Friday, December 21, 2007

Solstice flora

Aha! I've figured out a way to put a picture up at the top of this page, and lo: the gentiana verna. Probably not all that appropriate for this season, since it doesn't do cold very well, but it's been my favorite flower for years--they grow wild all over the Burren, in Ireland, where I lived and worked for a while. When I headed back to the USA for graduate school, I tucked several of them in books and in my passport to bring the color home, but none of them survived the journey. Now I'm hellbent on growing one this next spring in this distinctly nonIrish, nonlush climate, because that color is worth all sorts of crimes against nature.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Here is the bit. Watch me chomp.

I spent part of today photocopying syllabi for my courses next term. Is it totally too geeky to say how excited I am for these classes to start? One particularly sumptuous chunk of my time will be spent with a senior capstone seminar devoted to....devotion. Or rather, devotional poetry. From 700 BCE to today. I'm making things up as I go, and I have no idea where our conversation will lead us, but I figure that I'm spending 16 weeks reading dizzyingly fabulous literature that will yield its own urgencies. Sappho. Psalms. The high water mark, of course: Donne, Herbert, Crashaw, Taylor, Vaughn, Traherne, Milton. Then Dickinson. Hopkins. Eliot. And finishing up with Gluck, Jarman, Cairns, Samarras, Hopler.... I'm getting all jumpy just thinking about it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Things I don't care about, really.

1) The stupid book I'm trying to write.

2) Lining up travel/ funding for my spring conferences.

3) My spring conferences.

4) How my classes go next term.

5) What my students think of me.

6) Frankly, what you think of me.

7) Any material goods.

8) Blogging.

9) Whether we hire anyone good, or anyone period.

10) Thing 2's severe pneumonia. Why? Because it isn't, as an army of doctors feared until this morning, non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Things I do care about:

1) My kids.

Monday, December 10, 2007


After nearly two weeks of ignoring my book proposal, I have my nose back to the grindstone today. The proposal itself is ready to go--at this point, I have only to revise into a "sample" book chapter an article which used to be a chapter of my dissertation. Seems like it would have been easier if I'd cut out the middleman somewhere, but true to form I took a while to get my mind around my point, and apparently needed the middleman's company to do so.

According to the good advice I've received, I'm trying to front-load my sample chapter with the fireworks of the chapter's argument, and to connect it really excitingly to the rest of the book. But, as you know, I haven't written the rest of the book (though I have two other lovely but similarly unintegrated articles based on chapters from my now-discarded diss). It's the ligaments of the thing that are killing me. I'm having to commit much fakery in order to frame this sample chapter in the context of my larger argument.

Listen: I'm a poet, for crying out loud. When I send a poetry manuscript to the publisher, it's done, with every damned comma obsessively accounted for. I'm not accustomed to selling myself on so much speculation.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Good, hard questions

Neo has asked a few of 'em. Seven, to be precise, on a creative meme spin. Neo wants answers? Neo gets answers.

1) How do I feel about the past...? I don't think it's the past for its own sake, so much, that drew me to Renaissance lit. I am, through and through, a lyric poetry girl. And the place to be, if you like lyric verse, is between 1550 and 1670. It's not just that lyric poetry during this period is so freaky (though it is) or so moving (though it's that too); to me, it's that writers during this period have huge antennae up for the nuances of language. They know their Greek and Latin and Hebrew and a ton of other languages, and they hear a long, long echo in a word like "ruin." That turns me on. I started my academic life as a scientist, and I guess there's still a part of me that likes to open stuff up and see how it works.

2) My work hasn't required me to be an archivist to this point, but a project I've just started has meant that I've been handling some books from 1589, 1628, etc. How I feel, mostly, is this hunger to own the books. They're so beautiful, and fragile, and seeing marginalia from 1650 kills me. It makes the text so much more a product of a real world, a pasttime for a real mind.

3) As I've mentioned before, my other gig is as a creative writer. It's obvious to me that both my public readings and my teaching are just substitutes for my long-abandoned career as a rockstar.

4) My first intellectual crush was the man who seduced me from the sciences to this less lucrative career path. I continue to know him. Simultaneously, I'd die for his approbation, and I wish he'd drop dead so that the pressure to be impressive to him would go away.

5) A text in my field with which I have some kind of difficulty: _Romeo and Juliet_ sucks. And those long poems by Shakespeare ? "Venus and Adonis" and "The Rape of Lucrece"? WTF?

6) What I'd change about my field: its domination by fairly snooty, condescending old white men.

7) My marginalia are mostly little half-arrows to indicate ideas I want to return to. Underlining is for passages I want to quote. And I try to keep track of my objections marginally as I read, so as to find them quickly when writing my own essays. In library books: pencil (usually. Not always. Sorry). In my own, bold blue pen.

Monday, December 3, 2007

What I've been doing instead of writing.

How is it possible that I should be busier, more overwhelmed, and more oversheduled during a term when I'm on leave than during a teaching term? Is it my own expectations for myself that change? or people's perceptions of how much free time I must have? or nature abhorring a vacuum?

And can I just say how illuminating it is to be on the hiring committee? So, so many bad applications. As a public service, some tips--perhaps for the next time around (though I'm sure that no one I know, in real life or electronically, needs to hear them). (Yes, they may seem TO YOU to be intuitivie, but apparently....)

1) Think user-friendly: if you submit a bunch of teaching-related materials (syllabi, evals, etc), try to organize it for easiest possible consumption. I'm talking sub-headings, even colored dividers, paragraph synopses before each set of documents, etc.

2) Don't send pictures of yourself enjoying the company of famous scholars.

3) If there's a typo in your cover letter, spend the extra 10 cents in time and materials to reprint, rather than line-editing in pen.

4) Don't say, in your cover letter, how "dazzlingly qualified" you are for the job. That's what your recommenders are for.

5) Long, long CVs with every scouting merit badge you've ever won on them make you look insecure.

6) Don't ask someone who doesn't really know you to write you a letter just because they have a big name.

These guidelines eliminate probably half the applications I've been reading. They seem a bit common-sensical to me, and "common sense" has not been, traditionally, my academic field.