I don’t mean that title seriously — hierarchies trouble me. I don’t understand why it’s necessary to declare one thing better, or more essential, than another. Why, when one discusses one’s preference for, say, Anne Sexton over Sylvia Plath, it’s done in a manner that disparages Plath’s craft. This is not about “compare & contrast.” This isn’t about the “critics.” And this is not about good writing versus bad writing. This is about us — the poets/writers/readers. Why can we only praise one thing by belittling another?
My primary allegiance, what I strive to advocate and promote, is poetry. But I love novels. They feed a different part of me, I would never want to do without them. I go through jags when I can’t concentrate, I only have a brain for poems — writing poems, reading poems and essays on poems. But then there are other times, like now, when it’s novels I crave.
My first pregnancy was like this: I read a lot of novels, and wrote hardly at all. And now, in the last 3 days, I’ve read Salman Rushdie’s new novel (magnificent!), Fredrica Wagman’s Playing House (twisted & utterly compelling), and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (awesome, the best thriller I’ve read in years!). [Ed.’s note: Don’t ask me how I’ve managed to find the time to read so much, I’m mystified myself!] I wonder if it’s because my subconscious is aware that all too soon a new baby will be here and I won’t have more than fifteen minutes put together to read for a while, and so I’m bingeing now, building up my fiction reserves.
This pregnancy I have no intention of neglecting poetry — I have quite a stockpile of poetry books to read, to which I added two books from Caketrain yesterday: issue 2 from 2004 and afterpastures, by Claire Hero, which won their 2007 Chapbook Competition and has just been released. My bookshelves are a bursting treasure trove. And while I don’t seem to have the capacity to read novels and books of poems & poemstuff at the same time, I’m glad that I needn’t choose either/or, that I have both wells to draw from.