Comments from real people only

I just discovered Blogger's new "Word Verification" feature, so that anyone who wants to comment must prove he or she is a real person. Whew! Thanks to Michelle at Brain Terrain -- I discovered it when I started to leave a comment on her interesting blog on cultural events in NYC. So now I can relax and re-open the blog to your feedback.


Tonight we had a little feast
(we two alone)
to celebrate the surprising fact of our continuing existence.
On the news were people much like us
-- exactly like us but for the color of their skin and their histories --
crazy with grief for loved ones buried in the mud
in Guatemala, Mexico. Or dead of bullets in East New York or Baghdad.
Or torn apart by bombs, in Chechnya or Iraq or Israel
for no good reason any of us can fathom.
We are so fragile, all of us.
Yet we two, mine and I, remain, in an accidental niche of class and comfort,
still healthy, still reasonably secure.
It cannot last.
And so while we can we feast.

(Today I was saddened to learn of the death of Horst Bienek. It happened 15 years ago, but nobody told me.)



A day late, but here is my favorite Wednesday poem, which I was reading again yesterday. The last three lines summarize the intentions of this blog. Reading German is a struggle for me, but with this poet the struggle is worth it.
Im Lesesaal

gehe ich in die Staatsbibliothek
die Bücher liegen schon für mich bereit
vom letzten Mittwoch
Es sind immer dieselben Bücher
ich schlage sie auf aber lese nicht darin
ich beobachte die andern die lesen aber
mittwochs liest niemand mittwochs
beobachten die da zum Lesen gekommen sind
alle die andern die zum Lesen gekommen sind
Mittwochs lesen die Leute in Gesichtern
nicht in Büchern
Horst Bienek (*7.Mai 1930 in Gleiwitz, † 7.Dezember 1990 in München/Bayern), Wer antwortet wem. München, Wien: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1991. And my translation:
In the Reading Room

I go to the public library
the books lie already in place for me
from last Wednesday
They're always the same books
I turn the pages but I don't read them
I look at the others who are reading but
on Wednesdays nobody reads Wednesdays
those who have come here to read
look at the others who have come here to read
Wednesdays the people read faces
not books
Had Bienek lived, he would have been 75 this year. Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag, Horst! Bei mir deine Gedichte noch hallen.


Unsolicited comments

Folks, I may just close down the "comments" option. If people were really commenting on my blogs, I'd love it. But no. Almost all of them are thinly disguised ads like this, just in: "Very unique blog you have! I'm definitely going to bookmark you! I have a free knitting patterns site [or some other unrelated product or blog]. It pretty much covers free knitting patterns related stuff. Please visit it. [signed] Rod." They even put these same phrases (in English) here, on my Spanish-language blog.

Writing lives

James Atlas asks in today's New York Times Book Review (My Subject, Myself) "How many American writers -- that is to say, novelists or poets -- have written biographies?" I immediately thought of one he had missed: novelist Evan Connell's richly contextualized, vivid and tragic biography of America's great genocidal maniac, George Armstrong Custer. See my note on Son of the Morning Star (1984).

Also, while you're in the NYTBR, don't miss A. O. Scott's essay, God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut. Mr. Vonnegut, of course, is the very opposite of a genocidal maniac.