Tag Archives: John Updike

Last-Minute Recommendation + A Few More Old Christmas Books

First, a quick last-minute recommendation for that english major/college professor type on your list: Srikanth Reddy’s Readings in World Literature. I picked it up while attending a lecture by Reddy in Seattle (in which I learned, among other more intellectual things, that Hermann Rorschach, of the inkblots, was totally hot.)

Readings in World Literature is a fabulous chapbook of short prose pieces delving into questions of the underworld and meaning while satirizing academia with aplomb. It comes in the form of notes written by a professor teaching a course in the humanities described thusly: Continue reading

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Basketball

Since it is that time of year…

Skipping over Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries, merely because I haven’t read (or seen) it, William Matthews, who I’ve mentioned before, jumps to mind with regards to March Madness. In addition to jazz and family, basketball is a frequent preoccupation of his poems. Matthews talks about practice (“Foul Shots: A Clinic“) with an eye towards the metaphysical, about attending a game (“Cheap Seats, The Cincinnati Gardens, Professional Basketball, 1959“) with an eye towards adolescents’ reality, and about players’ physicality (“In Memory of the Utah Stars“), from both a fan and former player’s point of view.

In “Sandlot Basketball” that former-player aspect is the focus. Amidst a memory of youth comes age’s regret, “Dribbling in the dust, coughing like a dying boat, each knee the color of a boiling lobster, I hate my decadent grace. Body, come back; all is forgiven.” Basketball and youth, being so related and so short a period of time, perhaps explains the frequent poems which are looking back on basketball from old(er) age, with tinges of regret, as in John Updike’s “Ex-Basketball Player”  and B.H. Fairchild’s “Old Men Playing Basketball” with their “heavy bodies” and those bodies’ “broken language,” and their hands “fine and nervous on the lug wrench.”

Yusef Komunyakaa’s basketball poem Slam, Dunk & Hook, has these high-energy, beautiful descriptions of athleticism, youth in their prime, Continue reading

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Dog is my co-pilot

Dogs are hard to write about well. In no small part because of the tendency of dog owners (I am one) to either anthropomorphize or Lassie-ize. But a good dog poem is not impossible. Here are four that I think not only cover most of the emotional ground of being a dog owner, but also succeed as poems.

Let’s start with taking the dog out to poop. A large part of a dog-owning life. Howard Nemerov‘s “Walking the Dog” has a pragmatic, cynical-but-bemused tone about dog ownership. It begins

Two universes mosey down the street
Connected by love and a leash and nothing else.
Mostly I look at lamplight through the leaves
While he mooches along with tail up and snout down
Getting a secret knowledge through the nose
Almost entirely hidden from my sight

And later he also calls himself and the dog “a pair of symbionts/Contented not to think each other’s thoughts.” This is dog as dog. Pet, sure, loved, sure, but I don’t expect to hear any extra vowels added to the dog’s name in cooing tones. Continue reading

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