For much of my adult life I have pondered what it means to be American. I've traveled outside the country and tried to see myself through other eyes, but I still have big blocks of confusion. The Fourth felt good, but we must be more than hot dogs and fireworks. As a friend said at dinner on the holiday, our country is too big to understand. Theory just won't do. I want specifics. And, as always, I add books to my search. I've been wandering through Margaret Atwood's essays, taking note of her sense of being Canadian, knowing, it seems, what that means. I admire her clarity. Yesterday I read her review of Studs Terkel's final book and something in me snapped.
I closed Atwood's review, grabbed the car keys and went to the library. Checked out two of Terkel's books and put two more on request. My intention is to read his interviews till I cannot stand them anymore. Let the poems do whatever they want. Those in the notebooks can stay; the ones slinking around in my head can just bite their nails until I decide to deal with them. I'll be busy for a while reading and reading Terkel's first-person stories of other Americans to see what's going on here. See, a friend had challenged me to write a poem a day, and I've tried to keep up. The exercise has given my poetry biceps definition, but for now I am on leave from daily poetry writing. I've been faithful a long, long time, and I'm off to have an affair with a dead man.