Thursday, June 23, 2011
Reading a book of poetry
I have just finished reading a book of poetry by someone I was acquainted with. Finished is the wrong word because I'm not done with reading this book. The poet is married to someone I used to know pretty well and the poet knew a number of other people I knew pretty well. Although I can't say I can remember ever having a conversation with him. For the past few years I've been reading his essays on Facebook and on the website of the Public Radio station he works for.
I'm wondering if the North Country of New York State is a peculiar part of the world or if I just burrowed into that part of the world in a peculiar way. Potsdam NY is a college town, but so is the Eastern Shore town where I live now. It seems that the people I knew in Potsdam were brainy and eccentric in a way I don't run into here. But then I wonder if I'm just not looking right. I am pretty convinced that language is different in upstate New York ... I noticed this when I found a childhood upstate NY friend living nearby and the melodies and rhythms of her voice were familiar in a way that was special to me - in great contrast to the alien sounds of the local Maryland voices.
Reading this book of poetry sounds so much like the North Country to me. I can't tell if I'm reading good poetry because the voice is so evocative of a time and place in my experience. I wonder if someone who has not known the same people, who has not experienced the "mud season", or who has not experienced the small chilly waterfalls, streams and rivers can respond in the way I am responding.
I only lived up there for about nine years. I've lived longer than that where I live now. But I don't feel as much at home. Two more variables to consider: my age then and now, and the historical times then and now. I'm not as malleable now, and I'm less able to scramble into different geological and social terrains and landscapes. I was part of the beginning of a food coop there and the birth of a day care center. I don't have a husband and a child with me any more. In my twenties, they created openings I no longer have. Here I'm active in the original CSA, but my involvement is more isolated and I don't feel much connection to the local membership. Up north, I was also entering the world of academics and the world of 12-step recovery (and the world where they intersected). Now, although I'm still sober, I'm not so connected to "the rooms" locally. (See DFWallace for some great descriptions of the old time AA)
Back in the day, hippies were still around. I was among that group and our group hadn't thoroughly alienated others yet. Then computers were just starting to happen. I was eager to be involved with them, but had no inkling how my world would be so different.
Years ago, even before I'd moved to the North Country, I wrote and did not mail a letter to a famous writer. I proposed that I could read his stuff better than anyone else. I still have that feeling, as a gifted reader, from time to time. The volume of poetry I have just read, recalls that feeling for me.
As is so often the case with my bloggishness ... this needs more revision and careful thought.