wrong! Barry, I mean, not YHWH.) I was just about to ask if any of the reading included Karen Armstrong when he said, "I'm reading a lot of Karen Armstrong.  The History of God is good."  Barry lost a son, a wife (not to death), and has MS, getting out infrequently but pretty darn well in a motorized wheelchair, and, like John Knoepfle, seems to be looking at things pretty clearly and calmly.  It was so good to see him!

And now you know for sure that I'm a bit batty!


DJ Vorreyer said...

May I just say that, although I'm sure you work very hard on your blog posts, I am ever amazed at the fluid and interesting connections you make. You make me wish I were a better reader...with a better memory...and a larger library.

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Donna. I have a lot of fun noticing what people are reading and stumbling upon the various connections and coincidences, er, coincidii of life.

Kathleen said...

And, Donna, I pretty much make it up as I go, and/or write parts of it in my head while walking to and from work. That, or the shower.

See, I AM a bit batty!

Ellen said...

You are NOT batty. Just a very interesting, intelligent, and amaizing person whom I admire very much.

I am SO looking forward to being able to come to Babbits and shop in January.

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Ellen. I don't mind being batty. I love bats. And Batman. And, by coincidence, when the Barry of this blog entry was editing Another Chicago Magazine, he published a poem of mine called "Chasing the Bat." My dad is actually the one who was chasing the bat in the poem.

You will find some good books at Babbitt's, I know! I always do, which is the main hazard of working in a bookstore. I counter temptation by recommending the books I want to other people who would enjoy them. So watch out!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for introducing me to The Bat-Poet. Hadn't heard of it before and plan to invest in a copy soon.

Kathleen said...

Glad to hear it, Sandy. It is a lovely, lovely book. The poems in it stand alone and also move the story forward. Amazing. The Sendak illustrations are of course wonderful.

You might also like Fly by Night, another beautiful collaboration by these two. It gets banned sometimes because a naked boy flies through the night in it.