Monday, October 9, 2006


Today had the flair of Indian Summer, a mildness that set aside all the woodsmoke, cider, carved pumpkin associations that were starting to assert themselves with those heavier skies and colder mornings of October. It was a day for parading, hard to stay indoors. Everything conspired to wrench even inveterate misanthropes from their melancholic dispositions. Wander out the last days of the long summer, the sun said, go. "And I'll start back at the world's end" -- the final line on Bobby D's latest -- echoed with the beguiling possibility of no reason to tarry, no stay to the trek.

What I wandered to was a reading on campus. An unusual event featuring some of the writers who teach in the Writing Concentration at Yale: John Crowley (fiction), Anne Fadiman (personal essay), Louise Glück (poetry), John Hollander (poetry), J. D. McClatchy (poetry), Fred Strebeigh (non-fiction). Diverse as was the assembled array, there were some similarities in approach -- both Crowley and Strebeigh wrote of down-home types: Crowley's a strangely gnomic would-be author who mainly writes for the company newsletter, but finds himself launched on a precarious tale in the voice of a more high-flown, and possibly female, persona called Pax; Strebeigh's a real Batman/Robin-like team who free stranded whales trapped in the lines of laconic fishermen. The poets and Fadiman all tended to delineate a persona that each piece assumed and then articulated in the writer's characteristic voice: in Fadiman, a self-aware version of herself, characterizing her owl nature, a tendency to stay up all hours in search of le mot just enough; in Glück, a meditative voice, not necessarily the poet herself (she claimed the voice was more discursive than her norm), but still tuned to the brittle whine of her cadence and anchored to her deft images -- the one that stayed with me most was of the moon appearing as if it might cause things to grow (which complimented nicely the celebration of the writer's nocturnal habitus in Fadiman); in McClatchy, as ever, a suave, prehensile line that seizes on bits of playful phrasing to weave an errant charm (a phrase playfully aimed to recall his evocation of "er" -- as hesitation, as character in Plato, as mortal would-be metamorphosed into an er-rand bird), and in Hollander, who I usually fine irascibly pompous, with an erudition more facile than fastidious (he knows his stuff but all that stuff, in his readings, glimmers and clamours, overwhelming any keener, wiser, less exhibitionistic voice his verse could manifest) the personal blended seamlessly into a "prosaic translation" of du Bellay's great and famous sonnet of Odysseus and Jason returned from fabled haunts to a prosaic nostos -- in Hollander, the prosaicness -- of Amsterdam and Broadway, of Central Park, of the Palisades, all in the time of the poet's boyhood -- rose perhaps too magisterially in over-extended comparison to other real places made fabled by long association (Cézanne's Mont St.-Victoire for instance), but evoked so nostalgically the sense of the seen forever though never to be seen again that I was thoroughly convinced by, for once then, something.

As Buck said of Kinch: the loveliest mummer of them all.

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