Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lovely Finds from the St Louis Poetry Center!


On Friday night, Jim and joined our great friend Mary Ruth Donnelly -- a fabulous poet, mind you, and you might want to click here to buy her fabulous book of poetry (and, for the record, she is one of the most stylish people I know!) -- at the St Louis Poetry Center Trivia Night at the Regional Arts Commission on Delmar (in U City).  I think this was our third year in a row doing this event with our team and this year we came in 3rd place!  (Yeah!  Our table had a blast!  And, as usual, I met some fabulous people including the fascinating and super friendly Virginia Slachman who will be signing her upcoming memoir at Left Bank Books later this month!).

Another high point to the evening is the Silent Auction of Rare Books.  Every year I pick up something but this year I picked up "somethings."  As you can see from the picture below, I ended up bidding on -- and winning! -- three books!  Since I have been taking the (free) Modern Poetry course on coursera.org, I am trying to wrap my head around poetry in ways I have never done before!  These three books will help me get started!


The first (the one on the top) is a novel (OK, so not poetry but hang on!) by poet Constance Urdang (1922-1966).  Urdang used to teach at Washington University and I was interested in the novel when I picked it up at the event for a couple of reasons:  I didn't know who she was AND the first few lines of the novel drew me in (I noticed after I purchased the book that she had signed this copy! It's a first edition from 1969).  Natural History is, according to the Saturday Review, "Not a novel. A series of images in the form of prose episodes. Their meaning, if any, to emerge when at the end one can look back to try and make out the 'significant patterns. . . ."' Muriel Haynes in that same Saturday Review article likens Natural History to a journal, or "thought book," in which literally, though not in other regards, "nothing happens; a succession of everyday people, men and women, old and young, dead and alive, move in and out, serving as metaphors for ways-of-being-in-the-world."  I might have to wait until the dissertation is closer to being done before I can pick this up, but it sounds interesting!

The book in the middle of the three in the above picture is called Poets of Today and highlights poems from Harry Duncan, Murray Noss, and May Swenson.  I mostly put a bid on the book because of the poems from Swenson.  I once read that just a few months before her death, she wrote: "The best poetry has its roots in the subconscious to a great degree. Youth, naivety, reliance on instinct more than learning and method, a sense of freedom and play, even trust in randomness, is necessary to the making of a poem."  This book was published in 1954 and has that beautiful old book smell!

The book at the bottom of the pile in the picture above I bought on a whim --  a collection from Mona Van Duyn. When I was browsing the auction items, I picked it up and fell in love with one of the poems, "Lives of the Poets."  It was the cheapest of the three that I purchased (this is a first edition from 1982).  Again, this is a poet I didn't know but .... it turns out that Van Duyn has won almost every award a poet can get and was one of our poet laureates for our country.  I am amazed that I didn't know who she was! (Imagine how many great writers I still have to read in this world!  Tons!)  I have already read several of the pieces in this slender edition and feel so fortunate that I have now encountered her!  (and for the record, she also taught at Washington University and became one of the St Louis circle of famous writers who called Wash U their academic home!).

I don't know if it was because of this wonderful evening of "talking poetry" but I feel more invigorated this weekend and I am trying hard to get off my ass and get things done.  Yesterday, Jim and I went to Johnson Shut-Ins (a State Park in southern Missouri) and I went to the gym for an hour after we returned home (even though I didn't really want to if truth be told!).  Today, I have cleaned my home office, worked on my dissertation, went to a 90 minute yoga class, and blogged!  And there are still a few hours in the day to go!  Who knew that poetry was such a wonderful form of motivation/ gas to the engine!

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