When we originally posted Kendra’s work we made many effusive recommendations for you to go forth and read her poetry. We’ll assume you’ve done your homework and can therefore enjoy some poetic context for the selections in this week’s Bookshelf. These are part emotional, part inspirational literary reference points of a poet and writer who has obviously read a book or two. If only to compare them with her own published caper, Everything Is Quiet, or her second collection of poetry, co-written with Matthew Savoca that will appear sometime in September.
The Ballad Of Sexual Dependency Nan Goldin
“My desire is to preserve the sense of peoples’ lives, to endow them with the strength and beauty I see in them. I want the people in my pictures to stare back. I want to show exactly what my world looks like.”
This book is one of my favorite points of reference when I am stuck, especially while writing fiction. The above quote of hers sort of perfectly describes the aim of a confessionalist, whether it be a poet, photographer, director etc. There is a sort of altruistic goal in her narcissism that I really admire.
Selected Poems of Frank O’Hara
How do you even talk about Frank O’Hara? Well, for me, in a personal way, Frank O’Hara found this approach to writing the 2nd person poem in a way that we can feel that we the readers are the “you’s” in his short succinct love poems. The original recipient fades into history and his direct way of addressing the reader allows intimacy and at the same time there is this record of a life, or of many lives that branched out from his own. In reading his collected works, we get to be both the voyeur and the lover. This collection also houses my favorite poem ever written, “For Grace, After A Party.”
Bad Behavior Mary Gaitskill
This is my favorite collection of short stories written in the last 25 years. This book was a source of solace for me a few years ago, when I had just moved to New York. Bad Behavior is most commonly known for the short story “Secretary,” from which the movie of the same name was derived (although the film adaptation was a horrific filtered PC version of the story). When writing short fiction, I like to think of this book as a perfect model for what can be achieved with the goal of exposing a smutty but not oversexed version of a realistic young woman’s experience.
Voyage In The Dark Jean Rhys
Of all the writers of the “Lost Generation,” Jean Rhys is my favorite by far. I’ve read all of her books numerous times each, but Voyage In The Dark is the most effective at profiling the “othered” woman of the 20th century. In this novel she is a chorus girl in a vaudeville show, being paid by men for her silence, for her time, and for her good behavior. She shows us a horrifyingly common world where “a girl’s clothes cost more than the girl inside them.”
Growth Of The Soil Knut Hamsun
Hamsun is not terribly well known in America, most likely because of his horrifying politics (he was a known Nazi sympathizer) which soiled his legacy (and understandably so) as a great existential, allegorical, and Nobel Prize winning author. All of his books speak to the voice of his generation but none more so than Growth Of The Soil, which is an epic novel that follows the life of a small farmer, Isak, tirelessly and selflessly dedicating his life to the earth he loves and his family’s needs. It’s a beautiful modern allegory for a world that exploits us to our deaths and the patience it takes to move through that world with grace.