Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Early Fall Report

Much reading of late, off in many directions. Whitman's SPECIMEN DAYS, for one. Elinor Langer's bio of Josephine Herbst, which does the great service of re-acquainting me (again) with the radical past which we have nearly erased from our consciousness. I read Herbst's last book, NEW GREEN EARTH, three or so years ago. A well-written, informed biography of John and William Bartram which ought to be better known than it is. I trust the scholars of "nature writing" know it, but they need to get it into their canon, in the hopes, of course, that it will get into the larger canon. (Do we still have them? Canons, that is.)

But, I was in fact on my way to a getting-to-know Jean Garrigue when I ran into Herbst, a poet who has not got her due. She and Herbst were an item for a while in the early fifties. Anyway, the dazzle of this poet's best work also needs greater circulation. She was, at her best, an ecstatic, barely able to control the rush of her wit and enthusiasm (and so not easy to read in large doses). But, read her "Amsterdam Letter" or the inimitable "Grand Canyon." She wrote the latter on her drive back to New York from UC-Irvine, where she was a visiting poet, and where she had just learned she had Hodgkin's disease. She died a year later (1972).

I leave you with this small jewel from an immensely large rock, called "For the Fountains and Fountaineers of Villa D'Este."

...we are more water than earth
And less of flesh than a flame
Bedded in air and run by the wind