Friday, June 13, 2008

I Believe in Coyotes and Time as an Abstract Press

I will answer the question "What is your favorite _______?"

Too many people, I think, demur. Too many people feel the world is a huge and overly complicated place, with too many choices, all worthy...

Not me. There are indubitably best things.

REM's "Life's Rich Pageant" for example,

or the rib steak with double spice at Schwartz's.

And Miller's Crossing

Also, Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox and Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveller... Answers by the way not to the same question, but to "best kid's?" and "best novel?"

And this...

"Manna" by James Tate

I do remember some things
times when I listened and heard
no one saying no, certain
miraculous provisions
of the much prayed for manna
and once a man, it was two
o'clock in the morning in
Pittsburgh, Kansas, I finally
coming home from the loveliest
drunk of them all, a train chugged,
goddamn, struggled across a
prairie intersection and
a man from the caboose real-
ly waved, honestly, and said,
and said something like my name.

This poem is found in Tate's first collection, the twenty-second title in the Yale Younger Poets series, The Lost Pilot, published in 1967. By the time I first saw Tate read, at an outdoor literary festival in 1995, his poetry had, um, evolved. On his way to the stage, though, he walked right by me so I had to ask:

[Clearing throat, sounding hopeful.] "Could you please read 'Manna'?"

[Walking right by, not looking down. Seriously, he didn't stop.] "No. But thanks for asking."

Ever since, I've wondered: is it natural for writers to repudiate their earlier work? Is anyone proud of what they wrote at 23 when they're 25 or 37 or 57? Seriously... anyone?

How about you?


Are you going to the Brooklyn Book Festival this weekend? Some cool stuff happening.


Matt said...

I end up repudiating everything when it's more than a week old.

steven karl said...

I think you just get tired of the old stuff and it's easier to be excited on new poems... it feels like progress or something

Maximum Etc said...

maybe he just hadn't brought it with him.

One time in the 90s, when I was in high school, I went with my father to see the 60s folk musician Melanie Safka (you might remember her from such hits as "Brand New Key" and, um, nothing). She was playing at a Borders near our house in Miami. He's a huge Melanie fan, and he really wanted to hear a song called "Photograph." When he asked her to play it (and I do mean "asked;" this is in a Borders, remember- we're all more or less just standing around) she told him she hadn't come prepared to play that song, didn't know the words or chords anymore really, but she was so touched that he asked for it she almost started crying and it had obviously really made her day.

What a world.

Sommer said...

that gives me a respect for melanie that i never thought i'd have. i'm a sucker for people acting human.

Sommer said...

also schwartz's is incredible.