Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Poem of a Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky by Mark Scroggins

One of the great pleasures of being an academic is that I am surrounded by people who have in-depth knowledge about all kinds of things that I know nothing about. And as a total dilettante, I relish hearing them talk about their passions. I once wrote in a story that a character was obsessed with other people's obsessions, and I confess here, reader, c'est moi. So over the years I've learned bits and pieces about the evolution (de-volution?) of the adventure narrative, about the travel writing of Robert Louis Stevenson, about the new Bloomsbury group of Danticat/Diaz/Menendez/etc, and lots of other cool things. Lately I've been absorbing bits and pieces about the art of biography from my colleague Mark Scroggins. And now his own biography of the poet Louis Zukofsky is out and I am learning about this poet that, until I met Mark, I had never heard of, but who, no surprise, is a unique and interesting writer. I have heavily romanticized the idea of being an expert (the expert) on a single writer, but am far too lazy to do it...so a happy dilettante I remain.

From the opening of The Poem of a Life: "Fascinated with numbers as Zukofsky would become, he considered himself 'a man with three birthdays.' For someone else, these confusions over names and dates might have been mere irritations or curiosities; for Zukofsky, one might hazard, they served as signs of his own multiple natures, his own betweenness--he was a man with three birthdays, a man with two names, a man who would leave behind the world of his fathers for a world in which he was never entirely at home."

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