Poetry editor Shira Dentz asked me to write a short essay on What I'm Reading Now for Drunken Boat's Blog. This was my response.
What I’m Reading Now… by Dina Hardy
I live in Dubai.
Expatted two years ago this month.
To help me understand this city-state, acquire some perspective—a touch of the region’s history, find comfort from others and solace in the strange, I’ve read, re-read, am reading, always cupping my hands to drink from randomly selected points in:
- Simulations. Jean Baudrillard. A reassuring angel on my shoulder as I navigate the abstractions of simulacra. Forget the desert of the real; this is the desert of the surreal.
- Baudrillard: A Graphic Guide. Chris Horrocks & Zoran Jevtic. Reassuring tour guides, illustrations, and easily digestible morsels to help me navigate Baudrillard’s concepts.
- Hamlet. Shakespeare. Is Hamlet insane or not? What is real?
- The Dog: A Novel. Joseph O’Neill. Fictional account of a US expat’s existential life in Dubai shortly after 2008 collapse. Still accurate.
- Hello, Dubai: Skiing, Sand, and Shopping in the World’s Weirdest City. Joe Bennett. Non-fiction account of a New Zealand’s existential visit to Dubai post 2008 collapse. Still accurate.
- The New Mecca. George Saunders. (Essay also found in his collection The Braindead Megaphone.) Written in 2005—before the crash—he falls in love with the futuristic city that he concurs is the Vegas of the Middle East. He mentions Al Qaeda. He recounts a story of how he survived Dubai without a credit card. Replace Al Qaeda for ISIS, add many more skyscrapers, and—even more than a decade later—this essay is still accurate.
Contemporary US poetry is difficult to find here. I’m deeply grateful for the Internet and cross-global shipping, even if the package takes more than a month to arrive. Two chapbooks I ordered & devoured recently, both from Brain Mill Press’s inaugural Mineral Point Poetry series:
- Tanka & Me. Kaethe Schwehn. Many years ago, I was in workshops with Kaethe—contributed to conversations, offered suggestions on these poems. I watched Tanka grow up. Now—finally—she’s grown into her own book, and I’m so incredibly happy for her. And for the ‘&Me’ in the title—meaning both Kaethe and the &Me who has had the provocative and pleasurable task of creating, documenting, drinking with, keeping up with, conversing with, living with, teaching and learning from Tanka. Tanka is not to be messed with. Tanka is the weight-loss champion. Tanka was born on a pirate ship. Tanka French-kisses clowns. Tanka pulls the stuffing out of cobras. Tanka sits “in lawn chairs // on a patch of Astroturf and listen[s] to “to the train rails // tremble” with her “dream man” Briar. Tanka is about love. Tanka is love. I love you, Tanka.
- My Seaborgium. Alicia Rebecca Myers. Seaborgium, a synthetic element, belongs to the family of transuranium elements, defined as being unstable and for decaying radioactively into other elements: trans—translate, transition, transformer, etc. The most stable isotope in Seaborgium has a half-life of ±2 minutes. How do you document anything that changes so fast? These poems take on that challenge. These poems are to, for, about Meyers’s first child. These poems make music from the most personal moments of growth and life, of pain and love.
I live in the future.
Per my prediction, here are two poets whose books will be published soon—inshallah. Seriously, publishers, you want these poets:
- House Lights. Henry Finch. A long, unpunctuated, autobiographical poem of fractured and fragmented memories about family and growing up in Henrico, North Carolina. With references to Keats, Eliot, and Charlie Daniels, this collection is cloaked in murk, and sings: “back in my mind landscape dense with trees pulling // a shotgun on them both one night speckled roof” and “Granddaddy’s buried face up so he can float up out of // my temple once I thought through dirt” and “what’s a family anyway”.
- The Octavo of Human Landscapes. or for more information, please scream. or The Terms of Psychic Warfare. Or… any poem or collection by Marco Maisto. Reading Marco’s work is like living on the San Andreas Fault: you know the earth below you is going to split violently, swallow you and the oceans, destroy your house, your possessions, your sense of just about everything, and you can’t wait for the aftershocks—this apocalypse. In his new worlds, fabric is pixelated, colors are improvised, names for one thing become names for another, the metadata of entropy is studied—and every boundary is found to be seductive.