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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ernest Becker’s “The Denial of Death”

The lifelong bibliophile,
some of my favorite hours
were spent reading
thousands of books,
mostly-nonfiction.

As I inhale
their stale paper smell,
and I stack them
on nightstands,
in bookcases,
the trunk of my car,
I know acquiring books
is not an addiction,
but rather,
it’s a superstition:

as long as I have
books yet to read,
I cannot die.
I must persevere.

The collection grows
from theology
to show business memoir
to outlaw poetry.

When I graduated from high school
in 1981
I bought Ernest Becker’s
“The Denial of Death.”
I saw it in a Woody Allen movie
and thought it represented
the intellectual gravitas
that I would need
as cultural currency
when I attended the university.

I have never finished the book,
reaching only page 36
on my latest attempt,
but
I still have the book.

Perhaps keeping it around
still unread
after all these years
is my own
quiet and persistent
denial of death.

(Submitted for #OpenLinkNight @ dversepoets.com )

This is the book I bought in 1981 for $2.95. Presently, it's in the backseat of my car.




39 comments:

  1. as long as there are still books unread, death can not take us...i love books and if that theory holds true i have a ways to go...i do periodically clean out some and sell them at the used bookstore just to make room for others...keeping those that touch me...they all do i guess but some more than others...

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  2. Yes, we are kindred spirits indeed! Thanks for the note, enjoy your vacation!

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  3. loved this piece from start to finish. masterfully crafted!

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    1. Thanks Christi, I appreciate that.

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  4. "it represented
    the intellectual gravitas
    that I would need
    as cultural currency" love the flow here!

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    1. Thanks - not breaking the flow is like not breaking the illusion.

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  5. This is wonderful--and, yes, as long as there are still books to be read, we should be safe.

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  6. I agree with all of this and, Brian's comment. I give some away that didn't capture me, to make way for more, keep some I know will read again and buy more in the hope I live for a good few more years to read them ... LOL
    Enjoyed this Mosk :)

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    1. Thanks, and yes,I've given away some books I wasn't ready for, and some I wanted others to read, and most because I run out of space! Donate to public libraries - they need 'em.

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  7. every room of our house has books, most read, some not (buying Plato sounded good at the time), a lot reread many times. So little time....

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    1. Yes, got a lot of those "I should read this" books - will get to them all! Thanks!

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  8. i can get lost in a book and literally shut the world out... and there are books i've read that changed my life forever...cool on the woody allen and the dying yeah...we were a bit on the same path..nice

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    1. My daughter won a photo contest in the 3rd grade - the theme was "My Favorite Place" and she took a picture of all her favorite books laid out on a blanket in the sun. ! Thanks!

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  9. I so love that notion of death's inability to take us as long as we have so many unread books! Yes! ....well maybe not...but we all need that hope and what better way. Denial of death is a topic close to me and I am constantly looking for new ways to trump it, tho I know it's impossible. This poem touches our humanity..it's poignant, and oh so well crafted!

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    1. Thanks so much - yes, I put up my struggle against death everyday - some days I lose more than I win!

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  10. Poet...I love you more with every new piece I read. My confession...I am a hoarder of books...my blue room reeks of ancient tombs discovered at estate sales that were being given away...and I have yet to crack the cover...but the smell...knowing they're there...yes, I can make it through another day, another second (sometimes) and you know what...some of them even convince me I might make it through another life...were this one to end...which it never will...right?

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    1. Thanks for your fanciful insight. No, this life will invariably end. Good news though: the afterlife is a huge library!

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  11. I have books and ebooks that I haven't read yet....It's a struggle to find the time to read nowadays ~ Maybe someday but not when we are old and grey ~

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    1. I applaud you and join you in the struggle to read more.

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  12. I wholeheartedly embrace this whole concept, and I LOVE this poem!

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  13. oh, i love this... i have books like that, that i feel i should read. most recently I tried David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest... 1500 pages... there's something to keep death at bay for a while. I only made it to 110, perhaps at some point I will try again.
    Great write!

