Saturday, September 17, 2011

Conclusion musings

No one really writes on Herrick, and no one really has for years. He's so out of critical fashion. Why is that? The poetry seems too cute, too playful, too much like "light" verse?

Thom Gunn used to say that Herrick is the English poet most perfect in his craft.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Okay, so I bought myself a little time to write a real conclusion. Actually, that phrasing makes it sound like it was some kind of effort. I explained that my conclusion wasn't done, and the editor said, in effect, no big deal, send the whole thing when you're done. So that's what I'll do.

I'm going to try to impose, again, the paragraph-a-day rule that has served me well in the past. I only have to produce about 20 more pages, so it shouldn't even take more than three or four weeks. But have I mentioned: The. Grading. Oh. My. Lord. The. Grading.

Those people who can churn out fully-formed articles during the school year? During a semester? They're freaks.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


And just for the record, I remember well the night this was originally broadcast. I was glued to it. Glued, I say.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I am haunted by the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In college, I had been a student leader of Amnesty International, and I had involved myself pretty actively in a number of international circumstances of injustice. I was not naive about the inhumanity that raged among the ranks of humanity, but still I watched that terrible mass-murder unfold over its hundred days with a mixture of astonishment and rage and horror and impotence. The Hutus were killing Tutsis in Uganda. Thousands of them, indiscriminately, to say nothing of the brutal ancillary violence against women. Every day. Until almost a million people had been butchered. A million in a hundred days. But nobody did anything. No jets were scrambled. Many days, it wasn't even a topic on the nightly news. And what was I going to do, big shot former human rights organizer that I was?-- Really, I was just a 23-year-old kid in a politically inconsequential section of the country, vaguely headed for grad school, with no money, no connections, no army at my disposal. I could only watch, futilely, dumbly. It still makes me physically sick to think of it.


When 9/11 happened, I was living in California. I had an infant. Every night I turned off the phones so no one could wake us early, sleep-deprived as we all were. I didn't really have time to watch television. By the time I knew that anything had happened in New York or Washington or Pennsylvania, it was after 10am Pacific time--1pm on the east coast. In other words, I didn't experience the events of that day in progress. I didn't have the jolt to the guts at the realization that something terribly wrong was unfolding before my eyes. I didn't have the transfixed numbness of watching the towers fall. I didn't know anyone who worked in any of those places. I didn't even know anyone who lived in those places. It was, in many ways for me, like a television show--a narrative I didn't feel I had any right to claim ownership over or sentimentalize, because I had and continue to have no more personal connection to the events of 9/11 than I had to the events in Rwanda. And if I allowed myself to grieve fully over Rwanda, the scope of it would incapacitate me.


Over this past weekend I attended a performance of John Adams' majestic piece "On the Transmigration of Souls." Adams was commissioned to write the piece after 9/11. It's a discomfiting and beautiful work, filled with city noise and lamentation and also anger and discord, and also transcendent hope. As I was sitting there in the great symphony hall, I thought that what that music resembled more than anything else in my aesthetic experience was a cathedral of sound. All echo and aspiring and sonic contradiction with a fundamental through-line of drone. It's not, at the end of the day, a work about 9/11. It's about the tension between the urge to monumentalize and the ephemerality of mortal life. It valorizes the cry without pretending to efficacy.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

No mojo

So I brought home a batch of diagnostic short research papers from one of my classes on Thursday afternoon... And haven't looked at them since. I cannot work up the energy to deal with these papers. I so do not have the Eye of the Tiger, and it's only the second week of the semester, of the academic YEAR, for crying out loud.


If only someone would come do all the laundry, and wash my damned dishes.