Saturday, August 20, 2005

writing in books

Neighbor across the street was hosting his annual yard sale fundraiser for the Oakland Jazz Choir today.

I poked around the tables. Spotted the Collected Poems of George Oppen, gave its pages a cursory flip through, then saw Mina Loy’s Lost Lunar Baedeker. Even in Berkeley one doesn’t usually see such poets in the rummage. I also picked up The Trouble with Harry Hay, a biography of a “founder of the modern gay movement” (as the cover has it). A couple bucks for a good cause, right? I figured I would get around to reading these.

Once home, turning the pages with more care, I discovered the Loy and Oppen had been annotated by a jittery black pen. The reader didn’t say much, usually seemed satisfied with underlining and drawing arrows. Loy’s vocabulary seems to have given trouble. Her “Diurnally variegate” is translated as, “daily diversifying.” And “sialagogues” gets this definition, “anything that stimulates flow of saliva” – had I paper to write I’m sure I would have broken out the dictionary at this point, too.

In one rare bit of editorializing the reader cries out, “Oh yeah! baby” to the following Loy couplet:

I am the false quantity
In the harmony of physiological potentiality

… On the whole marked up books bug the fuck out of me. Had I seen the student’s scrawlings I would have put these back on the table.

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