Pub Day

Poetry coverThe new book hits shelves today. It’s available at better bookstores everywhere. Wondering if your bookstore is better? Ask if they have the book; then you’ll know.



Pre-pub Interview

How to Read Poetry Like a Professor hits shelves on the 27th. In anticipation of that blessed event, HarperCollins Academic Marketing interviewed me last week. The results are now available as a podcast. Michael and I had an interesting conversation:

Poetry cover

Box O’Books

The happiest day in the writer’s calendar? Easy. The one with a large box of books. My work here is done. I was so happy I didn’t even tell the UPS man he needs a muffler. Think he knows?

Poetry Box (1)


[This is one of my Pensées, occasional observations chiefly on nature and perhaps our place in it. The title is lifted from Blaise Pascal, who did this sort of thing so much better. But he’s not here, and I am, so there you go.]


Creamy white on snow,
they vanish as they lift off
from field edges
like ghosts of themselves.
Shy visitors from the Far
North, settling down by ditches
only to flee
passing vehicles
in parabolic waves, their meals of
weed seeds disturbed by
mechanical giants unknown
on their breeding grounds.
One doesn’t so much see them as intuit
their departures and rearrivals,
catching rumors peripherally.

Julian Barnes

Today is the seventy-second birthday of novelist and essayist extraordinaire Julian Barnes. His Paris Review interview is, as one might expect, really interesting.  I read and taught him for decades, and however students felt about that, I always knew that at least one of us would have a good time. The seemed to enjoy him, too, even if they hadn’t read Flaubert.

Twelfth Night

Tonight is Twelfth Night, of Epiphany Eve, so feel Christmasy (Christmassy?) for one more evening. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, of course, is set on the evening, and Joyce’s “The Dead” may well be–he’s  unclear on whether it’s this night or Epiphany night. No matter, it is generally held to be a sort of magical eve, not because of anything inherent but because we invest it with belief in its magic. If you need me, this evening, I’m busy. I have to read a little Joyce. 

Birthday Girl Edna O’Brien

The baEdna O'Briengirl of Irish (or anybody’s) fiction, Edna O’Brien, was born December 15, 1930. She scandalized Irish readers and especially non-readers from her first novel, The Country Girls (1960), with the astonishing assertion that women might be interested in sex. I think she is the most banned contemporary writer, which never dissuaded her. She has an amazing ear for the English language, as anyone who has read Night, her feminist (and hilarious and heartbreaking) rejoinder to Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, can attest. In addition to a long list of novels, she has proved herself a master of the short story, and her memoir, called Country Girl (appropriately), explains much about her life and motivations. I don’t believe she’s capable of being less than interesting. Once upon a time she was described as the best Irish woman writer or the best woman novelist in English, but critics eventually wised up and dropped the gender modifier. Here’s her Paris Review interview: