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Guy Davenport

01/02/2010

With Coltrane in the headphones…
I have been reading Guy Davenport’s “The Geography of the Imagination.” It isn’t that it is such beautiful writing. Though it is. It is that Guy Davenport has an unimaginable gift. He knows everything. He can connect the dots in a way that I have never ever seen before. Davenport knows every writer, every seminal work, every poem, every nook, every cranny. Reading his essays felt like running downhill really fast. You know the feeling…and you’re kind of out of control. You’re running really fast and your feet keep hitting the ground harder and harder and you think you might fall. But you don’t. When you finally stop running, you’re so elated and out of breath. It’s a wonderful feeling. We used to do it often as kids. In fact I remember watching my son and his friend do that at the La Brea Tar Pits last winter. It was raining and we all had convened for the annual Cub Scout sleep over in the museum. They ran up and down the grassy hill right by the parking lot. I remember feeling so worried about my son getting wet. Because then the evening would be miserable…I was anxious and upset. And I called him back down to the safety of the rainy blacktop. Anyway, Davenport…

Davenport has me thinking in ways that I have not thought in a long time. In a few short essays he sent me over and over and over again to Wikipedia looking up writer after writer. I have been pouring through poetry from writers I have never heard of. And every piece that Davenport references is insane. It has brought me back to the page. I think that my absence from writing is something that I felt was necessary. With the birth of our new baby and the brutal first year sleep/sex deprivation!! I think that I have just not had the time or energy to write. I don’t know. But I have been reading William Carlos Williams again and Charles Olson, and Jonathan Williams and T.S. Eliot and Zukofksy. Why? Because of Guy Davenport. He is a master at weaving stories with poetry with biography with insight. Masterful.

In one essay he describes a wonderful image of Faulkner driving over the back roads of Mississippi to an open meadow. Faulkner is on a date with a beautiful woman.  He drives way out in the country. His last approach across an open meadow was made in the dark with no headlights. When he finally arrived he turned the headlights of the car back on to reveal what he called “a bride in her wedding dress.” It was just an apple tree in bloom. Lovely image. Guy Davenport, “The Geography of the Imagination.”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 01/03/2010 9:16 am

    If you have just discovered Davenport, you have an enormous amount of the best kind of “work” ahead of you. His fiction is every bit as rich as his criticism; and then there is the art — fabulously accomplished. (See his illustrations for his own fictions, but also the smashing work for two of Hugh Kenner’s early and masterful commentaries.

    Davenport Reader No. 19

  2. 01/03/2010 5:20 pm

    I know. I am so looking forward to spending time discovering. THANK YOU for your comment!!!

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