kathleen ossip

Above All, We Believe in Magic: A Week in Review

Monsieur Ponge avec une cigarette

My week, but maybe you’ll relate.

Assigning Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics is really the best thing you can do for anybody.

“Fox and Whale, Priest and Angel,” by Russell Banks is travel writing, but it’s also about vision. So is nearly every travel piece I love. They all find the spark in a landscape and look into it and worship it—especially if the spark has been induced by altitude sickness (Banks) or nostalgia and maybe mushrooms (Jason Wilson, “Whistling at the Northern Lights”).

I learned this week that CK Williams does a better job of translating Francis Ponge than the translations I’m reading in Models of the Universe when a student brought me Francis Ponge: Selected Poems. That Ponge is masterful at conflating disparate objects. That you can make opening a door sexy if you’re Francis Ponge. I learned the definition of peduncle from the not-so-good translation of Ponge’s poem, “The Candle.” I learned that Ponge wasn’t interested in titles so much. And that maybe I’m having a love affair with the prose poem.

I read and discussed poems from Kathleen Ossip’s The Search Engine with a very cool student. I learned that the only thing more depressing than a Plath poem, is a cento of lines by Plath and Sexton. I remembered how much I love Plath. Thanks, Ms. Ossip. And thanks for these lines, among others:

I’m eating bread and water
alone, naked as the day
I was born. Hey, Ma,
I say, though she’s not
around, you won’t believe this.
Physicists say that in
addition to a yes and a
no, the universe contains a maybe.
Off in the distance, under the stars,
she moves like a platypus,
neither here nor there.

I read In The Year of Long Division by Dawn Raffel because Alec Niedenthal told me to. He and I will argue about this book soon enough. I’ll report back. But I learned that I like my dialogue to say something. And I remembered how important titles are.

Other very important things I learned this week: I love copyediting; I want a pet crow; I can’t stop thinking about the first season of Friday Night Lights; and I’m pretty sure I believe in magic.

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January 10th, 2010 / 8:08 pm