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Monday, February 2, 2015

EDITED: Bad recipes

In which we mix up all the wrong ingredients [Edited version]

God knows I'm not Julia Child. I'm not even Guy Fieri. And I'm probably a worse cook than I am a poet, and that's saying something. Here's another thing I'm not: patient. Which probably explains those first two things. It's also why I read my way through so much -- car trips, waiting rooms, winter evenings. Cooking dinner. Even if it's only chicken nuggets made from organic free-range on-sale chicken. But fry-ups take time and good God, it's boring to watch chicken (or anything) cook. Maybe a better person would have grabbed a cookbook from the kitchen shelf and researched a better recipe to try ... next time. That would have made sense. Or maybe grabbed the newspaper from the basket -- we're paying for it, I should read it in print and get some use out of it, besides taking up room in the recycle bin. But there's always that stack of books on the table, always Ray and maybe Learn French in 30 Days or whichever [note: doesn't work] and here's also that one I'd pulled from the living-room bookshelves, Selected Poems by Mark Strand. Thought I'd misplaced it, but there it was. I just open it up and start reading
Tell yourself / as it gets cold and gray falls from the air / that you will go on / walking, hearing / the same tune no matter where / you find yourself -- / inside the dome of dark / or under the cracking white / of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
This from Lines for Winter (for Ros Krauss). A very bad poem for me to read. First, never read print books near frying chicken nuggets. Second, I hate winter and resent poems that manage to combine its beauty with existential meaning. Third, death is depressing and that's where this poem ends up. Then Mr. Strand mentions that about the gray, which I've tried to describe a million times myself and failed, and he just nails it. (I keep taking bad pictures of it in my front yard, which you know if you follow me on Instagram.) And about the moon -- I've tried to write about her, with miserable failure. So reading this poem -- so finely rendered, casual and easy to read, yet its deeper meaning discoverable even by readers cooking dinner, words honest as the moon, just the type of poem I'd write if I could, one built on something real and easily seen, but with shadows and places to explore around it. Still, how can I regret this reading, dangerous and messy though it may be? Ten minutes later, I'm left with slightly singed chicken, feelings of culinary and literary inadequacies, and a poem lingering in my head, which, perhaps, is the best recipe of all.

I happened across this interview with the late Mr. Strand from The Paris Review and it's worthwhile reading.

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