I often read with a pen, a habit I've had to instill in myself, much like one develops that first taste for beer or coffee. I resisted for so long, mostly because I loved to keep my books pristine, care for the bindings and smudge-free pages, and even as an instructor--five years now--I would use little flags or jot notes in a separate notebook, neither of which were very helpful as I'd forget what I meant with the flags and lose the notes in last week's essays or next year's plans.
Just now, my friend Meryl and I are finishing a shared reading experience, where we promised to write notes in the margins to Ellen Bryant Voigt's The Art of Syntax, little thoughts and doodles and agreements or disagreements. I've carried mine with me to doctor's appointments, so Meryl will also get the progress report of each visit.
And the there are the books with typos and mistakes. I keep thinking to myself, a job as a proofreader might not be so awful, though what pressure to catch every little slip. In the case above, though, the writer was referring to experiences without technology, and when people call the big green goon "Frankenstein," I simply want to cringe and rattle a cage and ask them what they are doing writing a book if they can't recognize a classic such as this. I remember listening to a book-on-CD in one of my commutes where the reader continually mispronounced "Kerouac," and I wondered how no one could catch it, correct her.
I realize my small complaints here are ridiculous, given my fifth-grade spelling capabilities and my shaking-fist struggle to pronounce words such as capuchin (thanks, Gerald, for making me enjoy this poem and stumble through it in poetry seminar--thanks, me, for not figuring out how to pronounce beforehand):
by Gerald Stern
The road the road just south of Frenchtown the poem
the one by Mordecai the river the river the
one on my left if I am travelling north the
car a box with wires loose on top of my
left leg the radio fine the light behind
behind the clock not working the rose so dead
I am ashamed the crows too shiny their feathers
too wet the cliff on my right too red the blood
the blood of an animal, a skunk, they bleed
and stink, they stink and bleed, the monkey on top
of me, a New World monkey, not a howler,
an organ-grinder monkey, a capuchin,
his small red hat is on my head and he’s
on my back, he’s dropping orange peels down my neck
March 22nd on the Delaware River.