Friday, October 26, 2007

Big book, big trouble

I keep thinking of Mr. Simic's problems with those large volumes of collected poems.

Callimachus, the Alexandrian poet, said "
Mega biblion, mega kakon," which is, roughly translated, "Big book, big trouble." In his day, what we call "books" were actually scrolls, which could get a little cumbersome. So anybody having trouble reading Creeley's collected poems, or Lowell's, or anybody else's can take some small comfort in knowing that, relatively speaking, we have it easy.

I adore the small volumes of Larkin and Bishop: jewels, they are. Yet for me, the bigger the book, the happier I feel. I carry books around on my back the way Aeneas carried his dad, and I take my little books by the hand, also. So... Thank the Muses for the novels of Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Dos Passos, and Dorothy Richardson, and that's just the D's. Thank you for the Anatomy of Melancholy and the OED. Thank you for the cantos of Dante and Ezra Pound, and for Jeremy Ingalls' Tahl. Thank you for all the variant poems of Whitman and Auden in one big gulp, and Frank O'Hara's large book of his short life's work. I can't wait for the big new Library of America Bishop, edited by Lloyd Schwartz, no matter how guilty it makes me feel!

I'll gladly take your cast-off great big poetry books should you find them too heavy!

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