There’s Something Wrong with my Whitman Book

There’s something wrong with my Whitman book–it’s too clean. I bought it new because I couldn’t find it used, and the pages are so white and clinical. Leaves of Grass should be on paper growing dark with age, folded and wrinkled through frequent use. It’s hard to read crisp, pristine pages proclaiming the secret of the twenty-ninth bather. The book belongs in the woods, not on a shelf.

A bit of genius that just made me so happy to read tonight. It’s good to know I am not alone in such thoughts, but I could never have thought to put it into these words of Ricky’s I’m downright jealous in fact. I wish I had written this. It’s a poem in prose.

Thank you, Ricky, it’s good to meet a man as addicted to books as I am to poetry itself. I cannot think of these as bad obsessions.

Day 25 – 30 Days, 30 Readings: Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Portrait by a Neighbor”

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love used book stores, and if the used book store has a coffee shop, I will think that I have somehow passed from this life into my great reward. I remember my ex did not like going shopping for books or shoes with me, the shoes because I am hard to fit, and the books because I never want to leave the store. Any other shopping experience for me is nothing less than a hunting trip. I know what I want; I go in and get it; I get out.  But after a leisurely time in a used bookstore one day some time ago, I picked up the copy of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s book, A Few Figs From Thistles, the one pictured in the video. It’s the expanded edition with a few poems not published in the first 1920 version. The lady at the counter looked at me over her glasses when I handed her the book.

She said, “I don’t like her.” I wanted to respond, “I don’t care.” But I smiled and gave her my two dollars and fifty cents. I have heard Millay called a hedonist, and according to the Poetry Foundation, the publication of A Few Figs from Thistles “caused consternation among some of her critics and provided the basis for the so-called ‘Millay legend’ of madcap youth and rebellion.”

But what I like about her is her honestly, no false nobility, no taking herself too seriously. Whatever she may have been, Millay was, it seems, truthful, and her satire and bite seemed tamed with a heart of kindness in her work, as evidenced in poems like “Ricuerdo.” You can find the text of the entire little booklet at Digital Library.

The images in the video are from my balcony and back porch, and the ugly little courtyard that I am trying to make homey.

PORTRAIT BY A NEIGHBOR

BEFORE she has her floor swept
Or her dishes done,
Any day you’ll find her
A-sunning in the sun!

It’s long after midnight
Her key’s in the lock,
And you never see her chimney smoke
Till past ten o’clock!

She digs in her garden
With a shovel and a spoon,
She weeds her lazy lettuce
By the light of the moon.

She walks up the walk
Like a woman in a dream,
She forgets she borrowed butter
And pays you back cream!

Her lawn looks like a meadow,
And if she mows the place
She leaves the clover standing
And the Queen Anne’s lace!