It is a good feeling to come home after a day at work with three key goals in mind: work out, make dinner, and grade essays. It’s an even better feeling when you accomplish not one or even two of these goals, but in fact you accomplish all three.
My amaryllis has bloomed
I read a really interesting article in The New Yorker this weekend entitled The Dime Store Floor by David Owen. It’s all about how smells can trigger memories.
The author and his sister embark on a childhood “smell tour” where they visit their old childhood haunts and see whether or not they still smell the same. I loved this article because I’m always trying to impress upon my students how important sensory detail is in writing, and this essay explores that concept in a very literal way.
This essay also made me think about smells from my own childhood and the memories they trigger. I think Old Spice must be the staple scent of all American fathers because it is a scent I associate strongly with my dad. Apparently my dad’s choice of deodorant resonated with not just the humans in the house, but also the animals. This became clear when he accidentally left the lid off of his Old Spice only to have our tiny tiger cat, Kit-Kat, knock it over and rub against it until she was slick with the scent.
Some of my other “smells” are also more common. For example, the smell of cinnamon, fresh cut grass, and lilacs. However, I also associate strong memories to the smell of Listerine. My grandfather always uses the mouthwash as part of his nightly routine. I also attribute the smell of onions to my grandmother and any sort of holiday. It’s a fun exercise to think about what smells trigger what memories.
Those of you who keep up with daily publications better than I do already know that the July/August issue of Poetry included a “Poets We’ve Known” section at the end of the magazine. I really enjoyed reading about Robert Creely, John Ashberry, and Miroslav through the stories of their friends. My favorite of course was Katha Pollitt’s reminisces of Elizabeth Bishop. It is foolish for me to say this, but I’m going to anyway, I think we could have been friends. This little glance into Bishop’s life made me admire her even more, especially when Pollitt talks about her as teacher and compares her to Bernard Malamud, who was at Harvard at the same time:
“…he saw himself, I think, as I kind of talent scout from God. Maybe he was–but I had friends who took years to recover from one of his verdicts. Bishop had the opposite approach: she seemed to enjoy teaching, and was clearly amused by her students, a typical combination of the bow tied and tie-dyed–young fogies and hippies–but I don’t think it was a calling, part of her identity. She wasn’t concerned to make final judgments or peer into our depths.”
I like this because I feel much the same about my students. While I do think that teaching is a large part of my identity, I’m not really interested in judging my students. This could be because I teach a lot of introductory level courses, but destroying their will to write isn’t what I signed up for.
But Pollitt’s account also makes me envious and I agree when she calls herself foolish for not accepting Bishop’s invitation for a visit to New Haven. While many critics have accused Bishop’s poetry of being cold and detached at times, Pollitt’s story shows just how much she was willing to extend to her students. As Pollitt mentions in the opening, she was one of the few professors who took a class to her home.
This is a neat article about incorporating flowers into cocktails. They’re very romantic and they look like something I could write a poem about. See pictures below:
In my attempt to support local markets and cook more, I’m trying to incorporate a wider variety of vegetables into my diet. I never liked brussel sprouts. When I was a kid, my mom tried sneak them into meals, but boiled, they have the consistency of an eyeball. Slimy. Yesterday at the farmers market they had brussel sprouts and they looked so green and fresh and perfect that I thought “there has to be another way to eat these.” And you know what? There is. I made this recipe last night and it was delicious.
My amaryllis has three blooms!
Recent Amaryllis photos:
Linda came to Murray to give a reading on Saturday night, but I couldn’t stay for it. I’d like to check out Flight reviewed in The Atlantic:
Linda Bierds, whose poetry has appeared regularly in the Atlantic since the 1980s, has enjoyed a prolific and successful career; her work has earned multiple Pushcart Prizes, grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Macarthur “Genius” award in 1998. Her latest book, Flight, a collection of new and selected poems, showcases work from her seven previous collections of poetry, distinguished by a precise and musical voice, a passionate eye for detail, and a distinctive, decades-long exploration of the lives and voices of well-known artists, scientists, and historical figures.
It seems that ever since the Million Little Pieces debacle, false memoirs are popping everywhere:
Days after Berkley Books announced that it was canceling the publication of the memoir “Angel at the Fence,” after its author, Herman Rosenblat, acknowledged that he had falsified parts of his story, an independent publisher said it was negotiating to release the book as a work of fiction.
Update on Stacy Lynn Brown’s story.
Because I love everything about ekphrastic poems.
Because I love flowers.