The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Giving in

Posted on: June 1, 2007

It’s strange how maintaining a book blog has changed my reading life; group activities that were scorned in real life are eagerly joined on-line. First I ended up in two –two!– book groups and now not only have I committed to a reading challenge –a reading challenge!– but a blogroll game.

And why not? It’s lots of fun, you find great new blogs, and you get prizes — in the form of books! It doesn’t end until Father’s Day so get crackin’. Join the craziness at Dewey.

Ted at his new blog bookeywookey (every time I type that I smile) is off to an ambitious start: he’s started a poetry reading challenge!

Assign yourself 4 poems you have not really read:

1 poem written before 1900
1 poem written 1900-2000
1 poem written in 2000-2007
1 poem you’re intimidated by, find mysterious, or simply don’t understand, from any period.

Part of why I joined was that I have not been spending any real time with poetry as of late and saw this as a way to help me get back on track. I may have made a fatal mistake with two of my selections (you’ll know which ones) but hey, no guts no glory.

1 poem written before 1900: Paradise Lost by John Milton

1 poem written before 1900 – 2000: a pick from Without End: New and Selected Poems by Adam Zagajewski

1 poem written in 2000 – 2007: a pick from Talking Dirty to the Gods by Yusef Komunyakaa

1 poem…from any period: The Story of Layla and Majnun by Nezami

What really convinced me that this was a good idea was Ted’s apt description of what poetry can do.

Poems do things with words that prose does not – that might seem obvious – but we pretty much all use words everyday and have a certain expectation of how they’re meant to be used – we’re supposed to explain our point clearly and, generally, economically, if possible. But poems use words purely for the sake of structure, texture, sound, how they look on the page, their aim may not be clarity but instead obscurity, poking fun, doing what we’re not supposed to do, or expressing private matters in a secret code. We pretty much accept that paint and clay can be used non-representationally, we know that space can curve, that light can be conceived of as both a particle and a wave, but when words challenge our expectations…


12 Responses to "Giving in"

Hoo boy! SO MANY CHALLENGES! This poem one looks fast and easy, too. I might be tempted! I already have the 2000-2007 category covered with that new Nikki Giovanni book.

Thanks for talking up the blogroll game!

This is a really good idea for a challenge. I never participate in the ones for books because I’m such a scattered reader (i.e. go from book to book without rhyme or reason), but I might be able to keep it together for four poems. Hmm.

Thanks for the promo!!! I can’t wait to see what people choose – I’m especially interested in being introduced to poets I’m not familiar with.

Have fun with Paradise Lost 🙂 It should be a fascinating read. In my non-internet life, I’m so not a person who enjoys group things, but on the internet, things are different.

I’m midway through Layla and Majnun right now – my translation is prose though, not a poem. Still enjoyable however.

Dewey you’re welcome. You know you want to join the challenge. Don’t deny yourself.

Marydell that’s a major reason behind why I haven’t either; but the poetry seems so easy going and flexible in comparison.

Ted you’re welcome!

Dorothy I think I will have fun with it. So far the introduction is a blast, which is welcome, as a Penguin Classic introduction has not impressed me for a long time.

booktraveller oh I have to say I’m a bit of a snob about prose translations of poems. 😉 But if it’s still fun for you that’s all that matters.

What a great challenge! I think I want to get on the bandwagon too….impressed you’re taking on Milton; I think I read it in my final honours year.

I’ve just taken part in the blogroll game which was also a lot of fun. I am astonished at how many book blogs there are out there that I know nothing about. I mean, have you seen my blogroll? How can there be so many??? The poetry challenge looks great, but I know my limitations. i shall follow your progress with interest, though.

I love Ted’s description… mind if I use it in my classroom?

JCR – please do. And come play with us too!

I agree that book blogging changes one’s reading life. Do you find that as you read now you’re constantly thinking about what you’ll say on the blog? I’ve found that it makes me a much more critical reader than I used to be. The discussions with other people is just gravy.

Siew Cooper you should join! And yes, I’m think I’m quite daft to take Milton on, but then that’s my nature.

litlove I know! I feel the same way too, which was part of the fun of doing the game. It’s also an entertaining means of procrastination.

JCR I loved it as well, which is why I quoted all of it.

John yes, that’s one of the main reasons I started the blog, to be come a better reader. I enjoy the book talk almost as much though. 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

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