New York and California

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wonderful.gifOver the weekend, I read Jean Stafford’s “Children are Bored on Sunday.” It came from a compilation of stories from the New Yorker about New York called Wonderful Town. It was a good story, but I was a little disappointed, because it wasn’t what I was expecting. I wanted to read Stafford, because I remember reading one of her other stories, about a young girl who can never keep friends. I think it was “Bad Characters.” At the time I thought it was hilarious. Anyway, this story was serious. It was about a young woman who moves to New York and falls in with an Intellectual crowd, but can’t manage to keep up with them. She has a breakdown and disappears from that group, only to run into someone else from that group who is not fairing well either. I think I’m going to try another Stafford story to see if I like it better. Any suggestions?

time2.gifI also finished, Time and Materials by Robert Hass. I can’t say that I’ve read anything by Robert Hass other than his translations of Haiku. I did see him read at the Dodge Poetry Festival, but I think he read mostly translations. Which in case you were wondering are quite good. The Essential Haiku is a book that I go back to over and over. There are so many times when you can recite the poem:

Climb Mount Fujihaiku.gif
oh snail,
but slowly, slowly

Any parent who wants their toddler to do anything can surely relate to that. Time and Materials is both intimate and political. Some of the best poems in the collection address the issues of our time – war and global warming – in a provocative but not confrontational manner. On more than one occasion he mentions how young people are willing to fight in wars not of their own making:
“…you can get an adolescent/Of the human species to do almost anything…Which is why they are tromping down a road in Fallujah/ In combat gear and a hundred and fifteen degrees of heat / This morning and why a young woman is strapping explosives to her mortal body in Jerusalem”

Many of the poems invoke the landscape of Northern California, which I can relate to now that I’ve been there myself. As a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, I assure you it was not what I expected. I’ll end this post with a passage that I particularly enjoyed:

Human beings get bored by almost everything eventually,
Which is why winter is such an admirable invention.
There’s another month of summer here.
August will squeeze the sweetness out of you
And drift it as pollen.


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