From The Desk Of Over The Rhine: “Mornings Like This: Found Poems” By Annie Dillard

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since Over The Rhine issued its debut album. The Ohio-based husband-and-wife duo of multi-instrumentalists/vocalists Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist have marked the anniversary with new album The Long Surrender, which was produced by Joe Henry at his Garfield House home studio and features an assortment of musicians handpicked for the project by Henry, including Lucinda Williams. Though Detweiler and Bergquist had never worked with Henry or his assembled backing band before, The Long Surrender was finished in less than a week. The fan-funded, 13-track album was just released via OTR’s Great Speckled Dog Records, which the duo named after Elroy, their much-loved Great Dane who passed away last year. Detweiler and Bergquist will also be guest editing all week. Read our brand new Q&A with Detweiler.

Linford: I’d like to recommend one of my all-time-favorite slim volumes by a powerhouse American author who had to overcome the dilemma of winning the Pulitzer at the impossible age of 29 for her early masterpiece, Pilgrim At Tinker Creek (a book well worth your time in its own right). This slim volume that came much later is simply called Mornings Like This and contains “found” poems; that is to say, there is not (with the exception of a few titles) an original word written by Annie Dillard in the entire book. Rather, with the eye and ear of a seasoned and gifted writer (and with a formidable sense of humor), the author opens the letters of Vincent Van Gogh or a junior-high science textbook or a book of baseball stats or an old newspaper and finds, wherever she looks, an embarrassment of poetic riches. She simply begins pulling various lines from whatever source is in front of her and arranges them on the page with surprising and stunning results.

So much of writing is about tuning the ear and training the eye to recognize and receive the small gifts the universe is trying to hand the willing, always. It’s incredibly instructive to see Annie Dillard’s gift as a hunter and collector at work. It soon becomes clear, in the words of Van Gogh, which she draws from for two of the poems, that right along with her comic fascination with the ongoing human predicament, she is ultimately “trying to get at something utterly heartbroken.” Annie Dillard is a literary matchmaker who loves to get the profound set up on a blind date with the hilarious, and this book will hit the pleasure centers of anyone who appreciates the craft of great writing or is curious about the reckless phenomenon of grace.

Video after the jump.