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Showing posts from 2017

Kick-Ass Colleagues and Contingency Plans

Vampire Kid has been sick for a month, seriously, with some kind of gross disgusting congested ear/nose/throat thing, and on Wednesday she had a reaction to the antibiotic we gave her, ON THE LAST FINAL EXAM PRESENTATION DAY for one of my classes, and my ass had to be saved by M.S., who kindly and with no small amount of trouble took MY students into HER classroom and videotaped their presentations for me while also providing feedback/art crits to her own students while I stayed home and fielded questions from Vampire Kid while grading a sum total of three papers all day.
She's pretty much an American hero . . .  M.S., that is, not Vampire Kid.
This time of year blows, and I hate writing that, because I actually kinda love the holidays. But it's always complicated, for me, by End of the Semester Madness, and I reach the end of the year exhausted and grumpy and demoralized and that's . . . not great. I mean, sometimes I bounce back quickly and by New Year's I'm op…

Grading and Dudes Who Should Know Better

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Today is a day when I will do all the grading. 
I just needed to write that sentence, in the hopes that uttering it out loud and sending it flying into the inter-web-verse will make it good and true and actual, and that by the end of the day I will have all of the things accomplished and checked off my list and I will begin the weekend calm and happy and everything will go perfectly and according to plan.
And and and.
My day of completing residency applications last week was hijacked by a student who met with me for what SHOULD have been a 10 minute conference about his paper but turned into an hour long conversation about his personal history (relevant to the paper, relevant to the class) and ended with him making a wildly inappropriate comment about my appearance (not relevant to the paper, not relevant to the class) disguised as audacious flattery but really most likely just a desperate attempt to improve his grade. Or maybe an underhanded attempt to put me in my place. Or maybe a…

'Tis the Season of Squelched Optimism

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It is amazing how good you feel about 24 hours after being sick, simply because you aren't sick anymore. Good health sure is underrated, isn't it?
That was the beginning of last week. A. and I came down with some gross 24-hour virus thing but thankfully none of the urchins we live with came down with it too, and now we're better and we can return to the business of, well, you know -- busyness.
It was around this time that I was attempting to reinstate some past habits/behaviors simply to help me get through the end of the semester -- scheduling blocks of time for grading and avoiding all other commitments, doing quick and brief journaling in the mornings just to get my head wrapped around what I needed to accomplish for the day -- and then boom, sick, and a lot of my motivation deflated. I'm going to try and get back into it, though, because for as much as I kind of loathe the gimmicks and jargon of the Productivity world (read: market), a lot of their tips and tricks…

Too Many Good Things

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This is something that my lovely therapist M. (former, since I'm a chump and can't carve out time to see someone right now) used to say to me when I sat in her cozy office and threw up (metaphorically) all of the many many many things that stressed me out and caused me to be a frenetic ball of panic and catastrophe. She would wait for a pause in my litany of "blah blah blah stress blah blah blah work blah blah blah kids" and then say something to the effect of, "You just have too many good things vying for your attention right now." 
She was really adept at reminding me, gently, to be appreciative of my good fortune. As I write that paragraph above, too, I'm conscious of the fact that to have anyone vying for my attention makes me lucky; I could be alone, really alone. Not in a comfortable, peaceful, solitary way of being alone -- like my mornings, when I write (or, unfortunately, as of late -- grade). But the aloneness that feels closed, without oppor…

SECAC 2017 // Post-presentation

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We survived! 
That's kind of how it felt to present, even though the woman who put together the panel was lovely and kind and relaxed and my fellow panelists were interesting and also kind and chill  . . . but the guidelines for writing our conference paper and the rules about presenting at SECAC were rigid and fairly antithetical to the spirit of the conference, which is celebratory and joyful and emphasizes fun in art.  M. and I read our paper last, after two presentations that were several degrees less formal, but I think it was received well and that we've come out of this experience with a paper we can submit for publication somewhere. That's a first for me -- I've published primarily poetry but no academic papers since being at Stuffolk, so this is a new adventure of sorts. An adventure for dorks, if you will -- but an adventure nonetheless.
This morning I'm attending a panel on punk rock and how it has influenced artists in both their art-making and their t…

