Monday, 21 June 2010

The art of reading

I was having lunch with a friend today and he said that he had been in a kind of reading desert and I knew exactly what he meant. I went through something very similar myself last year and it lasted most of the summer and right into the first term of my MA. It wasn't that I wasn't trying to read poetry - I was getting book after book out of the library but I just couldn't connect with any of them, and it was the same with criticism and novels at first. At one point I began to think that maybe I was finished with poetry (quite worrying when you have just started a poetry MA!).  I finally found my way back to reading though - I started off with short stories - things like Raymond Carver and Sylvia Plath - things that people had said that my poetry reminded them of. Then I graduated to reading novels, just for the fun of it and with no pressure, and it was through reading novels that I gradually found my way back to reading poetry.

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels had been sitting in my reading pile for ages, at least a year. I had bought it in a charity shop in Edinburgh as I had remembered that George Szirtes had listed it as a must read book in the first year of my degree course. But as is the way of it, I had bought it with good intentions but had never actually read it. Then in the first term of my MA Anne Michaels came to give a reading at UEA and I went to hear her. I was so glad I did - she was amazing, a really good reader and such beautiful (and poetic writing). I went straight home and began to read Fugitive Pieces. It is a beautiful  book, deeply descriptive, thought provoking and with deep insight into the nature of human relationships - if you have only ever seen the film I would highly recommend reading the book as it is so much better!  Anyway reading it made me want to read Anne Michaels's poetry as I thought that if she writes prose this beautifully then her poetry must be amazing, and I was right she has a very sensual and physical style of writing (I have written about this before) and it rekindled my love for poetry.


Melinda Moore said...

I have to read something wholly disconnected from my own work when I am writing. So it'll either be crime novels or popular science - or anything else, as long as it engages me, but doesn't either make me feel inadequate or that I might inadvertently plagiarise it. Haven't read any poetry at all - apart from yours and Joe Dunthorne's - since our BA, but maybe it's time to give that another shot too ;-)

Julia said...

Yes do there is loads of great poetry out there! I know what you mean about reading something totally disconnected - at the moment I am ploughing my way through the Summer Reads. I also enjoy a good crime - Henning Menkl and Ian Rankin are particular favourites!