Things I’m Reading Thursday #4

Sorry for the lack of TiRT post last week… Other Stuff got in the way, as is often the case. I have been nosy to hear about your escapades in the land of literature though, so please do let me know how your own reading is going in the comments box!

Various poetry books
The past two weeks I have been dipping in and out of a variety of poetry books in search of inspiration. First up, Sharon Olds’ Satan Says, her first collection, published in 1980 (I think). It’s an absolutely gorgeous book with its glossy red cover, and for some reason it came wrapped in cellophane which made it even more exciting. And of course it is full of the usual no-nonsense, straight-talking, thought-provoking and awesome stuff I’ve come to expect from Ms Olds. However, reading it I could feel that this was her first collection — the poems feel just ever so slightly less assured than her later work. I absolutely love her collection The Unswept Room, and think by this point (2003) she’d really grown into her voice. Satan Says feels just a little tentative… but that adds something new that I’d never before encountered in Olds’ poetry. Normally she’s so commanding, so sure of herself, so it was surprising and pleasant to glimpse a little something different. I am also in love with whatever typeface is used for the book’s “chapter” headings — if anyone has a copy and could tell me what it is, I’d be eternally grateful!

Next up is Samantha Wynne Rhydderch and her collection Not In These Shoes. I desperately wanted to like these poems, I really really really did. So many of them started off on a lovely trajectory, but I found so many times that I reached the end of them feeling a little disappointed, I’m afraid. Rhydderch has some truly fabulous ideas — you know, the kinds of ideas you curse yourself for not having thought of first — and every so often she’ll execute one to absolute perfection (her poem ‘Oyster Forks,’ for example, which was my firm favourite of the lot). However, all too often I was left thinking “yes, but what about…?” or “I wouldn’t have said it was like that, exactly…” Basically, I was often left wanting more at the end of a poem. Maybe this is Rhydderch’s trick? I kept reading after all. But I was left dissatisfied. I think it might have something to do with the language in these poems — it seems to want to be lush, poetic, unusual, original… but it’s almost as if Rhydderch is holding back for fear of going OTT. There are odd little phrases that are just delicious, really inventive — but they’re buried in the middle of an otherwise sparse and bland stanza, often. I can appreciate poets who don’t believe in linguistic fireworks and like to just say what they mean — Sharon Olds often takes this line, in fact. But Rhydderch’s pieces seemed to fall into an uncomfortable gap between the two extremes. As you can probably tell, I am still a bit bemused by it… I think it will be one of those collections I come back to and suddenly “get” at a later date. I hope so anyway.

And finally, there’s Paul Farley’s Tramp In Flames. I bought two Paul Farley collections last summer — this one and The Boy From The Chemist Is Here To See You — and I’ve been deliberately saving them because I knew they’d be damn awesome. And they are, if the first quarter of Tramp In Flames is anything to go by. Farley has an uncanny way of describing ordainary things; he really can make you see the everyday in a totally new way, which is a rare and special talent. “Rain thick as diesel slicking the windows” is a line from The Front, the first poem of the collection — at about this line I new I was onto a winner with this book. That poem is really brilliant actually — Farley turns a cloud into a gunship, a giant bird’s nest, a geological phenomenon… it’s awesome, in the true sense of the word! I haven’t read many of the other pieces as I’m savouring this one, but I can tell already I’m going to really love Farley’s stuff.

OK, now you! Tell me what you’ve been poring over and perusing this past week! Also, I know I need to announce the Lianne Strauss giveaway winner… I’ll do it asap! Watch this space!

(Photo by Vociferous)

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9 Responses to “Things I’m Reading Thursday #4”

  1. Katja Says:

    I’ve been close-reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter for a class (loving it), and in my free time, I’ve been indulging in the first volume of Viriginia Woolf’s diaries.

    You’re reminding me that I really need to get back to poetry!

  2. Emily Smith Says:

    I’m currently reading Jane Eyre for class, which I’m quite enjoying. I just finished reading Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’ which I’ve had for ages and only just got round to reading.
    An unfortunate lack of poetry at the moment though!

  3. David Says:

    I’ve been reading loads of zines… a weird post-modern-language-poet one from America called “Fence” that i didn’t think i was cool or clever enough to really get - a brilliant one called “Hanging Loose” (also from the US) and back issues of Smiths Knoll and Iota. I also borrowed a book from litfest to have a look of called “poets of a new romania” - its not too cheery, the best poem title in there has to be “take sleeping pills and shut up” - pretty direct!

  4. Claire Says:

    Emily — Jane Eyre = love! Long and arduous, but so worth it! I love the Brontes…

    David — I am into zines but also feel under qualified in the cool stakes to really read them! I got a bunch of amazing 90s zines from a girl on Freecycle who was clearing out all her rave era gear, which was awesome… kind of makes me wish I was born 10 years older!

  5. Regina Says:

    I am still reading Plath’s Unabridged Journals- and a little book on Living Fearlessly by Yogananda… and just picked up a few bargain books today at the bookstore because that is what I do when I feel… low, low, low…

  6. Rachel Fox Says:

    I finished ‘What is the what’ this week…and have blogged very briefly about it. It is one of those books that makes you feel like giving all your other books away…and burning anything you’ve written yourself.

  7. Col Says:

    Several books since last time, novels:
    Lucky Jim By Kinsley Amis
    A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy toole
    Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau
    Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
    The Burning of the Book and other poems by George Szirtes
    Selected Poems by Samuel Beckett
    Sleeping it off in Rapid City by August Kleinzahler

    I love the Denis Johnson book a lot, and it is a re-read, also check out the film version, again highly recommended.
    The best book though was undoubtedly Sleeping it off in Rapid City. This a selected overview of Kleinzahler’s work. Again a re-read, when I brought it last year, I did rush through it a little, but know going back to it I realise that is without doubt a wonderful book.

  8. Suzannah Says:

    I absolutely love ‘Tramp in Flames’ there’s a poem about a scarecrow that’s a blinder, and a brilliant one about stop motion animation.

  9. H. Says:

    “Transbluesency” by Amiri Baraka. I am on the lookout for a book that I remember a line from (but can’t remember the name of said book). I got this book from my college library (which I can no longer get into without a college ID) and it was held together with tape and it said “by Leroi Jones.” I cannot come across any books by Baraka online where he goes by Leroi Jones, so I was hoping this collection had the poem I am looking for, but no luck :( (it is a good book though!). It was a gift for me from the husband as well (along with ‘Post Office’ by Bukowski and a collected works of Plath book, which I am also reading!). Oh well, if I am having trouble writing, at least I am not having trouble reading!