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Personal anthology: W. H. Auden

It's been well below freezing in my part of New England this week, with attendant snow and ice and blasts of arctic air. My heating bills don't bear thinking of, and I've been wearing about fifteen layers and still can't get warm. (Though it could be worse. I could be living in Minnesota.) So certain […]

Michael Chabon on genre fiction and thought experiments

I've just started reading Maps & Legends, Michael Chabon's collection of essays on reading and writing. Not only does he write about Philip Pullman, M.R. James, and Ben Katchor—any and all of which topics would have predisposed me to like the book—but he also won me over completely with the introductory essay, which introduces a […]

Personal anthology: Virginia Woolf

I have a hard time not quoting Virginia Woolf’s short story (almost a prose poem) “A Haunted House” in its entirety. But instead I’ll just quote the beginning and end, and point you towards the University of Adelaide’s e-books collection where you can read the whole thing. Whatever hour you woke there was a door […]

Personal anthology: E. M. Forster

In honor of my impending move, which is now (gulp!) less than two weeks away, a particularly apposite couple of paragraphs from E. M. Forster’s Howards End: The Age of Property holds bitter moments even for a proprietor. When a move is imminent, furniture becomes ridiculous, and Margaret now lay awake at nights wondering where, […]

Personal anthology: Robert Frost

The job search has all but eaten my brain, and it’s been a while since I posted a poem for the virtual commonplace-book. So here’s a poem while I obsess about interviews and other unbloggable topics: Spring Pools These pools that, though in forests, still reflectThe total sky almost without defect,And like the flowers beside […]

Personal anthology: James Merrill

Something, probably the cold weather, brought this poem to mind this evening: Nightgown A cold so keen,My speech unfurls tonightAs from the chattering teethOf a sewing machine. Whom words appear to warm,Dear heart, wear mine. Come forthWound in their flimsy whiteAnd give it form. — James Merrill (from Nights and Days, 1966) Not a major […]

Personal anthology: F. Scott Fitzgerald

In honor of everyone heading off for Thanksgiving, one of my favorite bits from The Great Gatsby: One of my most vivid memories is of coming back West from prep school and later from college at Christmas time. Those who went farther than Chicago would gather in the old dim Union Station at six o’clock […]

Personal anthology: Louise Chandler Moulton

If you’ve never heard of Louise Chandler Moulton, you’re not alone. She was a 19th-century American poet who held a salon and knew the Pre-Raphaelites. She’s all but unknown nowadays. But I encountered this poem of hers in a course on Victorian women writers, and I’ve never forgotten it: Where the Night’s Pale Roses Blow […]

Personal anthology: Charles Simic

Charles Simic was just named Poet Laureate. (For the first time in years, they picked someone whose poems I enjoy reading.) So now seems as good a time as any to point to a couple of his poems: Watermelons Green BuddhasOn the fruit stand.We eat the smileAnd spit out the teeth. Autumn Sky In my […]

Personal anthology: Guillaume Apollinaire

I noticed this poem somewhere on a LibraryThing discussion thread, and it stayed with me. Turns out it’s in Apollinaire’s Alcools. L’adieu J’ai cueilli ce brin de bruyèreL’automne est morte souviens-t’enNous ne nous verrons plus sur terreOdeur du temps brin de bruyèreEt souviens-toi que je t’attends — Guillaume Apollinaire And here’s my (rather clumsy) translation: […]