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Posts Tagged ‘Jennifer Grotz’

Staff Picks: Urine-colored Stains, Tortoiseshell Cats, Grimy Mirrors

July 1, 2016 | by

From John Aubrey: My Own Life

When John Aubrey died in 1697, he left us with his Brief Lives, a collection of short biographies whose candor and color exploded the genre. As keen as his eye was, Aubrey seldom turned it on himself. Ruth Scurr’s John Aubrey: My Own Life, out last year in the UK and soon to cross the Atlantic, is an imaginative corrective: an autobiography assembled with care from remnants of Aubrey’s letters, manuscripts, and books. Against the turmoil of Restoration-era England, his sensitivities and proclivities make him an empathetic, surprisingly modern figure; unique for his time, he was fascinated with preservation, often pausing on horseback to sketch ruins or glasswork. Not infrequently, his writings find him distraught at how few of his countrymen appreciate the mundanities of their world. Scurr’s diary is a generous document of his life, and better still it demonstrates the easy beauty of his prose. “I am so bored, so alone,” he writes early on, yearning to leave rural life for Oxford or London. “My imagination is like a mirror of pure crystal water, which the least wind does disorder and unsmooth.” —Dan Piepenbring

I’ve been meaning to read Jennifer Grotz’s new collection of poems, Window Left Open, for months; when I pulled it from the shelf last weekend I near expected to devour it whole. Instead, I read the first couple poems, then closed the book until the next morning, when I did the same. I’ve been like this all week, dipping in and out of Grotz’s poetry. But my pace is proof of how fond I am of it: Window Left Open is a trove of morose and arresting moments that begs its reader to linger over it, to steep in its quiet gloom—the lonesomeness and despondence of the everyday. Grotz is an impeccable observer, too. (“I myself was / the hungry lens,” she writes.) One narrator watches the “longsuffering” cows in the forest, steam coming from their nostrils; another notices a student’s stomped-out cigarette on the library’s steps, “excreting urine-colored stains into the snow”; another prays for the apples that cling to their branches before the wind takes them to the ground. Grotz laces even the most benign occasions with beautiful devastation. —Caitlin Youngquist Read More »

Jennifer Grotz’s “Poppies”

January 5, 2012 | by

What I love about poems is how they change in the light of repeated readings. Now this is true of most art (and I guess most things), but because poems are (often) so short you can actually experience the change over a series of days or weeks of rereading, or even, still, over the space of years. When I first read Jennifer Grotz’s “Poppies” all I could tell you was that I liked its sound. I didn’t have any idea what the poem was about. I just liked letting the words fall off my tongue when I read it aloud. It was elemental, and I think almost every poem I love is like that for me. At a base level it just sounds good. “That’s how the rain comes” just sounds good. “Black pepper and blood” just sounds good.

But then I went back and I saw the philosophy at work. Grotz writes of our constant desire to tame the world, and even the righteousness of that desire (“shouldn’t we love all things equally back?”). She writes of the anguish that ultimately comes from trying (the poppies are beautiful but only “like the feral cat who purrs and rubs against your leg / But will scratch if you touch back”) and then, finally, our sadness at the whole thing. “Love is letting the world be half-tamed,” Grotz writes. I think you could say that about a lot more than just the natural world that she is addressing. That’s a lesson we’re constantly learning. Read More »

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Steak and Poetry from the Rooftops

June 28, 2011 | by

The Academy of American Poets promised youth. “All very hip, young, cool poets,” said the invite for a recent Thursday-night reading on the rooftop of the Arsenal Building in Central Park. And it wasn’t just that night’s reading. “The entire reading series,” the e-mail emphasized, “features hip, cool poets.”

On the evening of the hip, cool reading on the rooftop, the clouds hung low and threatened precipitation. The workers of Manhattan, newly released from their cubicles, surged up Fifth Avenue to Central Park, breathing in the cultivated scents of high-end retail that punctuated the doorway of each storefront.

“I’m sick of hearing about Barack Obama,” said someone walking behind me on Fifth Avenue, as I, newly released from my cubicle, inhaled the spicy, luxurious air that poured out the doorway of Henri Bendel. “You know?” she said to her companion. “I’m sick of the jokes.”

The skyscrapers all had trees growing from their atria or complex terraces of ferns sprouting beneath their glass panes. They looked like magazine ads for oil companies. Mr. Softee trucks lined 59th Street, which was also seething with joggers. Around the stoplights the young joggers clustered, running in place. They all wore T-shirts that read “The J. P. Morgan Corporate Challenge.” They jogged to and fro on some sort of athletic scavenger hunt; hip, young, cool corporate types on what appeared to be a fitness mission that promised team building but also possibly resulted in charitable contributions. (I looked it up later: “Forty companies celebrated fitness and camaraderie in one of the world’s greatest urban parks, while raising funds for the Central Park Conservancy.”)

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