Monday, October 24, 2005

Not Reading as Much

I’m not the voracious reader that I used to be. As an undergraduate, graduate student, and for about five years after graduate school I constantly had my nose in several books at once. I hungered for knowledge and hunted after wisdom. Within the past two to three years I’ve noticed a precipitous drop in the amount of reading I do. I suppose I can attribute this in part to a demanding full time job and the responsibilities of being married. Somehow my gut tells me that’s not the entire story.

I feel guilty that I don’t read more poetry and poetic theory. I probably read about four volumes of poetry a year now and about 50 poems out of literary magazines. I read articles in the AWP Writer’s Chronicle and Poets & Writers pretty regularly. I might buy a collection of essays or check one out from the University of Virginia Alderman Library about every other year. I sometimes ready theory essays in literary magazines. I read The New Yorker fairly regularly (almost always hate the poems published there but generally love the short stories and the From the Critics essays). In many ways I feel that I am getting by on all my past reading rather than my recent reading.

When I get off from work and I have any energy left for poetry, I usually choose to write my own poetry. Nothing wrong with that. After working all day I usually want to just relax and play video games, watch some TV, or read my “beach reading” science fiction novels. Basically, I just want to relax and escape. I also try to work into my week exercising at the gym two to three times a week, but I wouldn’t call that relaxing or escaping. That’s necessary preventative maintenance.

When I do read poetry, I don’t have a lot of tolerance or much of an attention span for poetry that doesn’t grab me by the throat. I know this means that I read a lot of poetry that is in an aesthetic that I am comfortable with, so I am not expanding my horizons much. However, I just feel that I have precious little free time in my life, and I want to spend as much of my free time as possible experiencing things that I enjoy.


I’ve noticed lately how many women love HBO’s Sex and the City. I heard a University of Virginia undergraduate student with the Sex and the City theme song for her cell phone ring. A woman at work has a Sex and the City screen saver. My wife likes to watch the reruns. I like the show pretty well, but I am amazed by how many women seem to miss the show—even mourn its loss like a friend has moved away. It seems that the show portrays for many women the ideals of contemporary women in America, and it showcases the virtues of friendship.
I saw in the latest issue of Poets & Writers the cover of Fence with the very attractive woman using her arms to cover her naked chest. I think Deborah Ager’s blog commented on this cover a couple of weeks ago. I think that I side with her in that reputable literary magazines should not resort to this tactic. We turn to higher brow culture in part to escape the “sex sells” media culture that is so prevalent in our society.


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