A friend spent the night last night, and added to our breakfast conversation by reading aloud from the Monday Metropolitan Diary section of the New York Times:
“Practice, practice, practice may be the way to Carnegie Hall, but is it worth it if no one remembers your name, much less the hall itself?
Recently overheard from a couple settling into their seats behind me before a concert: “This is where we heard that guy play the piano, isn’t it?”
That’s the problem with fame in a nutshell!
Then Larry said that there was a place called The Royal Roost in New York where Charlie Parker, Dizzy, Miles, Kenny Durham and other jazz greats used to play that was nicknamed The Metropolitan Bopera House.
Then I got to the work of the morning. Every Monday I send a poem to a little group of poets who trade poems each week. We’ve been doing this almost 10 years now! We each have a day. Sometimes we send our poems, but most often a poem we’ve encountered that we like a lot. Today I sent out a poem by Tony Hoagland, one of my favorite poets.
I love the way he mixes humor and the overpowering emotions we each feel, how he takes a situation everyone can recognize—the desire to seduce someone—and elevates it. Then he brings us back to earth, reminding us that we live here, amid the base, confusing and overpowering passions, no matter how much we love literature.
That was the summer I used The Duino Elegies
in all of my seductions,
taking Rilke from my briefcase
the way another man might break out
candlelight and wine.
I think Rilke would have understood,
would have thought the means
justified the end, as I began to read
in a voice so low it forced my audience
to lean a little closer,
as if Rilke were a limestone bench
stationed on a hillside
where lovers gathered to enjoy the vista
of each other listening.
What a chaperone,
and what a view—is it Susan
I am thinking of?—
how, in the middle of the great Ninth Elegy,
in the passage where the poet
promises to memorize the earth,
her tanned and naked knee
seemed the perfect landing platform
for any angels in the vicinity.
I think Rilke would have seen
the outline of an angel
in the space between our bodies
just before we kissed,
then seen it vanish
as we clashed together
and commenced our collaboration
on another chapter
of the famous, familiar and amusing
saga of human relations—choosing
heat instead of grace,
possession over possibility—trading
the kingdom of heaven
one more time
for two arms full
of beautiful, confusing earth.
This poem is from Sweet Ruin, like all of Tony’s books, worth owning! For those interested in poetics, his book of essays, Real Sofistikashun, is a treat.