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Thirteen Ways Inside My Heart - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Thirteen Ways Inside My Heart
Sitting outside the café, reading poetry out loud to my daughter, I struggle to gauge her reaction. The young guys at the neighboring table are making me nervous, not because of anything they've done, but because they are too close. What will they think? It doesn't cross my mind to wonder the same about the white and purple scarf draped around my neck. Maybe reading poetry makes sense for someone so idiosyncratically attired.

When I get to the part in Robert Frost's "After Apple-Picking" that describes a memory of the ladder's rung, inscribed on the musculature, I think of my forays into the mesquite to trim away the excess weight. Charles Bowden has it right. There's something both wonderful and disturbing about a tree that grows so fast. It serves as the ideal allegory for my life. I turn excess into huge piles of waste, spend hours laboriously chopping it into pieces small enough to cart away, then get back up on the ladder to do it all over again the next week and the week after that. My daughter says she gets the poem about two thirds of the way through. I stop. She says she wants me to continue, that she likes it.

Next up is T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." The protagonist depresses her, makes her impatient. Some lines resonate but many more fall flat. I am disheartened. But then I decide to read her Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Blackbird." This poem, the hardest of the bunch, delights her. Five minutes after I'm done reading I ask her what she thought of it. She enthusiastically quotes a whole stanza back to me, every word in the proper place, even though she has only heard the poem once.

On the drive to the dojo for her martial arts class she comes up with the idea, for a school assignment, of writing about thirteen ways of looking at a banana. I think she's just being silly until she composes a beautiful line about the star you see inside the circle of the peeled fruit's cross-section, what she calls a "perfect figure." She tells me than when she is a teacher she plans to make her students write different poems modeled after "Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Blackbird."

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12 comments or Leave a comment
duccio From: duccio Date: February 10th, 2010 07:25 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
She's incredible; you're both very lucky.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 14th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yes, we are! I know that nurture is a factor, but the nature is pretty awesome all on its own.
quuf From: quuf Date: February 10th, 2010 07:38 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Next time, read her "The Emperor of Ice-Cream" over a banana split. :)
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 14th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
An excellent idea.
From: e4q Date: February 10th, 2010 07:51 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)


cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 14th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: nice

I love that! What and where is it?
From: e4q Date: February 14th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: nice

celebrian_3 From: celebrian_3 Date: February 10th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I've read all those before, except the last, and just found it. It makes me shiver. Beautiful.

And how wonderful and delightful a mind is in your daughter.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 14th, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It's such a great poem for expanding the mind. Stevens is often too abstract, intellectual for many readers (though not for me). But that poem manages to combine his abstruse preoccupations with simple language. I'm glad we helped you discover it.
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: February 11th, 2010 02:54 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Stunning. She is absolutely stunning.

Also: I guess it's only been a couple of days. But I've missed seeing you here.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 14th, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

I've been told that some of my updates are not showing up on others' "Friends" pages. Of course, I've been posting less frequently as well. But I'm still averaging a few entries a week. Anyway, thanks for noticing that I was missing.
From: jasonstyris Date: February 23rd, 2010 07:31 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Eliot’s 'The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock' is perhaps his most famous poem along with The Waste Land. The title leads us to believe that we are going to read a love poem. But surprise! The poem has nothing to do with love. In short, the poem is the miserable ramblings of a lonely and cowardly man. He has something important to tell someone but does not `dare to disturb the universe’. Prufrock’s diffidence, boredom and fear are all classic modernist themes. The poem begins with Prufrock inviting us to take a walk with him through the winding, dirty city streets and ends with our drowning! What a journey! Try Shmoop.com for useful guidelines to understand this poem, considered a milestone in modern poetry.
12 comments or Leave a comment