Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

Heather McHugh’s Upgraded to Serious (2009)

Please don’t go.

House of Anansi, 2009

Not because it’s poetry.

Just watch this video.

It’s only a minute long.

And know that I’m not a “poetry person”.

So that makes it more inviting, right?

That you don’t need a special gift to watch this?

(Unless you are a “poetry person”, in which case you should know that I would like to be you.)

Because I’m just an everyday reader.

So, go ahead.

One minute.

Which I say, knowing that I shall have to apologize for having misled you.

Because I think you will probably replay it.

Maybe a few times. I know I did.

Because I’m just an everyday kind of reader.

My brain doesn’t work like Heather McHugh’s.

But, oh, how I wish it did.

Although it might be hard to move through the world with that kind of wit and tenderness.

And the reason I wonder that, is the poems are sometimes very sad, as often as they are playful and amusing.

I was reading this collection at the same time as I was reading Lynn Crosbie’s Life Is About Losing Everything, and I could not stop spotting the parallels between the works.

For the chronicle of misunderstandings.

From “For Want of Better Words”:

“…One man

professes to believe
no hope exists when there’s
no love: he opens up

a sex-toy shop.”

For the romantic disappointments.

From “And the Greatest of These”:

“…The heart

must bear it all, apparently, or burn, or dim, as
claw on claw the creatures in the tank
go scrambling to outclimb the creature crush.
On days like that, when cruelty is king,
and sun in swill appears to swim, I thank
no lucky stars for life: It wants to take a lover

limb from limb.”

For the raw heartbreaks. And loneliness.

From “With the Moon”:

“…He would never

love me, for example; that was only
a commercial break, while I was putting in
a lifetime.

{…}

But as I lived I wasn’t quite alone

in misbegetting love and mis-conceiving laws.
Addictable to goods, one still admires the good
while, full of will, we wheel upon
a planetary whim, no more than
incidentals in a sunscape: gravity-employees,
tissue-issuers, and slaves of rhythm. It is utterly

impossible to say…”

For the persistent questioning.

From “Postcocious”:

“For me each item’s a line item,
each occasion an occasion for redress,
reclaiming, recompense, or rue. Given
time’s best gift, I’m always
scheming to return it.
As for the language
of the love of life —

when did my soul unlearn it?”

For the outright despair.

From “Nocebo”:

“Rather than this,
I would gladly feel nothing.
Give me some more

anesthetic thing.”

For the survival.

From “Who Needs It”:

“My guess is yes, since endlessness

needs us to take its pulse.”

If you like these snippets, you should check out the volume; it made me realize just how the line between poets and philosophers got blurred.

Reading Notes:
Day 24 of 45: New theme today. Life (and how we make sense of it — or don’t — and what we do with that). Yah, that should be less wordy. Hmmm. Maybe this is where Beauvoir’s ‘existentialism’ comes in. Did you figure out the theme for the last seven days? You don’t have to tell me now: I’ll ask again later.

Have you been reading any poetry lately? Or thinking that you’d like to? Or planning to be a “poetry person” when you grow up?

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