to be or not to be?

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare! How kind of you to be born on World Book day, which lands during National Poetry Month.

Ah, books. Printed or e? Paper or plastic? Pros and cons. But books. Are people still reading?

Here’s a passage from The Crack Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald, written March 1936:

“I saw that the novel, which at my maturity was the strongest and supplest medium for conveying thought and emotion from one human being to another, was becoming subordinated to a mechanical and communal art that, whether in the hands of Hollywood merchants or Russian idealists, was capable of reflecting only the tritest thought, the most obvious emotion. It was an art in which words were subordinate to images, where personality was worn down to the inevitable low gear of collaboration. As long past as 1930, I had a hunch that the talkies would make even the best selling novelist as archaic as silent pictures. People still read, if only Professor Canby’s book of the month—curious children nosed at the slime of Mr. Tiffany Thayer in the drugstore libraries—but there was a rankling indignity, that to me had become almost an obsession, in seeing the power of the written word subordinated to another power, a more glittering, a grosser power…”

Makes you just want to end it all, doesn’t it?

To be or not to be? WordPress’s editor is politely pointing out how this was written in the passive voice. True, indeed: that Hamlet was one indecisive and contemplative dude. That is, until he decides to take Arms against a Sea of troubles.

It may be hard to tell in this light, but the end for all is the end for all.

Back to the enterprises of great pitch and moment, those of you who know me will know how happy this makes me: World Book Day!

world book edit

Here’s a sample from my project inspired by the WB Encyclopedia–a touch of Chaucer, a bit of Eliot, a hint of Tom Waits.
Originally published under the title “Vol. B, Pg. 710—from The World Book” in Black Warrior Review.


Bed                                      pg. 710                       Bee

Every day in this month of April, it rains.
I can’t get the recipe right, does time
mixed with memory equal desire? How big
is your bed? Different sources say twelve,
some twenty-four, others sixty-eight people

could lie on the Great Bed of Ware.
The English beds in the 1500s were enormous
affairs. While the archbishop was at vespers
a splendid shrine was erected.
For reasons I understand, I have

a hard time saying no to you. Sleep
comes in under the shadow
of this bedstead—-a foundation
of coils, the resting place of savages
—-as in Explorers have found

bees kept by savage tribes in the jungle.
There were wild bees in the New World
when the white man came. Honey
cost 5pfs a quart in ancient Egypt.
What is the conversion rate now? For a bed,

(See: geology) a heap of straw, leaves
or animal skins striped black, white,
serves as well as curled horsehair or cotton—
the soft covering of snow in winter. Cold
air comes through the open window,

the whistle of a far-away train, sweet
liquid, called nectar, calling—-such liquor:
rain and vodka bathes every vein, every center.
What is the function of an atom? More things
should naturally phosphoresce like uranium,

formerly Becquerel’s element, as observed
during overcast days. Without sun,
let’s discover all there is; we’ll stay in bed
until the rain stops. When you say
my name, I say, Call today the Prologue.

4 thoughts on “to be or not to be?

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