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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I don't think I knew that poetry could be so... raw (and I was reading this over breakfast)

And Lord did I push, for three more hours
I pushed, I pushed so hard I shat,
Pushed so hard blood vessels burst
in my neck and in my chest, pushed so hard
my asshole turned inside out like a rosebud...

That is American poet Beth Ann Fennelly describing her daughter's birth in "Bite Me", the first poem in her collection, Tender Hooks.

And how did I happen to read this passage? I came across it this morning in Stuff I've Been Reading, by Nick Hornby, the celebrated author of About a Boy (which became a movie starring Hugh Grant), High Fidelity, and other works of fiction and non-fiction.

Hornby writes, by way of explanation, that he had met both mother and daughter briefly during a visit to Oxford, Mississippi, and "both of them seemed like the kind of people that one would like to know better". And then, a few days later, he read "Bite Me".


Hornby continues:

So I ended up feeling as though I knew them both better anyway — indeed, I can think of one or two of my stuffier compatriots who'd argue that I now know more than I need to know. (Is now the appropriate time, incidentally, to point out the main advantage of adoption?) If I had never met mother or daughter, then these lines would have made me wince, of course, but I doubt if they would have made me blush in quite the same way; maybe one should know poets either extremely well or not at all.

Stuff I've Been Reading is full of such unexpected insights and witty observations concerning books and authors, and, yes, poetry collections and poets. The writing is so smart that even the digressions into Nick Hornby's other obsession, football (and his favourite team Arsenal), are a delight to read.
  • Stuff I've Been Reading had been lying on my corner table along with other books that had been delivered recently by Amazon. Since I'm already reading a few other novels and non-fiction books, I put off opening Stuff I've Been Reading with great reluctance, but today seemed like a good day to delve into it. And the rewards were immediate. I call it instant gratification.
  • Nick Hornby writes a monthly column, in The Believer magazine, called "Stuff I've Been Reading". The book of the same name is a collection of those columns over the years. You can read an excerpt from the most recent column here.