Friday Random Ten

We're on the downhill side of the semester, and man am I glad. Too much crap to do, both at work and in my own writing, and I'll be glad when I can just concentrate on the latter for a bit.

Here's the random ten, hopefully better than last week's.

1. Appalachian Stomp--Alison Krause & Union Station
2. Anthems for a 17 Year Old Girl--Broken Social Scene
3. Light Up My Room--Barenaked Ladies
4. O Maria--Beck
5. Georgia on my Mind--Dave Brubeck
6. Zero Zero UFO--The Ramones
7. Combat Rock--Sleater-Kinney
8. Delilah--The Dresden Dolls
9. Guitar--Cake
10. Astronomy Domine--Pink Floyd
Yeah, I don't feel bad about that list at all. What's on yours?

An Issue With History

It's scary how little history my students know. I'm a largely self-taught dilettante, but I think I must come off as some sort of history god the way I have to explain context to these kids. For instance, in class today, while covering 3 poems in 80 minutes (and I had to push it a bit), I went from the Easter uprising in Ireland, 1916 to the socialist movement in the US in the 1930s to Vietnam--Yeats, Cummings and Levertov and mostly I got blank stares. And these were poems the students had read in advance (supposedly).

Now for the first, Yeats's "Easter, 1916", I had to do a bit or work myself. My knowledge of the period is largely informed by the film Michael Collins, which I remember as being fairly interesting, but have no idea as to its accuracy. I suspect any bio-pic and this one was no different, but even a rudimentary google search found enough to inform the poem on a basic level, especially the closing lines:

And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Yeats is of course speaking of the execution of these four men (among sixteen total) and how that turned them into martyrs which served as a rallying point for the Irish republicans and swung political power toward them and away from the nationalists.

Of course, this received blank stares.

So I guess it should be no surprise that my students had no clue that a Socialist had run for President and had won as much as 6% of the vote, or had ever considered that for Denise Levertov's adult life, her nation was almost perpetually at war (thus the title of her poem).

That's the bad part of the story. The good part was that they were sufficiently moved by the poems themselves to be bothered by them, especially the images of Olaf being sodomized with heated bayonets or Levertov's mothers whose breasts are broken open, milk spilling onto their breathing yet unborn fetuses.

You take what you can get some days.

Six Years
It's our anniversary. Amy and I first got together six years ago tonight--or at least we think it was six years ago tonight. We're a little hazy on the date, to be quite frank about it. But this is the night we've chosen as ours, and so we're putting on the sorta-good clothes, and we're off to dinner. It's been the best six years of my life, and Amy tells me that the same is true for her. Here's hoping for another six thousand at least.

Literature and Politics

Let me preface this post by saying this: no matter what lit snobs might think of Stephen King, he's a hell of a writer, and he will be talked about long after a lot of these literary fiction snobs are out of print and forgotten.

There's a link on the sidebar for LitPAC, which is a PAC where lit folks get together, do readings and raise money for progressive candidates, and writers have a long history of getting involved in politics. My poetry classes for the next two weeks will be reading war and political poetry, as a matter of fact.

But Stephen King, as he's the biggest, baddest motherfucker in fiction, is a bit more high profile than that, which is why he's sending out emails for Moveon.

I like the move. There's no other writer who dominated my generation like King. Carrie. The Shining. Firestarter. Christine. And that's just what I can name off the top of my head. So there's a whole group of people who'll see his name and give him a shot--people who don't generally read for pleasure, but who were carrying around dogeared, beat to shit copies of The Stand in high school and were raving about it. And if he can pull in even one percent of those people to this side, it'll be a happy day on November 7.

Mid Term Break and the Random Ten

I'm burnt. It happens every fall term right around this time. I'd really love it if our university administration would consider starting us a week earlier or running a week later into December and give us a mid-term week off in early October. I just want to sleep.

Here's the random ten: iTunes is on Party Shuffle and I'm going to take a nap. Here are the next ten songs.

1. I Believe I'll Dust My Broom--Robert Johnson
2. Locomotive Breath--Jethro Tull
3. The Reflex (dance mix)--Duran Duran
4. Turn You Inside-Out--R.E.M.
5. You and I Both--Jason Mraz
6. Susanne--Weezer
7. A--Barenaked Ladies
8. Darktown Strutter's Ball--Dave Brubeck
9. A Beautiful Morning--The Rascals
10. Walk Like An Egyptian--The Bangles

Damn. I expect I'll catch some shit for this list.

Big News at Wal-Mart

I know--politics over at Stephen's place and poetry here, but this is an issue near and dear to my heart, as Amy and I did grad school a stone's throw from Wal-Mart's world headquarters, and this occurred not too far from where we live now.

Now, as Wal-Mart rolls out a new round of workplace restrictions, employees at a Wal-Mart Super Center in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., are taking matters into their own hands. On Oct. 16, workers on the morning shift walked out in protest against the new policies and rallied outside the store, shouting "We want justice" and criticizing the company's recent policies as "inhuman." Workers said the number of participants was about 200, or nearly all of the people on the shift.

