on Memoir: The Art of Time in Memoir: Then Again by Sven Birkerts (Graywolf Press)

The clairvoyant I’ve visited occasionally for the past 20 years once told me that each of us runs into a recurring challenge -- a social circumstance, uncomfortably familiar, that usually leads to trouble. He described my particular dilemma, which had never occurred to me as a repetitive scene, but once pointed out now seemed to have a circular shape and theme.

on My Emily Dickinson by Susan Howe (New Directions, reissued with a new preface by Eliot Weinberger)

“A great poet, carrying the antique imagination of her fathers, requires each reader to leap from a place of certain signification, to a new situation, undiscovered and foreign,” writes Susan Howe in My Emily Dickinson, originally published in 1985.

on Soldier’s Heart by Elizabeth Samet (Farrar Straus Giroux)

Having earned her doctorate in literature from Yale, Elizabeth Samet accepted the best teaching job she could get. “When I told my friends and acquaintances at Yale that I was going to West Point, I got a range of responses, ‘You’ll humanize them,’ said one well-meaning professor, leaving me puzzled. They had seemed pretty human to me,” she writes.

on “Medical Poetry”: Primary Care, an anthology of poems by physicians (Univ of Iowa Press)

Yesterday at a business meeting, I met a board member of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. “Doctors aren’t having fun anymore,” he said. “They’re saying the profession is becoming as standardized and routine as practicing law. The insurance companies want the MD to spend just fifteen minutes with a patient. That’s all he or she gets compensated for.

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