Distribution Automatique

Thursday, November 24

If There Have To Be Holidays

as far as I'm concerned, let them all be like Thanksgiving. For some reason, I always associate this holiday with affection for the near-at-hand in time and in space. This holiday demands little more than to appreciate whoever and whatever it is you feel close to- and to try to share that appreciation with others. For some, it is an opportunity to express much needed generosity. In an era which eschews idealism, sentimentality, earnestness, appreciation and instead glorifies irony, critique and wit (no doubt worthwhile attitudes at times, but hardly substantial or communal enough to ritually celebrate), this moment has a a pleasantly anachronistic aura, a time-travel spirit I enjoy immensely.(Still, Robert Jensen's call for A Day of Antonement is worthy of serious consideration.[via Wood's Lot ].)

As is often the case in recent years, we are in Arlington, visiting Toni's sister, brother-in-law and nephews. And, as has become my custom, I've made my annual, or biennial treasured trip to that incomparable bookstore in Davis, Mass., McIntryre and Moore. If you ever get to Boston, try to make the trip. It is possibly the most pleasant literary store I know of, excepting those superb literary establishments in San Francisco and Berkeley: Moe's, Serendipity and SPD.

Yesterday Bob, my brother- in -law. took time out from working on Thanksgiving dinner to drive us down to Davis. Although I promised myself I wouldn't buy more than two books this time (suitcases stuffed already), I wound up using the fact that one terrific item I found there consisted of a three book collection. That item (purchased for an amazing $17.50) was a three volume set of Theodore Dreiser's Letters, a hardbound collection from 1959 housed in its original cardboard case. If you've read this blog for long, you know what a fan of Theodore Dreiser I've become. By the way, if you look around you can find a copy of *Dawn* Dreiser's autobiography of his early years, still on remainder in many bookstores, including St Mark's.

The other book I bought was Libby Rifkin's book *Career Moves* published in 2000. I've heard about this book from many friends for years now, poets who know my fascination with the notion of career as it is or could be applied to the life and work of poets, especially recent and contemporary poets. Once, when he was artistic director of the Poetry Project, I asked Ed Friedman if he would be interested in organizing a symposium there on the subject of the poet's career. Ed quipped: being a poet is not a career, it is a vocation. I guess many poets would agree with this and I might even apply the somewhat archaic term, as it is sometimes applied to clergy, a "calling."

Speaking of callings, no doubt this posting will soon be interrupted by a call to dinner! As I try to resist eating much on Thanksgiving day before dinner, I can't wait. But I also can't wait to tell you about Libby Rifkin's book. I got it an McIntyre and Moore's shop yesterday at the discounted price of $7.00. I can't say it was the $16 cover price that prevented me from buying this book before now. Like many poets, I am ambivalent about this topic that summons certain demons one would rather not think too much about. The book focusses on four poets: Charles Olson, Lewis Zukofsky, Robert Creeley and Ted Berrigan. (By the way, I also bought the Creeley biography recently, the one reputed to have been greatly disliked by him. I haven't cracked that one open yet. I remember reading Allen Ginsberg's biography a few years ago. I knew both these poets, though Ginsberg much longer and a bit better- having responded to the latter's call for secretarial assistance in the 60's-though I was very politely, even gently, turned down by him we always had a nice rapport whenever I ran into him at a reading or wherever. The last time was at the Second Avenue Deli, just before a group reading we were both included in at the Poetry Project. I have to say I regretted reading the Ginsberg biography, having learned more intimate details about his personal life than I wanted - or needed- to know. Still, it was fascinating to learn so much more about this incredibly dynamic person.)

Since I paricipated in two of Ted Berrigan's poetry workshops, I found Rifkin's take on Berrigan's life and work the most interesting, but I enjoyed and found useful all of the Rifkin book. In fact, I read the entire book yesterday, the same day I bought it. A little later, or perhaps tomorrow, I am going to tell you more about it. Rifkin seems fascinated by the way some poets are able to consciously and actively pave the way for the historical reception of their ideas, their work and even the way they lived their lives. I enjoyed the way Rifkin discovered much in Ted Berrigan's actual writing, particularly the Sonnets, my f avorite work by him, to illustrate her ideas about the way certain canonized poets might have dellberately or unwittingly desired to direct the reception of their work and even some of the premises of their ultimate "canonizations."