Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween

It's about 12:30am. I just cleaned the kitchen and I'm drinking decaf tea. I have so much I *should* be doing right now, but I'm mentally blocked.

It's been a busy week, and I have run into a couple of interesting teaching situations this week as well. Up until Wednesday, I had enjoyed a remarkably smooth teaching experience -- I like my students, they seem to like me, they do what I ask them to, they write well, etc. No drama, no problems, no complaints. I've heard from people in my teaching mentor group and in our larger teaching seminar about all sorts of issues that have come up in other classes, and I've felt really lucky. Well, Wednesday I had my first student try to argue a grade, and yesterday I got an email from one of my students with a whole lot of information about personal struggles. Just stressful things, added onto an already hectic week.

There are only five weeks left of the semester, plus the Thanksgiving Break. That's kind of terrifying, the thought of all I have yet to accomplish this semester! And I also made my Thanksgiving plans, which is always a stressful endeavor where my family is concerned. This year particularly so, as I will be attending my family dinner for the first time in three years. I've also been forced to make some tentative plans for the winter break as well; I say forced like it's a bad thing. Instead, it's a very good thing. I'm flying to San Francisco for New Years! But this did make me start thinking about the rest of break and mapping out the logistics of everything. More stress.

However, it is Halloween weekend, and that makes everything better! I got a fabulous 80s dress today and some hot pink tights to go with it. I need to get some jewelry and some lace gloves tomorrow and a tiara - I want a tiara - and I am really looking forward to the EGO party Saturday night! I've gotten a few things done tonight in terms of school work, but I have much more to do before the party.

Work hard, play hard, that's what MFAs do, right?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Creation, etc.

Thinking about what art is, what power(s) we invest into the objects we create, how they become independent entities, about the ability of narration to create meaning, how experiences become real. About Nietzsche and Rushdie, significance and identity and language, about poetry, about the physical world, my physical body, the triumph of mind and community over physical weakness. About love, what it is, what it isn't, what it has been, what it should be. About gender, its irrelevance, its social construction, about the way life surprises me. About time, the sublime, and drinking wine.....

(Just threw that last one in because it rhymes, but it's also true.)

Let this suffice for an update: this is week 9, we got snow last Thursday in PA, I ran my half-marathon in Columbus on Sunday, I am busy, and I am happy in ways I never expected.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An exercise in procrastination

Things I love (or strongly like) right now:
1) coffee
2) walking to McKinnon’s from Burrowes to get coffee (far enough that I feel like I’m getting a break, but close enough that it’s not too much of one)
3) a glass of red wine while writing
4) a neighbor and friend who always tells me when she’s going to buy wine so I can tag along and replenish my supply
5) Salman Rushdie’s essay “Imaginary Homelands”
6) my chapbook proposal
7) that my bedroom smells like flowers
8) that someone bought me flowers
9) the prospect of a weekend in Columbus
10) the prospect of a haircut in Columbus
11) the super warm sweater I’m wearing tonight
12) the super comfy boots I bought last weekend

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Week 7 Update (WHAT?)

Is it really Week 7 already? How the heck did time go so fast? The crazy paradox of grad school, for me at least, is that each day is incredibly long (remember that schedule I posted last week? yeah, being on campus for 10 hours is not uncommon for me, nor is staying up way too late reading and/or writing) but each week goes by so fast. I've been a bit unfocused for the past week or so but still managing to keep up. Over the next week, I have fourteen more papers to grade before Friday (ten are done), a draft of my chapbook proposal to get ready for conference with my prof tomorrow, lessons to plan for Friday, Monday, and Wednesday, a book on bibliographic and textual scholarship to read by Monday, a few articles to read and a reflection to write for Tuesday, two chapbooks to read, a final draft of the chapbook proposal, and a poem due for Wednesday. Plus a five mile run tomorrow, a short run Friday, at least ten miles on Sunday, then taper runs next week. And plans with friends and other social entities.

But, you know what, it's good. I like it. I'm busy, but I'm happier than I expected to be. And I'm going to Columbus a week from tomorrow - seeing friends, enjoying some good food and some city life, running a half-marathon, getting a haircut, and stocking up on wine!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review of "Mom's Canoe" by Rebecca Foust

I haven't been as diligent about posting my chapbook comments as I planned to be, but I'm right now procrastinating on doing other work, so I'm posting the most recent one. This book resonated profoundly with me; it's set in rural Pennsylvania and both the geography of the land and the issues raised are all so familiar to me from my own life.

Rebecca Foust’s chapbook Mom’s Canoe opens with the lines “You can turn round and round and round/ and always see mountains.” The Alleghenies hover over this collection, they “calve memory from twilight”, they come closer then recede, divide the false from the true, and eventually disappear and “efface into sky” (all quotes from the first poem, “Allegheny Mountain Bowl”). The natural beauty of the land mingles in these poems with post-industrial grit, economic depression, and social ills like alcoholism and domestic abuse. The title poem “Mom’s Canoe” addresses itself to the speaker’s mother and spins a string of achingly lovely images of the canoe itself, the mother’s hard work on land, her easy movement on the water, before ending elegiacally:

I still see you rising from water to sky,
paddle held high, river drops limning its edge.
Brown diamonds catch the light as you lift, then dip.
Parting the current, you slip
silently through the evening shadows.
You, birdsong, watersong, slanting light,
following the river bend, swallowed from sight.”

This blend of the beautiful and the sad, heightened in “Mom’s Canoe” by the fact that the canoe was mentioned in an earlier poem (“Backwoods”) which places the mother in an abusive relationship, typifies the tone of the collection. Foust utilizes rhyme in this and many of her poems, but never in an overbearing way. “Things Burn Down”, a rough-cut villanelle, repeating words rather than full lines, also epitomizes the style of the chapbook. Foust invokes specific family stories, broad socioeconomic commentary, and the physical atmosphere of her upbringing in this poem which questions what might bring her parents back. In this poem and throughout the collection, subject matter, form, and tone all seem to flow from the poet’s “hardscrabble” background and articulate a wry acceptance of both past and present. In “Altoona to Anywhere”, the speaker addresses herself: “Go ahead, aspire to transcend/ your hardscrabble roots…//But when you’ve left it behind you/ may find it still there” and ends the poem with a list of things she can not transcend, concluding beautifully with “the same siren nights pierced/ with stars seeping light, all that/ gorgeous, pitiless song.” The recognition of both beauty and ugliness, love and pain, lift the collection above either simple angst or romantic naturalism; the image left is one of reality with all its contradictions.