Driving from Las Vegas at night, the first glimpse is from Spirit Mountain, almost five thousand feet above Laughlin. Darkness below, darkness above, and at the very center: a line of light—red, white, turquoise, yellow, pink. Casinos. The blaze of them all the more startling because for an hour we’ve been driving through nothingness. Or what appears to be nothingness: the dark desert mountains and the dark desert valleys with the occasional blip of civilization (signs for Girls! Girls! Girls! Steak & Eggs only 5.99! Endless Slots!), then–blink, blink–gone.
When I find myself in a confused mood such as this, which I would describe as classically ambivalent — that is, literally of two minds — I know I need a poem that will buoy and bolster my spirits, a poem that will remind me that my miniature psychodramas are simply part and parcel of this wonderful/terrible project we’re all engaged in. It’s called Daily Life.
I’m a poet. Occasionally, however, I hate poetry. Usually these feelings occur during periods when I can’t seem to write any of it, when anything I do manage to force on to the page sounds (to my ear) stilted and awkward and pitifully dumb.
I admit that I’m fifteen years late to the Jo Ann Beard party. Her first book, The Boys of My Youth, was published in 1998 to considerable fanfare. However, I’ve always been a firm believer in serendipity: books show up in a life at the right time and the right place. Maggie Nelson has written that “the truly important, original, and strange work does get recognized, does get found, by those who need to recognize it and find it.” (Even if it takes a while, I might add.)