Friday, June 20, 2003

I believe it was Michael Carr who pointed out to me that I'd planned to post daily at exactly the wrong time.

Here's an aborted post from Tuesday night:
I've graded finals for three of five classes. Not that you care. Or, rather, some care hoping that I'll write/talk about something else soon. Yeah I'm playin' the woe card. W'oh!
Tonight I need to grade the fourth group of finals & calculate term averages for the fifth class (who'll take their exam tomorrow).
I just got a call that one of my students won a prize in a local poetry contest. Don't worry. Neither she nor I had to pay to enter, though she did need a sponsor. When I talk to her tomorrow, I'll ask Tammi if I can post her poem here.
I've borrowed Descent of Alette from Xtina. I'm excited.
I also plan to re-read Ulysses . {Happy belated Bloomsday. Read about Amanda's Bloomish walk about Cambridge at! A covert homage to Leopold?}
Two other city books--Justine by Durrell & Calvino's Invisible Cities--have come w/ (separate) recommendations. {Thanks Ben Webster & Mark Lamoureux.) That

It stops just like that. I knew I wanted to say a lot more about Talking to Ben (at a Somervlle Diner) & Mark (at Charlie's) but I knew I didn't have the time. I retuned to the essays. Finished 'em all. Finished grades. Though in an hour or so, I'll ride my bike down to GHS to finish cleaning my room & to learn the book buying process from the retiring Program Leader (read: Department Chair). {I don't think I'll get (or want) the job but I'm applying nevertheless.} When we're through, I hope to convince Dennis to accompany me to the Blackburn Tavern for a pint or two.

Over the last four years we've *wasted* hours {when we should have been grading} talking about Joyce, Hamlet , Jansenist Catholicism, foreign policy, County Cork, Dorchester MA, etc. etc. Recently, we've briefly discussed his difficulties w/ the poetry of the last 100+ years. It is one significant area which we can't really talk about. Beyond Eliot we have no common reference points. So I hope to start w/ Eliot & go from there. He's been wonderfully eccentric mentor & I'll miss him next year.

I've often asked questions on this blog that I've been disappointed not to get answers to. {Responses from Brenda, Behrle & M. Carr have been great though.) In retrospect I realize that they were probably boring questions. {I've confessed to a few of you that I read a half-dozen to a dozen blogs (for a few minutes between 2pm & 6pm) to provide friendly and/or lively relief from grading & bureaucratic tasks. I'm sure blogs serve a similar function to many others out there.}

To return to the matter: {Words. Words. Words.--as the prince sez} Mike County recently asked for comments & experiences w/r/t revision esp. destruction vis-a-vis revision.

I too enjoy revision. Seven or so years ago Amanda wrote a poem to me in which I was a kind of Prufrock saying something like "I must make revisions." {I don't remember the context. I'll have to ask her about it. I do remember though that in the poem I wanted to revise oral speech.} I admire spontaneity in others & am a big fan of a book called The Culture of Spontaneity (thanks Gerrit; perhaps more on the book later). But I am not spontaneous.

I do, however, like to improvise w/ given materials. When I'm secure in a context that is--like a musician knowing the song, etc.--I find pleasure in responding to changes w/in the context, re-arranging, recombining aspects of the context,etc. Revision is like that for me. There are phrases, motifs, sounds, ideas, & I'll move them around seeing how each movement affects the whole--amplifying or foregrounding a kool sound may obscure the idea, or {joy! joy!} may make it clearer. This is the sort of revision I do when the original material is not yet a poem but contains some seed--or seeds--a riff or two, say. When the text I come back to seems to have life of some kind--some kind of internal organization {planned or unplanned} that makes it a something--then I sort of have to re-enter that something or the poem's best left alone.

I got what was for me good advice from Duncan's writings about process. Six or seven years ago I read Duncan's prose maniacally & w/o discipline. I was drinking it in not interested in discriminating between this & that. At the time it was a necessary (drug-like) distraction from problems w/ exhausting, deadend jobs & very high rent. I remember Duncan carving a middle ground between first tho't best tho't & tinkering-as-revision which I'd learned at Emerson (not that it was taught overtly) in my late teens. As I remember it he talked about re-entering the genius of the poem so revision was re-envisioning the poem. There is something Platonic about this that appeals to my mind molded by fears of & belief in a hidden God.

O.K. enough.

Paul Metcalf's Will West!!! For an excruciatingly revealing description of the physical & mental processes of pitching read the first chapter. Fans. Mechanics (of the arm & the ball's flight). The mind's ear/eye. Race & ethnicity. Us/them. Single moments blown open so history (personal & otherwise) comes pouring in. Precise & painful.

If fans/supporters watched baseball like Metcalf & futbol like Eduardo Galeano, I'd feel much less conflicted about my passion for those two sports.


Monday, June 16, 2003

I'm in the midst of grading the first of five finals I'll be giving over the next three days.
Bad essays on the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and a story by Danny Santiago called "The Somebody".
They're bad not because the students can't write better essays but because it's late June & GHS doesn't take finals very seriously at the administrative level--not to say that administrators say they don't take them seriously. But when grades are due in the computer only eighteen hours after the last two exams are given I'll bet you can imagine what kind of half-assed assessments are given. It's not that I want to make kids miserable. Ask 'em. But intense study--not that everyone's into that ...--yields fruit. There's a pleasure in it.
I hear you. Of course, you're right. No jest. You're right. It's not for all kids. Or all adults. There are other pleasures. Other ways of living proceeding, etc. But I like to think that I give kids the option of persuing lit. & writing that they might get into. I prefer not to control all of it: open the field, show 'em around, but then turn 'em loose. But then I expect to see some evidence of what they've gathered while wandering the pasture, swimming, climbing, what-have-you.
When I've taken students to Boston in the past & turn them loose to eat (& explore in small groups) for a few hours, they almost inevitably hand-out in the nearest BK, Wendys, McD's, etc. (If I'm near I go to Falafel King of fame.) A few have ventured forth to buy flowers & such things. They give me hope. It's much the same w/ reading & writing. I'll take 'em to a field of knowledge, show 'em around & turn 'em loose. Most hand around near the cliches, slogans, & such. No {alarms & no} surprises but it's still depressing.
So these essays I'm reading which were meant to be reflective & exploratory are mostly outlines-in-disguise that adhere faithfully (fundamentally) to the "five paragraph essay" learned in 9th grade & before. It's a fine scaffold perhaps but after 180 days I'd hoped for better.
Some are quite good. But it's good to take a break to clear one's mind. No?

{Listening to Beck's Sea Change, the Mountain Goats' Tallahassee, & the Clash hits Vol. 2 {the only clash I have on CD not vinyl; some of 'em need *up*?grading}