SECAC 2017 // Before the presentation

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Columbus is so much more glamorous than I could ever be, you guys. What is it with this place? So much art, beautiful streets with eclectic little stores, amazing food. Just amazing. Are you hungry? Get thee to Columbus.
Also they have umpteen breweries around which is making A. very happy, but even he admits that the food trumps the beer in this magical little city.
I mean, have I left the conference strip? No. Do I have any real sense of the true Columbus, OH? Absolutely not. But these few city blocks have been really, really good to me.
Oh yeah, and the art conference! SECAC is a pretty low-key, feel-good, celebratory event so far. Really cool panel topics and presenters, with very welcoming and friendly attendees, so my imposter syndrome is dissipating somewhat. It may rage back in full form when I enter the room where M. and I are presenting later this morning, but for now, I'm finding it a pretty cool experience to be the English/Creative Writing-fly-on-the-wall watching al…

Brain Tasers and Other Awesome Ideas

This week was chock full of incidents that have made me seethe with anger and defensiveness and resentment and then, ultimately, just kind of sink back into a weird sort of ambivalence about other people, because ultimately, there's not a damn thing I can do about the way they are going to act. 
Also, anger and defensiveness and resentment is exhausting. Also, I do not have time for that shit. 
The small-child's worth of grading has been (finally) organized and I'm slowly but surely turning it into the size of, oh, a smaller child. It's still pretty damn big. But at least I'm making progress, and there's the chance that by the end of the weekend I *might* have a small-child's worth of graded assignments to hand back. 
That would be awesome, wouldn't it? Just let me dream, haters.
Today I'm going to soccer games, the dentist, and a wedding. WHAT IS MY LIFE.
Tomorrow I'm participating in a Making Strides walk at the college.
On Monday the sabba…

Let's Have Our Mid-Semester Freakout Early, Shall We?

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I wish I could say I have exciting news or profound thoughts about writing or teaching but I've hit that mid-semester wall of grading and deadlines for various things (sabbatical application, paper for conference) and it's just been a bit of a grind lately. I had to put my books and my writing aside for the moment because every morning I'm getting up early to do damage control.

It's not great.

Today I have two meetings in the morning and then I intend to divide my time between that Very Important For My Professional and Personal Sanity Sabbatical Application and the 30 lbs of grading I have stacked in a tote in my living room. That's right -- I have a small-child's worth of grading to do this weekend. The worst thing is that some of it IS graded but has to be entered into my online grade books in Blackboard, and everything is so jumbled together from being carted between classroom and office and home repeatedly that it will take at least an hour to make sense …

First Loves and New Loves and, You Know, Grading

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Well, I'm back. Sort of. I mean, I never really left -- my husband did, for storm work in Florida, and it sent me into a kind of only-the-essentials mode, so blogging was low on my list of priorities. 
I've been trying to keep up with reading and writing in addition to my school duties, but all three took a hit during the month of September. I probably read the most -- it was easier to do when sitting in a car waiting for my daughter to emerge from soccer practice or at night when I was attempting to exercise my dog (he will only give me the ball and let me throw it if I pretend to ignore him -- if I ask for it or even demand it there's no way in hell he's giving it to me. We have an odd working relationship.)
I've just finished Louise Glück's Faithful and Virtuous Night. I love returning to her voice -- I haven't read her work in years -- but I have to say that my heart still rests with The Wild Iris, which I love with that weird inclination I have for al…

You're a Bad Drunk, World. Go Sleep it Off.

