Friday, May 7, 2010

Summer Reading, etc.

In some ways it's odd to think it's only May 7th and I'm already settling into my summer schedule. I went out with a couple friends on Wednesday (celebrating Cinco de Mayo and the end of the semester - they had both finished that day), but other than that, I've been cleaning, reading, and working on thesis poems. I realized yesterday that I have a lot more poems I would consider putting in my thesis than I'd previously been aware of; that's a good thing, but it makes me really start thinking about what I want it to be "about".....that crazy question: "what is this poem about?"

I also finished reading An American Childhood today, and I liked it. Annie Dillard's writing is intelligent and lovely, and the story has such wonderfully observed details. Most of it didn't really grab me emotionally, but there was one part I wanted to quote:

"As a child I read hoping to learn everything, so I could be like my father. I hoped to combine my father's grasp of information and reasoning with my mother's will and vitality. But the books were leading me away. They would propel me right out of Pittsburgh altogether, so I could fashion a life among books somewhere else. So the Midwest nourishes us (Pittsburgh is the Midwest's eastern edge) and presents us with the spectacle of a land and a people completed and certain. And so we run to our bedrooms and read in a fever, and love the big hardwood trees outside the windows, and the terrible Midwestern summers, and the terrible Midwestern winters, and the forested river valleys with the blue Appalachian Mountains to the east of us and the broad great plains to the west. And so we leave it sorrowfully, having grown strong and restless by opposing with all our will and mind and muscle its simple, loving will for us: that we stay, that we stay and find a place among its familiar possibilities." (pg 214)

That really resonated with me and my experiences as a child who read a lot. I also liked her matter-of-fact statement that Pittsburgh is the far eastern edge of the Midwest; I think I'd have to agree.

I feel like there are really two midwests: one that was defined by the industry on the Great Lakes and includes OH, MI, IN, IL, WI, and MN and might stretch down to also include states like WV and KY which are not usually considered part of the Midwest, but which have more in common with it than with any other area (western PA and western NY also fit here, culturally and economically, but the states as a whole aren't midwestern); and a second, more westerly, Midwest with which I'm less familiar, one which includes KS, NE, MO, IA, and the Dakotas. Yeah, so that was a tangent. Sorry. We debated this in my nonfiction class this spring, and I am kind of obsessed with mapping and places in my poems, so it's not utterly unrelated.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hello, my poor abandoned blog

I have survived my first year of graduate school, and although I have plenty of work to do this summer (reading for fun, reading for my thesis, writing and revising for my thesis, planning and later teaching a summer class, planning a fall class, etc.), I may also make more time for posting on my blog.

Last week I turned in my poetry revisions, and my seminar paper; I'd submitted my last nonfiction piece the week before. And I taught my last English 15 classes. I went to a party for my nonfiction class. I went to the MFA Variety Show, which was a fantastic time, and I went out afterward with some of my classmates, and we sat on the patio at Mad Mex and drank beer and enjoyed the nice weather and the knowledge that we'd made it through a year of grad school.

M. went back to California today - he's probably in flight right now - and I'll be flying out there in three weeks to see him. I'm greatly looking forward to that trip, to see him of course, but also to see San Francisco and Berkeley.

I've started my summer reading list. I'm still actively soliciting suggestions to add to it - poetry, especially, but any and all genres as well. The first thing I'm reading is Annie Dillard's An American Childhood. I love her writing so far, but I find myself wanting her to be conscious of, and reflective on, class and privilege; she does reflect a little on race, and her privileged position as a white child. I'll see how the rest of the book comes together and report back more in-depth then.

Also, in the arena of things on which I am to report: there is supposed to be a new Thai restaurant in the plaza near my apartment. I plan on stopping there on my walk back from campus today, and I promised M. I would issue a full report. Neither of us are holding our breaths, and we remain nearly as disappointed with State College's food as we were this past fall. We've discovered a few gems, but very few. Yet another reason to look forward to my SF trip, and the time I'll spend in Columbus.

Speaking of food, I am starting to get hungry, so I'm going to gather up my books and run a couple errands downtown, then head back toward home and pad thai. (On, and on the issue of walking, I've decided that I won't buy a bus pass for summer, just a roll of tokens. That will make me walk unless it's bad weather or unless I have a lot of stuff to carry. It's about 40 (hilly) minutes to get to Burrowes, perhaps less to where I'll be teaching this summer. Good exercise!)