Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation.

Just got back from several days in the tropics with the Things and Neruda. Surf. Sun. Sand. Good food. Dogs. In other words: all the great ingredients for much-needed total relaxation.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Not a bad gig, all things considered: Office Space edition

Here's where I spent most of the last two days reading and freewriting, enjoying the fruits of my labors.



Thursday, June 18, 2009

More on time-management, parenthood, and the life of the mind

Here's what I meant my last post to say:

I love, love, love to spend time with my kids. We have all sorts of adventures, which include such things as planting beans and camping and cleaning the floors and going to the library and catching potato bugs etc.

I love, love, love teaching. It jazzes me up every time I walk into the classroom. I can't believe I get paid to enthuse about poetry from 400 years ago and poetry from 4 minutes ago. I can't believe I get paid to crank up other folks' brains about the stuff I love.

Between these two adored occupations, I write.

I write poems. They happen all the time, whether I set aside time to work on them or not. (In fact, if I set aside time to sit down and Write Poems, the poems suck: heavy-handed, forced, rushed things.) Poems take time to write, but the time is snatched piecemeal. I write while I'm running, when my body is engaged fully in rhythm. I write in the car. I write while I'm reading. I write poems really, really slowly and all the time. Poems are brutally hard for me to write, but I don't need to block out hours of time to work on them. More to the point, I can work on them when I'm teaching or parenting without taking time out from either teaching or parenting.

I write criticism. And unlike poems, criticism requires blocks of time. I need to sit down and devote sustained attention to the stuff I'm reading. I need to mull without interruption, to pace the house talking aloud to myself about a concept until I hear myself find the words that best articulate the principles. I need to wrestle with a paragraph for four hours without having anyone call me to play or to wipe a butt or to feed them. It's less torturous to write criticism than poetry, but it requires scheduling. And frustratingly, three weeks past my self-imposed June 1 serious resume-criticism-writing date, between teaching and kids and various other little responsibilities that I didn't see coming, I haven't had a free hour, let alone 4, let alone an afternoon or (!) day in isolation with books and computer.

If I don't have defined time, I can't produce criticism. And I don't know where I'm supposed to find that time, given that I'm finished teaching just when my kids are finished with school. That imagined "free time" that nonacademics begrudge us academics so much--you know, the time that we're supposed to use to write the stuff that keeps us our jobs and is therefore absolutely a part of our jobs--is pretty hard to come by.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Quick checklist.

Short summer term taught: DONE.

Vegetables growing: DONE.

Kitchen ceiling painted: DONE.

Poem written in the voice of a medieval weapon of war: DONE.

Thing 1 nursed through swine flu gastro-intestinal virus: DONE.

Proofs of forthcoming article reviewed: DONE.

Two very useful works of scholarship read: DONE.

Now can I PLEASE have TEN MINUTES to MYSELF so that I can try to do some writing on this *&$%! book?!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Let me introduce you to the library.

A student is working on a final research paper for the class I'm teaching this term. S/he emailed me hir thesis, and asked if I knew any relevant articles. I suggested a couple, and then mentioned one that I thought was particularly helpful and to the point. S/he then emailed me back to say, "Okay, great--just send that article along to me, and I'll check it out."