the trickeries of need

Not having much luck with reading lately. First Louise Gluck’s The First Four Books of Poems was a bit of a slog to get through, especially at the beginning. It got easier by the time we got to Descending Figure and The Triumph Of Achilles, but still felt very much like an intellectual exercise, a rather chilly stroll through a formal garden decorated with bits of white statue (although, yes, there were some warmer, brighter spots).

Then I started The Complete Works of Anne Sexton, and that of course was all wraught and nervy and brilliantly on the edge of cliffs and desperation all the time, and I got Sylvia Plath acid reflux, really I did, and just couldn’t get more than halfway through To Bedlam and Part Way Back, never mind all the other collections in there. Maybe another time.

I also tried The Tree by Colin Tudge, which bills itself as “A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter.’ The preface was the best part of it:

Many a redwood still standing tall in California was ancient by the time Columbus first made Europe aware that the Americas existed. Yet the redwoods are striplings compared to some of California’s pines, which germinated at about the time that human beings invented writing and so are as old as all of written history. These trees out on their parched hills were already impressively old when Moses led the Istraelites out of Egypt, or indeed when Abraham was born.

And:

[Trees] do not have brains. But they are sentient in their way; they gauge what’s going on as much as they need to , and they conduct their affairs as adroitly as any military strategist.

Tudge clearly loves his subject, but just couldn’t keep it from getting all scientific and referencey in the end.

Which is what I should use it for, I suppose.

When I write the series of tree poems I’ve been thinking about forever.

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