Diane di Prima
San Francisco is not the culturally rich Eden it once was, and Diane di Prima will prove it to you by deftly reaching down your throat and squeezing your heart until it aches for a past forever lost. These poems span 40 years in the life of a literary and counter-culture icon, a deep-seer and seemingly fearless protagonist; their poignancy is unmistakable.
Was there ever a life more full than that of Arthur Rimbaud? Perhaps the most influential of all French poets, he upended the Parisian poetry scene, ensconcing himself as its newly anointed king at the ripe old age of SEVENTEEN! Then he threw it all away, never to write another poem again. He moved to Northern Africa where he lived out his life as a freelance trader and adventurer constantly on the edge of death. An unbelievable tale of achievement by a person who could have given a shit less.
The Brothers Karamazov
Clear your calendar if you want to read this novel; its a sizable undertaking. I read it shortly after my daughter was born, and I had all the time in the world to kill. I don’t know how many hundreds of miles I walked in Golden Gate Park, pushing a stroller with one hand, holding this novel splayed open with the other. At its essence, Brothers Karamazov is the story of innocence lost. It builds somewhat laboriously, but the end of the book is well worth the effort it took to get there. Widely considered one of the great novels ever written and for good reason.
The Selected Poems, Translated by David Hinton
The poems of Tu Fu move with the simple rhythms of nature, supple, delicate, juxtaposed against the raging, holocaustic violence that decimated his life’s circumstance. 8th Century China was devastated by a civil war that left 36 million dead or homeless, a humanitarian crisis beyond contemporary compare. It was these circumstances that thwarted any chance of Tu Fu enjoying the prosperous appointment to court his talents would have otherwise afforded him. Instead he spent his life a refugee, never able to settle in one place long, struggling to find enough to support his small family, who were in a continual state of near-starvation. In fact, Fu’s young son died of malnutrition while he was away seeking opportunity. The tragedy and struggle for survival that mark his life imbue his work with the profoundest of meaning, and yet he delivers his lines with a Zen-like detachment that never mires in excess. When you live amidst circumstances like those, the facts are enough, and Tu Fu delivers them with a gentle touch that explodes like a bomb in your soul.
Vincent Van Gogh: A Life
The shorthand understanding of Van Gogh that pervades popular culture is woefully short of the full story. Besides being a genius and misunderstood master who was ahead of his time, beside being an unhinged madman who cut off his own ear, Van Gogh was a multifaceted human being who was deeply driven by his love for humanity, even in the face of being an outcast. Tirelessly dedicated to helping the poor, selfless to the extreme, his persona is more Christ-like than that of deranged lunatic. He perceived the world with a depth and loving desire that was captured in the paint on his canvas, even if not in his posthumous legacy.
At Midnight in the Kitchen I Just Wanted to Talk to You
Style. Style. Style. The cadence and tone of these poems are so enticing, so seductive, your internal dialogue will begin to imitate their manner. They offer not only a series of observations but a mode of interface that is simultaneously embracing and dismissive, stone serious and casually flippant. I’ve yet to read another poet who can balance counterpoint in such an alluring way. Probably the most prized book in my collection.