Friday, April 14, 2006

After a very nice reading by Lance Olsen at the University of Denver this evening, as I was driving along I-25 on the way back to Boulder — an unpleasant, screetchy highway affair that has at times reminded me of the driving scene in Tarkovsky's Solaris — I found myself trying to start up a mental catalogue of the books I had read in my life and being surprised that I couldn't call a single one to mind. I mean, for the few minutes I was actively thinking about Lance's reading, which was from his new novel, Nietzche's Kisses, which I'd like to read but haven't yet (meaning it didn't count), and finding myself prompted (something about Lance inhabiting Nietzche's dying mind, those final, extraordinary, half-mad thoughts, made me momentarily desperate) to call forth as many books as I could to kick around and think about, not a single one would appear. Nothing. Blammo. Blank. Just the highway. The car. The other cars. The night. After a while, when I'd mostly stopped thinking about it, a couple of books popped into my head, one of them being Jean Toomer's Cane.

This brings to mind a radio interview I did quite some number of years ago now in New York where I was billed, not entirely accurately, let's say, as a representative of the St Mark's Church poetry scene and was asked what books had been influential on my development as such. My brain went absolutely dead and for what I later had confirmed was a pretty excruciating interval I said nothing. Just as the interviewer was about to give up on me and toss what should have been this juicy bone to the poet Bill Luoma, who was also present, I managed to stammer, Stein and Hemingway. As I remember it, I never really recovered and everyone who was listening was grateful that Bill was there to keep it all from being too awful.

There isn't really much more to say about this, except to note that these are not the only instances of books and momentary blankness that have afflicted me and that, generally speaking, this doesn't happen when I try to think about other things.


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