Looting Versailles

Looting Versailles
My first book of poems, just released by Alabaster Leaves Publishing

Saturday, February 1, 2014

American Buddhist Poets (and a thought on "favorites")

Every time I read her, I appreciate more and more the art of Jane Hirshfield. I own "Given Sugar, Given Salt," and I've read her countless times in the past when she's appeared in Poetry. She is very much a transcendental writer - she writes about mysterious things, shares a mysterious knowledge that I think can only be created. It's hard to pin down, but it feels like matters of the soul, the animas of religion.

This morning I revisited W.S. Merwin, who in the past has been a bit too gentle, or genteel, for my taste. I like things to explode a bit off the page, and I especially did a year ago - think the fireworks of those NY writers: O'Hara, Ashbery, Koch; think of the Beats, especially Ginsberg. My taste, my aesthetic sensibility, has refined a bit, and has actually become MORE inclusive, and today I really appreciated nearly every line I read in my rediscovery of Merwin. I own "Migrations: New and Selected Poems," a National Book Award winner.

The American Buddhists - Merwin, Hirshfield - transcend our five (actually six) sense experience (the sixth is proprioception) and create new knowledge, mine the mystery they create, providing a beauteous wonder. Last night I lay in bed reading about God, people's thoughts about God throughout history. I can accept God as existing in the mysteries of life, residing in the unknowable, residing in art. I observed recently in my life, art is what occupies my mind in between study and survival, in between my time with others and my time at work (as a physician), which includes study time, reading up on contemporary scientific discovery and innovation. There are those moments of solitude - after waking, before bedtime, a lunch break - that are filled, decisively, by art; experiencing art or pondering art, or both.

Paying attention to my own attention - meta-attention - I notice my "favorite" pieces are those I relate to. So often their subject matter are young, sensitive men: Keats' Ode on Melancholy, Stevens' The Snow Man, Hamlet, and most recently, Willa Cather's "Paul's Case." (Apparently, according to this link, "A Study in Temperament.") http://www.shsu.edu/~eng_wpf/authors/Cather/Pauls-Case.htm. I read it during a lull in my nursery call. What this means to me, as a writer and reader, is that "favorite" should evolve as you evolve, and really doesn't speak to the quality of the art work. I'm not sure of the other repercussions; I haven't ruminated much yet on it. But I think it is important to note. And I don't think it's faulty to have favorites, not at all. Perhaps I'll write more on this in the future.

Recommendations: Hirshfield, Merwin, "Paul's Case"

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