I've been seeing this beast around town the past few days. And yesterday I found it parked out in front of our house! (When I took the photo of the skull, I was close enough to see people sleeping inside.)
29 April 2010
This morning I stopped by Dey House to make some copies before class. I looked down & found a bouquet in the trashcan. Afterward, I showed my class a documentary and journaled on the back row.
During office hours, I introduced one of my students (a talented young writer) to Jim McPherson, who sat and talked generously with us for about twenty minutes. The talented young writer's world was visibly rocked by the experience. I felt something I rarely feel: Sincere hope for the future. When Jim left, the young writer said, "He's like - like an oracle!"
"Yeah, man" I said, "He is."
27 April 2010
26 April 2010
"Racism is a worldwide problem and it's been since the beginning of recorded history… and it ain't just white and black… But thanks to George Wallace, it's always a little more convenient to play it with a Southern accent."
- Drive By Truckers (from "The Three Great Alabama Icons")
25 April 2010
"When the sun, after hovering majestically on the horizon, sinks and suddenly disappears from sight, we understand that between this star and us exists a mode of communication that, without our having to touch it, brings us a presence of mind. This mode of communication, which exercises itself over incommensurable distances and is transmitted via the eyes - this, and this alone, is light."
- Jacques Roubaud (from Exchanges On Light)
24 April 2010
22 April 2010
18 April 2010
I found this slide on the sidewalk a few Saturdays ago in Downers Grove, IL. It's a family dinner in somebody's dining room. These guys look friendly. But, to me, dining rooms are among the most depressing places on earth - "Hey, check it out. Here's a Victorian-inspired room we only actually eat in twice a year. The rest of the year no one sets foot in here." Basically, dining rooms are near-dead rooms kept on life support by the holidays. If you have a dining room, you should convert it into a more useful room. Like a bacon room. Or a torpor room. Or be like Elvis and make a jungle room!
16 April 2010
Renting a home close to downtown in Iowa City means that all your neighbors are college kids - and that's a hit or miss proposition. Some of these kids are cool and interesting. Many, however, have binge-drinking and a general lack of conscientiousness to offer the world. Anyway, on the fifth night of every week, things get especially loopy. The college kids call it "thirsty Thursday," i.e. time to get collectively wasted. Last night was hell: The alarm of a car parked right outside of our house kept getting triggered every five minutes or so. It was a malfunction of some kind. And every time it got triggered, the car's horn would blow long bursts for about two full minutes. This went on from about 2 a.m. until 7 a.m. I called the cops three times and was pissier every time I called. "We're working on it, sir." Whatever. Finally I just gave up.
15 April 2010
Today it was my Thursday class (the "good class") that wasn't prepared to discuss the reading for the day (S. Elkin's "A Poetics For Bullies"). And this time around it was even easier than the last time. I didn't even feel much anger about it. I just sort of improvised a mini-lecture on craft and told some jokes and dropped the f-bomb a few times (which they like)...the valence shifted from apathetic torpor to involvement/engagement. And so, my experience leads me to question the value of homework and assigned reading - not that it isn't valuable, but that it isn't the only way to run a class (duh, right? But I'm figuring this shit out as I go along). I know that sounds a little flaky, but improvisation is a much more energizing & lively event than "reading and discussion." And if these guys were my therapy clients - which they aren't - I'd say it's good modeling for them as well.
14 April 2010
Yesterday I ditched workshop to go for a walk in the woods. I went off-trail and discovered a mystery lodge made of fallen timbers. There was a small fire ring (not pictured) inside of it. Later on, my walk took me across a small prairie. Park Services had recently executed a controlled burn, so vast patches of the earth were scorched. I thought of Pompeii. And when I got home, I found a blood-sucking tick in my armpit.
12 April 2010
Today I met with a literary agent. Just for the experience of it. The window was open. Bees tumbled into tulips. The sun shone through. And we sat and talked while, down the hall, Paul Harding was winning the Pulitzer Prize.
She was sweet but jaded. Her face had lines that said Twenty years in the business to sit and be jaded and sift through the shit for gems. She asked me what kind of stuff I wrote and I told her "regional" and "voice-driven" and so on. We both nodded.
"I hate to sound so jaded," she said.
"Not a problem. It's not as though existence isn't filled with suffering," I said, "and some beauty." She laughed. And when she did, her hand covered her mouth.
After our twenty minutes, I walked out into the day, on to find yet another parking ticket. "How'd it go in there?" my buddy Ryan asked. He was up to no good or bad, just chainsmoking & scoping out the coeds.
09 April 2010
It's all so clear to me now. French toast is essentially the art of fusing eggs, toast, butter & syrup. I shall make it my goal to master this fusion!
08 April 2010
06 April 2010
Today, with a week to prepare, none of my students were prepared to talk about Yusef Komunyakaa. College-level students? Yes, a sad state of affairs, indeed...the induction was to shame, blame, and take it personally. Instead, I did "snake breath" lowered my pulse & avoided the induction. It was difficult (the pull to react felt gravitational), but I did it. And it all worked out! I read a Stuart Dybek short story for them, then we all talked for a good long while - spirited, lively discourse. Afterward, I said, "Next week we'll discuss Yusef Komunyakaa. Be ready." What I learned is the eternal lesson: It's impossible to reclaim projections if you're not willing to check your ego.
05 April 2010
"Sometimes I don't even pull my shoes off for six weeks at a time, except, you know, just to take a shower. I just take breaks between 24 hours a day, just a break now and then, it don't take me long to rest; maybe 20 to30 minutes sometime, or maybe an hour. " - Howard Finster
Lichen from Two Harbors, Minnesota. (I took this foto over Spring Break, a few weeks back. This lichen was growing on a stone right on the shore of Lake Superior.) A few minutes later, I took a picture of Janelle - the most beautiful one yet. But it was somehow accidentally deleted.
03 April 2010
This morning, I biked Eleanor to the playground. The particular playground we went to is in a park on a hill that affords a nice view of the city. It has a tall, half-dead pine tree growing right in the middle of it. The morning was colder than we originally thought, so halfway there, we had to return home for coats and hats. We got to the playground a little later. There were other kids there. Eleanor ran with them gleefully.