Friday, August 29, 2008

Fall term checklist:

School begins the day after Labor Day. Time to reflect on my labors, methinks.

* syllabi prepared? CHECK

* assignments rewritten/ updated? CHECK

* house clean? Livable, and new carpet now in, and just one wall left to paint. But the yard has suffered with some extended out-of-town junkets of late. my tomato plants are enormous and productive, and I'll be savoring brandywines all through september. But this might actually be its own bullet....

* yard? So-so. I've done a lot of patio furniture spray-painting on the grass in the last couple of weeks, so I have these artful patches of blue and orange, which continue in part because I've been lax about mowing and watering. The plum tree is laden--I think I'll probably harvest and share the little fruits with my students when class begins on Tuesday. Nothing like plums to butter up a bunch of undergraduates.

* prestigious money application packet? Almost done. Really just the "statement of what you plan to do with our enormous wad of cash" essay to bang out.

* tenure file? FILED, as of today, baby. Woot. It's out of my hands now.

* summer intellectual tasks?:

- proofed and submitted all translation-related materials? CHECK.

- new poetry book out and readings across the country drummed up? CHECK.

- poems in progress? Not so much. Not really even more than a couple of lines since May. But I'm determined to stick to my belief that not-writing is a vital part of writing. Right? It lets ideas percolate and language accrue. I tell myself.

- scholarly book? BLECH. Nothing. Not a damn thing to show for a whole summer off. Not a word. Not even a focused thought. I carried a book of Carew's complete with me everywhere I went and read ONE LOUSY POEM. ALL SUMMER. I think my brain just shut down. Maybe the structure of school, with all the extra reading and the time demands of teaching and the lack of sleep and the doing of homework with kids, will present new and exciting opportunities for scholarly productivity.

- personal life? Actually, getting pretty freaking interesting.

And with that, coquette that I am, I conclude this inventory.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Money-grubbing so-and-so...

I'm trying to prepare the application paperwork for a fellowship (read: prestigious money). Is there anyone who loves doing this stuff? Does it exist to weed out the sissies?

Today, I suffered the indignity of writing the "narrative of my career." Isn't it too early for one to know how one's narrative goes? Isn't that why I want the fellowship: so as to produce enough further career-material to arrive at a narrative? And haven't we discussed (last post) how I feel about narrative?

Tomorrow's torture: to describe what I want the fellowship for. In under three pages. I wonder if "For the prestigious money" is too far under three pages to satisfy. I suppose I'll have to bulk it up with my spectacular, fellowship-quality rhetoric.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Terrible mother.

Okay. I don't beat them, or withhold food, or affection, and I read to them daily, and take them to do fun things like ride roller coasters and hang out at the water park and hike and fish and camp and picnic at the arboretum.


* I don't love to play cars and trucks. In fact, I hate it. I chalk it up to my aesthetic, really--not a girly aesthetic, mind you, because I have always preferred vehicles to dolls, and as a child drove my mother mad by refusing to touch the lovingly-made babydoll with its custom wardrobe and demanding a Tyco Night-Glo race set instead. No, it's a matter of my limited literary abilities. I can't come up with plots. I can play games, and love to participate in any play that has a narrative predetermined. But when those cars start talking to one another, and their small vehicular drama begins to unfold, I'm flummoxed. I have no idea why one car would behave differently than another might, and no idea how to respond when one of my cars gets attacked by aliens. I don't do fiction. Not at all. The period of my academic specialization is sparse in narrative fiction, and I don't really work in those texts anyway BECAUSE I'M A LYRIC GIRL.

* After a week of single-mothering, particularly an end-of-summer week when Thing 1 is getting bored, and Things 1 and 2 are beginning to get on each other's nerves, I'm ready for a night to myself. I feel awful about this. Shouldn't I be desolate when my children are not in my arms? But I'm not--on the contrary, I'm glad to have a few minutes to, say, go running without pushing a stroller and a reluctant kid on a bike, or poop without being barged in on three times. I'm not sorry to wake up when my body wakes me and not at the whim of a three-year-old alarm clock, even though my little ticker wakes me, when he's here, by singing "Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal," or "It's the End of the World As We Know It."

