Thursday, February 17, 2011

happy happy

i remember this scene from a bio of hemingway where the author of the biography met senor papa when he was living in cuba. i can't recall the name of the biographer or the book, i'm sure i checked it out of either the public or university library way back when. hemingway's macho persona bugged the crap out of me. still does. it put me off heminway for a long time. but one summer when i was 24 or 25 i read the main novels, a shitload of short stories, and some of his non-fiction. i also read a couple or three bios too.

i found that i liked hemingway's prose. quite a stylist and he possesses an earthiness that i found appealing. when heminway writes about food i'm like pavlov's dogs. i drool with a desire and hunger for a kind of eating that marries taste, texture and soul. also hemingway had this quality that is hard to put a finger on. a quality of life, of a particular sensibility that is recorded and made manifest in a book like a moveable feast. life with a capital l.

back to the scene in the bio. the author was waiting for hemingway in some club/restaurant. he was waiting for some time. there were diners, a bar and a band onstage. then the author spies hemingway across the room and watched senor papa as he stops to gab with a bandmember, a few couples at a table and finally over to the bar where he gets a drink. the author is puzzling over hemingway's demeanor. something about him that he can't quite. . .then it clicks. he sees hemingway is enjoying himself with great good pleasure. the novelist beholds the pleasures of living a particular life.

that is the quality i find in some of hemingway's writings. it's a physical pleasure of food, drink, friends and language. to be sure there is a lot of pain in his work and we all know that hemingway suffered tremendously so that the only way to end it was to put a shotgun shell thru his skull. yet the pleasures are there and there to be had.

i don't know why i'm thinking about hemingway like this. perhaps because i get an email from a poet friend who mentions that he's been following my blog and it seems i am taking pleasure from living. i hope i am. sometimes i don't. other times i think i do. i'm not the kind of poet who holds his head in his hands and simply despairs. one of the things i admire in samuel beckett is his sense of the absurd. beckett's comedy is the accumalation of a lifetime of pain but by making laughs means one does derive pleasure.

recently i was reading an article online about seamus heaney written by an experimental poet i hold in high regard. it's a very good article and the poet partly defended heaney's poetics because of the irish bard's ability to despair and question his own calling. all fine and good. but why must there be despair at all, especially in regards to one's poetry and role as poet. in other words, from my reading at least, why must this particular poet, seamus heaney, be validated as a writer only if he should question himself as he tries to hold steady his own shaky ground. if you noticed i did not link to the article nor named the poet who wrote it not out of a sense of decorum but simply because i'm using it as an example of my own ruminations of happiness. does happiness need to be qualified period?

i don't think so and i hope not. one of the reasons why i admire thom gunn is because of his tendency to let joy whelm his texts. gunn wasn't afraid of good news and regarded pleasure as its own reward. not everyone thinks this way. one thing that used to bug me about contemporary french poetry is how it despairs so lovingly. but only in the half-light and only if meaning is just out of reach of the sign. now i'm not bugged so much by it. because there's a lot of good french writing. but for christ's sakes at least have a sense of humor about it all.

in the end would you rather laugh in the face of adversity or do you want to crumble because of it. we could do both you know. often we do do both. sometimes life just sucks and there's nothing funny about it. however, pleasure is a good. reading/writing poetry is for me a great good pleasure. knowing poets, reading poets, googling poets makes me happy. even in bad times i know it and i know when i die i'll die a happy man. i read recently in a kit robinson poem this description ECSTATIC SKEPTIC. put that on my tombstone.


At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Vaguely Quotable said...

I tend to agree that the morose is privileged in poetry, or taken as a sign of a poem's worth. I was discussing this with a student and he was arguing that it is natural for people to rate more highly such concerns. For this reason I got him to read "This is Just to Say" as an example of a poem which circumvents these heavy concerns and is in itself beautiful. (Though I suppose you could argue that the poem deals with absence of which death is a considerable example.) I know there are other examples but this one came to mind and had the benefit of being on hand.

My favourite Hemingway anecdote / piece of apocrypha is that he and Wallace Stevens got into a fight in Havana. Stevens apparently broke his hand on Hemingway's jaw.

Stay ecstatic.


At 10:57 PM, Blogger richard lopez said...

thanks, ryan. i've always thought o'hara, jimmy schuyler and ted berrigan as happy poets. also, in a different way, john forbes. i think it's easier for younger people to identify with the morose, like kids listening to the smiths or some other goth band, because they feel unique in their tragic circumstances. but perhaps its all a matter of personality. i'd rather have a good laugh than a good cry. and in the end what do we remember the most, the good times or the bad times? i suppose it up to each individual but i prefer, and do remember, the good times more than i do the bad times.

yes, i remember reading about that fight. i tell you what, if i met hemingway i'd probably want to break that macho prick's jaw too.


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