Monday, January 9, 2012

Amy Berkowitz

 1. Pee on Water by Rachel B. Glaser. This is one of my favorite books that I’ve ever read in my life so far. One of the first stories is about a girl whose brother is addicted to a virtual reality game about John Lennon and it just gets better and better from there. There’s another good story in it called The Totems Are Grand. I actually read that first in an issue of Unsaid. I was living in Ann Arbor in 2010 and a man who worked at the coffee shop turned out to be David McLendon and he was kind enough to trade me his gigantic magazine for a stack of Mondo Bummer. I read that story on my porch on a beautiful summer day when I was feeling sad for no reason, sad out of boredom. I moved to San Francisco in August 2010. I bought the collection of short stories in January 2011 and then an old friend came to visit me in San Francisco. She is a beautiful person. That is the only way to say it. She is a kind of person who wears those five-toe Vibram shoes because she says they make her feel more in touch with the Earth. She was sort of on a death trip during her visit, talking about how focusing on death made her feel more alive. I could see that. At the time I had about $400 total. I spend most of that renting a car and driving to Ventura with her for the sake of driving somewhere and we had a good time. We slept on our friend’s pull-out couch in Ventura and late at night we read The Totems out loud together, alternating paragraphs. That story is about death. It’s really beautiful. I cried at the end and then slept really well, knowing that death was a certainty and that so was beauty.

2. I hate flying so every time I fly I “treat myself” to books before my flight. I went to Poland and France in July and before my flight I went to the Booksmith and bought Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk and also Girls to The Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus. I love reading about music so much. I read Please Kill Me on the plane. It’s all famous musicians from the seventies recalling memories, sometimes inaccurately. For example Joey Ramone says that Nico died of heatstroke. On the beach in France I was convinced I had heatstroke and I said I’m going to die like Nico did! But then my friend corrected me and said she died of a heart attack, not heatstroke, and that made me feel better. I also liked Girls to the Front, which I read on a slow train in Poland from Warsaw to Wroclaw. I flew to DC for work in October and I bought The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott at the bookstore at SFO and it was a great book for a plane ride because it was completely enveloping. I finished most of it on the plane. It was nice to read about San Francisco and recognize places. There’s something compelling about a grizzly murder, too, even though that’s not something I seek out in books or TV or movies very often at all. Then I went home to NY in December and I bought Tina Fey’s Bossypants at the bookstore at JFK. It cost almost thirty dollars but I was treating myself, remember. At one point during the flight I was reading it and also watching 30 Rock because it was on the airplane TV and also wearing my glasses that look not unlike Tina Fey’s. I looked like a Tina Fey superfan and I thought it was funny but I don’t think anyone noticed. Anyway I liked the book. She says a lot of inspiring and thought-provoking things about what it’s like to be a woman in a position of power without being obvious or going out of her way to Make A Point about it.

3. I didn’t read Mercury by Ariana Reines. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Am I avoiding her poetry? I suspect that I am avoiding her poetry because I have a sense that it will have such a strong hold on me that it will be emotionally exhausting when I do finally get into it. 2012 is the year that I’ll read her poems. In November I met my very good friend at Thee Parkside and he had Mercury with him and that book is silver! I’ve never seen a silver book before and it’s really a beautiful thing. He told me he really wanted me to read a certain poem, about beef, while he got up to get another round of drinks. It was a long poem and the problem was that they were playing Tom Petty and I love Tom Petty so much so it was really hard for me to focus fully on reading. But I did read it and I liked it a lot. My friend offered to lend it to me and I told him I wasn’t ready to read it but next time I see him I think I’ll ask if I can borrow it.

4. Even though poetry doesn’t naturally come to mind at the moment, I feel a certain obligation to write about poetry here because I see that the blog posts preceding mine are largely about poetry and John and Steve are poets. In October I went to a reading at a house at Haight and Ashbury, and I had a really good evening. It was warm and I was wearing my favorite jean shorts and I’d never had the pleasure of going to a poetry reading so close to where I live: three blocks away. House readings are the best and I liked this one. One thing that was strange, though, was that there were too many people there to easily fit in the living room, and so some people stood out in the hall. I didn’t like the feeling of standing in the hall listening to someone read a poem in the other room. If it were up to me I would have asked people in the room to stand, please, so that everybody could fit inside and see the poets. Anyway at that reading I bought some books including Ghost Machine by Ben Mirov, and I liked it. I sometimes feel the way that book feels. I read it on BART and some of it takes place on BART. Thinking of buying books at readings makes me think of this: Instead of listing all the books and chapbooks that I bought or got at readings or from friends, can I just say everyone is amazing? Everyone is amazing and it blows my mind all the time. I want to talk about this one tiny book though. It’s the poem by Joan Retallack that Michael Cross printed, and the first line is: The world is full and doesn’t ask for more. That sentence comes into my head about every other day. It’s crazy to me how hypnotic iambic pentameter is. What a great sentence. I’m glad it is part of my life.

5. There is more that I would like to say, but it’s late at night and so I’ll end here. In 2011, in April and May, I read Understanding the Tarot by Juliet Sharman-Burke and The Secrets of the Tarot by Barbara G. Walker. Barbara G. Walker’s tarot card deck is insanely beautiful: When you look at the illustrations it feels like the rest of the world falls away and you can get inside the image. For about a week I followed her suggestion of meditating on a single card before bed and then sleeping with it under your pillow and seeing what comes to you as you sleep. The idea of sleeping with something under your pillow is very romantic to me. Her suggestion is a good one and it did help me better understand the cards and associate thoughts with them and remember their meanings. I’m not sure why I stopped meditating on a card every night. There’s just a lot to remember and it can feel overwhelming. And I always have a hard time falling asleep anyway, so sometimes I know that the only way I’ll pass out is if I listen to Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, and ensuring that I get a good night’s sleep trumps my desire for tarot insights. Maybe I will try this again in 2012. 

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