For example, in A Strong West Wind by Gail Caldwell, she writes about the early 1970s: “Our supposed role models and leaders had gotten us thus far to Hue, to Nixon’s White House, to Watts and Selma. Such convictions produced miracles as well as lunacy, and you couldn’t always differentiate between the two; we were living in an era when Diane di Prima’s so-called poetry counseled stocking up on codeine, come the revolution. It was like standing in a high wind every day, and stepping in almost any direction meant free fall. This promise, or danger, made a lot of cliff-walkers believe they could fly, or at least take the dive and walk away. We were stardust, we were insane with hope, we would live forever, if only we could keep from being killed.”
Remember Vietnam was still going on and student war protesters had been killed about which she writes, “If students against the war had yet to grasp the delineations of the Vietnam draft, Kent State blurred the boundaries, at least symbolically, and placed the troops and the protesters on the same side of the barricades.”
Not only is she a poet but Caldwell won a Pulitzer for “Distinguished Criticism.” I didn’t even know there were Pulitzers for distinguished criticism. Book mavens have to give her a big thumbs up “Like” for making a career of reading books. She has spent at least 20 years as a staff writer and book critic for The Boston Globe, earning the title of Chief Critic. (Just reading the venerable Globe’s book section is an amazing and, dare I say, nostalgic journey).
You gotta love her style as in the following: “But a memoir with an armory of opinions, a couple of failed marriages, and a socialist rap sheet? That was a resume I could aim for, or at least dream about.”
Is writing a memoir a long form of poetry? Or is poetry a cryptic way of disclosing your inner self?