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The first week of the academic year went relatively smoothly, although when yesterday came around I was massively under-prepared and so didn't eat much all day OR have a dinner plan for the kids pre- or post- soccer practice. The result was that I was exhausted by 9 p.m., but for all of that chaos, it was still a good day. While it's still too early to confirm any first impressions, the students in my classes are really engaged this year and it's not been an uphill battle to get them to participate in discussion. (And that can really make all the difference. Talking "at" a silent crowd is really, like, the worst. Particularly if they're a silently hostile crowd.)
I teach three classes back to back on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and that makes for a day without much room for error. I just need to prepare more on Monday and Wednesday nights to make sure everything goes smoothly.
The week was made a little more unusual and crazy by 1) my mother taking a spill down…

Rest and Renewal, Receiving Good News, and Misguided Girls in Coffee Shops

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"Be happy; you're writing from the privilege
of all your wits about you in your old age,
under the thorn acacias by the noon sea,
the light on all the places you have painted
and hope to paint with the strenuous accuracy
of joy, the village houses, the streets untainted
by any history, by any thought or shadow
on the blank canvas except from the sky;
be grateful that each craft stays hard to do.
In what will be your last book make each place
as if it had just been made, already old,
but new again from naming it."
-- from "The Prodigal" by Derek Walcott
Sure, this little ars poetica at the end of "The Prodigal" is the poet speaking to himself at the end of an illustrious career, and there are few parallels I can draw between the speaker of these lines and myself, but the passage serves as this lovely reminder of the joy found in the act of creation. And that in the end, we fight death by giving birth, over and over again, with new poems and new paintings, or whatev…

One More Week and Then It Begins (Again)

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Yesterday I returned to campus for the first time in months.

It feels awesome to write that sentence. I mean, I like my job, but I really needed a good long break. The bad part about taking a big long break is that reentry can be kind of painful -- like when you realize that you have only a week left to prep for your classes.

You know what's ALSO kind of painful? Reentry into your work pants after a summer of ice cream and cocktails. (Not necessarily together, but not always apart, either.)

Nonetheless, despite these shocks to my system, I'm trying to be calm and collected and just keep plugging away at the course outlines, the lecture/activity prepping, the assignment-writing. As with every year, I'm trying to prep as much as I can before the semester begins so that I can grade during my non-teaching hours instead of frantically preparing notes for a lecture or activity right before class. Teaching some of the same texts from year to year helps, but sometimes you have to su…

Slugs and Sky

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I've been trying to declutter my house for years, ever since we moved in here, really, but earnest work in this area was only really accomplished last summer and this summer. Despite these efforts, however, I've entered a new phase of hoarding: now my iCloud account is filled with clutter.
This is because I compulsively take photos of just about everything, like my friend here, whom I tried to capture next to the leaf for scale and while he was stretched out fully, but only one of those two things was accomplished, clearly. This fucker was LONG. Like, I could have put a leash on him and raised him as a pet. But I didn't. Because slug.
Ultimately my hoarding of pictures is really a symptom of severe Fear of Missing Out, like I can't possible remember something unless I document it with a picture and what if I can't remember it? What then am I made of?
And if I'm a sum of my memories and experiences, does this mean I'm comprised of fluffy clouds, decaying fo…

Rearranging as Revision (in Writing, in Life)

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Still working on that damn sonnet. I suspect I'm the last person who should be writing in the sonnet form, simply because I lose track of my arguments so damn quickly. Also, I stop caring about making the argument. That combination isn't great for someone working in a form that is, quite often, rhetorical.
Nor is it good for someone who is about to teach rhetoric in the fall. 
Anyway, as more proof that I'm the world's slowest writer, I've spent each of my mornings this week reworking the sonnet at a rate of two lines per day. It's not great nor is it extremely productive, but at least it's consistent writing practice. 
I was very close to shutting everything down this summer -- no more blog, no more submissions, no more participation in the shit-show that is publishing in the U.S. (Not that I have any kind of international publication chances; it's just that publishing here seems fraught with more nonsense than in other countries.) I'm not partic…

Rest, Rejection, Writing and Reading (and Some TV Watching)