It's the first time that Wal-Mart has faced a worker-led revolt of such scale, according to both employees and the company. Just as surprising, the company quickly said it would change at least one of the practices that had sparked the protest. Late in the day on Oct. 16, there was some disagreement over which of the new policies would be put on hold.

And considering the new rules that Wal-Mart is trying to put in place to gut their business of long term, higher wage employees, I think we can expect to see more of this type of thing. Wal-Mart's going to have its hands full if it's going to stay union-free for the long term.

Man, can I relate.

Just found this gem of a quote from E. E. Cummings: "I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart."

And payday was yesterday!

Blogger is acting all bloggered again, but hopefully this will publish and I'll be able to welcome my former partner in crime to the sidebar--GrimCity. Grim is an old college friend of mine. We drank lots of tequila together--at work. Fortunately it was a bar so we never paid for any of it. He first got me interested in this whole interweb thingy, and he's gone and made a career of it now. He was the person who inspired me to write the world-famous poem "Pukey the Armadillo," and I've never forgiven him for that.

Friday Random Ten

The end of another long week, and the papers are still coming in. I'm not starting them until next week, though--giving myself a break.

Here's the random ten, which I believe cranks up where the last one left off--I listened more to my iPod than my computer last week. It's on Party shuffle and here are the next ten songs.

1. What Has Happened? --Big Smith
2. Plane--Jason Mraz (This song is a horrible earworm for me. I'll be humming it all day now.)
3. Tropicalia--Beck
4. Bang and Blame--R.E.M.
5. Rusty Old String--The Amy Garland Band
6. Intergalactic--Beastie Boys
7. Nettie Moore--Bob Dylan
8. Red Beans--Professor Longhair
9. Low Down Man--Squirrel Nut Zippers
10. Sympathy for the Devil--Rolling Stones

By the way, if you ever really want to know what your students think about you, have them guess what's on your iPod. Apparently I stoped listening to new music thirty years ago--when I was 7.

So what's on your lists?

Poem O' The Day

I imagine I'm really late to the party on this one, since it's been anthologized and everything, but I came across it in the text I'm using for my Creative Writing class this term and I laughed like crazy at it. I showed it to them just to prove to them that you can write about anything. Enjoy.

The Pope's Penis

It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate
clapper at the center of a bell.
It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a
halo of silver sweaweed, the hair
swaying in the dark and the heat--and at night
while his eyes sleep, it stands up
in praise of God.

Sharon Olds

Teaching a friend's book

Today I began discussing Gabrielle Calvocoressi's The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart in my LIT classes. I've discovered something about my reading of poetry--I don't really get a poem until I teach it, I think, and the same goes for collections. And I've noticed something going on in this book that I didn't get before.

From the first poem, "Pastoral," Calvocoressi is telling the reader that she's going to blur the lines between poetry and prose, and she does so in more than one way. "Pastoral" is a prose poem that deals with the Ohio landscape and the rescue of a dog that falls through pond ice, and the Ohio landscape comes back again and again in the poem, most notably in the poem "Suite Billy Strayhorn."

But her blurring of the lines comes most notably in her long poems, which make up the majority of the book. The title poem is ten sections long. "Suite Billy Strayhorn" is five. "From the Adult Drive In" is nine sections and is split up throughout the book. And the longest of all, at 23 pages, a third of the book, is "After the Circus Fire." But while these long poems carry their own narrative threads, there is no question but that these are poems, fully contained and realized in their own rights.

In the title poem, each section is written in a different voice, and Calvocoressi alternates the voices between Earhart's fans (for lack of a better term) and those personally close to her, ending with a poem written in the voice of her husband after her disappearance. Section III, subtitled "Diane McGinty, St. Mary's Home for Wayward Girls," does the impressive job of being both about Earhart and not about her at the same time. After describing the lot in life for a resident of the home, McGinty says

I don't think she meant for it to happen.
She probably just lost control
and before she knew,

everything had changed.
I bet she was scared all along
but couldn't tell anyone

because they'd just say
she got herself into this mess
and had better get herself out.
Take this poem out of the context of Earhart's life and it still works on the level of the life of an unmarried pregnant woman in an earlier time. But surrounded by the narrative of Earhart's last flight, it becomes a voice looking for a way to relate to one of the most famous women of her time.

I'm looking forward to the next week and a half, and seeing what else I discover in this book of poems.

Pelosi's plan and the random ten

I've just put up a post over at Stephen's place that talks about this WaPo article that details Nancy Pelosi's plans for her first hundred hours as Speaker should the Dems win the House. Let's just say it doesn't involve instant messaging. One addition I'd like to see t her list--outlawing Presidential signing statements.

Here's the random ten--iTunes on party shuffle and here we go.

