Friday, June 18, 2010

A Poem a Day

Today the new Oxford Professor of Poetry has been announced. Today on his 78th birthday, Geoffrey Hill won “by a landslide” the papers reported. The election had some bickering but none of the publicized underhandedness of last year. I hope, I hope, to hear him read in person.

I found this in the Guardian and liked it:
“Nobody reads a poem to find out what’s in the last line,” George Szirtes is quoted in Stephen Moss’ article about the future of poetry. “They read the poem for the experience of traveling through it.”

This week, urged by Clive James, I read Auden’s “The Fall of Rome.” (Auden was another Oxford Professor of Poetry.) I like it more as I re-read it. My favorite phrase is “Private rites of magic,” which sounds like a great title for a book, and also the lines “An unimportant clerk/writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK/ on a pink official form.” And most of all, the last stanza, which is one compact and beautiful dappled image in motion:

“Altogether elsewhere vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss
Silently and very fast.”

You can read the whole poem here.

On another note, I come to Allegro’s every Friday morning to drink a mocha and type à la machine, and there are two young men who also come in every week just before eight o’clock. The first time I saw them, I couldn’t stop listening to their conversation, because carried on in smooth and cultivated tones (the kind never heard in Seattle from straight males) was the most preposterous student-ish back-and-forth about who read what in the original Russian and what Nabokov really meant in Pnin and Chopin’s best piano concerto and whether to go on to Princeton or Duke or Stanford and how to spend one’s time intellectually during the summer… They are endlessly fascinating. Like a pair of politely verbal ballroom dancers.

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