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Thursday October 23, 2014
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Ron Padgett and Ander Monson

 

continued

The bravely and absurdly titled poem that gives its name to the whole collection is a long series of sentences that give advice — even though one of the first directions for achieving perfection is "Don't give advice." These aphorisms move from the practical ("Keep your windows clean") to the improbable ("Do not practice cannibalism"). Along the way it includes things — "Don't stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don't forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm's length and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball collection" — that are weirdly and perfectly wise, and that could be written by no one but Ron Padgett.

It is typical of Padgett that he would choose to read with a younger writer just making his reputation. Ander Monson, who teaches at Grand Valley State, has had some dramatic early success: in the last couple of years he has published his first book of poetry, a collection of fiction, and a memoir, all of them prizewinners. Monson is a native of the UP, and his imagination seems to return fairly regularly to the edge of Superior. His collection Vacationland, which takes its title from an old motel outside Houghton, does some difficult things. Essentially a collection of elegies for young people gone too soon in their northern landscape, it begins with an image that recurs elsewhere in Vacationland — a young man on a snowmobile that's broken through the ice:

The ice on the canal
the faulty floor through which he descended
blazing on the back of his Arctic Cat
is black as slate
which means it's thin
and boys on the shore
throw aimless stones that yield
ricochets with laser sounds.

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