“Cockroaches: Ars Poetica” by Chad Davidson
“A Theory About Cockroaches” by Gabriel Gudding
All this was brought to mind after a poem about locusts discussed during workshop last Tuesday led my teacher to wonder aloud about the possibility of a poem about cockroaches. Funnily enough, I first heard of Gudding when I read this essay by Davidson. Even funnier is how I shared that essay a year or so ago in another class with the very same teacher.
And now I wonder how cockroach poetry can relate to termite art.
Partially due to a conscious application of of grout, I was able to finish reading Jennifer Egan’s The Keep in five days, despite all the work that
had still has to be done. Five days might seem too long to read a novel of only 250 pages, but as embarrassing as it may be to do so, I can deservedly call this a minor but undeniable achievement.
The other four books I listed are still there, as I expected, but I’ve also made progress with almost all of them, except The H.D. Book. That’s not bad, and I’m beginning to wonder if I should test myself by always keeping (at least) five books at hand. This may or may not work.
So since The Keep is now a title I can happily mark as read, it’s time for another list of five, one of which will take the place of the Egan novel:
- Blue Angel, White Shadow by Charlson Ong: From “embarrassing” to “downright shameful” characterizes my lousy record in reading contemporary Philippine literature. This novel entices me for being a detective story set in a contemporary Filipino-Chinese milieu by a writer whose way with words I find delicious.
- The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry: I used to read a lot of fantastic fiction, and this one might be a good way to return to the genre, as it seems to me best described as “slipstream metafictional noir.” That said, I’m not sure I want to read this now instead of saving it for some other time.
- Making Love to the Minor Poets of Chicago by James Conrad: This is a novel I picked up for its title and for being about “love, ambition, poetry, and nuclear waste.” I don’t know why I haven’t read it, but it seems a matter of bad timing or fatal causality: whenever I pick up the book, work goes crazy.
- Five Stories by Peter Straub: This might be a good choice: it’s a slim collection of stories I’m sure to learn a lot from on the technical level (here’s a sample). I miss the old days when I’d do a marathon reading of Peter Straub’s novels. I don’t even have his latest novel, but at least I have 5 Stories.
- I’ll cheat and cite two collections under one number, only because I don’t plan to read these cover to cover. While Patrick McGrath‘s Blood and Water and Other Tales and Graham Greene‘s Complete Short Stories are collections by writers who often view life from a somewhat bleak and grim perspective, I’m looking for stories by them that show a (darkly) humorous side to their writing.
I completely agree with you that poetry is also a formal use of language. Indeed, only form allows us to hear the tone of the words, and it is precisely because verse is sonorous reality that words in it are no longer subject to the sole authority of conceptual thought. This enables us to perceive reality otherwise than through language. Form in poetry silences the conceptual meaning of words; it is therefore the condition of the direct gaze upon the world.
Here’s another gem:
For poetry can only be a partial approach, which substitutes for the object a simple image and for (our feelings) a verbal expression—thereby losing the intimate experience. On the other hand there is nothing before language, for there is no consciousness, and therefore no world, without a system of signs. In fact, it is the speaking-being that has created this universe, even if language excludes him from it. This means that we are deprived through words of an authentic intimacy with what we are, or with what the Other is. We need poetry, not to regain this intimacy, which is impossible, but to remember that we miss it and to prove to ourselves the value of those moments when we are able to encounter other people, or trees, or anything, beyond words, in silence.
via Paris Review – The Art of Poetry No. 69, Yves Bonnefoy
resolve plan to not only read but finish more books this year, and I hope this includes some novel-length fiction. God knows how I plan to get this done, given how the holiday break from school and work has ended (not that I read much during Christmas vacation). In addition, not only do I need to worry about the regular work that has resumed and needs to be done, I also have to review and prepare for my foreign language exam.
Still, this is what I have on my plate at the moment. Having several books to read in one go is going to be either a good idea or a counter-productive one:
- The Keep by Jennifer Egan: It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned Egan here, but with A Visit from the Goon Squad still unavailable here, I’m pleased to have found a copy of her previous novel in the meantime.
- Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside, edited by Courtland Lewis and Paula Smithka: I claim it’s for class, but it’s really more for fun. My own take for the Doctor Who course I’m teaching, which is not as impressive as this by the way, is closer to…
- Triumph of a Time Lord: Regenerating Doctor Who in the Twenty-First Century by Matt Hills, which uses a Foucauldian discursive approach to discuss my own pet issues surrounding the program in particular and television studies in general.
- Unending Design: The Forms of Postmodern Poetry by Joseph M. Conte: It’s my first time in a long time to check out a library book, and I’m hoping this one can help me prepare for my thesis, in which I’m going to try a long poem.
- The H.D. Book by Robert Duncan: I want to know more about these two poets, so discovering this, given its recent reissue, is more than welcome. That said, I’m broke now, so I’m reading this version.
Irritatingly, only one of those books is a novel. I guess I should also mention that I’m trying to get into Hart Crane. I don’t presume to understand his poems well, but I love reading them aloud. Again, because I’m too broke to pick up the Library of America edition of his works, I’m working with this older collection.