by X. J. Kennedy
This funky pizza parlor decks its walls
With family portraits some descendant junked,
Ornately framed, the scrap from dealers’ hauls,
Their names and all who cherished them defunct.
These pallid ladies in strict corsets locked,
These gentlemen in yokes of celluloid—
What are they now? Poor human cuckoo clocks,
Fixed faces doomed to hang and look annoyed
While down they stare in helpless resignation
From painted backdrops—waterfalls and trees—
On blue-jeaned lovers making assignation
Over a pepperoni double cheese.
“Décor” by X.J. Kennedy, from In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus. © The John Hopkins University Press, 2007
From The Writer’s Almanac
It’s the birthday of poet X.J. Kennedy (books by this author), born Joseph Charles Kennedy in Dover, New Jersey (1929). He grew up in a working-class Irish-American family. His father, a timekeeper at the local boiler factory, recited poems to his son. Kennedy went to college, where he started reading and writing poetry, then served in the Navy for four years. He said, “I enlisted in the Navy to avoid serving in the infantry. I’d also been reading Moby Dick, and I had a rather glamorous view of the seas.” Kennedy’s first book of poetry was called Nude Descending a Staircase (1961). It was written for adults, but there were two poems in it that he intended for children. He went on to publish many books of children’s poems, including Ghastlies, Goops, and Pinchushions (1989), and City Kids: Street and Skyscraper Rhymes (2010).
Kennedy has also written poetry textbooks and volumes of poetry for adults, including Dark Horses (1992) and The Lords of Misrule: Poems 1992-2002 (2002).
He said, “I like poems where you don’t really know whether to laugh or cry when you read them.”
- Poetry: Off the Beaten Path (candidaabrahamson.wordpress.com)
- Poem of the Week (xingu2.wordpress.com)
- My Legacy, Wilting: A Poem (poeticparfait.com)
- poem notes — (bottledaux.com)
My online book club read Moby Dick in May and June. When I saw that on the schedule, I dreaded it. I had a high school American lit teacher who’s off-handedly said Moby Dick was a bore filled with tedious chapters about whaling trivia.
So I’d avoided the novel. Now I had to read it. Well, I could skip, but I don’t like to. So I dove in to Moby Dick and was immediately taken with the narrator Ishmael. I found him funny and loved his perspective on people, philosophy, and yes whaling.
My old teacher was right there was a lot about whaling, but by including the information I gained such an understanding of the thought and skill that goes into whaling. It made me respect whalers more (extinction of whales nowadays aside) and equipped me to appreciate the skill and bravery involved so that when the final showdown between the Pequod* and the Great White Whale occurs, I was ready.
I found there was a lot more to the story, as Moby Dick offers a glimpse into the culture and time of its writing. I loved the mix of people on the Pequod. They came from many nations, spoke different languages and prayed to different gods, yet they managed to work together towards a goal, albeit one that some disagreed with.
Moby Dick offers a Deadliest Catch of the 19th century with insights into philosophy and culture if you want that. If you don’t, it’s a well told tale, a long one, but one that kept my interest for 847 pages.
*The Pequod is boat which Ishmael, Ahab & Co. sail.
Welcome to It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from!
I love being a part of this and I hope you do too! As part of this weekly meme I love to encourage you all to go and visit the others participating in this meme. I offer a weekly contest for those who visit 10 or more of the Monday Meme participants and leave a comment telling me how many you visited. **You do not have to have a blog to participate! You receive one entry for every 10 comments, just come back here and tell me how many in the comment area.
I’m reading The Devil in the White City, nonfiction account of Daniel Burnham‘s work creating the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and H. H. Holmes fiendish serial murders and Moby Dick. “Call me Ishmael.” Diving into this classic due to the promptings of my book club. Both are wonderful so far.
Illustration from an early edition of Moby-Dick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
May’s book club read is Moby Dick. When I saw Moby Dick on the roster, I sort of groaned. I haven’t read it before but it’s reputation proceeds it. I braced myself for boredom once I passed the first sentence: Call me Ismael.
Though I’m only 40 pages in, I want to break the stereotype. So far Moby Dick is witty and engaging. While I’m still suggesting we change our schedule to allow two months for this novel, I don’t dread reading it.