Tuesday, January 7, 2014

97. The Problem of Boredom } & friendship.

In a short end-of-the-year “best” piece for the Boston Globe, Don Share wrote about The Problem of Boredom in Paradise, the Paul Hannigan selected I edited. This project was completed with the help of Caroline Banks, Hannigan’s widow. I won’t go into details here, but she helped in numerous ways, most especially by her patient faith. I first contacted her nearly a decade ago, and years went by with little progress made. “Touching” is the wrong word—maybe “important”?—most important to me was the time she defended my editorship from another press—this, before I had any sure idea to whom I was going to submit a selected, if ever I finished.

Whether or not the book is the best book of poetry in 2013, Share’s praise will hopefully bring people to Paul’s poetry, and that’s what I want above all else.

If you shop Amazon for Emily Berry’s Dear Boy—another title Share recommends—Amazon will tell you that “customers who viewed this item also viewed” many other titles Share recommended, including Boredom, A Dark Dreambox of Another King: The Poems of Alfred Starr Hamilton, Collected Poetry by Bill Knott, Milk & Filth by Carmen Giménez Smith, etc. Also, I just discovered, Boredom all of a sudden has a review on its Amazon page, published days after the Globe article. A 2014 review for a book published in Feb. of ’13.

There's a line from the review I find intriguing: “I don't know how he must sound to younger poets now—probably too brittle and sarcastic.” This faintly echoes what Share wrote about me, “Time has been unkind to [Hannigan]; he died in 2000, almost forgotten. But his work was discovered by [a] young [poet] who [has] lovingly prepared a new selection....”

What’s all this about young poets?

The advantage I have over those poets who knew Paul is that I do not know him as they do. Some of his peers are quick to “remind” me that he was a pain in the ass, which may be why they couldn’t bring his work back into print.

Friendship is complicated; the following are four stanzas from Paul’s poem “My Friends”:
Some of them
Are my friends
Smiling as if they
Were cutting a wedding
Cake or buying a
New car.

You can tell
From the picture
They all speak English
And lies.

I see them in dreams;
Sometimes they are all
Falling over the rail
Of a great ocean liner
As I photograph them.
And sometimes they are

Slithering over the foot-
Board of the bed in which
I am unexpectedly dying.

All the while I edited Boredom, I wondered how I will react when some twenty-something calls me up out of the blue to talk about the brilliant poet they discovered who isn’t me but a pal of mine.

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