Sunday, November 04, 2007

Once Upon a Time...

When I was but a wee lass, I used to read real literature for fun. Yes, I was one of those people. While other children my age were reading...hell, what am I saying? they were not reading they were outside playing sports...I was reading. And reading. And reading some more.

And then I decided I wanted my JOB to be reading. And whose job is it to read? A college professor, of course. I would go to graduate school, and get a PhD, and be a college professor, and then I could read all the time.

Ah, youth.

So, in summary, from about 1976 to 2001 or 2002, I read, and read, and read some more. And then I realized that graduate school, and indeed my future career as a college professor had nothing to do with reading.

And then I stopped reading. And I started reading crap. Piles and piles of garbage.

Actually, let me amend that. Not crap. I made lighter choices. I approached reading as escapism, and not as a career. However, had I been studying "cultural studies" or some such, I could probably have made a career out of these lighter choices. I could have gotten a PhD in Danielle Steel. Well, maybe not Danielle Steel, but surely Judith Krantz. And if not Judith Krantz, undoubtedly Jilly Cooper.

I think of this now because I just read a short memoir about James Merrill and David Jackson. And then I pulled out my copy of "The Changing Light at Sandover" and started flipping through it. And was struck dumb (well, not really dumb, because I was not talking at the time, but work with me here) by the realization that I used to read incredibly dense and difficult poetry for fun. And I would converse about said poetry at length, for fun, outside of the classroom setting. I had friends that also talked about incredibly dense poetry for fun.

And then at some point it all stopped being fun. And I dropped out of graduate school and got a therapist, because that is what you do when you are ABD. And I look at the hundreds of poetry books with the fine layer of dust on them, sigh, and re-read something by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Because somewhere in graduate school I realized that it was not about reading, but about jumping through hoops to get a job. I had about a year before I went on the circuit, trying to get into a club that probably didn't want me, but that had a branch in Arkansas that might take me on on a temporary basis (with a 4/4 teaching load).

And then reading made me sad, I think, because it wasn't going to help me get a job at a little private college in Vermont with a white-steepled Congregational Church in the middle of town, off the very green town green.

But I have started mixing in more real books again. I am not quitting my Danielle Steel cold-turkey, but I read some Ezra Pound today, and it felt ok.

O bright Apollo,
tin andra, tin herowa, tina Theon
What god, man, or hero
Shall I place a tin wreath upon!