Tuesday, June 29, 2010


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):
Spring
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.

2 comments:

Jessie Carty said...

i'm getting ready to post a blog this upcoming week about my response to reading a few books and I started with the whole notion of reading with a pen in hand. I still don't like marking up my books but I keep a notecard in the book so I can keep notes.

I'm taking LOTS of notes as I try to get ready to teach comp but still not sure I'm ready!!

Meryl said...

That mess-up with Frankenstein / Frankenstein's monster peeves me every time I see it too!