Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Letter to Galway Kinnell at the End of September

It's a lovely community-building exercise, but I think I've already written all I have to say about the BBAW topic for today--a book or genre I tried due to the influence of another blogger. My thoughts about the anxiety of blogging influence are in my May 20 post about book recommendations.

Rest assured that if your blog name is on my sidebar, you've influenced my reading. I started making a list, but anyone who comes here regularly knows that I don't have the soul of a librarian--I hate making lists or cataloging what I've read. Ron just came by and I said to him, "you know, you always instigate our bouts of organizing books" and he agreed, saying "you don't like categorizing them" and then added "if it were up to you, you'd have them all on the shelf by which ones had amusing titles next to each other," which is true, and a game we often play. It started with a story my mother told about finding two books side by side on the shelf at her college library: The Sound and the Fury As I Lay Dying.

Try it right now--go over to a nearby bookshelf and find two books that really ought to be right next to each other. I'm going to do it myself. Okay, I'm back; it took me about two seconds to see that Summerland ought to be next to The Gone-Away World at this time of year.

That makes me think that what I really want to share with you today is another autumn poem, this one by a poet I've just discovered that I love, Todd Davis. Don't let the title put you off; you don't have to know Kinnell's poems to enjoy this one.

Letter to Galway Kinnell at the End of September

I confuse the name for goldenrod with the name for this month,
but what else would we call this time of year--afternoon light
like saffron, blue lake reflecting blue sky? Where we entered,
asters and goldenrod flooded the length of the meadow, field

literally abuzz, swaying with the movement of bees, air
warm enough to draw sweat and the smell of those flowers
and our bodies drifting around us. The part of the sun that rested
the kettle of heat upon the goldenrod's tiny, yellow blossoms

lifted the clearing clean out of the ground, somehow suspending us--
if not in air, then in time--and that's what we want after all.
Not starting over, not being reborn, but borne up like these bees,
or the birds who migrate toward a place of neverending, all of us

unmoored, still part of the earth, but absolved of our obligations to it:
the necessity of growing old, the bald fact that a month from now
all this beauty will crumble--asters black, goldenrod brown,
no more than flower-dust when we rake our hands across their heads.

This is what I want in all things--to have the rules suspended just for me. Don't you?


Karen said...

I should like to say that my birthday falls in the month of Goldenrod. Or, "look at that field of September--isn't it lovely?"

And yes--few of us want the rules to apply to us. I intermittently fight my own not-best-self's desire to migrate away from cold seasons.

Jenny said...

These elegant odes to September always make me feel like I live in a different universe to all these writers. Factoring in humidity, we're still hitting 100 degrees basically every day here. Might as well be August.

Jeanne said...

Karen, why is it that people love the month they were born in the most? (I was born in July)

Jenny, you know the impetus for all these autumn poems is me trying to reconcile myself to living this far north...after all these years!

FreshHell said...

Prolly so. I was born in June. On the longest day of the year. On the cusp. The perfect start to my favorite season.

Right now, my sedum is covered in bees of all kinds. They are busy, busy, happily stripping the plant of its pollen. There are dozens swarming over the pink flowers and I will miss them terribly when they leave for the winter.

Amanda said...

:) I love the way those two titles fit together. I'd never thought about them like that.

Care said...

Just looked at my stacks and already have "The Cure to Modern Life" next to "Old Friends" and then, "Dead Man Walking" | "Up in the Air". I love September; I was born in June.

Jeanne said...

Care, so far I can say "three out of four people" love the month they were born in the most.

I love Dead Man Walking Up In the Air!

Anonymous said...

How about Twilight of Love the Snoring Bird?

I do think that June is the best month of all, and clearly the best month for a birthday, but having children caused me to appreciate other months. I do love the bleak trees of November, and here, at least, February is a month for pink plum blossoms and a sunny spell. I do fear for the February child who will be experiencing an Ohio February this year. I remember realizing when I was 15 that the crushing depression I was experiencing once again was just February.

Jeanne said...

Readersguide, that's pretty good too. I'm assuming that the book Twilight of Love is next to the book The Snoring Bird?

It's true that you can come to love the month your children were born in. I had no trouble loving August, but now I also appreciate that it has only snowed on March 26 for two out of fourteen years here!

Sarah said...

Well, I happen to have "Little Brother" and "Among the Betrayed" next to each other, which I kind of like. But my personal favorites are "Summerland: Here There Be Dragons" and "Jane Eyre, The Girl Who Played with Fire."

Jeanne said...

Oh yeah, Sarah, good ones!

Karen said...

I meant to ask you this morning, Jeanne--did you enjoy the book title relevance in Parkhurst's _The Dogs of Babel_?

Oh--and I'm not sure that September is my *favorite* month. It's a contender, though. Definitely in the top ten...

Jeanne said...

Karen, so Goldenrod isn't necessarily your favorite month? My sample of four or five might be a bit flawed, too, you think?

I remember The Dogs of Babel as a well-written and interestingly plotted novel. I don't particularly remember the title, except for the obvious bit--that the narrator could hear what dogs said.

PAJ said...

Found these close to each other on my bookshelf: I'd Know You Anywhere / Jude the Obscure.

It's great to read that people have a special fondness for their birth month. All these years, I've thought I was just completely egotistical in thinking of April as "my month." Although I'm usually not a frills and lace person, I love all the pastels and bunnies and painted eggs and spring flowers of April. At our house, we decorate for Easter almost as much as for Christmas, something we might not do if my birthday were in Goldenrod.

Jeanne said...

Phyllis, your juxtapostion may be the best one yet!

And, of course, you are completely egotistical ;-)

kittiesx3 said...

My mother was due with me on February 14, and has told me she seriously considered telling me that was my actual birthday (it's February 3). But I've always loved February with Valentine's Day and knowing that we're moving on through winter.

As you know, I lost most of my books last October but here are a couple that survived and now sit next to one another:

Dispatches | Art & Fear | The Trial

which I found somewhat amusing.

Jeanne said...

Elizabeth, a three-parter! You may be the only person I've ever met who actually likes February. Of course, I mostly meet northerners from the northern hemisphere.