Sunday, February 23, 2014


My third day of being laid up with a pulled back, and although it's slowly getting better (and the weather outside continues to be almost Springlike despite the few feet of snow still on the lawn), I'm still spending most of the time laying in bed catching up on reading. I've been enjoying AT MAUREEN'S enormously ever since Greg Masters sent a copy to me, and now even more so.

It's the combined journals of Greg and Bernadette Mayer during a summer vacation staying at the poet Maureen Owen's place in Connecticut on the sound while she and her family were away. Well "combined" might not be the correct term, intertwined. They each kept a journal of their stay and the book goes back and forth with each of their takes on a day's events.

Bernadette's mate at the time, poet Lewis Warsh, was also there and their three small children, so the journals keep us up to date on their goings on as well. But it is the dailiness of a poet's life and writing routines as transmitted by these two canny observers that makes this book so engaging and satisfying to me.

Kerouac said something about how in the future (which is now) everyone would write their stories. He saw that as a good thing and wished he could've used the real names of his friends and people he wrote about in his autobiographical novels. The whole memoir craze has proven him prescient once again, as he was with so much.

And though I've been accused, or my writing has, of being too self-centered and/or self-indulgent, because of my decision to write about things I actually experienced or witnessed, or heard about firsthand from people telling their stories (people I was related to or knew personally), and to convey my own perspective, I don't find other peoples' self reporting self-centered or self-indulgent at all. I love to hear and read people's stories. So I was just choosing to do what I dug. And AT MAUREEN'S, though just a small part of two poets' life stories, is fascinating to me in the details and the telling.

I highly recommend it, especially if you're a fan of Bernadette's and/or Greg's poetry (and/or Lewis Warsh's for that matter) or just of poetry in general or just dig good writers writing about writing.  (Or maybe even just of 1981, the year of the summer journals.) There's lists of books they read while AT MAUREEN'S, as well as discussion of what they're writing. I savored the summer pace of it as well, a true antidote to the onslaught of media and electronic input (though I notice it is available as an ebook on Amazon, if I read that correctly).

Anyway, here's a very small sample from each poet's journals:

"Greg is watching High Plains Drifter, it turns me on to live beyond the nuclear family, quite harmlessly. Can I say that? The pleasures of today were: feeling the hot sun not so hot anymore that you can't bear it, swimming in the relatively empty (of people) lake (and turning to the sky and floating looking at the clouds. of the inspiring puffy kind you could imagine getting exhilarated flying above), real corn, watching Marie's pristine face, kissing germanic Max, measure the sunflowers, eat very hot rice and vegetables, drink lots of wine and walk Marie down the road." —Bernadette

"It's practically a sauna here in the shed but I'm not complaining. I'd rather be here than anyplace I can think of or not bother trying to think of. As the days go by one after the other, it seems to me there's less and less to write about like the gentle passing of the days with its ease and vacation casualness is beginning to dominate the way these days belong to my life making the writing which attempts to define it seem like so much baggage. But I know too, to feel any worth as a human being, I have to feel like I'm accomplishing something." —Greg

And, it turns out, he was, as was Bernadette, and I'm grateful they shared it with the rest of us.

1 comment:

Greg Masters said...

I'm honored and grateful to Michael for this terrific response, and beg indulgence to post a link to the only place to acquire a copy: