Bookshelf #20 keeps us still mostly in the neutral colors, but a rare and only approximate additional organizational scheme emerges here. These are mostly books of poems and/or books (poems, anthologies, and a couple of essay collections) written or edited by one of my college professors, who I looked to as a mentor (meaning mostly that I attended probably every single weekly office hours session he offered for the four or so semesters I studied with him). I like McFee’s poetry and his essays, however biased I may be, having also admired him as a professor.
The other thin poetry books are ones I’ve liked quite a lot. Chitwood taught at my university starting some time after I graduated and is buddies with McFee. Hudgins writes really great stuff. The Donald Hall book is full of feeling about his experience with the death of his wife, writer Jane Kenyon. Ferlinghetti is always fun (I heard him give a reading at my university some 24 years ago and it was marvelous and made me a fan, even though I never did have much of a thing for the beats in general). Wrigley writes these marvelous meditations (as the title of the one selected works anthology suggests), often involving animals (as the title of the other suggests). I don’t read a whole lot of poetry these days, but he’s a poet I can dip into at any time and feel good about, rather than, as I’ve often done, kind of shaking my head and wondering what is even happening here. Atsuro Riley I wrote about nearly 16 years ago here. The Oyster book I own because acquaintance and artist Matt Kish did the cover art and I wanted to support that. I dip into most of these books occasionally when thinking about trying to get back into reading more poetry, though usually I find that while these books are pleasing to me, most of the other stuff I run into is less so.
Nestled in among the poems are two books by David Foster Wallace, both well worth reading (but if you’re new to Wallace, start with the lobster book; his essays are often a good gateway to his work, and Oblivion has some especially challenging or abstruse stories in it that to my mind make it not the best starting point).
Evan Dara is a puzzle. Nobody seems to know if he’s real or if he’s some other author incognito. Many loved this book. I don’t remember much at all about it, though my Goodreads review tells me that I found much of it sort of annoying and the last 120 pages dazzling, and that it was one I’d likely want to revisit.
The Bright Hour is a memoir a college friend and classmate in my poetry classes in college wrote as she was dying of cancer. I’m biased because I knew her when we were young and have lots of positive memories of her early work and of her sensitive and nuanced workshop feedback, and the book thus feels a little personal to me, but I did think it was a beautifully written book. The little volume stacked on top of it is a chapbook she published a few years before her diagnosis.
Finally, there’s an Ondaatje book a colleague who loves Ondaatje recommended as a way of seeing a bit into some of the culture of Sri Lanka.
And finally finally, there are a few more poetry books stacked behind these, but none that I recall as being especially worth a mention.
Next up are two shelves of recipe books, which I may give only an appetizer-sized treatment of.