Favorite book of the last few years: Mary Ruefle's collection of
way-more-than essays, "Madness, Rack, and Honey", which I would
recommend to anyone who either writes or reads poetry. Or
Speaking of which: Adrienne Rich, Naomi Shihab Nye, Li Young-Lee,
Claudia Rankine (you need to read "Citizen"), Maggie Nelson
("Bluets"), Plath yes of course, Philip Levine, Marie Howe, Galway
Kinnell, Williams, Oppen, Levertov. And mine—at least, some of
Some prose: Annie Dillard, Ursula Le Guin (The Dispossessed and
Left Hand of Darkness), Clarice Lispector, Keri Hulme, Marilynne
Robinson, Austen. Christopher Alexander’s writings on architecture
(A Pattern Language, The Nature of Order, etc…). John McPhee. Naomi
I will read the back of the cereal box if nothing else is
Art and architecture: The painter Charles Burchfield. The Hungarian
Organic architects–Imre Makovecz, etc... Earlier Frank Lloyd
Wright--before he got old and let his head get in the way. Andy
Goldsworthy (see "Rivers and Tides" if you haven't). Charles Rennie
Too many songs:
—Wilco, "On and On and On
". I could include probably a
third of their catalog in this list. But this may be the most
beautiful song I know. "We can't deny/even the gentlest
—Son Volt, "Live Free
". "Looking for/ the right kind/ of
live free or die..."
". My favorite fluttery-feeling falling-in-love
—The Decemberists, "Song
for Myla Goldberg
" This one just plain makes me happy. I will
admit to having a soft spot for Myla—partly because I liked Bee
Season, and partly because she went, as I did, to Oberlin. Which I
mention here because the place still means something to me.
—Terre and Maggie Roche, "Down
". A song almost no one knows from an album almost no
one knows. But oh, they should. "We drank his pint of freedom/ down
the dream". And: it's in three!
—Beth Orton, "Concrete Sky
—REM, "You Are the Everything
—Woody Guthrie/Wilco, "Airline to Heaven
" I love the ecstatic energy of this.
Here introduced by the former Junior Senator from Illinois.
—Joni Mitchell, "Lesson
". Joni doesn't get any better than this. OK, except
maybe on "A Case of You."
—Richard Buckner, "Blue
". I think this is hot.
—Bruce Springsteen, "Born
in the USA
". A solo version, all irony and bitterness and
bristling bottleneck guitar. Whatever you do or don't think about
Bruce, you need to listen to this.
—Townes Van Zandt, "Flyin'
" Especially the opening line, "Days full of rain...",
which feels like it's beginning in the middle of a phrase, bursting
out from nowhere into instant poignancy.
—Tom Waits, "Downtown Train
—Nina Simone, "Four Women
" A live version that needs to be
watched, not just listened to.
More music : The National, Hawksley Workman, The Raincoats, Patty
Griffin, Avengers, Gillian Welch, The National, Peter Mulvey, Ryan
Adams, Chrissie Hynde, Sandy Denny, Lucinda Williams, Talking
Heads, Kathleen Edwards (she apparently quit music to open up a
café outide of Ottawa), Martha Wainwright (but not her brother),
The Carpenters (I had a seventh-grade crush on Karen).
Film: sometimes I like a good documentary, but I don't often watch
movies. Or "TV". I used to watch Democracy Now somewhat regularly
(what we would do without Amy Goodman, I can't imagine), but grad
school has put a crimp in that.