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    1. 1,500 pages? You might as well read the text from the Affordable Care Act! Thanks!

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  14. i love books. i love the smell of new books. when i started college, i found a boyfriend who also like the smell of new books, and going to the bookstore was a date.

    four child with book senryu

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    1. Going to a bookstore is a great date!

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  15. I know acquiring books
    is not an addiction,
    but rather,
    it’s a superstition: - Great lines. And reminds me of Finnegan's Wake sat somewhere in my room.

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    1. Thanks! Get to that Finnegan's Wake before you change your mind!

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  16. I know acquiring books
    is not an addiction,
    but rather,
    it’s a superstition: - Great lines.

    And thanks for reminding me of Finnegan's Wake, sat in my room for god knows how long.

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  17. Books! I get the idea of kindle and all that, but it can't be the same as books. I have books that I have loved since I was still in high school, and have carried with me everywhere ever since. How could a gadget be the same as my signed copy of Ginsberg's "Howl"?

    I, too, have books I haven't read yet. Not long ago, I pulled a novel called "Madeleine's Ghost" by Robert Girardi off my shelf to read. It had been there for over fifteen years, a victim of my preference for female novelists, but when I finally read it, it blew me away. I fell absolutely in love with it (and with the character Antoinette Rivaudais, a pill-popping New Orleans femme fatale) and asked it how it could be possible that such a story could have slumbered on my shelf for so long, and me too oblivious to pick it up!

    In the last ten years or so, I have stopped buying nearly the number of books I did when I thought I was immortal, and in the past five years or so I have begun getting rid of the ones I know I'll never read, due to changed tastes or that hated devil, small print.

    Books. After dogs, I have loved them best, all my life.

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    1. Exactly - even though I have a Nook, which is a great device because I like to read more than one book at a time - there is something so perfect about a book.

      Yes, I have stopped being a book hoarder and want to encourage people to donate books to libraries, schools, etc.

      I love books and dogs, but I give the nod to books only because they don't die. Then again a book doesn't leap for joy at my arrival either, Hm.

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  18. So that is the secret of a long life, to keep reading! Works for me! I love fiction, non-fiction, history, biographies. One of my favorites holds a prominent place on my bookshelf--a thin 1917 paperback, yellowed pages,it's cover aged and stained from the years before me, picked up at a Flea Market circa 1974 (the year I graduated H.S.). A fictional work by Edward Everett Hale called 'The Man Without a Country" which I believe had a great effect on my own love of country, especially just heading into the post-Vietnam era. We can get lost in books, and some change our lives or at least our way of thinking, and yes, perhaps some even extend them! Great capture, Mosk!

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    1. Thanks Ginny, and I share your love for books. I went on ebay about 10 years ago and found the first book I ever read to my mother (when I was two) called "How Joe the Bear and Sam the Mouse Got Together." It was amazing how the themes of compromise and cooperation formed so much of my personal values. Thanks, Mom!

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  19. Your notion of literature being a key to immortality is so true, and for the writer, too. I read "Denial..." when it first came out, perhaps 1975???? It's a keeper, and it was a mind enlarging commentary on why we do things like populating these blogs with our words and ideas. It's a book worth finishing. Nice job here!

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  20. "some of my favorite hours
    were spent reading
    thousands of books" ... This thought should be in every poem, even if unspoken. Readers make the best writers.

    "as long as I have
    books yet to read,
    I cannot die" ... Great philosophy.

    "Perhaps keeping it around
    still unread
    after all these years
    is my own
    quiet and persistent
    denial of death." ... Awesome ending.

    This is an really good poem.

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  21. this house is overfull of insurance also =)
    books are conceptual rooms to step into =)

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  22. lol... some books are just like that

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  23. Terrific interesting poem. I love the image of you stacking them all over the place, little spined talismen. (TALISMANS?) K.

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  24. BUDDAH, i think you got my comment but it might have gotten eaten - wonderful fun talismanic poem. I love to see you moving all those little spined charms around. k.

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