Caption: The state of Vermont graciously agreed to pose for this picture.
El Cabrero is pretty sure most of you guys are slacking off at this time of year and is quite willing to join you.
Between now and New Year's, Goat Rope will highlight some of the best books I've read this year (although they were not generally published this year).
The hands-down winner of the Goat Rope Poet of the Year is David Budbill of Vermont, whose poetry chronicles the imaginary but real village of Judevine in that state's Northeast Kingdom.
I go to Vermont quite a bit to visit inlaws and it is a great state, even if it's not as endearingly screwed up as El Cabrero's Beloved State of West Virginia.
Though not a native of that state, Budbill has lived there for many years and has a very strong sense of place. Here are three books that I'd particularly recommend.
The first is Judevine, which is set in and around that village and captures many of the voices and stories of its residents.
Two others are in the modern iteration of the Chinese Zen/Taoist mountain poetry tradition: While We've Still Got Feet and Moment to Moment: Poems of a Mountain Recluse.
El Cabrero is himself aspires to be a reclusive Taoist mountain sage (of the High Church Anglican/Mahayana variety) and knows from experience that it's not easy, especially if one is not a sage and has trouble with the recluse part. One amusing theme of these poems is the contradiction between higher aspirations and our ordinary foibles.
Here's particular favorite of mine on the difficulty of maintaining equanimity (it also illustrates the difference between Taoism and strict forms of Buddhism):
Ahimsa Next Time, MaybeorThe Taoist Mountain RecluseStands in his Summer Garden andSays to the Deerfly About to Bite Him
Back to the undifferentiated Tao,
you son of a bitch!
And he smashes the triangular fly
into the hairs on his dirty brown arm.
(Comment: they really do have some nasty bugs up there.)
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED