Did you ever read Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle? It’s one I read in my early twenties, and certain phrases and coinages have entered my personal lexicon: your karass is basically your tribe–the people that you are destined to meet. A duprass is a karass of two very tightly bound people, and a granfalloon is a false karass, people who identify with something essentially trivial and meaningless. I think he uses the example “Hoosiers.” In the book, there is a religion, called Bokononism–you’ll have to read the book to get the full description. But “Busy, busy, busy” is what a Bokononist says when confronted with the mysterious, unfathomably complicated workings of life. Continue reading “Busy, busy, busy”
Yesterday I heard Chana read recent poems, most about her diagnosis of terminal cancer. She was incandescent and spoke of how a fatal disease can also be a gift, focusing the mind, the spirit, on what’s important. She mentioned that her first book started with a group of poems about her father’s death, and the irony that her career is completing itself with this new work, on contemplating her own death. I don’t have any of the new poems, “still a work in progress,” Chana says, but here is one about her father:
Theirs was the one with the noisy bedsprings.
How does a child solve a riddle like that?
—are they fighting again?
Theirs was a marriage of drums and cymbals,
a clashing-and-carping, nagging-and-clamoring
performed day in, day out. Continue reading “Chana Bloch”
I received a mysterious email from Larry (who is in New York), telling me he had bought and sent me a book from the Strand . It arrived today–a lovely copy of poems by Marina Tsvetaeva, a Russian poet from the early 20th century. Like her compatriots, her life was tragic–you can look it up if you like. Still, her lyrics still soar: Continue reading “A book from Larry”
These mostly long poems of a man who grew up in Kansas, son of a machine shop owner, are unique. They have a specificity and a narrative beauty that pins me in place. Here is one of the shorter ones, to give you a hint of what they’re like:
Hearing Parker the First Time
The blue notes spiraling up from the transistor radio
tuned to WNOE, New Orleans, lifted me out of bed
in Seward County, Kansas, where the plains wind riffed
telephone wires in tones less strange than the bird songs
of Charlie Parker. I played high school tenor sax the way,
I thought, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young might have
if they were, like me, untalented and white, but “Ornithology”
came winding up from the dark delta of blues and Dixieland Continue reading “The Blue Buick”
Looking at a row of jars of freshly made jam is a summer pleasure. Especially when the jam is such a lovely golden color. Each year, with pears from my friend’s tree, I make this simple and delicious recipe. The whole thing can be made in a food processor. The citrus cuts the sugar, and the ginger adds spice. Don’t stir much, and don’t overcook, the jam is done just as the pears turn translucent.
4 lbs pears
1 1/2 oranges
1 small lemon
1 2/3 lb sugar
1/4 lb ginger
2 cinnamon sticks