New Moon

Posted on September 27, 2011



Driving east from Williamstown toward the rest of Massachusetts, or northeast into Vermont (Williamstown is as far north as one can be in the Commonwealth without defaulting into Vermont, or falling left into upstate New York), was impossible after hurricane Irene, and is still nearly so. Route 2, The Mohawk Trail, remains closed for long stretches where the Cold River overran the (you should forgive the expression) highway, and now one cuts down the mountain early, turning left there at the big Elk statue, and then you follow even more minor roads along still roiling river, until climbing finally up and up and rejoining Route 2 between Charlemont and Shelburne Falls. Along the river you come eventually to a little stone structure, formerly I suppose a bridge, which you go under, not over, and there you see a sign that works syntactic wonders. Tomorrow I’m going to take some photographs of that sign which, as I remember, is hand-lettered by someone at the Mass. Department of Transportation and Syntatic Mayhem, Ziggurateur of Words, Meaning Mixocologist, and which reads: “Lower Booms and Dump Bodies.” Put it this way if you must: that expanse within some minds allows some persons better than some others to see the expanse without. Which viewings must humble.

Today, between more pressing matters, I was catching up on two weeks’ worth of newspapers. Among the things learned there, the following three stand out:

  1. On the off chance that you missed last month’s New York International Gift Fair (I did, too), this is the best of times, apparently, for buying studio-made tableware. The picture I like best was of “Coastal Ceramics” by Alison Evans, who “draws inspiration from natural forms she spots on walks along the shores and tidal pools of coastal Maine. ( Suffice it to say, I want some.
  2. A recipe by somebody named Tony Maws, reportedly a big-time chef, “considered a pioneer in creative head-to-tail cookery” of “hearty-yet-haute dishes—like pork-belly-wrapped veal sweetbreads with green tomatoes and rye-flour spaghetti with eggplant and kid goat ragu.” So then, his recipe for fried eggs with squash and tomatillo, with it’s anyone-can-do-it directions: “Step one: turn on broiler.” He runs Craigie on Main in Cambridge. That’s a long and winding road from here, but it’s time to book, as they say, a table.
  3. “The Letters of T.S. Eliot: Volumes I and 2, 1898-1925” are out (Yale, ed. Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton). Here’s the start of Abigail Deutsch’s review:

“You would expire of boredom,” T.S. Eliot warned his friend Virginia Woolf while discussing his wish to visit her home. “Insensitive persons can endure me for 24 hours; there is one old gentleman who, kept up by Port Wine, can even survive until the first Monday morning train; but 19 hours is precisely the limit for less coarse and hardy natures.” 

Readers of the first two volumes of “The Letters of T.S. Eliot” will require no end of port wine.” 

So, I’m struck by how often the opinions urged upon me by reviewers seem wholly at odds with mine. I, for one, can’t wait to read the letters. “There are, I think about thirty good lines in The Waste Land, can you find them?” he writes. Ok, to be sure he’s a bit coy there. And, moreover, isn’t it the role of the reviewer to give us the sense that we’ve actually read the volumes in questions without having actually to do so? But I can’t help myself: I love letters, journals (I’m hoping for a grant to spend a year in the Greek islands reading all three volumes of John Fowles’s journals). Also give me, please, cooking books (with pictures), and of course unintentionally wacko highway signs.

But enough treading water. Tonight’s the new moon, tomorrow the first night of Rosh Hashanah, and so time to talk about mushrooms, particle physics, and especially of the recent translation of Psalms by Robert Alter.

That’s tomorrow. Maybe the day after. For now, click on the NASA image. Take a new moon flight around planet earth, with special thanks to Grace Dane Mazur for the tip, whose Hinges: Meditations on the Portals of the Imagination just might be the most transcendent writing this side of M.F.K. Fisher

Posted in: Poetry