Monday, November 26, 2007

Objects of Delight

Full moon westering; Venus burning brilliantly, evenly, high in the east. I ride past frost-covered cars, my magnet-driven lights winking as I pedal.

I love these lights inordinately. A clever Englishman invented them: a light sits on each axle, and two magnets fixed to the spokes of each wheel drive a little generator as they swoop past it. Hey presto! Lights. No batteries to run down, or to buy, or to forget to buy. There has to be a certain amount of drag; but it's so slight that I can't perceive it. Lift the bike and spin a wheel, and it revolves with just as much apparent freedom as before. A capacitor keeps the lights still blinking for a few minutes after the wheels stop. I did the arithmetic and realized that these fifty-dollar lights would pay for themselves, just in the cost of batteries, within a few months. But the real savings, of course, is just in botheration.

I have been spending carefully, this year, and it gives me a new appreciation for objects. I bought a Sigg water bottle a few weeks ago. It is red, deep red, the reddest and most gorgeous red imaginable. It feels delightful on the mouth as you drink. I adore it.

And then there's the scarf knitted for me by a friend, of the most lovely varicolored wool. It's around my neck as I type now at Tosi's, soft, giving an overall impression of muted and subtle color, but, more carefully examined, glowing with vivid blues and greens and ochres and violets. I wear it as I ride, in this frosty weather. At my destination I will gradually shed gloves, hat, and jacket, as I potter about, but the scarf is always the last to come off, if it comes off at all.

I got my copy of Brilliant Coroners yesterday. It's a beautiful book. Last night I reread, slowly, the first three of its seventeen poets. And today I have been getting Rachel Barenblat's "Psalm for Tuesday" by heart:

It is easy to offer praises
when all the world is green
and gold, when the thrush
trills off and on, at ease
for long sweet minutes...

I have five poems in this book, including what I think are my two best ever ("Fall" and "Santiago.") I've seen my words in books before, but never with so much pleasure. Another object of delight.

I am no end of chuffed to have a place in this book. I am not a real poet. I do my best, but if I have a gift, it's for prose. But there are real poets in this book, poets I've admired for years now: Dave Bonta, Maria Benet, Rachel Barenblat. And poets I've learned to love more recently: Tom Montag, Dick Jones, Ivy Alvarez.

But to me the deepest delight of this book is to find collected the poetry of writers I don't ordinarily think of as poets: Anne-Mieke Swart, Peter Stephens, Rachel Rawlins, Jean Morris, Leslee Masten, Alison Kent, Natalie d'Arbeloff, Elizabeth Adams. And also the elusive, or downright unfindable, Teju Cole and B. E. Wing. They all have startlingly distinctive and mature poetic voices.

What do they all have in common? Well, they are nearly all in my circle of daily blog reads. But the book has, I think, a real unity, which consists of a shared sense that poetry is a form of service, or observance.

...But if I forget the losses
of my friends in the places
we call home and holy
May my poems dry up
Like an empty creekbed.

Noticeably absent is any whiff of the hothouse. These aren't poems written by people because they're trying to be poets; they're poems written by people because they had something to say.

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