by Marianne Apostolides

I have a favoured reading spot in my home. Sometimes it glows like a mystical oracle, possessed of all the words I’ve absorbed there these past four years, since I moved into this apartment. (My place occupies the first floor of an old High Park house; my landlords live upstairs. She’s a world-renown documentary filmmaker, he’s a writer who’s published with Coach House and Key Porter. At times of literary struggle, I’ve sent silent invocations, appealing for good creative energy transmitted via the air ducts.…)

But back to my reading spot.

That emanating, radiating, magical zone is the corner of my grey couch. I wedge myself there, a cup of double espresso awaiting me, placed on the rickety snack table I drag into position. Beside the coffee is a journal (Clairefontaine, spiral-bound: anything else feels crude), a blue pen and a glass of water. I often take notes when I read, since I tend to read philosophy these days. I’ve recently completed Nietzsche’s entire oeuvre; his thought will form the basis of my next book. From Nietzsche, I became curious about Rilke via the figure of a woman: Lou Salomé. (Although Salomé was an author in her own right, she’s best known for her associations with powerful men: Nietzsche, Rilke, Freud. Back in 1882, in the months before Nietzsche wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Salomé spurned his awkward, impassioned advances; she chose to sleep with his best friend instead.) Anyway, Salomé brought me to Rilke, specifically The Poetry of Rilke, translated by Edward Snow (North Point Press, 2009; Paul Vermeersch recommended Snow’s translations: thank you, Paul).

I don’t take notes while reading poetry. Usually I read poetry aloud … sort of. More accurately, I mouth the words without making sound; I’ll “hear” them this way, through the shapes they make of my mouth. This is the way I write, too: I compose longhand, then edit as I silent-speak the words, seeking a sense of fuller meaning through language’s movement within my body. At any rate, I don’t take notes while I read poetry. But I will write my impressions afterward in that Clairefontaine journal, using my blue ballpoint pen. And then I’ll get up and stretch my limbs and gulp my water. And later, at night, I will take my position on that couch again. This time, however, I’ll sit in the centre, flanked by my two kids: my daughter will curl into the corner spot, and my son will curl into me. As I read, aloud, a YA book whose complexities are wrapped in beautiful innocence, I will occasionally consider Nietzsche’s reconceptualization of morality, or Rilke’s milky constellation of lover/mother/poet/creator, and I will be thankful.

Marianne Apostolides recently launched her second novel, The Lucky Child (Mansfield Press, 2010). She lives in Toronto.

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