It’s the elision of poetry that hooks me, the way a flickering image can bear the weight of the whole sketch. My love for poetry is misshapen, know-nothing, dumbly dependent on feeling, and it can take weeks of rereading for me to make sense of certain lines. Sometimes I hover at the doorway of understanding but can’t make my way inside. But coming to a poem as an amateur no longer feels like a barrier; sometimes my imprecise grasp makes the feeling cut deeper. It’s similar to the freedom I feel in art museums, surrounded by a craft distant and opaque to me. I can sink into the role of viewer, just letting the color pass through me.
So, a few poems for summer.
Halfway through the year, here are some books I've loved: Running, by Cara Hoffman, which is hot and sun-bleached and alive and addictive. Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta, insanely smart, best read in a tourist van rocketing along the blue edge of Costa Rica, pages ruined by the ocean. A Separation by Katie Kitamura, ice cold, the crispest prose. The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker, like The Interestings, only sadder and sexier and realer. The Days of Abandonment, a plunge back into Ferrante’s feverish world of women on the edge. And, my favorite of these last few months, The Idiot by Elif Batuman, which I read with near-manic delight, in thrall to its depiction of being 19 meandering through the mundanity of college, dumb and overwhelmed and doomed by desire.
I am also a bit obsessed with Mary Ruefle’s odd little book My Private Property, which is studded with poem-essays on the sadnesses of every color. They're pure feeling.
I think about this a lot: Astronomers crack the secret of a beautiful, brief Sappho poem.
Writers look back on art they first saw a long time ago. Cara Hoffman remembers being “invisible and invincible.” Kyle Chayka writes about how certain pieces will "send a ripple streaming through the rest of your life.” Catherine Lacey weeps before a Cy Twombly, “moved by all that broken beauty.” (Also, a third grader’s poem written in front of a Twombly, “strangest of them all.”)
This profile of Lorde is the MOST charming. Subway rides with tinny headphones, midnight diners, wild dogs, color-coded heartbreak party songs. Also, “Happiness is for tourists write you little fucker.”
Monet’s home in Giverny / The London Review of Looks / Korean convenience stores / Alison Bechdel’s coming out story / Anxiety dreams / Landslide.
Jia Tolentino on the enduring magic of The Mixed-Up Files and the pleasure of a secret.
Before the internet / The first Pride flag / Love and confetti at City Hall / How to relax / George Bush’s painted atonements / Malingerer! / Traveling on Google street view.
Rest in peace Denis Johnson, tender heart, who cried in class and went out in his bathrobe looking “for a magic thread, a magic sword, a magic horse.”
All / the things I /embrace as new / are in / fact old things, / re-released: swimming, / the sensation of / being dirty in / body and mind / summer as a / time to do / nothing and make / no money.
“i have been too many things in the dead heat of time.”
Abbi Jacobson’s new podcast on contemporary art is a pure delight.
This essay on leaving a marriage and making lemon soup is a poem.
There’s an Ian McEwan quote I love: “What is it precisely, that feeling of 'returning' from a poem? Something is lighter, softer, larger — then it fades, but never completely.”