Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Depressed? Who the hell knows. Who the hell cares.

Some bits of evidence to consider:

1) I cannot work up any grading mojo. Which is to say that I have to kick my ass, on the very last evening before I turn them back, to respond to 20 short pieces from my intro to creative writing class.

2) I cannot work up any reading mojo. That is, I read for my SENIOR RESEARCH SEMINAR ON DONNE on the bus, on the way to school.

3) My tendency to stand in the kitchen and look around, without doing any of the things that really need doing.

4) 5 out of 7 running excursions this week felt like running through molasses.

5) Counting down desperately to the end of the term, already, and to the end of the academic year.

6) Missing the Things, many nights with tears, when they're with their dad.

Possible causes (all that Donne provokes casuistry!):

1) The start of a new school year when I hadn't really recovered from the last one.

2) Husband lives 2000 miles away.

3) Weird mental/ hormonal side-effects of pointless birth-control pill (see #2).

4) Due to rodent impasse (I can't kill them without feeling horrible and they can't live in my food) I must rebuild kitchen and am hemorrhaging money.

5) Fall means that the wolf spiders come inside, and wolf spiders are, honestly, my one true full-blown pathological phobia. I've included below a photo of the one I found last week ON MY BED: about 4 inches toe-to-toe. I managed, after 15 minutes of high-volume screaming and pleading with the universe, to dare to maneuver it into the vacuum hose, sideways and with much bottlenecking, and then spent 15 more minute jumping hysterically around the room wondering how to get it out of the vacuum.

6) Book in continued stall. Hoping to take a leave next fall, but budgets are such that leaves are scarce.

7) The hateful, exhausting sociopolitical climate.

I keep saying to myself that I have a good job in which I get paid to talk about my passions and cultivate similar passions in others, happy kids, a lovely and safe and weather-worthy home, the support of family and friends, a good relationship with my ex, and fresh produce coming out my ears. Why is that mantra not getting me out the door in the morning? Where is my eye of the tiger?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A banner day.

1) Thing 2 learned to ride a bike, sans training wheels.

2) Neruda, continuing his streak and maintaining his position as Mr. Hot Young American Poet, won a Very Big Prize.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Not witty.

That's me. I am funny, I can concede, able to make people laugh, though most often my method is self-mockery, which is the opposite of witty. I'm teaching a senior capstone on Donne this term. Who is witty, in both the metaphysical way and the way that would make him easy and magnetic at a cocktail party with urbane and sophisticated academics. I reflect on wit and its movements, its rhythms, and I must acknowledge that I don't have it. But my kids think I'm a riot, and so do the kids I hang out with, outside, during the cocktail parties.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Music and poetry

I have this ongoing conversation with my students about how pop music, my great love, doesn't contain many lyrics that stand on their own as poetry. I try to explain how song lyrics sometimes seem more persuasive or more artful than they actually are, because they have the communicative scaffolding of the music to supplement the lack of precision etc in their words.

Still, I aspire to the transportive expressivities of music.

Tonight I listened to two songs whose effects I covet completely. "This Tornado Loves You" by Neko Case (whose strategies of perspective would fit very nicely in the collection I'm working on now) and "Soft Dangerous Shores" by Chris Whitley. In the case of Case, the lyrics actually achieve moments of poetic clarity and precision: "Smashed every transformer with every trailer," as a line of poetry, offers a model of balance and variation, cadence and detail, and compressed force. But these moments cannot be sustained over the entirety of the song, nor should we expect them to be, because the music is there to guide our response, to ensure that we attend to the right beats, the right emphases, the right nuances of tone.

The lyrics of the Whitley song are largely impressionistic, and would make for a disappointing and disjointed read as a poem. But that wave of sound that rises up on both sides of the head above Whitley's murmur-growl....Sheesh! I know exactly what my body is supposed to feel about those lyrics even if I don't know what, exactly, they denote.

I would give all ten fingernails to be able to reproduce in language alone what these songs manage to communicate in four bars. Poetry, poetry, you are such a frustrating gig: all compensation and recuperation, all the time.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

An informal poll.

Does the phrase "raw foodist" suggest:

a) dietary extremism?
b) activism?
c) health-consciousness?
d) something else?

I've been thinking about this phrase, and how my responses to it are all positive, probably because the raw foodists I know are all decent, gentle people who cook really well and passionately and variously. But I have a sense that, in the larger cultural conversation, the term smacks of the wacky.

I'm feeling blah, physically, and have been for a few weeks. I'm revamping my diet for a couple of weeks to come, eating mostly vegan and mostly raw (easy because I'm eating mostly from gardens, mine and neighbors' and folks') to see whether it gets me back on kilter. But while I'm enjoying my experiment so far, and while I've been eating really, really good stuff, I feel weird about saying (esp. to people with whom I chance to eat), "Hey, I'm doing the raw foods thing for a while," because I think it comes across as preachy, or aggressive, or fringe, or judgmental. (Like my being a teetotaling vegetarian localvore food snob doesn't communicate enough judgment about how others consume.) (Just for the record, I don't care what you eat.) (Unless you're my kid, and then I try merely to model making healthy choices, and to instill a sense of values but let you make your own decision.) (Even if that means I buy you the occasional chain restaurant hamburger, which, you know, is fine because you're eating SOMETHING besides cereal for a change.) (Even so, I'm glad you prefer the burgers from the local take-out, and call the burgers from SOME chains "chemical sandwiches.") (But, again, I don't judge.)

Anyway, I don't know how long this little experiment will last. I like cheese. And cooked food. But I feel pretty great today, and that's a nice change.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Year of "Piss Off."

Early last spring, I passed a colleague in the hall, who spun around after I'd passed by and said, "Listen, I'm putting together this conference on Not Your Field, and I'd really like you to present on A Poet You've Never Heard Of. Would you mind?" I responded by saying, "Well, you know, I'm really a Renaissance Girl, and I don't know anything about Not My Field, don't know what the issues are, and especially not in the identity politics that the poet in question seems to have engaged moderately with." My colleague said, "Yes, but you're a poet, and I know you'll do a good job. Just do a fairly informal and slightly flattering paper on this poet, because the poet's family may be in attendance. Thanks!"

So, I agreed, after a fashion.

As you know, I've been beating my head against a book this summer. Forgot about the conference until a couple of days ago. Hadn't hear from my colleague again about it, so dropped hir an email this week asking when it was and what, exactly, was it that s/he wanted from me again...?

The conference is next week. They hope I'll have an eventually-publishable 20-minute paper.

I won't.

I'll have a decent and not remotely fawning 15-minute paper, which I will not be later revising, because I'm writing a book on my field.

I'll have a real thesis but it will be textually based, practically devoid of secondary research (in my defense, there hasn't been anything written on this poet), myopically unaware of whatever cultural forces may be at work because, as I may have said, it's Not My Field.

I'll have verve and style, and that may obscure any lacunae in my knowledge, or at least redirect from them.

And then I will follow the example of a similarly book-focused girlfriend of mine: I will make this The Year of "Piss Off."

The best cookies I've ever eaten (Received As Gift subcategory)


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

For a limited time only....

And mostly, because I've been working on it so long that it needs airing out.

[time's up.]