Let’s Discuss Books

Since I’m not generating much polished work product these days, I thought we might try tackling the subject of books. I’m thinking I’ll start a series of posts about the books I’m enjoying. Also, links to booktube channels on YouTube where I find great recommendations.

I read more than I write. I’ve read a number of good books so far this year, and I’m currently reading a lot more. My current reading list has gotten way out of control, but it’s all so good that I don’t want to move any of these down to my reading later list.

I guess I’m what people call a mood reader. I don’t stick with one thing and finish it; I read whatever I’m in the mood to read. Also, some books seem to fit into a certain general time of day. For example, Great Expectations is a prime time book. I read it in the evening sometimes, instead of streaming video for a while. The Book of Disquiet, Collected Fictions, and Decreation aren’t novels and they’re better closer to bedtime.

This is my current list of books for 2022. This isn’t my collection, just what what I’m reading now, expect to read this year, and what I’ve recently completed.

I’m currently reading:

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
The Book of Disquiet – Fernando Pessoa
Season of Migration to the North -Tayeb Salih
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley (1818)
Collected Fictions – Borges
Decreation – Anne Carson
The Iliac Crest – Cristina Rivera Garza
Dowry of Blood – S.T. Gibson
Cathedral of Mist – Paul Willems
Seeking Slow – Melanie Barnes
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
Journal of a Novel – John Steinbeck

Recently Completed Books

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle – Murakami
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
Snow Country – Yasunari Kawabata
Snow – Orhan Pamuk
The Book Thief – Marjus Zusak
Pedro Paramo – Juan Rulfo
Autobiography of Red – Anne Carson
Piranesi – Susanna Clarke
Untold Night and Day – Bae Suah
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Sense of an Ending
The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter

Books Waiting on My Shelves

1Q84 – Haruki Murakami
Letters to a young Poet – Rilke
The Remains of the Day – Ishiguro
When we were Orphans – Ishiguro
The Anthropocene Reviewed – John Green
The Alienist – Machado de Assis
The Waves – Virginia Wolf
Klara and the Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong
Things Fall Apart – Achebe, Chinua
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
The House of Spirits – Isabel Allende
The Memory Police – Yogo Ogawa
Gravity’s Rainbow – Thomas Pynchon
Dark Tales – Shirley Jackson
The Legend of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
The Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
Ghostwritten – David Mitchell
Quiet – Susan Cain
The Unconsoled – Kazuo Ishiguro
Beloved – Toni Morrison
The Count of Monte Christo – Alexandre Dumas
The Best of Richard Matheson
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas – Machado de Assis
Collected Stories of William Faulkner
Absalom! Absalom – William Faulkner
Sixty Stories – Donald Barthelme
Emma – Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
Eugene Onegin – Pushkin
Frankenstein in Baghdad -Ahmed Saadawi
The Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux
The Snow Leopard – Matheson
Don Quixote – Cervantes
A Gentleman in Moscow –
Where the Crawdads Sing
East of Eden – John Steinbeck
Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Dark Interval – Rilke

Blood Moon Rising

We were never lovers and I don’t know
if that means everything or nothing
since so much of everything I imagine
remembering is meaningless now.
It’s not important but maybe

I saw the moon one night last week.
Alone, I just stood there and thought
it looked strange, smoky as it rose
over Rincon. Later I realized
I’d unseen the blood moon in its flight.

My mind was somewhere else while
Earth threw a bloody shadow
on its bone china innocence.
(The only place that Man has ever
reached and not committed murder.)

But why did you take my hand
that night in the college parking lot
under the oak trees, interlacing
your perfect young fingers with mine,
if everything means nothing?

Never mind: I’m too old now to
misunderstand the maimings of love.
The great eye of the moon looks
down from eternity and they say
we’re meeting on the other side.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

References/Inspirations:

The maimings of love are endlessly funny,
as are the tiny figures of talking animals,
being blown to pieces in cartoons.
~ Gilbert Sorrentino, The Moon in its Flight

A poem should be motionless in time   
As the moon climbs.…
A poem should not mean   
But be.
~ Archibald Macliesh, Ars Poetica

Yesterday

It’s national poetry month and I have some things indolently percolating in the notebook but nothing ready to post just yet. But the month is about to end and I’m nothing if not sensitive to the pressures of the calendar. So here’s a better poem, but the great mystical poet W.S. Merwin. It’s been living in the back of my mind since the 1980s, when it first occurred to me that it applies to me. I was in college studying literature when it was published so I probably saw it hot off the press. Those were days in ways that today and yesterday were not, if you know what I mean.

https://poets.org/poem/yesterday

I’ll try to get one of those new poems up by the weekend but no promises. I don’t think any of us is responding well to pressure these days. We know the consequences of our actions only in the protractions of time.

Things and Stuff

Things and stuff on my mind.

  • Survival mode
  • Shared life/Private life balance (boundaries)
  • Mindfulness in the Midst of Calamity
  • The (unconditional) Beauty of Others
  • Love in the Time of Corona
  • War and Chaos
  • The Persistent Illusion of Time

“I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed! Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

What have you been pondering?

