Friday, October 13, 2006

Anthologies, the Scrap Quilts of Literature

From Wendell Berry's poem "October 10"

Now constantly there is the sound,
quieter than rain,
of the leaves falling.
The calling of a crow sounds
loud -- a landmark -- now
that the life of summer falls
silent, and the nights grow.

The whole poem is in an anthology I've been reading every night before going to bed called "A Year in Poetry, A Treasury of Classic and Modern Verses for Every Date on the Calendar." Published in 1995 by Random House, I found it in a used book store. After checking to make sure it wasn't full of warm-fuzzy chicken-soup-for-the-needy doggeral, I decided to stretch my poetry reading habits because it mostly commemorates things that happened on each date which has a lot of births, deaths, battles and other historical references. The poems span centuries from Old English to contemporary. One sees how the poet's role has changed from dramatic and public to personal and private. I've read of people and especially battles that were nowhere in my frame of reference, and I've already forgotten most of them. The scope has been enlightening.
The crow above is by Evon Kerbetz; it is a post card I purchased in Alaska last summer. She has an unhelpful web site but I've managed to learn she is a graphic artist and book illustrator and anyone interested in her work could write her at the address on the postcard: P.O. Box 8943, Ketchikan, AK 99901. I saw other examples of her work in a gallery in Valdez and though she was very talented.
I was going to write about the metaphoric similarities of scrap quilts and anthologies but I will leave that for another time. I once believed all quilts were scrap quilts. I've just decided to read another anthology with a less promising title [sounds icky but I wouldn't have bought it if I wasn't convinced it's not] "Love Poems by Women: An Anthology of poetry from around the world and through the ages" Edited by Wendy Mulford, 1990 Ballentine. The reason I knew I'd like it was the very first poem, which I have to quote entirely and really hope it's okay, copyright-wise: It's by Carole C. Gregory called "Love Letter"

Dear Samson,
I put your hair
in a jar
by the pear tree
near the well.
I been thinkin'
over what I done
and I still don't think
God gave you
all that strength
for you to kill
my people.
Love - Delilah

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