And, I must report that I did not understand a decent portion of that poetry reading. And then I was checking out her sample books in the back of the basement reading room room, at Mac's Books, and I got more confused as I read more. Some of the poems or sections of poems were pretty clear and accessible for me. I could understand them. And, they are lyrical and quite beautiful. Truly, the woman is a gifted, extremely intelligent writer, with a penchant for lyrical language and evocative imagery. Still, I felt intellectually over my head. and I simply could not "grasp" decent chunks of the works.
This is a feeling I am not used to experiencing. In the classroom or academic environment, where I have often experienced this confusion or lack of understanding, it is not so bad. It gives me the chance to ask lots o' questions and learn more. But, last night I felt like an idiot at that reading, wanting to ask for the "annotated version" of the text (which, of course, does not exist).
I felt I needed a list of Classical Lit. and other references in the (non-existent) footnotes. I just wanted to ask questions. Lots of questions. If I had had the chance to ask lots of questions, I think I might have been rather fascinated with her work. But, I think I simply could not undersand at least 50% of her poetry, simply by reading it on the page, without understanding more about the references and context.
It was like I was back in The Age Of Dante at Geneseo, except without (Drs.) Bill Cook & Ron Herzman to answer my questions and guide me to the original literary and historical sources (from Classical Antiquity) for the references. Or, even worse, it was like trying to read Milton, on my own, without reading from the Annotated version. As in, "I have no idea what that really means." Or like trying to read Chaucer in Middle English (uye). Over My Head. I am not an academic.
I am something of an intellectual elitist. No, really, I admit it. So, I do not one claim that any literature should aim for the lowest common denominator audience. But, I guess I am also not that intellectual and academically-oriented, either, that I can always understand what a highly intellectual, poet/classicist is getting at. I mean it is one thing to read The Crossing, and I believe that I did understand most of that (at times, very challenging) novel. But, this was something entirely different: it was just a humbling experience.
And then there is this: On first blush, I got the vague (emotional) feeling of coldness, distance and "disconnection" from her poems, like she was afraid of revealing to much of her very self in her writing. Again, I don't know if that is just me. And, it may be that I just need to read further. Maybe.
Anyway, she read from 2 books of poetry last evening:
Oracles: A Pilgrimage
I am thinking about picking up at least one of these books, and at least trying to slowly see if I can understand more of her words and ideas. Never hurts to have more books (one of my rules).
I still plan on picking up & reading this novel (The Orphan's Tale) by Valente, although I have not yet done so. It is on the ToDO list, though.