I just heard yesterday that whilst I was in Rarotonga Kurt Vonnegut died. I’ve read and taught Slaughterhouse-five many times and I’ve never met a single university student who has hated the novel—although some told me it was ‘pretty weird’ which I guess is a pretty good short description. Player Piano sat unread on my shelf for years and has now most probably been culled. (I move around too much to keep a library and my books live in cardboard boxes stored in a garage). The other news this week was the Virginia Tech massacre and media feeding-frenzy. It’s horrible how schools and campuses are now settings for violent, meaningless murders.
On a more chirpy note, before I go and teach the first classes of term two, I wanted to say a little about Faber’s new ‘Poet to Poet’ series as I’m enjoying Michael Hofmann’s selection of poems by Robert Lowell. I find this series the most exciting publishing development in poetry since Earl of Seacliffe came out with their radical $5 pocketbooks. In the words of the jacket blurb: “In this series, a contemporary poet selects and introduces a poet of the past. By their choice of poems and by their personal and critical reactions they express in their prefaces, the editors offer insights into their own works…” The books are attractively designed, with good cover photographs of the poets, and most importantly of all, like Earl of Seacliffe’s mini-series books, they aren’t too expensive—for $15.99 you get an elegantly wrapped dead poet, way under the $20+ you pay for poets alive and kicking.
Image from UCSB