In an earlier post, I mentioned that I was going to try to read a book of poetry every week this year. It is now week twenty-four, and I’ve read twenty-one books. I should have realized that this goal was unrealistic—especially when I signed up to teach four classes this summer—but I always have unrealistic goal towards the number of books that I’m going to read.
When going on a weeklong trip, it is rare for me to carry less than four books. Keep in mind these are not sit at the shore of a lake and read type trips, but the meet of up with friends and see all the sights type trips. The reality is I probably wouldn’t get through one book much less four.
I suspect that this, in part, is a habit that I picked up from my dad—who always carried a book with him in case he ever got stuck waiting. A habit I carry to the extreme. One of my criteria for a purse is that I can fit a good-sized paperback into it (along with my wallet, journal, day planner, and pens). When packing for a trip I tend to worry that I may finish one book and not have anything else to read, that when I start a new book it will prove a bore, that one book may be intense and I will need light-hearted breaks. In the end, I usually pack four books.
I read more than one book at the time. Usually I’m reading—at the very least—a novel, a book of nonfiction, a book of poetry, something that I’ve been intimidated by, and an issue of a literary magazine. As you can see by the photo of the books currently on my nightstand I often exceed that list. And not only am I reading that pile, I’ve also been carrying around The Uses of Enchantment and the most recent issue of the Indiana Review, in case I get a spare moment at work, and sitting next to my desk is Thomas Hardy The Complete Poems, which I pick up from time to time (though it may take me years to get through).
When considering my reading habits, I may read a lot of books, but I don’t really get through them all that quickly. It was never realistic that I was going to read a book of poetry a week, though I may still be able to read fifty-two books of poetry this year.
In fact The Complete Poems of Cavafy had been sitting on my shelf for quite sometime, but I’ve been putting off reading it to focus on books I knew I could get through in a week. Finally I gave in—I could no longer stand waiting even though I knew it would mess up my goal. I was doing this for fun anyways.
Of course the danger of having fun goals is that they can turn into work. After all I’m not reading these books for a class or a job, I’m reading them for myself. And sometimes, especially with poetry, it’s all right to take your time.
Below is the books of poetry that I’ve finished so far:
Week 1: The Best American Poetry of 2011
Week 2: Radial Symmetry By Katherine Larson
Week 3: Sin by Ai
Week 4: Waxworks by Frieda Hughes
Week 5: Mommy Must be a Fountain of Feather by Kym Hyesoon
Week 6: Bestiary or The Parade of Orpheus by Guillaume Apollinaire
Week 7: Kaddish by Allen Ginsberg
Week 8: The Other Side/ El Otro Lado by Julia Alvarez
Week 9: Remainland by Aase Berg
Week 10: It’s Not You, It’s Me: The Poetry of Breakup ed. by Jerry William
Week 11: Red as a Lotus: Letters to a Dead Trapist by Lisa Gill
Week 12: Diving into The Wreck by Adrienne Rich
Week 13: Breathing Between the Lines by Demetria Martinez
Week 14: Men in the Off Hours by Anne Carson
Week 15: Petals of Zero by Andrew Zawacki
Week 16: Words for Empty and Words for Full by Bob Hicok
Week 17: Head Off & Split by Nikkey Finney
Week 18: Flying at Night by Ted Kooser
Week 19: Practical Gods by Carl Dennis
Week 20: Wait by C.K. Williams
Week 21: Arrival of the Future by B.H. Fairchild.