Most of my reading falls into three areas: reading that’s involved with my teaching; with my writing; with my penchant for books that capture the strangeness and amplitude of the world we live in. In that first category, I’ve been reading Robert Alter’s translation of Genesis and Avivah
Zornberg’s brilliant reflections on Genesis (The Beginnings of Desire), my favorite theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Creation and Fall and Meditating on the Word), and my guides to the Bible and living in general, Northrop Frye (Double Vision) and Simone Weil (Waiting for God). I’ve also been re-reading two old favorite novels — E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse — and two new favorites by Marilyne Robinson, Gilead and Home.
Some poetry books and poems that are always close at hand are: Robert Frost’s Collected (especially his great poems of work, “Mowing,” “Putting in the Seed,” and “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” that remind me again and again the paradise we regain by the sweat of our brows); T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” and George Herbert’s The Temple; the Odes of Keats, especially “To Autumn” (I simply don’t know another poem that better captures what I’ve been trying to learn all my life: how to remain entirely present to the presentness and presence of things, even as they pass away); Czeslaw Milosz’s New and Collected and Adam Zagajewski’s Without End (I also love his essay collections, Another Beauty and A Defense of Art and Ardor); Stanley Kunitz’s Collected. Then there are poets whose work I return to again and again — William Matthews, Stanley Plumly, W.S Merwin, Ellen Bryant Voight, Carl Dennis, Stephen Dunn, Robert Hass, Philip Schultz, Gerald Stern and Robert Wrigley — and those poets who are friends and whose work I greatly admire: Sydney Lea, David Baker, Chris Merrill, Jeffrey Harrison, Baron Wormser, William Wenthe, and Gray Jacobik.
In the third category, I’d put the work of Oliver Sacks, Stephen Jay Gould, John McPhee, Peter Matthiessan, Gary Snyder, and Wendell Berry. I’d add the essays of Scott Sanders and Albert Goldbarth and a book impossible to categorize: The Embers and the Stars by Erazim Kohak (it combines phenomenology and living in a house in the woods). And my favorite nature writers, past — Thoreau, Gilbert White, John Burroughs — and present: Richard Nelson, Jane Brox, Robert Finch, Gretel Ehrlich, and Barry Lopez.
Robert Cording teaches at College of the Holy Cross, where he is the Barrett Professor of Creative Writing. He has published five collections of poems, including Common Life. His poem “Snake Crossing” appeared in the May/June 2009 issue, one of several contributions to Orion. He lives in Woodstock, Connecticut.