* I hate to cook for them. Don't get me wrong: I love to cook. A bit of a freak about it, really. But it's no fun when your audience, aged 7 and 3, respond by saying, "This cilantro tastes terrible, like I might throw up" and "I only want cereal," respectively. I recognize that I must plug away, condition their palates for more advanced eating, but gah.

* I yell at them. I get frustrated having to give an instruction six times, over the course of which repetition it becomes more and more a command, and then a holler. I get frustrated with their lapses in, it seems to me, totally self-evident logic. My frustrations get compounded by the fact that I'm up all night trying to do the work I don't do during the day because I'm dragging them on outings that somehow fail to live up to staying home and playing cars and trucks.

Shouldn't a mother who doesn't have her kids every night devote herself in Donna Reed sweetness to them when they ARE around? Shouldn't she be playing cars and trucks and speaking in dulcet tones and sneakily healthifying mac-and-cheese? Shouldn't she be maternal perfection itself, to make up for their less-than-perfect, no-longer-Beaveresque-and-nuclear family?

For the record, I know the answer. But I reserve the right to occasional hysteria.

I'm going running.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Change partners.

Okay. So the chapter on Herbert is not going anywhere this summer. I know that now. I embrace it, even. But I still have hope that I might emerge from August with something to show for my non-teaching months.

So here's the big plan: forget Herbert. He's too huge, too daunting a subject for me to handle in my current brainspace. And, frankly, I'm really not sure what I have to argue about him yet. Which is, I'm sure, why I haven't produced the brilliant Herbert chapter this summer. So he can hang out for a while, like a wallflower at the prom.

I'm going to try to dance with the bad boy at school for a while. I always preferred the bad boys anyway. For the next four weeks, I'm all Thomas Carew, all the time. Maybe I'll find him stimulating enough to produce something more than sighs when I sit down at the computer.

And yes, I'm aware that my figuration of this book is trending more and more to the erotic. Clearly, as Dr. Write's comment hinted, I may need to pursue other forms of dating as well....


Squadratomagico has honored me--and deeply honored I am--with this very shiny thing:

It's a pretty little award, though I'm still wishing it came, somehow, with that bony corset Squad got her lucky little mitts on.

Many of my must-read blogs have already been pinned with the mark of brilliance, so I'll follow Squad's suit and award a few, with commentary:

1) hightouchmegastore: thoughtful, witty, and filled with excellent food, lisa b.'s blog always makes me want to turn off the computer and do something, which is, I think, a good thing.

2) mouse: I love mouse. I miss her Notes of a Neophyte, but I empathize, and I await her full-blogolicious return from the abyss of scholarizing.

3) the rebel lettriste: as if the name of this blog alone didn't merit a prize. But wait! There's more!: smart, self-reflective, and unusually brave mini-essays on language and what it means to be a person in the world.

I would name more, and trumpet the genius of so many other bloggers out there, but I have a pillow with Thomas Carew's name all over it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

These awkward blind dates.

Okay. So I've heard, as of this morning, from the second of two presses that are high on my priority list for this book project, and the good news is that they're both interested in the project. The bad news is that they want it to be more fully complete before they move to the contract stage--which is fine, makes total sense to me, and raises no objection in my paranoid psyche.

But what I DO find confusing is the strange rush that academics are made to feel in this process. I've articulated before, somewhere earlier on this blog, my discomfort with shopping a MS that's only half-done. In all the other publishing I've done/ I do, I've accounted for every freaking comma before I send the sucker out. It feels wrong to me, and half-assed, to submit something so speculative for publication: Yes, I have this really great idea that I haven't fully worked through, and I hope you'll just trust me that it will be fantastic. But the counsel I received from other academics is that the speculative submission is the way it's done.

So I guess I'm saying that I'm relieved that I'm being encouraged to write more of the damned book before someone leaps to publish it. And I'm glad that these two presses, my first choices really, are being preliminarily encouraging. I suppose it's a good thing that they know I'm out there. But I wish I'd gone out with more strength, had waited until I had a MS with every idea nailed down and every comma in place before I started shopping around. I feel like I've shown up on a blind date with stockings bagging around my ankles and toilet paper trailing from my waistband.


And have I mentioned that I really need to get my shit together and write something this summer? I'm a mess. So much for my rigorous timetable.