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In a 2003 statement, Goldsmith tells us that he began to record the radio weather forecasts on December 21, 2002 and continued for exactly a year.And, logically enough, the book has four chapters for the four seasons—Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall.When, in the poem that precedes “Naphtha,” I read the wonderfully absurd exclamation, “Khrushchev is coming on the right day! ” it being the right day for the always scowling, fist-thumping Soviet dictator for no better reason than that Frank is in love and it happens to be a gorgeous windy day in New York, I always smile. O’Hara’s wholly unpretentious and delightful little book is full of such moments — moments as immediate in 2015 as they were fifty years ago. Which is to say that all those currently taboo poetic terms — authenticity, sincerity, immediacy, voice — may be coming back to haunt us.
But this is not to say that Goldsmith needed such outside interference to enhance the intrigue of his tale.Nothing happens on December 21, the last day of fall. It’ll become steadier and heavier late in the day and, uh, actually a pretty good soaking tomorrow night.The seasonal cycle, moreover, is, as David Antin notes in his jacket comment, presented as “a classical narrative,” moving from the bitter freeze of Winter 2002 through a moderate New York spring, to the summer season of thunderstorms and hurricanes threatening the coast, to the autumn of World Series weather (fortunately, fairly dry), back to a winter that seems, at least so far, not as cold as the previous one. It’ll become steadier and heavier late in the day, and, uh, actually a pretty good soaking tomorrow night.Within days, the “real” news——an item of April 15, for example, that daytime TV was about to get “its first lesbian kiss” — was competing with Iraq for airtime, and that meant that, so far as weather reports were concerned, it would be all weather, all the time.Not Baghdad but Bergen, New Jersey, not Kuwait, but Danbury, Connecticut (55). In the wake of such “consumer minimalism,” as Goldsmith calls the mode of these one-minute weather reports, those sound bytes that “take our most complex, life-sustaining environment, and simplify it in a way that either aids or abets your commute” (email 14 July), the poet need provide no moralizing on the horrors of war; the actual discourse of the day says it all.
Nothing, one surmises, is invented or added or even altered (although Goldsmith evidently left out a few asides and jokes): what you see (or in the case of Goldsmith’s reading on MP3, what you hear) is what you get. They did have a sandstorm here earlier, uh, over the last twelve to twenty-four hours those winds have subsided and will actually continue to subside.