12 November 2011
Teaching has forced me to re-read a number of books and stories – not just twice, but three and four times. It’s a fortunate convergence of necessity and pleasure. I suppose the re-reading experience depends highly upon what sort of reader you are the first time around: I consider myself a pretty close, slow reader (as opposed to a skimmer or page-turner), and yet still, re-reading is invariably rewarding and illuminating. That sounds cliche and predictable, like saying you’ll feel better if you exercise and eat vegetables, but both are still profoundly true. As a writer, re-reading almost always yields a richer reading experience; I find my admiration for the author deepens as the layers and textures reveal themselves. Wow, I missed that and that the first time around. Only occasionally does a book not hold up upon re-reading — which of course makes sense, i.e. we tend to select our re-reads carefully.
I do find it surprising that the further along I am in my reading and writing life (in my life in general is I guess what I ultimately mean), the more open and generous I seem to be as a reader; which is to say that — within a subset of recognized published books — I go in as a student of writing who wants to learn from what other writers are doing and trying (the varying levels of success all equally instructive), and as a person who wants to meet interesting, complex characters who feel, for those x-hundred pages, like real human beings to me. On the one hand, it’s not much to ask; on the other, if you think about it, and if you’re working at writing yourself, it’s a whole lot.
Is it a “luxury” or an “indulgence” to re-read? Not an easy question in an era of economic recession, multitasking, and information overload; but the question feels related to that of whether art itself is an indulgent luxury.
My previous thoughts on re-reading here.
4 November 2011
The Poetry Society of America and NY Botanical Garden present: Poem Forest by Jon Cotner, this weekend and next. Doesn’t this sound great?
A self-guided walk designed by Jon Cotner
New York Botanical Garden
Thain Forest | Sweetgum Trail 12-4:30 Nov 4-5, 11-12
Poem Forest gives festival visitors a new kind of poetry experience, as well as a new kind of walking experience. Poet-walker Jon Cotner has fused lines selected from 2500 years of nature poetry with Thain Forest’s autumnal landscape. At 15 spots along Sweetgum Trail, visitors will speak, sing, or variously engage with 15 lines that encourage them to see and sense more clearly, to inhabit the present more deeply, and to fill with enchantment over the course of this walking meditation. The original poets who composed the lines are explorers – observers, lovers – of nature. They address us from America and from around the globe: Chile, China, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Sweden.