1. Dis, Dat or D'Udda--Dr. John
2. Rockafella Skank--Fatboy Slim
3. Half Jack--Dresden Dolls
4. Keep Talking--Pink Floyd
5. Pretty Mary K--Elliot Smith
6. Sick of Myself--Matthew Sweet
7. Fool in the Rain--Led Zeppelin
8. At Last--Neko Case
9. Supreme, Supreme--Talib Kweli featuring Mos Def
10. Bedlam Ballroom--Squirrel Nut Zippers

Special Bonus Track: All the Umbrellas in London--The Magnetic Fields. It's really sort of a dumb song, but they remind me of the Crash Test Dummies, and I always had a soft spot for them.

So what's your favorite bit of Pelosi's plan?

An Addition to the Sidebar

She doesn't know it yet, but I've just added Papatya Bucak, one of our colleagues, to the blogroll. Her site is called Reading for Writers, and it's an interesting read most days. Stop by and tell her hi.

Trying something new. Again.

And it probably won't get very many comments (of course, that's not unusual these days), but this is the sort of thing I had in mind when I started this blog damn near three years ago. I planned on writing about all sorts of stuff, from politics to poetry to photography and everything in between. Well, the poetry got left behind time and again, and since I'm writing about politics more over at Stephen's place, I want to shift the focus here back to the more liberal arts. So the following is an explication of a poem by one of my old teachers, Miller Williams. I wrote it this afternoon as an example for my students, though I'm now afraid to give it to them in case they freak and think I'll expect this of them. Hope you like it.

In “Love in the Cathedral,” Miller Williams recasts John Donne’s persona from Holy Sonnet XIV as a stalker, a man who is begging for a woman he loves from afar to make him whole by ravishing him, much as Donne begged God to do in the original.

The speaker in the poem is actually unable to speak, he claims, “not because the words wouldn’t come. It was because they might” (2-3). His fear is based on the likelihood of the rejection of his beloved—he knows, at some level, that he has no relationship with this woman, but that doesn’t stop him from fantasizing about the possibilities.

It is in stanza 5 where Williams reveals the creepier nature of this speaker. The speaker has already made contact with this woman, and recognizes there is no true love between them—saying “Love ought to come / in recognizable clothes” (21-22)—but now says “You have bumped into me / by accident, I have bumped into you / on purpose where talk of love / is inappropriate” (25-28). The only way for to bump into someone on purpose is to study their movements beforehand, to know that person’s habits well enough so as to make a planned encounter seem like chance.

In Donne’s poem, which provides Williams’s epigram (“except you ravish me”), the speaker is crying out openly to God to take him away from that which holds him prisoner, his betrothed, God’s enemy, but Williams’s speaker asks for a different release. He says:

give me this: that all this time I stood here
ignored to death and loved you while you let
every chance go; say your glances at me
suggested almost anything but love;

The idea that he might have missed his chance with his beloved is more than he can bear. He can live with his unrequited status, but not with the possibility of hope.
“Love in the Cathedral” is also a fine example of a sestina where the end words work to further a rhetorical argument. In the penultimate stanza, where the speaker is crying out for denial, the end words read “come here let me love you.” This word order works in direct opposition to the rhetoric of the stanza itself, and heightens the tension Williams has slowly built to this point.

This is important because it adds a sinister air to the envoi, a potentially deadly meaning to the words “You know that I am here / to let you loose” (37-8). Loose from what? From the bonds of their one-sided relationship? From her bonds to this life? What will happen the next time he bumps into her “on purpose on the street where talk of love is inappropriate” (28-29)? The closing of the poem offers no answers, no solace, no promise that everything will turn out right, and it’s that unease which makes this such a wonderful poem.

The temperature at which irony burns....

A Caney Creek High School dad is fired up because the Conroe Independent School District uses the book "Fahrenheit 451" as classroom reading material.

Alton Verm, of Conroe, objects to the language and content in the book. His 15-year-old daughter Diana, a CCHS sophomore, came to him Sept. 21 with her reservations about reading the book because of its language.

"The book had a bunch of very bad language in it," Diana Verm said. "It shouldn't be in there because it's offending people. ... If they can't find a book that uses clean words, they shouldn't have a book at all."
Alton Verm's request to ban "Fahrenheit 451" came during the 25th annual Banned Books Week. He and Hines said the request to ban "Fahrenheit 451," a book about book burning, during Banned Books Weeks is a coincidence.

"Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read" is observed during the last week of September each year, according to the American Library Association Web site,
It burns, it buuuuuuurns...

Some Good Po News (for me)

Perigee, an online journal that published a poem of mine earlier this year--the first in a long dry spell, I might add--has just nominated me for a Pushcart Prize. It's the first time I've been nominated for a Pushcart, and needless to say, I'm quite excited about it. The poem I was nominated for is titled "Buffalo River, 2002" and it'll be reposted at the Perigee Blog on October 3.

Make your own board

Via Pandagon, you can make your very own On Notice Board

Have fun.

On a side note, I've been invited to do some blogging over at Stephen Elliott's place, so you can check me out over there as well.

Once I have something to say, that is.

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