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August is a month for slowing down and resting, or so a pop-up horoscope tells me. And we should all believe and be guided by our internet astrologers, ammaright? (Honestly, what did I click on for astrology ads to start appearing in my web browser?)
I've spent my morning writing hours this week working on a poem (building and then destroying a sonnet, more or less . . . it's probably gonna take another week). And I reincarnated an old writing group for the month of August -- we'll met once or twice a week at different spots to escape our respective clutter-traps and care-taking responsibilities and concentrate on our work.
I've picked up the play I began last summer, Accountability Partners, as my project to concentrate on for this last month of the break. I need to develop Act II of the verse play, too, but I wanted to work on something I have a good chance of actually finishing before school begins again. It would be nice to start the semester having accomplished, …

The Restorative Powers of Quince Trees, Red Wine, Tacos, and Summer Reading

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Last Friday's trip to the Cloisters was indeed restorative, although my small hour (or two) spent drinking red wine with C.C. in her apartment in the West Village was also soul-feeding (albeit a touch dehydrating). Then I flew to Bushwick in a cab and made it to the gallery just in time to see M.S.'s exhibit at Wayfarer's. Then she and her husband fed me tacos. (I didn't need to eat tacos probably but who turns down tacos?) The next day I was a little groggy from a lack of sleep, but I definitely felt like my psyche was well-rested, if that can be a thing.
Today I'm spending some one-on-one time with The Boy. I try to have "a day" with the kids each semester, a little time with each individually where I spoil them and treat us to a meal out where we can talk without their siblings interrupting or competing for attention. I've already done this with both girl-children over the past two weeks. Today's not only the last day of school for The Boy, i…

Attempts at Self-Preservation

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It's been a week of sleep and silence, more or less. I'm really tired lately. I've been using the mornings to rest instead of waking and writing, and not feeling too poorly about it because I'm having one of those do-I-really-have-much-to-say moments. 
I've been doing more reading. I have a huge stack of books in my bedroom and a larger stack of chapbooks piled precariously in my living room that I need to read, and I'd all but taken a blood oath to refrain from book-buying until I'd made my way through these stacks -- and yet last week, before I attended the art crit in Brooklyn, M.S. and I ducked into Books are Magic and I bought -- because I have absolutely zero impulse control, apparently -- two books, one of which is Durga Chew-Bose's Too Much and Not the Mood. The title of the book comes from a diary entry of Virginia Woolf, who was also deep inside one of those do-I-really-have-much-to-say moments, and I suppose some feeling of solidarity was pa…

Risk & Second-Guessing & Really Bad Wings

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I've been feeling a little uncomfortable with my interview in the Hand of Wheel podcast this week. Not because of Maura and Haele, the hosts, or the fact of the interview itself, but in my relatively privileged response to some of their questions, primarily about the MFA. I feel a little douchey. Douchy. How does one make douche an adjective? Anyway. I feel alternately like a shit heel, and then defensive of my relatively low and insignificant place in the world of poetry, because it's a hard-won place even if it is cramped and spectacularly unremarkable.
Also, listening to yourself laugh has got to be one of the most torturous exercises ever. But I'm getting sidetracked.
I cringed inside whenever I heard myself say something on the podcast that I felt could, quite easily, be countered reasonably (and/or unreasonably attacked by internet trolls). A skilled rhetorician I am not, and it's quite evident here. And yet, part of me shrugs, too: nothing is accomplished witho…

Being Productive, Present, and Listening to Podcasts

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I'm now two weeks into the summer "vacation" and one week into teaching my summer literature course. Already I have little moments where I fear this precious, non-rat-race time is almost over, but overall I'm trying to stay level-headed and calm and be productive -- simply because if I can do good, earnest work over the next month -- prepping for fall classes and taking care of lose ends for the creative writing festival and the literary magazine I advise -- I'll be able to be present, and relaxed, during the entire months of July and August, and hopefully be more present, and more relaxed, than I ever have at the beginning of a fall semester. 
I've said it before and I'll say it again: It's probably a pipe-dream, but it's my pipe-dream, man.
Now that spring grading mania is over, I'm returning to things that I attempted to make regular practice but were elbowed out of the way when shit got real (and by "shit got real" I mean "…