3.20.2010

Beer Books Eggs Marbles Wool

As a sophomore in college I studied in Ireland for an academic year. Along with regular college coursework, those of us on the Ireland Program went on lots of little side trips and educational tours all over the beautiful Emerald Isle. On one of these trips (I can't remember where it was, only that it was somewhere "down the country" as the Irish say to describe a location not in Dublin, generally taken to mean somewhere in a rural area south, west, or southwest of Dublin), we stopped at a pub for lunch. Or was it a store? The very large, very long sign over the door read "Beer Books Eggs Marbles Wool." It was both a pub and a store, I guess, and I remember laughing at the random assortment of items for sale there. Now, whenever I come across a truly random assortment of anything, I think to myself, Beer Books Eggs Marbles Wool.

And this little story is a long-winded way of warning you that this post is nothing more than a random assortment of items. Beginning with:

What I'm Reading I just finished Denise Levertov's Selected Poems, and I am in love with them. When I came to the end of the last poem, I felt bereft. So I just started over at the beginning, and have been living all week with her beautiful words and images in my head. I read Denise Levertov several years ago, and I thought then that she was obviously a very smart, very good poet, technically strong and all that. But I didn't connect with her work on an emotional level, as I have now. The word that comes to mind when I think of her work is communion, in the sense of oneness or union. Her poems explore communion with others -- a husband, a son, a parent, all humanity; communion with nature; communion with God; even the uneasy communion of various selves within one person. About joy, she writes:


               It is objective,

stands founded, a roofed gateway;
we cloud-wander

away from it, stumble
again towards it not seeing it,

enter cast-down, discover ourselves
'in joy' as 'in love.'

(From her poem "Joy")

I am three-quarters of the way through a re-read of Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy). I think I was in college the last time I read it. Through the years, Anna's adulterous and "glittering" eyes always stayed with me, and now I realize that there are a lot of glittering eyes in that book, not just Anna's. Again, I find that I am meeting this work on a new ground, one that as an innocent, unmarried, childless college student I could not have occupied. Whereas then I merely enjoyed it, now I am brokenhearted and exultant by turns. It's a great story, and Tolstoy's writing on the joys and heartaches of family life is stunning.

And, I've just begun a collection of poems by Alicia Ostriker called The Book of Seventy. I am paying close attention to the way she crafted these poems, to line and pacing in particular. I am interested in this because she, like me, uses punctuation sparsely. She uses it very sparsely. I like this in a poet. I think I can learn from her, and gain some confidence in using line, syntax, and rhythm to help pace a poem when punctuation marks seem like big bullies (! . ; !), as they so often do to me. Just for a taste, how about this line from "Family: Attempted Speech":

so family is a way of demonstrating
how incomplete we are while belonging to each other


What I Did on St. Patrick's Day I did not wear green. I did not drink beer. I did not cook or eat corned beef and cabbage. I did not sing "O Danny Boy." I started a new poetry class at my friendly neighborhood literary center (well, okay, it's Across The River as people say around here, but I'm still glad to have it within striking distance, if not in my actual neighborhood). It's the Deborah Keenan poetry class I mentioned in this post. Taking a class felt (and feels) like a big deal to me. For one, I'm shy in new groups. Also, the last time I took a class at this venue was before my health took a nose dive. So entering the doors felt like a milestone for me: Yes, I have the energy, the physical strength, the stamina to drive Across The River, park my car, walk into the building, find the classroom, and sit down ready to learn. Even eighteen months ago, this would not have been possible. A friend of mine who took the class a few years ago calls it "Poetry By Firehose." I left sopping wet and energized. And, as my Facebook status says: Molly is behind on housework, ahead on poems.

Weather Has Broken And my bones ache less. Hallelujah.

More Signs of Spring There is a crocus coming up in the front garden. The maintenance guys put the wind screens down at the baseball fields. The latter happened on Thursday when Sister and I were over at the high school complex taking a walk and getting some exercise (she wanted to do the long jump; who could say no to a 4yo who wants to try the long jump?). So, we (she) did the long jump, then we watched the maintenance crew put down the wind screens on the dugouts. But apparently, they should actually be called "parent screens" because the maintenance guy told me the real reason they installed them was to keep the players from being visible to the parents. This, apparently, discourages the parents from walking over to the dugout to give advice to their children during the game. That thought kind of wrecked my day for a few minutes.

In My Life, I've Loved Them All Say what you will about Facebook, but this week it brought me together (virtually speaking) with two dear friends from college that I probably wouldn't have connected with otherwise (it also delivered the happy news that a third friend, who isn't even on Facebook and who I am in touch with, is expecting her second baby). Do you ever have the experience of seeing or talking to someone from your past, someone you don't see or talk to much anymore, and ending up missing them a thousand times more than you did before you connected? That's how I felt this week: overjoyed and sad. The joy of friendship, the memories of heady times (college), the ache of knowing life goes on and people move out of one another's orbits. The next afternoon, I swore I saw one of the friends drive by in a minivan. She waved at me, I was sure it was her. We were neighbors. Our kids had grown up together. I knew I'd see her later that night. We'd meet at the corner and go for a walk, talk over all the details of each other's day. Part again saying, "Talk to you tomorrow." Of course, it wasn't her. But it felt like living another whole lifetime in a moment, and I ended up with tears in my eyes. Thank you, Source of All, for good friends.

Stand Up And Be Counted I filled out our census form yesterday, and it felt really strange. I was a little uncomfortable about putting the children onto the Great Big Radar Screen In The Sky. For years they've been our children; now they're also government data points. I know all the arguments in favor of filling out the census, and I did it! I did it! But it made me think of the ancient Hebrews' fear of being counted which Robert Alter talks about in his translation of the Pentateuch. I think some of that is left over in me. I'm sure there's a poem in this.

Peacefulness Update Do you wonder how my little peace project has been going? This week was a good week for peace. There were two parents around all week. That helped. The children weren't as naughty. That helped. And I tried hard to be in a peaceful place for myself, which (I hope) had the natural byproduct of sharing a little peace with others. I confess, I do have to try really hard to smile from dinnertime on. The pinched-looking mommy comes out in full force about that time of day. I have been wondering a lot if a fake smile is better than no smile. So far, I'm going with Yes.

Two Letters I received not one, but two, letters this week -- real letters, handwritten, on paper. You know, Snail Mail? One was from my dear auntie who told me family stories, the way certain names have made their way through our family over the years despite one generation not knowing it they had been family names in the past. The other letter was from my best childhood friend's mom, who wrote: I love you like one of my own. Do you want to make someone's day? Write them a letter.

Reader, that's my beer, books, eggs, marbles, wool. What's yours?

2 comments:

Gretchen H. said...

Have you ever seen the film version of Anna Karenina? The 1935 Greta Garbo one is the critically acclaimed version, but I'm partial to the 1948 Vivien Leigh --- partly because it was showing (ironically) on the plane as I was making my way to St. Petersburg, but also because I like to see Vivien Leigh who couldn't seem to ever match her success in GWTW. Happy Reading!

Anonymous said...

Beer Books Eggs Marble Wool is or was a sign above a roadside emporium on the main east-west road through the Connemara, between Galway and Clifden. I haven't been there in 20 years but I have never forgotten it.