I love WNYC’s Radiolab. But ever since I listened to the radio show called Falling, I’ve been worried about all those falling cats in New York City. Evidently there’s a plague of falling cats there. In a five month period, 132 cats were taken to a Midtown Manhattan veterinarian’s office after falling from windows. That’s roughly 1 cat a day. And that, of course, doesn’t account for the cats that died, were taken to a different vet, or never received medial attention. They call this the feline high rise syndrome. Fortunately, some of the cats were relatively unharmed, even after falling from high floors. (One was fine after falling 42 stories.) The explanation? The cats hit terminal velocity, relaxed in mid-air, and glided to an easy landing. On their feet, of course.
I have no idea how to be a poet. Maybe that’s why I’m a total sucker for books that try to answer that question. The 2012 Poet’s Market has all kinds of great suggestions, answers, and articles. I’m in love with the chapter, “101 Poetry Prompts,” which includes the prompts: Write a Worry Poem, Write an Apology Poem, Write an Insult Poem, Write a Farewell Poem. I’m still hoping someone will write The Recipe Poem, complete with fail-safe directions on how-to-write-a poem . . .
Of course there are also chapters full of helpful advice on publishing and marketing, advice I could use, plus essays and interviews by poets including Diane Lockward, Collin Kelley, Jeanine Hall Gailey, Erika Meitner, and Sandra Beasley.
Sandra Beasley’s essay, “ A Different Take on Truth and Poetry,” is particularly interesting. I love how she celebrates the art of lying. She writes: “I became a better poet when I stopped congratulating myself for being honest; when I stopped casting my heart’s shadow on the page and calling it a poem.”
From this weeks New Yorker article, "Novelty Acts," by Ariel Levy, on Wilhelm Reich and the sexual revolution:
1. "Still, many Americans were taken with Reich's contention that sexual liberation was crucial to resisting Fascism that was spreading through Europe."
2. Reich came up with "a new apparatus . . . " a machine to trap the potent, healing force of the orgasms. His orgone-energy accumulator, or orgone box, as it became known, resembled a wooden telephone booth lined with metal sheeting and steel wool."
3. "Like the celestial bed, the orgone box acquired a celebrity following: J.D. Salinger, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroghs, Saul Bellow, and Norman Mailer were all devotees.
4. "Reich had his detractors, notably Albert Einstein, who, after two weeks of tests on the box, declared it useless."
5. "In 1954, after an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration, a court ruled that Reich could no longer rent and sell his orgone boxes."
6. "In January, 1964, Time called Riech a "prophet," and claimed that "all America is one big Orgone Box . . .
"In plain English, the Cold War world was like chess. The 21st century world is more like
tennis . . . Or take surfing " Anne Marie writes in her article, Adapting US Policy in a Changing International System.
Now I'm really scared. I was never all that happy with the chess metaphor, considering that, statistically speaking, there are more chess games possible than there are atoms in the universe.
So, hmmm. Has anyone seen the surfing movie, Riding Giants?
I know. Everyone loves Ann Patchett. Everyone I know, that is. So I tried her.
First, I made it through Bel Canto. A novel in which a bunch of terrorists fall in love with an opera singer. I have trouble with this, but I admired her ability to keep telling the unlikely tale ad nauseum. It was nice to like terrorists so much. But these were all accidental terrorists. Terrorists who swoon over opera! So lovable. So sweet. It was so sad when they all died!
So then I read State of Wonder. I was told it's the next best thing. I would like to re-title the book, Menstruation Everlasting. I mean, I admit I was almost okay with the novel until she started describing a bunch of wild women who eat bark by biting trees . . . and thus become eternally fertile. 70 year old women are pregnant! Imagine how much fun that would be!
I don't mean to suggest I don't like peculiar tales of wonder. I am a huge fan of Murakami, whom I find infinitely more believable than Ann Patchett.
Good books I've read recently include 4 Murakami novels
Lisa See's Dreams of Joy and Shanghai Girls Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick (fantastic book on North Korea) Infidel and Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali Sea of Poppies by Amitav Gosh
In a blog entry for The Atlantic Monthly, on how the world sees US. media coverage, Anne Marie Slaughter begins with the question, "When will we be able to see ourselves as others see us around the world?"
She has a series of wonderful tweets she received in response to the question, one of which I posted above. Another: "A Dutchman sent in the following response: 'the world thinks that happy peoples only have boring news... Keep it that way!'"
Nin Andrews is the author of 5 full collections of poetry and 6 chapbooks. She is also the editor of a book of translations of the Belgian poet, Henri Michaux. She keeps a literary blog and a blog of environmental comics.