Brian Spears

Poet, Editor, Teacher, Blogger.

Reading Ulysses on my phone

A year and a half ago, I openly mocked the notion of reading Ulysses on a tiny screen. At the time, I had an iTouch instead of an iPhone, but I was still convinced that it was, as the title of that post says, the worst app ever.

And now, I’m reading Ulysses on my iPhone, though I’m using Stanza and a public domain version, so it was free. I am abashed.

But I’m also thinking that this might be the way I finally finish the novel. I’ve never managed before (and I’m not ashamed to admit that), and I sometimes wonder if that’s because when I get to the thicker parts, I look at the book, realize just how much more I have to get through, and put the book back on the shelf to regather dust. Now the only way I have to keep track is to tap the middle of the screen and see where I am in terms of pages–or to look at the little scroll bar at the bottom–but the number of pages in the former is so large (because the pages are so small) that it’s hard to process just how much farther I really have to go, and the scroll bar at the bottom is so blunt an instrument I mostly ignore it.

I think it’s the uncertainty of just how much farther I have to go that’s keeping the pressure off. Now, I’ll pick up my phone late in the evening, crank up the app, read through 100 or so “pages,” and head off to sleep. And eventually, I think, I’ll finish it.

Other reading I’ve been doing of late: my friend Becka McKay lent me a copy of Inferno done by 20 different translators that I’m also slowly working my way through. I’ve read Dante a number of times–did a class with John DuVal at Arkansas where we read multiple translations of each section–but it’s been a few years since I sat down and really savored it. I’m going at a slow pace–a couple of cantos every couple of nights–and the different voices are really interesting. I’ll do a post on the differences when I finish it.

I’m working on a review of Stacey Lynn Brown’s Cradle Song for The Rumpus, and I just received a copy of the complete correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, which I’m looking forward to dipping into. I finished Robert Creeley’s Pieces and realized I’ll have to read it several more times before I really get what he’s doing, and that I may never get it. I’ve also received (as review copies) new collections from Derek Wolcott and Carl Phillips, as well as a copy of some translations from the Chinese. All await, along with those I mentioned in my last post along these lines. Hmmm.

March 20, 2010 Posted by | poetry, smartphones, The Rumpus, tracking my reading | Leave a comment

Reading update

Even though I’ve been busy as hell with the semester, I’ve managed to get some reading done in the last few weeks. Almost two months ago, I took a page from Mark Scroggins and other to think about just how much I read. Since then, I’ve finished George Witte’s Deniability, W. S. DiPiero’s City Dog, Stacy Lynn Brown’s Cradle Song (which I plan to review for The Rumpus soon), and I’ve reread Gabrielle Calvocoressi’s Apocalyptic Swing, largely because I’m teaching it in my Poetic Forms class this term.

I’ve also made it my goal to read things I probably should have read in graduate school but somehow missed, so I’ve just read Spring and All and I’m working my way through Robert Creeley’s Pieces at the suggestion of a close friend. Both of those will require multiple readings, certainly. And I’ve reread some fun stuff from my youth, thanks to my Stanza app–The Three Musketeers and The King Arthur stories. I’m also working my way through a version of Inferno done by twenty different translators lent to me by my friend Becka McKay.

So I guess that brings my completed total of new (to me) books this year to 7, and total to 9, with many more on my list. Next up (for now): Ann Carson’s Oresteia, Heather Hartley’s Knock Knock (in part because I named my own manuscript that for a contest or two) and Nick Lantz’s We Don’t Know We Don’t Know.

February 26, 2010 Posted by | tracking my reading | 4 Comments

Tracking my Reading

For a long time I thought I read a lot–and I did, compared to the people I was an undergrad with, and among my friends while I was a Witness. Then I got to grad school, and even though I was reading more then than I ever had before, I came to realize that I was a piker, at least when it came to the subject I was studying.

I was reading Mark’s post on bulk-reading and beating myself up over my lax habits when it occurred to me that I don’t really know how much I read in a given year. I’m not in Mark’s league, not by a long shot, but I probably do a better job than I give myself credit for, especially since I started getting books as part of my editor’s gig at The Rumpus.

So since I’ve been looking for ways to use this blog more, I’m going to shamelessly jack an idea from Michael Kelleher and modify it–I’ll post what I’m reading and keep count of it. This will be my New Year’s Resolution, to keep track of how much and how varied my reading is. And I’ll be glad to take suggestions from anyone who passes by and leaves them in the comments.

So right now, I’m in the middle of a couple of books, not counting the two I have to reread in order to review soon. The first is City Dogs by W.S. DiPiero, his latest collection of essays, and I’ve been at this one for a couple of months, reading a snatch here and there and then ruminating on it for days. I love DiPiero’s writing, and have ever since I worked with him at Stanford, and I did some scanning and conversion to text work for him when he was putting this together, so I have a closer connection with some of the content than I would normally have.

The second is Seamus Heaney’s new translation of The Testament of Cresseid and Seven Fables, which I’ve been reading occasionally before I go to bed. I could just blow through this one, but again, I’ve been taking it a fable at a time. Heaney’s translation is fine, but not inspired, or maybe it’s the subject matter–morality tales get a little heavy-handed at their best, and when I read them one after another, I start to feel like I do when I read Very Intense Bloggers Writing About Very Important Things, and I tune out. The rhythms of the lines don’t vary enough to counteract the occasional creeping numbness, which is why I don’t read much of it in a sitting.

So that’s two, and I’ll update when I finish one and get into another.

Book count: 2

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Mark Scroggins, Michael Kelleher, Seamus Heaney, tracking my reading, W. S. DiPiero | Leave a comment