Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lulu is still with us, even managing to walk into the barnyard and accept a handful of dandelion leaves. She looks frail and terrible, but she still glowers at me.

Today is Paul's last day of summer vacation: tomorrow we return to our beastly get-out-of-bed-at-5:30-a.m. routine. To me, who's been driving him back and forth for soccer all summer, it feels as if he's never stopped going to school. He feels differently, however. And watching him cram his summer reading assignment into the last week of summer vacation reminds me that I never told you about my fabulous haul at the Blue Hill Library's book sale, which Tom and I bounced into as we made our way home from Stonington last Saturday.

* Two giant volumes of V. S. Pritchett: Complete Stories and Complete Essays. (You may know Pritchett as a master of the short-story form, but he also wrote excellent literary essays on practically every famous pre-1950 writer you can think of. [By the way, unlike some editorial pedants, I'm not against ending an informal sentence with a preposition.])

* A sweet, teeny-tiny edition of Thomas Love Peacock's novels Nightmare Abbey and Crotchet Castle. (Tom R., you told me to read these and now I can! [I'm torn about whether or not to insert a comma after these. Technically, it belongs there. Chatterbox-wise, it does not.])

* A crappy old paperback of Coleridge's Writings on Shakespeare. (I've been needing this book for years, and now I own a copy that will shed all of its pages in a single dramatic molting. [When dealing with the metaphysics of literary-linguistic self-destruction, I believe that no grammatical commentary is necessary.])

* A slim, hardbacked, second edition of Robert Francis's 1943 collection The Sound I Listened For. (When I opened the book, I immediately stumbled into the poem "Juniper," which describes the exact place on earth where my in-laws' house now sits. It's crazy how books are always leaping off shelves and biting me.)

From where I live, from windows on four sides
I see four common kinds of evergreen:
White pine, pitch pine, cedar, and juniper.
The last is less than any tree. It hugs the ground.
It would be the last for any wind to break
If wind could break the others. Pines would go first
As some of them have gone, and cedars next,
Though where is wind to blow a cedar down?
To overthrow a juniper a wind
Would have to blow the ground away beneath it.


Charles Kempainen said...

I can really hear Frost's voice in lines 4-6 of "Juniper." I'd never heard of Robert Francis until I read your post, and when I looked him up, I was thrilled to learn that Robert Frost had once been his mentor! No wonder I heard Frost's voice.

Congratulations for finding some good books. I love going to library book sales and thrift stores. Seldom do I return home from them without at least one treasure.

Dawn Potter said...

Nice to hear from you, Charles. Francis is sometimes called "the other Robert from Amherst." He was a fine poet with a quirky hermit's personality. Donald Hall wrote an entertaining essay about him called "Bluejeans and Robert Francis," which appears in his essay collection "Principal Products of Portugal."

Charles Kempainen said...

Thank you, Dawn. I'll look for that collection. I've enjoyed reading Hall's memoirs and poetry over the years and even attended a reading that he gave here at the University of Michigan a few years ago. He attracted a large and diverse audience.

Only last year, while searching the university's archive for Frost material, I found and watched a VHS recording of a reading--his last here, I think--that Frost gave back in 1962. And who strode out to center stage to introduce the great poet? A young Donald Hall. It was fascinating to see and hear both poets. I've thought many times about writing to Frost's estate to request permission to make a copy of that cassette. I'd love to be able to watch it at home whenever I want to.

Have you ever seen Shirley Clarke's Robert Frost: A Lover's Quarrel with the World? I've wanted to see that for years but can't seem to locate a copy to watch for free. I found a company that owns the rights to it and that is selling it on DVD for $200, but I don't want to spend that much for the DVD and the 3-year streaming license, when all I want to do is watch it privately. I guess I'll just have to keep waiting and searching.