Thursday, September 11, 2014

Windows on the World


ModPo friends and


To all those who dwell in Possibility—
To all those who Sing Themselves—This


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1.

As strikes Thirteen—This Eleventh of September—Morn—

As Dreaded midnight hour flees—This—Our Dreaded Dawn—



I awoke just past midnight restless of mind. Thoughts meandering. Thinking a lot about Dickinson’s and Whitman’s poetry. The place of it in my life. Why should I invest of myself digging for their meaning, I wondered, when I’ve been spending a lifetime—happily—creating large and small meaning for Myself.

I got out of bed and heated up a cup of coffee. I went downstairs to my study and glanced at the volcano, an eruption of books that I’m reading and referencing, piled like lava rocks alongside my easy chair. A biography of T.S. Eliot, and another of his Collected Poems and Plays, Pete Hamill’s Forever, (the one book that I never want to finish reading. It will take me, well, forever,) The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, a collection of Wallace Stevens, The Complete Works of William Blake, The Complete Works of Walt Whitman, The Great Modern Poets of England and America, The Making of a Poem, A Handbook to Literature, Eighteenth Century Poetry and Prose, The Claw of the Conciliator, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, An Anthology of French Poetry (from Nerval to Valery), Dictionaries of English, French, German, and Latin…and these are just the titles that I can make out without restarting the lava flow.Why should I bother? I am just restless and wondering, I think. The coffee is old and strong…it begins to settle me. I need to go back to the future to find the answer. Cup in hand I scan the seeming acres of my often thrice-filled shelves. There, behind J. Barzun and his Decadence and scolding N. Ferguson, almost hidden by good-hearted Lewis' Clash of Civilizations I find what I’ve been searching for. All is calm. All is bright. The coffee has done its job, now I must do mine.

I slide out the autographed copy that I got from him at Barnes & Noble two decades ago. The neat signature--Harold Bloom--under the title, The Western Canon. (Subtitled on the cover, The Books and School of the Ages)From Dawn to Decadence tumbles to the floor and down again crashes Civilization: The West and The Rest, sorry Niall, but I think I can pick them both up afterwards. But, right now I've got work to do.

I tune to WQXR, adjusting down the volume (so as not to disturb my wife who’s asleep upstairs—I have to wake her at 5:00 a.m.—she'll be off to the Presbytery to prepare breakfast for the hungry mob)—I plop into my Lay-Z-Boy Recliner and turn to those two chapters that expound upon Whitman and Dickinson, and after the closest of close readings place them at the very core of the Western Canon. He’s undecided who’s the better. Not between these two poets, O no, not Professor Bloom. He’s weighing them against Dante and Shakespeare for bragging rights. He slants slightly toward Walt, but is convinced that there has never been, nor will there ever be, a smarter poet than Emily, even if he is never absolutely sure what she means. He complains that she is so difficult that she gave him headaches. So armed now, with that knowledge, I can lay me down to sleep, restfully. At peace with Myself and My Songs.

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