Reading on the wind

When I fell for one of Ben Lerner’s recommendations in New Yorker Magazine’s The Best Books of 2013, Part 2,  Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s poetry volume “People on Sunday,” it was partly because I haven’t read poetry for two months, and partly because Lerner wrote he and O’Brien “argue over every line of each other’s poetry.”

But O’Brien’s book isn’t available as an ebook yet. And for poetry, I like the almost-weightless experience of ebooks, of being able to step easily into one volume, then step easily into another.

It’s not that I’m fickle. It’s just poetry seems a profoundly natural thing, something like wind, always there and ever-varying, something I experience best when sheltered by a veil of twilight, reading shyly, respectfully, taking the words in small doses, then letting time and life hold my hands as I assimilate the work. Carrying a few printed books around feels too anchored, too discrete, too obvious, to me.

So, for now, “People on Sunday” is on a wishlist and I’ve asked that Amazon ask the publisher to offer it as an ebook. Buying it in printed form would almost dictate I wouldn’t read it, something that surprised me, the reaction strong enough not to be knocked down by a hunger to read new poems.

Tere liye, life goes on…

Present moments: listening to this still — it came in via Outlandish‘s Facebook feed. I’m still a little open-mouthed at how ebrahim / @eebsofresh wraps his voice in, out and around the lyrics to make something totally new of the song — a cover of Frank Ocean‘s Swim Good.

I do wonder about ebrahim’s pronunciation of Swayze, though.

And I’m still loving Sam Sifton‘s food review writing for the NYTimes. His passion, his practicality, his understanding of audience, and of food, and the pure skill of his writing, are what get to me. In his 14th September, 2011, review of Hospoda, he achieves both connection and authority with his seemingly antithetical use of formal and vernacular voices in a single paragraph:

“Servers at the restaurant need to be schooled either in menu specifics or in the charm of copping to ignorance. Because: fluke is not a freshwater fish, people!”

As I’ve strayed across boundaries, the Visual Thesaurus has helped, bridging the quiet place where art lives, with the place of desiring to write again.

Last night NYC went from 84F/29C to 54F/12C. A faint sweet fragrance, from dry warmth contracting the wooden floors, squeezing out some of their natural resins, woke me — the first centrally-heated morning of this half of the year.

Mid-September is almost a time of straight up-and-down sun-shadows on the Earth. It’s late-tomato and early-apple time. Cheeks tingle at 5 am, if you’re out then, and hearts warm up as the season of fire and festivals approaches. That’s life, right now. Wish you were here.

A poem, an edit

A poem’s beginning is maybe a waking dream — expressed in words.
Inside that beginning, the writer hides something secret,
even from him- or herself.
You could call that secret the poem’s truth.

Editing a poem uncovers secret meaning,
and brings words into unity with the poem’s truth.
Yet the writer cannot always make a poem better with an edit.
Edits can whittle away freshness, and obscure truth.
It’s a complicated thing.

Working on a poem is a journey.
The writer needs that journey —
its changes and its passing time — to learn to see what’s in the poem.
Slow writing — an evolution of consciousness — is what a poem is, for the writer.

Here is the third edit of a 2007 rough-draft poem. Be warned, this is not good writing — the poem has a long way to go. To see what the original was like, and the intermediate drafts, check “Like a fall of earth” on my editing blog:

Like a fall of earth in a tiny cave (a beetle’s home)
or sweet soft rain
on pinnate leaves — quiet like that, he slips into the sea
and froths up a dance, and the sea turns blue,
and the dance goes on, as the sea and the man
bring love to the center
of the earth.

Sweet recovery

Woke this morning after much sleep and was hungry, so made dalia ki kheer, which is Indian cracked wheat pudding.

Dalia ki Kheer (Indian Cracked Wheat Pudding): Ingredients (8 servings): 1+1/2 c cracked wheat (bulgar or tabbouleh wheat), 6 c milk (whole, 2%, 1%, or skim), 6 tbs jaggery (organic Demerara sugar is the closest you will get to this, but you can use any sugar; if you use white sugar, include a little brown sugar to get closer to the expected flavor; honey or molasses will overwhelm), 1/2 tsp cardamom powder (from jar or grind seeds from pods). Method: place cracked wheat in heavy saucepan (for easiest cleanup use non-stick), and put in a third of the milk and all of the cardamom. Cook over very low flame for 15 minutes. The cracked wheat will absorb all the milk and fluff up. Add half the remaining milk, stir, and cook another 20 minutes. This time, there will be some milk not yet absorbed by the wheat. Add the remaining milk and the sugar, stir, turn up heat a very little, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes more. The pudding will seem soupy, but it will thicken as it cools. Pour it into a serving or storage container. Stir in almonds, cashews, and/or raisins at this point, if you like. Traditionally, this pudding is decorated with four almonds in a aquare, and one cashew at the center, on the pudding’s surface, in each individual dish of it. It’s often served in shallow wide-rimmed bowls. It can be eaten at room temp, cold, or reheated (with a little milk to thin it, if it’s too thick to reheat as-is). The texture is like a milk-rice pudding. Store uneaten pudding in refrigerator. Very good for digestion. Gives slow, steady release of energy due to wheat bran, which is a non-soluble fiber. The flavor is delicate and slightly sweet — just sweet enough to balance the wheat’s nuttiness and the cardamom’s elusive scent. Traditionally made with ghee as one ingredient, which I left out for health’s sake. It didn’t seem to need it, but I’ve never had it made with ghee, so what do I know? Anyway, it’s lovely.