When poets read
Here is the poets' section of ''When writers read,'' which began yesterday with books enjoyed by contributors to The Home Forum during the past year. Next Tuesday some authors from ''The loose-leaf library'' will have their say.
''Recent reading that shook me the most is 'Autobiography of Maxim Gorky,' '' writes William Stafford, whose most recent Home Forum poem was ''Today'' (May 10 ). ''From the first page Gorky sprang me into his world, a life caught up in history, loaded with an unmatched cast from the highest to the lowest. And it wasn't just the exotics of the book that caught me: Gorky is a natural literary genius, full of sympathy and gusto and an appetite for particulars. As a wide-eyed child he was pitched into a tremendous swirl of events. His was a life lived in italics. Let me add that my first encounter with this Gorky book was in an old Colliers paperback forced upon me by a friend. Since then I have acquired several other editions and have encountered fanatical readers who know the book.''
''Long absent from home this past winter, I survived by rereading 'The Odyssey,' '' writes Philip Booth, who happened to appear here Sept. 26 with both essay and poems just after receiving the $10,000 fellowship of the Academy of American Poets for distinguished poetic achievement. ''Home again, I've been moved by 'The Separate Notebooks,' of Czeslaw Milosz, the great Polish poet. But Homer and Milosz are known touchstones of how much civilization depends (however unknowingly) on its poets, and my most sudden personal pleasure has been in discovering the growth of a comparatively unknown poet named Jay Meek. Although his book 'Earthly Purposes,' generously acknowledges that I was once his teacher , it is from him that I now learn. Literately derived from painting, music, and history, Jay Meek's poems - in defining how imaginatively impoverished our lives have become - explore with large imagination how we perceive, or fail to perceive, the world we in fact inhabit. It's a civilized and demanding book.''
''This past year the book I've looked at more than any other is 'A Pattern Language,' by British architect Christopher Alexander,'' writes Jane Hirshfield (''Resolutions,'' March 15). ''It is about those elements which make certain places 'work' - i.e., become places which make you feel whole, connected to and healed by your surroundings. It describes places you want to linger, both large (regions, cities, village squares) and small (garden seats, alcoves), naming each 'pattern,' giving a small photograph and a prose account of why the element accords with the way people actually act and feel. The book offers a detailed language with which you can not only name (and so, make conscious) the wisdom embodied in places that are both appreciated and used, but also create such spaces. I recommend it to city planners, architects, businessmen, homemakers, gardeners, all those who can make a small part of the world a bit more their own , and so, better for everyone.''
'' 'Blue Highways': Once I read the title, my I-love-backroads longing had drawn me to it. I got the book. And lived in it.'' Thus writes Bonnie May Malody (''Architect,'' July 24). ''Its author is part Osage. (Father: Heat Moon. Older brother: Little Heat Moon. That left Least Heat Moon for him.) After a teaching layoff he bought a truck and followed the blue-line backroads around the country. He met and talked receptively with people. All types. Gunsmoke-like Texas characters. The sensitive young Hopi student who described the common religion of all Hopi clans as 'the idea of harmony.' Least Heat Moon writes with profundity and wit. Philosophy runs in his lines. He makes poetry of prose. 'Blue Highways' is not just a book; it is an experience. At its ending, I felt as if I had parted with a good friend. I turned back and began reading all over again.''
''A book that delighted me recently was 'The Ultimate Seduction,' by Charlotte Chandler, its title from the Picasso comment: 'It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction.' '' So writes E. B. de Vito (''A few brief letters,'' May 24). ''This is a collection of interviews with artists in all fields. The artists always have something interesting to say, perhaps because, as Virgil Thomson said, they are the 'eye people,' who see more and remember more than others see and remember. And the author established a remarkable rapport with her subjects. The result is a fascinating glimpse of the figure behind the brush, the pen, the camera. Fellini (asked if he felt let down when he finished a film): 'No. Because a picture says many little goodbyes to you.' In the old film 'The Corn Is Green,' when someone in the Welsh mining town commented on the quantity of books she had brought with her, Miss Moffat said: 'Yes. And there's something wonderful in every one.' In every interview in 'The Ultimate Seduction' there's something wonderful.''