I've been trying to get people to read a book that just came out; and for the first part of the summer, was revising a manuscript I'd like to come out, too. A couple of other writing projects, a little administration, a few grad students to work with, and before you know it, your blog has languished for three weeks.
Well, it's about time I at least wrote about JUNE! One of the things occupying my time during that month was a reading group I organized to discuss the works of the American poet Ronald Johnson. RJ was born in Ashland, Kansas, and grew up there and in Topeka, where he also spent his final years. So we claim him as One of Ours - even tho he lived most of the rest of his life in New York, Colorado, and San Francisco, with interegna in other spots.
Clearly, RJ was obsessed by our foliate friends, the plants. From Book of the Green Man to Shrubberies, they're all over the place (literally):
What the Earth Told Me
No surface is allowed to be bare,
& nothing to stand still. A man could forever study a pebble
& at last see dilations & expansions of the hills -
to pull the most slender stalk, is to jostle the stars,
& between the bearded grass
& man 'looking in the vegetable glass
of Nature', is a network of roots & suckers
fine as hairs.
I threw a stone upon a pond
& it bounded the surface, its circles interlacing
& radiating out to the most ephemeral edge.
Flint & Mica, Lichened Limestone, Shale & Sarcens, Sandstone, Soil.
I saw the wind moving on a meadow
& the meadows moving under wind
lifeting, & settling & accumulating.
Flint & Mica, Lichened Limestone,
Shale & Sarcens, Sandstone, Soil.
[from The Book of the Green Man, 1967]
If you hear Whitmanesque echoes here, you're meant to ("Letters to Walt Whitman" is well worth a read, too); this is a pastoral poem written in the English countryside - by an American.
Another occasion for the group was my desire to - finally - read Ron Johnson's work. I'd lived in his home state for 15 years w/o doing so. My net-net: Green Man is amazing. Radi Os was necessary, and it is what it is. The concrete poetry is extremely interesting. The middle section of ARK is amazing. Much of Shrubberies is extremely moving and well-wrought. Not bad, Ron.
[To Be Continued - it's late . . .]