Wednesday (two blog posts in a row!) Musings

As the summer semester begins to wind down, I’ve decided to make a few resolutions. I will get back to blogging. I will also get back to exercising, which I’ve been doing fairly regularly but fell into a brief lapse last week. I’ve decided that since I quit the gym and started working out at home, I’m going to go back to sweating in the morning. It’s easier and let’s face it, I am not a late afternoon person. This is why I teach in the morning.

From “Dream”

There used to books of dream:
every dream had a symbolic meaning.
And the old Chinese believed
that dreams implied their reversal:
a dream of travel meant you’d stay at home,
a dream of death meant longer life.

Yes, yes! Surely my beloved in my dream
was saying she loved only me.

The coolness in your eyes, love, was really heat,
your wish to range was you renewal of allegiance;
those prying others were you and I ourselves,
beholding one another’s fealty, one another’s fire.

C.K. Williams

I love this piece published in Esquire because I often feel the same way about recommendations my students make to me about books:

I’ve never read a novel by Nicholas Sparks for the same reason I’ve never seen a movie starring Ashton Kutcher: because I’m stupid, yeah, but I’m not that stupid. But the problem with avoiding stupid books is that you end up avoiding the books that people actually read. This makes you feel out of touch. Like one of those elitist wimps whom fat guys on the radio are always making fun of.

This type of logic is what prompted me to delve into Stephanie Myer, Jodi Picoult and Mr. Sparks himself. I didn’t get more than fifty pages into any of their books and I won’t pick any of them up ever again. If not reading these authors is being out of touch, well, ignorance is bliss.

Tuesday (one week and counting…) Musings

Did I mention I’ve been a terrible failure at blogging this summer? The summer semester has kept me running at a steady clip and on top of that, we’ve decided to start looking for a house. We went out on our first “hunt” last weekend and despite the torrential downpours and a few broken lock boxes, the entire experience proved to be fascinating. I hope as we move into fall I’ll have regular updates.

No, I have not forgotten about poetry. Even though I have yet to sit down and draft several poems that are swirling around in my head, I am comforted by the fact that they’re there, if only in scribbled journal note form. As soon as the semester ends (next week) and I get through the grading (next week) I plan to get several poems on paper.

The rejection letters have begun to roll in. I received three over the past few weeks. Hand written note from one and form letter from the other two.

Here are a whole bunch of poems/quotes I’ve been accumulating over the past month.

She Walks in Beauty, Stanza I

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless slimes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

Lord Byron

“Poetry didn’t find me, in the cradle or anywhere near it: I found it. I realized at some point–very late, it’s always seemed–that I needed it, that it served a function for me–or someday would–however unclear that function may have been first. I seemed to have started writing poetry before I read any.” ~ C.K. Williams


I prove theorem and the house expands:
the windows jerk free to hove near the ceiling,
the ceiling floats away with a sigh.

As the walls clear themselves of everything
but the transparency, the scent of carnations
leaves with them. I am out in the open

and above the windows have hinged butterflies,
sunlight glinting where they’ve intersected.
They are going to some point true and unproven.

Rita Dove

Sleeping in the Ceiling

It is so peaceful on the ceiling!
It is the Place de la Concorde.
The little crazy chandelier
is off, the fountain is in the dark.
Not a soul in the park.

Below, where the wallpaper is peeling, the Jardin de Plantes has locked its gates.
Those photographs are animals.
The mighty flowers and foliage rustle;
under the leaves the insects tunnel.

We must go under the wallpaper
to meet the insect-gladiator,
to battle with a net and trident,
and leave the fountain and the square.
But oh, that we could sleep up there…

Elizabeth Bishop

From “Silence”

There is the silence that comes between husband and wife.
There is the silence of those who have failed;
And the vast silence that covers
Broken nations and vanquished leaders.
There is the silence of Lincoln,
Thinking of the poverty of his youth.
And the silence of Napoleon
After Waterloo.
And the silence of Jeanne d’Arc
Saying amid the flames, “Blessed Jesus”–
Revealing in two words all sorrow, all hope.
And there is the silence of age,
Too full of wisdom for the tongue to utter it.
In words intelligible to those who have not lived
The great range of life.

Edgar Lee Masters

A Wedding Poem

Bright faces surround the woman in white,
the man in black, the sweetness of their attention
to each other a shine rising high toward the high ceiling.
The men watch the groom, and the women
the bride, as they speak their candle lit vows,
as if there were something in it for us personally.

Worn by the distances we the already-married
have traveled down the road on which these two
are setting out, we leave the dust of the journey
outside the door of this house where tonight no word
is casual, no posture undignified, and each
becomes again handsome in them, beautiful in them.

