I can't resist the invitation to join this blog. I've packed my bag for Vancouver in my usual travel-light style: one carry-on bag with enough empty space to allow me to come home with a pile of new books. The prospect of heading off for a weekend of a couple dozen poetry readings and warehouse-size rooms full of thousands of books is rather intimidating. Will I discover one new poet who will change my life? Well, I guess that's expecting too much. I keep thinking of what Philip Larkin said in his statement
on poetry and pleasure:
But if the medium is in fact to be rescued from among our duties and restored to our pleasures, I can only think that a large-scale revulsion has got to set in against present notions, and that it will have to start with poetry readers asking themselves more frequently whether they do in fact enjoy what they read, and, if not, what the point is of carrying on. And I use "enjoy" in the commonest of senses, the sense in which we leave a radio on or off.
How many books of poetry do I read that really make me want to leave the radio on? Looking at the couple dozen poetry books that just happen to be stacked on my desk, how many? I do love Eavan Boland's Against Love Poetry
, but that's from 2001! The truth is that the books I've read this year that have really haunted me aren't poetry, but W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz
and Seymour Hersh's investigative reporting in Chain of Command
. If I discover one book this weekend that stays with me, I'll consider the trip a success. But I'd like to know what books people have read during the past year they've truly loved.