Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shapiro, Moss, Heller, and Me

The latest issue of Parnassus: Poetry in Review is out--and, with it, my long essay-review (13,000 words or so) about Harvey Shapiro, Stanley Moss, and Michael Heller.

Here's a taste of the opening:
In the closing pages of Speaking the Estranged: Essays on the Work of George Oppen, Michael Heller recalls the way a line from the older poet saved his literary life. “It was 1965,” he muses. “I had won a small poetry prize from The New School for Social Research in New York City, resigned my well-paying job as head technical writer for a major corporation and, with my first wife, had taken a Yugoslav freighter from New York to Europe where I planned to live for an extended time.” The pair settled in the Spanish village of Nerja, east of M├ílaga, where under the Mediterranean sky Heller trudged through a slough of despond. “Here, nearing thirty and on the whim of a minuscule prize,” he realized, “I had thrown a whole career away.” Tolle, lege, came the impulse—and what he took and read was Oppen’s The Materials, flipping first, as was his wont, to the final poem in the book. The involuted opening of “Leviathan,” “Truth also is the pursuit of it,” hit with a visceral wallop. “I read the line over and over,” Heller confesses, “like a chant, feeling a raw ache in my chest. What did the words mean to me? I had only the vaguest idea, but also a sense of wanting to weep.”

As a middle-aged father pushing fifty, I choke up a little myself. You gave up your job to do what? In a few years, that could be one of my kids lighting off for the Costa del Sol. The middle-aged teacher and scholar in me gets weepy for different reasons....
It's a jam-packed issue, with fine looking pieces by Zukofsky scholar Mark Scroggins (writing on Guy Davenport), Lewis Hyde, Langdon Hammer, and others. Worth a look

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On an unrelated note, I'm thinking of starting up a new blog--more or less anonymous, with no comments section--in which I can think through my vexed relationship to all things Jewish, and not just poetry. Congregational tsuris, political sorrow, grumbles about the weekly portion, commentary on prayers, etc. And poetry, probably.

I'll get the word out, when it's up and running.