Study Questions for Practice on Mountains

Whoever's not reading David Bartone's heavenly first book is not my friend. Enemies! Answer these questions and you may find a place in my heart.

    Briefly describe the mercy seat as it appears to you in your mind.

    Is DB's relationship to intellectual history part of his problem? Part or all of the solution? Or something else?

    On p. 8: "I practically have a therapist in you," in which the you is You. What's the book's relationship to therapy, traditional (meaning what, by the way?) or otherwise (again, meaning what?) And what of p. 27: "I regret to accept a psychological truth to the lyric." Is lyric itself the therapy and if so, why regret it? Or is the question why not regret it? Or p. 57, which mentions becoming a better person and therefore echoes the catalog of poetic and moral (?) insecurities on p. 18? Later (p. 81) the writing of poems is likened to the injection of insulin, which rather plainly invokes a more physical kind of therapy, or it invokes something else, in which case, what? And the "old self" being "slipped into" on p. 84--well hell, here's the line: "I am slipping into this old self.//This old self we lug around with the pride of genetic banter."—is this old self the pre-therapy self, i.e. pre-book, pre-insulin, and if so, does the book thereby want to annihilate itself, and is that an additional thing for which therapy is needed, a second-order therapy, therapy for the therapy?

    On p. 10, some parenthetical knowingness. To what extent is it to be trusted? And for that matter, what's the book's relationship to trust anyway?

    Low-hanging fruit, perhaps: why wait until p. 11 to reveal the book's central conceit?

    In what way is "it is October 13, 2010," "it is October 20," "it is October 30" etc. etc. an improvement on O'Hara's trope?

    Do you believe DB ever held a walnut (p. 13)? Or was left in a booth (p. 24)?

    In the advice (p. 16) offered by friends of DM sound advice? According to whom or what mode of inquiry?

    Certain gestures reappear in section one, which you no doubt noticed. Flying, prayer, etc. So?

    Does DB wish to remove all distance between himself and the writing of his book? If yes, how successfully has he done so?

    If you had to guess, was the book written at home or on location?

    Say anything you want about how the book's purpose occasionally and suddenly is to allow language to discover itself via syntax or wordplay, i.e. "the etcetera behavior of language," p. 71. Or at least notice it.

    Is every lover also a beautiful reader?

    Odd how DB resists his urge to touch a cow or horse despite (apparently) living in some proximity to some of each. Odd because the rest of book seems to resist nothing else, is an effort to embrace all, to make the poet's arms longer.

    How is this book to be read? Certainly not at speed—the temptation to read it at speed is to be resisted, like the touchable horses and cows. So then: to sip it how? In order or at random?

    On p. 47: "I want to make classic beauty, to elope into it.//Elope from the sixteenth century French, abscond, run away." I assume the reference here is to courtly love and what some call the invention of romance. So DB here claims to want to get back beyond the sixteenth century and arrive back in ancient Greece, presumably? But the book is certainly in some ways very courtly? So is he lying there or?

    Part of that passage appears first as frontispiece, is it the first case of a writer having self-epigrammed? Or self-blurbed? Or more to the point, is it just a case of language leaking all over the place, to and fro?

    "My love," says DB, "occurs both on and off stage, as it may." Obscene deriving from "off stage," (I think?) which we assume has occurred to DB, DB having written a book that seems to know everything. To what extent do you find it comforting to be in the hold of a book that makes this implicit claim, the claim having to do with the pose of knowledge? More to the point, perhaps: in addition to removing all distance between himself and the book, has DB at last and heroically also removed all distance between the pose of knowledge and actual knowledge, such a thing of course existing? Is the book itself, I mean, knowledge?

    Today, which was the third time I read PoM  I did not, this day, bite my fingernails for the first day in as long as I can remember. I suspect it will have similar physiological effects on you. List them briefly.

    Are you interested in the translations on pp. 61-63 or did you skip over them? Are you a student or a seeker or are you broken or whole and would, in having self-identified thusly, that help you understand whether you read or skipped the translations?

    Is the passage on p. 66 that begins "During the Q&A portion..." the saddest moment in the book, the most true, the most horribly true, the least true, or?

-- Michael Loughran