Random Thoughts: July Edition

beach

  • Summer vacation giveth and summer vacation taketh away. Yes, there is more time for reading, which is why you carried that extra piece of luggage to paradise, but there are also more family and friends buzzing about, sometimes visitors for a day (or two) and sometimes visitors for a week (or two).
  • Company and reading are like oil and water, taxes and savings, Trump and intelligence. Mismatches all around.
  • I am presently reading a book called Advice for Future Corpses by Sallie Tisdale. I get comments from people who see me reading it or see it lying around. “Light reading, I see,” they say sarcastically. Or, “Great beach read you have there!”
  • I guess I’m a future corpse and they’re not. Which is the book’s point entirely. Or one of them.
  • I’ve been looking at markets for poetry and reacquainting myself with the forgotten fact that many poetry markets are centered at colleges and universities. In other words, the reading periods there are closed until (surprise!) September.
  • And really, do we have to say “September” at a time like this (read: July)?
  • The Fourth of July is behind us and, as is the new trend, private fireworks (now legal in this state, for instance) continued all the way till midnight or thereabouts. I wrote a prose poem about this last year. It’s a bit sarcastic. Tongue in cheek, maybe.
  • But I love my country as much as the next guy! Especially when it’s quiet.
  • (Both the country and the next guy, I mean.)
  • Because I often get new ideas for new poems and especially specific lines for new poems, I’m trying to carry a little notebook about (and if you’re thinking “Use your cellphone, fool,” recall that I don’t own one). Trouble is, the notebook in my pocket seems to work like kryptonite against new ideas. Remember the notebook, and my mind goes blankety-blank. Forget it, and the Muses begin warming up in the orchestra pit (with smirks on their nine faces).
  • It’s 63 degrees Fahrenheit this morning with a forecast for the high 70s today. No need for air conditioning. This is why Maine was invented, thank Odin. It is the antidote to air conditioning.
  • As my poetry book (to go with my prose book), I’m reading Like a Beggar by Ellen Bass. I like her stuff. A lot. And the great thing about the poetry world is how huge it is, and how often you can discover a “new-to-you” poet who you like. A lot.
  • Thank you, Ellen.
  • Usually I pick out one classic I’ve never read to tackle over the summer. This year, though, I’m going biography (also tome-like in size). I have one on Grant (U.S.) and one on Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da). How’s that for variety? But I can only pick one. We’ll see if I’m in an American or Florentine mood come August.
  • PBS is having a nationwide reading group and now asking everyone to vote from a list of 100 books. It’s a hilarious mix of genres and styles, from 100-page YA books to Moby-Dick and Don Quixote (two books, it so happens, that I have read on past “must-read-a-classic” summers). To what purpose, this vote? To show how inclusive PBS is?
  • Everyone has classics they have never read and insist they must before they become a future corpse. For me, the biggest “must finish” is James Joyce’s Ulysses. If Hemingway can do it, so can I. (So there, Ernie.)
  • And then there are classics we just don’t give a damn about reading. Ever. No matter how much other readers crow about them. For me this includes anything by Virginia Wolff, Henry James, William Faulkner, and many, many Victorian novelists (whose books, in fairness, I will consider as doorstops on windy days).
  • Oh, if only readers (and non-) would purchase my books as doorstops! (Um, screen doors only, please. Or maybe mouse-hole doors, considering how light they are — the mouse doors, not my books.)
  • Meaning: the subject matter of my poems is not “light” like this blog entry. Oh, no. Some poems even muse about death. Which implies future corpses. Again.
  • What was it Ben Franklin once said? Ah, yes. “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except future corpses and taxes.”
  • Other sure things in life (missed by Ben)? People willing to take your picture if you ask them to while out and about in public. In my case, it’s my wife’s phone. Because my wife cares about pictures (it’s in the job description under “wife,” I think). And everyone, it seems, loves to play Good Samaritan with a camera So quick. So easy. So kind.
  • Ask any writer who submits regularly. Checking Submittable for updates is like watching grass grow.
  • I wish it were like watching weeds grow. Results would come much faster.
  • Keep summer reading, friends! And summer writing! And staying un-corpselike!

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