Thomas R. Smith

I just noticed while I was typing these out that many contain the word ceiling. Interesting.

Community colleges are deeply unsexy. This fact tends to make even the biggest advocates of these two-year schools — which educate nearly half of U.S. undergraduates — sound defensive, almost a tad whiny. “We don’t have the bands. We don’t have the football teams that everybody wants to boost,” says Stephen Kinslow, president of Texas’ Austin Community College (ACC). “Most people don’t understand community colleges very well at all.” And by “most people,” he means the graduates of fancy four-year schools who get elected and set budget priorities.

Thursday (Half Way There) Musings

Today marks the official halfway point of the summer semester. I am exhausted but so far I seem to be staying on top of grading and prepping. Three of my classes have dwindled down to what I call manageable numbers. I only have one class that remains large, so that definitely makes things easier from a grading perspective.

I’m experiencing the same phenomenon this semester that I experienced last semester and the semester before that and the semester before that…That phenomenon is students showing up to a few classes and then dropping off the face of the earth. This wouldn’t be a problem except that they fail to realize that when they drop off the face of the earth, they also have to drop the class. I’ve considered sending emails to students I have not seen in several weeks informing them that the drop deadline is July 18 and that they should probably fill out the necessary forms. However, I am a professor not a baby-sitter and they stubborn side of me says they need to learn to be responsible for themselves.

I’ve been a miserable failure at blogging this summer. I cannot believe it is almost July. The summer is flying by and while I feel I’ve been productive, I also feel like I could be doing more. I suppose this isn’t much different than how I feel during the rest of the year.

Monday Musings

I hope that I become accustomed to these three hour back to back classes, because if I don’t, it could be a long eight weeks. Tuesdays and Thursdays aren’t too bad because I have a break in the middle, but those six straight hours on Monday and Wednesday are killer. I’ve incorporated group activities and in-class work so I’m not constantly talking or answering questions, but even so, it is exhausting. Of course part of the problem is when you teach everything four times, it also starts to get boring.

I will admit that I’m jealous of poets who are taking it easy this summer or who are working simpler, less demanding jobs while they’re on breaks from their PhD or MFA programs. However, whenever I start to feel really tired I think that this is reality. This is how life is and while I’d like to take the summer off from teaching, it isn’t realistic and it won’t be anytime soon. Also, I am able to write and read and learn and continue on despite my crazy teaching schedule. And really, life is never going to get less hectic and while I loved my time as a student, it’s an artificial environment. It doesn’t last. Sooner or later you’re going to have to learn how to be a poet in the real world, so here’s to keeping on keeping on.

I know people have a variety of feelings about Dave Eggers and McSweeney’s, but the most recent issue includes excerpts from actual writing workshops. These are some of my favorites:

“It’s your story, your voice, your choices, and I don’t want to question them, but why these words?”
“You talk about pregnant raindrops and chaos and auditory canals and ‘the passing of time’ as ‘an orifice,’ when you could really just be talking about humidity and ears.”
“This character seems more like a retired librarian than a former terrorist.”

There are a lot more. Check them out. They are well worth it.

Monday (And so it begins…)

I’m back from vacation. It was a good break. A lot of travel, a lot of reading, a lot of writing, and a lot of what some people call “quiet time.”

Today was the first day of the 8 week summer term at school. I’m teaching four sections of comp in 8 weeks, so saying it is a marathon isn’t the half of it. This morning was a typical first day morning full of technology malfunctions and unexpected issues. The strangest and most startling event was one of my students having what appeared to be a seizure about an hour and half into my second class. Updates to come.

Variation on a Sentence

There are a few or no bluish animals…
Thoreau’s Journals, Feb 21, 1855

Of white and tawny, black as ink,
Yellow, and undefined, and pink,
And piebald, there are droves, I think.

(Buff kine in herd, gray whales in pod,
Brown woodchucks, colored like sod,
All creatures from the hand of God.)

And many of a hellish hue;
But, for some reason hard to view,
Earth’s bluish animals are few.

Louise Bogan

At the Cancer Clinic

She is being helped toward the open door
that leads to the examining rooms
by two young women I take to be her sisters.
Each bends to the weight of an arm
and steps with the straight, tough bearing
of courage. At what must seem to be
a great distance, a nurse holds the door,
smiling and calling encouragement.
How patient she is in crisp white sails
of her clothes. The sick woman
peers from under her funny knit cap
to watch each foot scuffing forward
and take its turn under her weight.
There is no restlessness or impatience
or anger anywhere in sight. Grace
fills the clean mold of this moment
and all the shuffling magazines grow still.

Ted Kooser