Cantos: A New Directions Blog

Some Thanksgiving Treats from New Directions

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Thanksgiving heralds a change in season and commences a period of relative hibernation. It confronts the ambiental recession we commonly experience through slower breathing, lower body temperature, and possible metabolic depression. We feel it coming, so we cook all we can reap. We sit together, we eat, and then we eat some more. For our culture with its expansive appetite for consumption, Thanksgiving returns each year with an ironic bend of surplus.

While the economic recession this year may have induced many into hunger unusual, this merry-making season will certainly not be short of gifts for which to be grateful. At New Directions, we have prepared a literary harvest ripe for the picking, including works by William Carlos Williams, Denise Levertov, Bernadette Mayer and Tennessee Williams. To satisfy your desire to feel full and warm this this fall, compliment your cranberry and celebrate your stuffing with some great American poetry.

In In the American Grain, William Carlos Williams “sought to re-name the things seen, now lost in a chaos of borrowed titles, many of them inappropriate, under which the true character lies hid.” He  has “recognized new contours suggested by old words so that new names were constituted.” From old records—letters, journals, reports of happenings, Williams preserves the original flavor and peculiarity while creating wholey unique recounts of American History. Since the earliest attested Thanksgiving celebration was on September 8, 1565 in what is now Saint Augustine, Florida, our excerpt begins with a newly-appelled rendition of De Soto’s arrival in the Americas. Against the passionate forebearers, WCW juxtaposes the puritans, and we visit Sir Walter Raleigh, the said founder of the colonies. Our selection concludes with The Voyage of the Mayflower the traditional “first Thanksgiving” is venerated as having occurred at the site of Plymouth Plantation, in 1621. This Thanksgiving, taste anew the tales and personages of The New World, and the “grain of the landscape in which they flowered.”

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Midwinter Day, an epic poem about daily routine, written on December 22, 1978 in the Northeast, takes us from morning dream to night again with rich, linguistic flavor. Called “consummate” by Robert Creeley and “ a poet of extraordinary inveniveness, erotic energy and challenge, and ironic intellgience” by Michael Palmer, Bernadette Mayer might just provide the extra heat you crave in this bluster. Four morsels from Midwinter Day, a poem in six parts, will whet your poetry-prose palette.

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Such a pre-determined day of reflection and gratitude can run the risk of religiousness; luckily, it is impossible during this holiday to overlook the nourishing break from daily tedium, and treat of partaking with kin in taste and creation, in indulgence and rest, in stirring and smelling together.  But, perhaps this sensuousness is not so far from a practice of giving thanks. Denise Levertov, a poet often recognized for themes of politics and war, understands well the implicit blessing in all things. Her poetry touches upon family, relgion, taste and the outdoors, in addition to its activist edge. To remain present in  ‘the times’, both in an urgency for peaceful actions and in gratitude for the light of the hour, we recommend excerpts these from Oblique Prayers

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Tennessee Williams, a household name for those at home for the holidays. But who of you awaits seemless chemistry when thrust back into habitual family roles? Certainly Tennessee’s home life was not without strife, as the pained beauty in his drama seems to suggest. Instead of entertaining bitterness or speaking on behalf of an old role during these few cherished days of vacation,  find something fresh in an otherwise familiar voice. Not many people know that Tennessee Williams published two volumes of poetry published during his life: In the Winter of Cities and Androgyne, Mon Amour (now available at New Directions in single collection with a cd of the author reading).This holiday you will have the opportunity to  redefine and experience anew (whether with your family or alone)  America’s great dramatic poet.

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We hope you have enjoyed our a stimulating, euthermic medley. We worked hard to get the recipe just right.  But if what we have chosen doesn’t quite make your stomach growl, it is, as the saying goes “if you don’t like pumpkin pie, there’s some turkey on the table.”

Posted by Leonora Zoninsein

Written by New Directions

November 25, 2009 at 7:45 pm

One Response

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  1. Can anyone tell me a lot regarding this – i find it pretty interesting.

    Ariel Miecznikowski

    March 6, 2010 at 1:51 am


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