July 25th, 2010
I don’t know whether to call Bluets poetry or nonfiction: it is a book-length essay, but a poetic one; it’s a series of 240 “propositions,” like Pascal’s Pensées (from which the book takes its epigraph), each ranging from a sentence to a paragraph in length. Whatever you want to call it, I was enchanted by it.
“Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color,” it starts, and then goes on to talk about the many kinds of blue, meanings of blue, shades of blue (lapis, ultramarine, turquoise), blue things and blue people and blue places, blue in the sense of “obscene” and in the sense of “having the blues” and also blue just in the sense of the color, how it looks, how it feels. This book is sometimes yearning, sometimes sad, sometimes sexy, always smart: it reminds me of Anne Carson (in a good way), the way it blends the personal and the scholarly or philosophical or historical, bits about the science of color and Newton’s experiments in vision, bits about about Joseph Cornell and Yves Klein, mixed with bits about fucking, about pleasure, about loss, about sorrow.
I’ve been meaning to read this book for months and months, and am glad I finally got around to it. I first read about it in a blog post by Mark Doty, one of my favorite poets; the passages he excerpted made me want to keep an eye out for it. Then Megan got a copy and read it and said I would indeed like it, so I borrowed it from her. And then it languished on my shelf for months, until I saw a sign at McNally Jackson saying that the author would be reading there, which made me decide that I should a) read the book and b) go to the reading. (Speaking of which, MP3s of Nelson reading some of her work, including some of the propositions from Bluets are online here.) So: the reading was pleasing, I bought my own copy of the book, and now I kind of want to read it again, though the rest of my TBR pile is calling to me too.