Shining Eyes

On every screen we see
the smoke climbing
reaching for the pity of Christ
and we realize
they dress their babies
just like Americans
their children have the same
expressions of uncomprehending
fear, the same shine
reflecting the pastures of Heaven
in their Ukrainian eyes
and is this some kind of trick?

I watch news in small doses
because plague time
has compressed my life as well
and my dull eyes fill with tears
because this is pure evil
and someday a screaming
may come across the sky for all of us.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

I made a few new year’s resolutions, which aren’t going well so far. I intended to focus on every good opportunity to shut the f–k up and stop giving unsolicited advice, to stop sharing opinions about choices or situations outside my own responsibility and control, and to write positive, grateful, hopefully uplifting poems. I’m still taking when nobody – least of all me – wants to hear me, still opining about things that are up to others from my family to global psychotic dementors like Voldemort Pootin’, and here’s another dark sad poem.

It’s not my fault. I would have been more than happy to write an ode to the wind clouds hovering over the coastal range this morning, and I’m not the demonpuke bombing innocent, defenseless people. Art has to meet the world where it is and tell the truth.

I would have been happy. I’m not sure I can see an opening in the funhouse mirrors of protracted chaos to find the exit to happy tonight but I can close my eyes and find reasons for gratitude. That’s something; in fact, it’s a lot. I’ll take it, gratefully, and hold fast to hope for the survivors of the massacre in Ukraine. Maybe they can use our hope more than our sadness and faith more than anger.

Peace.

Yes, Virginia …

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

After Two Years

“Am well. Thinking of you always. Love.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague

What if there is no I, no not-I,
maybe only We, certainly no Them?
What if it is all one light, one darkening
into death, one ineluctable pain?

There is so much more to write poems
about than death, I know. But the birds
simply sing as the humans rise and fall
on waves of plague. Their music
hasn’t changed my mind. There are
nights I just want to sit here alone,
listening to dogs barking
at nothingness, and weep.

So let’s burn it all down, let it shine,
sing, walk down old roads, leaving
the dead behind to bury the dead
as they become more night than day
more peace than fight, more joy
than struggle. Of course I am afraid.
Aren’t you?

I don’t know what God intends to do
about it when I die but my house
will be occupied by not-Me.
Time will stop but continue turning
in its widening gyres.

Maybe we will sit in the dim coffeehouse
under the shaggy eucalyptus
but I will sit apart.
Maybe we will stand in the last bookstore
of eternity, listening
as all the old ink turns to rain.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

The Snowy Fields, More Silent Now

I am deeply sad to learn of the death of Robert Bly. He was the last of those late 20th century poets whose poems I loved in my college days. There were Bly, Stafford, Roethke, Kinnell, Wright, Jeffers, Strand and others. All gone now. T.S. Elliot and Ezra Pound were already long gone, even then. And Robert Frost died when I was two years old. I have loved these people, tangentially; the way you love a cool pond on a hot summer day and driving past it, wish you had time to stop and swim. 

I have little experience of snowbanks. It hasn’t snowed here since 1937 and I’ve heard I didn’t really stick. Far too little of anything has stuck to me. I’m a cozy warm in the house with a cup of coffee kind of guy. Far too often, I’m more adrift in Netflix than in the snowy fields of literature. Quel dommage!

“Those great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly six
feet from the house …
Thoughts that go so far.”


You can find the influence of Bly’s poems all throughout my own. Like this:


“And the sea lifts and falls all night, the moon goes on
through the unattached heavens alone.”

Just last month I was thinking about Robert Bly very particularly and googled to see that he was still with us. That day, I wrote a poem that borrows from him, using the title of one of his books, “The Man in the Black Coat Turns.” My poem (below) is called “The Man in a Black Coat.” That’s not just influence, it’s outright allusion; you can see how much I appreciated his poetry. And here’s il miglio fabbro – the better craftsman:

Poetry Breaks: Robert Bly Reads “Snowbanks North of the House”

About 30 years ago a friend of mine was about to go to one of Bly’s retreat/workshops for men. I gave him a few of my poems and a copy of one of Bly’s books and asked him to take them along. He read the poems to Robert Bly and others, said Bly was complimentary, and returned with the book signed for me. Bly had drawn a figure which he said was meant to be “the shadow chasing Kyle.” 

So much gratitude from my shadow and me. 

Futility

In the cold kitchen of blue hour
I sit drinking coffee, echoing a song
you wrote for someone else.
The piano answers in a farther room.
Communication is impossible, just a myth
of the old oceans and their blue-black waves,
the early trees and smothered rock.
It depended on shadow and gladness.
It has always defied us.
We pretend, we orate and whisper,
weep and entreat the trembling air.
We unearth stones, carry weapons
to speak for us, beg the birds to sing
from the hedges to help us talk.
No, it’s not sound that matters.
It depends on shadow and the folding of distance.
Now the sun is down!
Light candles that smell better than reality.
Call every memory together
but in the sum of all parts, the parts fade away.

J. Kyle Kimberlin

Creative Commons Licensed

the view from here