JWG's Done and Not Begun January 26, 2011

Wherein JWG reads Nadine Gordimer's A SPORT OF NATURE; and, "The American Poetry Review" which sets him off answering the question: What is a poem?

Maspalomas  January 26, 2011  7:47 a.m. GMT

 This morning, I sit out on our patio. The clear sky I saw when I awoke now has a dark, dominant cloud approaching. Will there be more rain? If so, I will scramble about getting all of this patio furniture back inside, as well as the laundry I did this morning. We did not expect so many rain showers. No one did. We met an elder British couple who have been coming here for ten years running for a month’s stay each time and this is the first rain they have encountered. As I told a groundskeeper, rain brings flowers. Many of the succulents have buds.

René and I did go to the Maspalomas Botanic Garden yesterday. This gorgeous, small garden, well-kept, has plantings we had never seen. It did rain a bit while we were there. We did have umbrellas. (René thinks that we are the only tourists who come to The Canary Islands with umbrellas in their luggage. I think that very few do come “prepared”.) We will be able to visit this Garden many times. It is nearby. It is free.

The “dark, dominant cloud” having caught the rising sunshine, is bright pink and yellow. A fluffy, non-threatening watercolor floating above my head.

I certainly am happy I bothered packing books. We haven’t seen anyplace, yet, to buy English-language books. For that matter, Spanish-language books, too, do not seem plentiful. Poolside, here at Villas Blancas, a few people do read. I can never see what is being read. We will see if reading is popular on the beach when we go there.

The book I finished reading yesterday was Nadine Gordimer’s A SPORT OF NATURE which I found to be an excellent epic of African Freedom. Ending with the end of Apartheid in South Africa, and taking place globally, her images of the time were cinematic. Her characters were, and are, well-rounded individuals. Her intentions were focussed and accomplished. The only question I have is: What happened to Bradley? I must have overlooked, or did not pay enough attention to, a small sentence. Such is Gordimer. Each word has got to be read. Each word has a purpose.

A SPORT OF NATURE is the first novel of Nadine Gordimer’s canon I have read. I have read many of her short stories. In my reading, I go through waves, or stages, of what I put before my eyes. Whether it be novels, biographies, short stories, poetry...basically, anything that is put on paper which does seem to be too, too much.

This trip to Gran Canaria is a reading, leisurely vacation. I don’t want to waste a single minute.

I brought along my recent copy of “The American Poetry Review” and read that yesterday as well. Galway Kinnell is featured. As a poet, his “Jubilate” was featured which is a documentary poem. The poets he mentions in “Jubilate” are poets I, myself, have heard reading. When in Manhattan, I subscribed to the 92nd Street Y’s Poetry Readings each Monday night in the winter months. I “discovered” many poets. I discovered many good poets are bad readers. Some, like Mister Kinnell, were able to keep my interest, without me reinterpreting words, as they were read, during the readings. I would never suggest anyone to go to a poetry reading for a “good-time out”. If one is unsure of poetry, one would have to know the poet to enjoy the reading.

“The American Poetry Review”, which I have subscribed to for many years, takes the place of The 92nd Street Y’s programs in my life. I gave a short reading of some of the poets last night for René. He and I were not impressed. Nor, was I impressed by any of the essays; and the interview with Galway Kinnell, like so many interviews, not all, but, most, are nothing more than young poets trying to impress those who I can see are smirking behind their answers. Why can’t people read what is placed on paper simply? Why must we delve for hidden meanings? Oftentimes, poets are surprised to hear that their words lead someone down a path they, themselves, did not know was there. And, most good poets do not think of themselves as “Poets”. It is others to place writers in niches. A writer writes. A reader reads. An interviewer makes a dollar. That same statement can be said of the essays I read in this periodical. I begin an essay that has been written, and I immediately think that this writer is being paid by the word — not the idea. Yes, for a poetry periodical, it amuses me that most articles have too many words and should be pared by an astute editor. This will never happen. Unfortunately, many readers believe they have to read many words; words that can make an overeducated, unthinking reader.

“The American Poetry Review’s” advertisements encourage education. You know what I think of this hogwash. What does interest me is to see that many places are now attempting to “teach” poetic performance. This, in essence, could make the future of poetry readings a viable source of entertainment. This gives one Hope.

With all this talk of “poetry”, I have had to think, again, what, for me, is a “poem”.

For me, a poem is a simple witness to Human Truth. A documentary. A theory. A reality. A mystery. A snippet. An emotion placed on paper, or in one’s mind, to be read, or recited, that instills imagination or affirms reality. A poem is neither good nor bad. A poem speaks to the listener. It is the listener’s personal decision whether a poem reaches a personal Truth. If so, that makes a Poem.


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