Dear Nicholson Baker,
I love you. Don’t worry, this isn’t a fatal attraction. I am married with children, married to an artist, in fact, and I know two writers would never work, especially not one like me and one like you. You are my secret twin! Hmm, probably I haven’t yet reassured you. As poetry and painting are sister arts, let me just say that I am married to the perfect man. I am pretty sure you must be married to the perfect woman, and I am glad we both have two children.
I love you because 1) you are hilarious 2) all that good and silly stuff about poetry in The Anthologist 3) all the good stuff about music and 4) your generous acceptance of human foibles, and I love you in spite of the vague discomfort I felt with what I like to call “the hifalutin’ porn” of The Fermata. (I haven’t read Vox.) (I should have said p*#n instead of “porn.” Now I will get all kinds of strange comments I’ll have to delete and mark as spam, and some new followers who are just basically advertising their services by joining my site. Sigh….) Soon I will get hold of Double Fold, which people keep saying I will like, because I like books (and paper), just as they said I would like The Anthologist. Those people were right.
While reading The Anthologist, I laughed out loud many times, shaking any stress and/or random toxins right out of my being. I attempted “eyelid wars,” and I tried to cross my eyes with my eyes closed. I failed. (I tried this again in the waiting room of the hospital and told my mom about it when, looking up from The Social Animal by David Brooks, she suddenly asked me if I could say the alphabet backwards. “No,” I said, pretty sure I couldn’t. “Have you tried?” she asked. I tried, getting as far as “ZYX.” Then my mother said the alphabet backwards, easily. You would like my mother. She loves Sara Teasdale. This eyerolling backwards alphabet business happened during my father’s pacemaker surgery. He’s fine. And I did not get lost in the labyrinthine hospital halls this time.)
Back to The Anthologist, and my reader response/love letter. While reading your book, I tapped my foot and thrummed my fingers to the beats in lines of poetry, which I also do while writing poetry (even my unrhyming verse) or reading poetry. I cried many a silent “Yes!” to the ceiling at the rest theory of meter and felt validated in my own rhythms. I went over to the piano and played all your little melodies, eventually remembering that I had once written lyrics for a Chopin prelude I played during my piano lesson years. In another ceiling-ward glance of admiration, I wept inside, released, and accepted life very deeply. Thank you for that.
And tonight, you’ll be glad to know, I’m sure, dear Nicholson Baker, I am going to see the movie Reaching for the Moon, about the poet Elizabeth Bishop and her lover Lota de Macedo Soares, as I have always wanted to know more about the particular losses in “One Art,” about “the art of losing.” (Many thanks to Julie Kistler for the summaries and schedule posted here, in “Embracing Normal: LGBT Film Fest at the Normal Theater” in her fabulous blog, A Follow Spot. Yes, we have a/an (?) LGBT Festival in good old Normal, Illinois! I wish I could have seen I’m So Excited!, the Almodóvar film, last night, but at least I watched the hilarious trailer.)
O, Nicholson (what do they call you for short?), I saw you on Colbert and I hope you got the “Colbert bump” if that is something that interests you. I will keep checking your books out of the library and buy some whenever I can afford it. It comforts me that you are a teensy bit older than me—you: Aquarius; me: Pisces (and I know this is destroying my credibility and your reassurance that I am not a wacko, but hey, it’s a Random Coinciday in the blog!)—but on the cusp. You are definitely wiser, in a nicely foolish kind of way.
Thank you, thank you, a thousand ceiling-ward thanks…and I know you understand these blueberries and Mirabelle plums.