Recently, I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I've been reading (actually, listening to) The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant wrote them while painfully dying from throat cancer (years of cigars) hoping to finish the book before he succumbed, and so provide for his family. Mark Twain helped Grant publish the Memoirs under better terms than Grant had arranged for himself. The book's a revelation. Grant's memory is prodigious and minutely detailed. But even better is the writing itself - an exemplar for anyone wishing to write well. The same mind that redirected the floundering Union armies is evidenced in his clear, impeccable prose. Despite Grant's first-row witness to slavery and carnage, he remained trusting of others and was snookered in a number of business scams that plagued both his personal and political life. He died in 1885 upon the book's completion, a bestseller and in print since its publication.Kronen has been a fellow at Bread Loaf, and the Sewanee Writers' Conference, received two Florida Arts Council grants, and the Cecil Hemley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. His first book, Empirical Evidence, won the Contemporary Poetry Series prize and was published by the University of Georgia Press in 1992. Splendor, his most recent book, was published by BOA Editions in May 2006.
I'm also reading Paul Muldoon's Horse Latitudes and his Oxford Lectures, The End of the Poem. The lectures meditate on single poems by various poets - Yeats' "All Souls' Night," Stevie Smith's "I Remember," etc, - and, consequently, end up serving as guides to Muldoon's own poems. That is, his own subterranean connections, [small c] catholic themes, his varied diction are all explicated/projected on the poem at hand, and we are made privy, via Muldoon's prose, to the strategies that inform his own poems. The lectures are, like his poems, frustrating, wild, exhilarating, and insightful.
The Canterbury Tales are great fun and by their very organization lend themselves to sporadic reading. I've been jumping in and out of Oxford University Press' David Wright translation to help me when I get lost in the original. Actually, I've several translations laid out reading the same passages rendered by different translators, relishing the varying flavors. Slow-going, but I've no deadline.
I also dip into David Ferry's beautiful translation of The Odes of Horace. And always, I go back to my 'triple pillars of the world': Donald Justice's Collected Poems, Richard Wilbur's Collected Poems - 1943-2004 (Waywiser edition), and Anthony Hecht's Collected Earlier Poems (Knopf) and Collected Later Poems (Waywiser).
Visit Steve Kronen's website and read some of his poems that are available online.