Archive for books

12.09.2008

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , , , on December 9, 2008 by Ryan Sanford Smith

The Jewel (a poem by James Wright)

There is this cave
In the air behind my body
That nobody is going to touch:
A cloister, a silence
Closing around a blossom of fire.
When I stand upright in the wind,
My bones turn to dark emeralds.

06.24.2008

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2008 by Ryan Sanford Smith

How To Be Alone (an excerpt from the book of essays by Jonathan Franzen)

I mourn the eclipse of the cultural authority that literature once posessed, and I rue the onset of an age so anxious that the pleasure of a text becomes difficult to sustain. I don’t suppose that many other people will give away their TVs. I’m not sure I’ll last long myself without buying a new one. But the first lesson reading teaches us is how to be alone.

06.15.2008

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , , , on June 16, 2008 by Ryan Sanford Smith

Midnight (a poem by Frederick Seidel)

God begins. The universe will soon.
The intensity of the baseball bat
Meets the ball. Is the fireball
When he speaks and then in the silence
The cobra head rises regally and turns to look at you.
The angel burns through the air.
The flower turns to look.

The cover of the book opens on its own.
You do not want to see what is on this page.
It looks up at you,
Only it is a mirror you are looking into.
The truth is there, and all around the truth fire
Makes a frame.
Listen. An angel. These sounds you hear are his.

A dog is barking in a field.
A car starts in the parking lot on the other side.
The ocean heaves back and forth three blocks away.
The fire in the wood stove eases
The inflamed cast-iron door
Open, steps out into the room across the freezing floor
To your perfumed bed where as it happens you kneel and pray.

06.03.2008

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2008 by Ryan Sanford Smith

Agrippa (an excerpt from the poem by novelist William Gibson — see details on the Agrippa art piece here)

VI.

There must have been a true last time
I saw the station but I don’t remember
I remember the stiff black horsehide coat
gift in Tucson of a kid named Natkin
I remember the cold
I remember the Army duffle
that was lost and the black man in Buffalo
trying to sell me a fine diamond ring,
and in the coffee shop in Washington
I’d eavesdropped on a man wearing a black tie
embroidered with red roses
that I have looked for ever since.

They must have asked me something
at the border
I was admitted
somehow
and behind me swung the stamped tin shutter
across the very sky
and I went free
to find myself
mazed in Victorian brick
amid sweet tea with milk
and smoke from a cigarette called a Black Cat
and every unknown brand of chocolate
and girls with blunt-cut bangs
not even Americans
looking down from high narrow windows
on the melting snow
of the city undreamed
and on the revealed grace
of the mechanism,
no round trip.

They tore down the bus station
there’s chainlink there
no buses stop at all
and I’m walking through Chiyoda-ku
in a typhoon
the fine rain horizontal
umbrella everted in the storm’s Pacific breath
tonight red lanterns are battered.

laughing,
in the mechanism.

05.24.2008

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2008 by Ryan Sanford Smith

The Old Fools (an excerpt from the poem by Philip Larkin)

Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms
Inside your head, and people in them, acting.
People you know, yet can’t quite name; each looms
Like a deep loss restored, from known doors turning,
Setting down a lamp, smiling from a stair, extracting
A known book from the shelves; or sometimes only
The rooms themselves, chairs and a fire burning,
The blown bush at the window, or the sun’s
Faint friendliness on the wall some lonely
Rain-ceased midsummer evening. That is where they live:
Not here and now, but where all happened once.
This is why they give

An air of baffled silence, trying to be there
Yet being here.

05.23.2008

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , , on May 24, 2008 by Ryan Sanford Smith

The Remains (a poem by Mark Strand)

I empty myself of the names of others. I empty my pockets.
I empty my shoes and leave them beside the road.
At night I turn back the clocks;
I open the family album and look at myself as a boy.

What good does it do? The hours have done their job.
I say my own name. I say goodbye.
The words follow each other downwind.
I love my wife but send her away.

My parents rise out of their thrones
into the milky rooms of clouds. How can I sing?
Time tells me what I am. I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.

05.21.2008

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2008 by Ryan Sanford Smith

Education (an excerpt from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig)

[His] argument for the abolition of the degree and grading system produced a nonplussed or negative reaction in all but a few students at first, since it seemed, on first judgment, to destroy the whole University system. One student laid it wide open when she said with complete candor, “Of course you can’t eliminate the degree and grading system. After all, that’s what we’re here for.”

She spoke the complete truth. The idea that the majority of students attend a university for an education independent of the degree and grades is a little hypocrisy everyone is happier not to expose. Occasionally some students do arrive for an education but rote and the mechanical nature of the institution soon converts them to a less idealistic attitude.