The First Book Post of Spring

The first (partial) week of spring brought with it only two books, but really, no book is *only* a book.

On the left is Saint Peter and the Goldfinch, the new collection from West Michigan’s own Jack Ridl. I will be attending the book launch party in a couple of weeks and am sincerely looking forward to seeing Jack again, as well as the other members of the West Michigan literary community.

On the right is The Boy by Marcus Malte, the latest delivery from my subscription to Restless Books. According to LibraryThing, I now own 34 Restless Books titles. One day I may even read all of them.

Today is the 100th (!) birthday of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. That he is still alive is extraordinary. That he is still writing is astonishing! His latest book, Little Boy, was released just a few of days ago. I have not yet picked it up. In reviewing my collection I see that I am unfortunately light in the Ferlinghetti department. I have the fiftieth anniversary edition of A Coney Island of the Mind, and his book of travel journals, Writing Across the Landscape. I should probably pick up a couple more in the near future.

Ferlinghetti was never a tremendous influence on my, directly. Indirectly, of course, with the creation of City Lights Publishing, as well as his involvement with the beat poetry scene, and the broader scene in general, it was impossible to NOT be influenced by him in some way or another.

Not long after I started working at Schuler Books & Music (which at the time was simply called Schuler Books), a bunch of us writerly employees got together to watch Poetry in Motion. I had had very little experience with poetry (other than a brief overview of The Canon in college) at the time, being much more interested in high fantasy and hard science fiction, so this film blew my mind wide open. I think we watched it not long after Charles Bukowski died. Definitely before Ginsberg died. I was grabbing coffee in Socrates Cafe here in Grand Rapids when I heard of Ginsberg’s passing. I was only passing familiar with Ginsberg’s work at the time, but it still had an impact.

In reading news, I am approaching the end of The Monster Baru Cormorant. I expected to be finished by now, but I have been distracted by poetry collections from W.S. Merwin, the aforementioned Jack Ridl, and Mary Oliver. Also on a whim I pulled down Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin, and immediately fell in love. I still plan to finish The Monster Baru Cormorant by the end of the month, but now my plan of only reading poetry for the upcoming National Poetry Month is in jeopardy. Laurus is just that good.

Finally, here is Ferlinghetti’s poem “I Am Waiting,” fromĀ A Coney Island of the Mind.

A Quiet Week

It was a quiet week here at Winkelman Abbey, what with the latest polar vortex turning Grand Rapids into a wasteland of ice and snow. Not a lot of time or energy for complex tasks (or thought), so it is just as well that the new stack was small.

From left we have the latest issue of The Paris Review and the new Two Lines journal. Next is 77, the most recent shipment from my subscription to Open Letter Books. The last two are If This Goes On and Hope in This Timeline, books from a couple of Kickstarter campaigns which I backed some time ago. They will go nicely with the other resistance-themed anthologies which I have picked up over the last few months.

Speaking of such anthologies, I am still reading through A People’s Future of the United States, which remains amazing. Such consistently powerful writing from an exceptionally diverse group of writers! I expect to have it finished by the end of this week.

This issue of The Paris Review includes an interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who will turn 100 in a couple of weeks! The interview was conducted over several weeks in 2018, when he was 99. That he is still alive is remarkable, and that he is still active in the literary world is nothing short of astonishing! In the interview he offhandedly mentions regular occurrences from his early life in France, like occasionally seeing Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoer in a cafe in Paris. You know – trivial things.

Ferlinghetti’s book A Coney Island of the Mind was published in 1958, which means it has been out for over 60 years. I have the 50th anniversary edition, which I picked up at City Lights Bookstore this past June. Ferlinghetti has been doing great things in and for the literary world for a decade longer than I have been alive, and he is still going at it, with a new book, Little Boy, coming out on March 19. I was going to hold off on buying more books for a while, but I can see this is a lost cause.

For more on Sartre and de Beauvoir, I highly recommend At the Existentialist Cafe.

Links and Notes for the Week of January 27, 2019